A characteristically magisterial, cantankerous double portrait of peerless literary critic Lionel Trilling (1905-75) and his eminent reviewer-essayist wife (Mrs. Harris, 1981; Reviewing the Forties, 1978, etc.) that's also a memorial to a past generation of intellectuals, as well as an occasion to set many of them straight on the issues. A few months after the Trillings married, the stock-market crash wiped out Diana's father's wealth and ruined Lionel's parents, whom he continued to support by teaching, lecturing, and reviewing. The couple flirted with Communism but converted to anti-Communism by 1936, when Lionel's protest against the Columbia English Department's termination of his contract led to his triumphant long-term reappointment following the publication of his book on Matthew Arnold. Shortly thereafter, Diana began to review books for the Nation, where she remained through the end of the 40's, when she brings this volume to a close—except for brief flash-forwards to her appraisal of Allen Ginsberg in 1959 and Lionel's response to the Columbia demonstrations of 1968. Trilling is piercingly perceptive on Lionel's sacrifice of his novelistic gift to his ideals of decency—``Conscience had not made a coward of him, it had made him a critic''—and on her own need ``to be married to a man who was more successful than I.'' But even more memorable than Trilling's climactic recollection of the birth of her son when she was 43 or the concluding honor roll of New York intellectuals is her bristling certainty in correcting errors raised by Sidney Hook, Mary McCarthy, Philip Rahv, and Lillian Hellman, or in commenting on sexual mores at Radcliffe, contemporary opera performance, and neoconservatism. The Trillings' friends often wondered how such unlike people could stay married to each other. Diana's signal achievement here is to reveal the links between her political and social combativeness and Lionel's equally passionate, though more urbane, identification of himself through ideological conflict with the people closest to him. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-15-111685-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1993

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

Did you like this book?

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet