A pop-culture prodigy and shameless self-promoter, DeBartolo manages to make MAD's 42-year history as sanitized as a Disney classic. There's something truly Orwellian about the effort to write Harvey Kurtzman, the creator of MAD, out of the magazine's history. Which is what DeBartolo does, commemorating instead his late boss, William Gaines, the owner of EC Comics, MAD's parent company. DeBartolo didn't join the ``usual gang of idiots'' until the early 1960s, long after Kurtzman had left because Gaines refused to give him a larger share of the comic book. DeBartolo doesn't seem to know the simple reason MAD eventually changed from a comic to a magazine: The oppressive Comics Code Authority did not regulate magazines. Frank Jacobs provided a much better biography of Gaines (The MAD World of William Gaines, not reviewed), and Maria Reidelbach's Completely MAD (1991) demonstrated a more certain grasp of the facts. So why DeBartolo's gimmicky memoir? Partly to recount his own precocious career: first contribution to MAD at 15; writing for TV at 16; saving The Match Game from an early death by adding humor to the questions; and contributing more pieces to MAD in 33 years than any other writer. Though coy about his own personal life, DeBartolo contributes to the legend of Gaines: his combination of cheapness and extravagance; his sloppy demeanor; his insatiable appetites; and his proclivity for adolescent pranks. DeBartolo loves promoting MAD so much that he reproduces the publicity slide show he hawks around college campuses. He also adds to the stories about MAD's famous group bonus vacations around the world, though a number of his anecdotes are recycled. Missing from this memoir are the great MAD artists Wally Wood and Will Elder, though there are endless ``forewords'' by some of the magazine's stalwart contributors. For MAD purists, this lumpy narrative is further proof that, after Kurtzman, it's been all downhill.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 1994

ISBN: 1-56025-077-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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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

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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

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