THE LAST TSAR

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF NICHOLAS II

On July 17, 1918, Nicholas II—the last tsar in the 300-year- old Romanov dynasty—and his wife, five children, family doctor, and three servants were executed in the storage room of a squalid house in a small Siberian city, their bodies burned, then buried in a mine shaft. From previously hidden royal diaries and letters, the testimony of the executioners, and the reminiscences of friends and descendants, Radzinsky, a popular Russian playwright, dramatizes the Romanovs' final, poignant days—the confusion, mystery, and waste. Radzinsky begins by re-creating the personalities and events of happier times: Nicholas, doting, charming, ineffectual; ``Little Wifey,'' as he called his empress, the half-mad, superstitious, demanding granddaughter of Queen Victoria; the four daughters, dressed in white; the hemophiliac son, beloved but bored; the demonic Rasputin; and the clutch of cousins and generals who secluded the royal family from the popular unrest, terrorism, and war that marked Nicholas's reign. Radzinsky's dramatic technique of weaving together scraps from the family's diaries and letters is particularly effective in the book's second half. There, he follows the Romanovs through their final year after Nicholas's abdication, a year during which the family—waiting to be rescued by the tsar's English cousin, King George, or to seek refuge in a monastery—was dragged around the countryside by unlettered Bolshevik guards until Lenin himself, deciding on the ``simple'' and ``ingenious'' solution to the Romanovs' fate, gave the order for their execution, recounted here in brutal detail. Like James Blair Lovell in Anastasia (1991), Radzinsky incorporates into his story his own pursuit of historical truth, sharing his frustrations and fascinations; and he confirms what Lovell demonstrated—that the Romanovs tend to inspire exceptional writing, lyrical, precise, and intense. (Fifty b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: July 17, 1992

ISBN: 0-385-42371-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1992

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

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

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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