The story of V†clav Havel bears retelling in almost any form- -which is just as well, since his official biographer, a fellow dissident in the long struggle to free their country from communism, has taken full advantage of poetic license to cast her subject as the protagonist of a morality play. (In a laconic foreword, Havel impishly informs readers that the author's notably idolatrous view is her own and he ``can hardly judge to what extent it is true.'') While Kriseov†, a former journalist, might also have difficultly distinguishing between her discontinuous, deadly earnest narrative's facts and fancies at this remove, she's in arguably good company. Havel's own self-portrait, Disturbing the Peace (1990), and Summer Meditations (1992) are equally elusive, if appreciably more worldly-wise, on the score of reality. At any rate, the author offers a hit-or-miss account of her hero's odyssey, which stops short with his 1989 election as chief executive of a united Czechoslovakia in the wake of the so-called Velvet Revolution. A son of the Bohemian bourgeoisie, Havel became a playwright while serving an obligatory hitch in the armed forces. With frequent asides on writers (Beckett, Ionesco, Kafka, et al.) and others who influenced him, Kriseov† tracks Havel's subsequent involvement in little-theater productions of his work that, among other things, satirized the dehumanization of individual relationships, language, and social institutions. Havel's literary output and political opinions earned him no favor with authorities either before or after the Prague spring of 1968. Throughout the Iron Curtain era, then, he paid the dissenter's stiff price- -censorship, harassment, and imprisonment. In time, however, the repressive regime was toppled, sending Havel from a cell to a palace in what the author clearly believes is a fairy-tale triumph of good over evil. Haphazard hagiography that portrays Havel as a latter-day good King Wenceslaus. (Photographs—16 pp.—not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 1993

ISBN: 0-312-10327-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1993

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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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