A verbose and sprawling, yet well-researched and compelling, narrative history of how literary iconoclasts have run afoul of censors in America. For more than 80 years, beginning with the so-called ``Comstock Act'' of 1873, the federal government and the states cracked down on sexually oriented material, until the Warren Court, led by Justice William Brennan, sought to protect creative expression by taking on the nettlesome issue of defining obscenity (notably through the ``utterly without redeeming social value'' criterion). First Amendment attorney de Grazia (Law/Cardozo Law School; co-author, Banned Films, 1982)—who argued the landmark obscenity cases involving Tropic of Cancer and Naked Lunch—details the legal and personal reverses and victories experienced in this struggle by authors, publishers, and booksellers. Quoting extensively, even ad nauseam, from the participants, his account is at its most riveting and accessible for nonlawyers in depicting the adversity faced by the likes of Lawrence, Joyce, Dreiser, Edmund Wilson, Henry Miller, Burroughs, and Nabokov. Like many an author whose years of work have left him loath to leave anything out, however, de Grazia could have used an editor less squeamish about reducing his frequent redundancies and tangents (although the book is about American law, foreign cases involving Zola's La Terre and Radclyffe Hall's lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness are covered at length, as are the nonliterary trials of Lenny Bruce). Predictably, the author sees recent imbroglios involving 2 Live Crew, Robert Mapplethorpe, Karen Finley, etc., in the light of past cases, barely acknowledging new concerns about sexual violence, government art-funding, or the need to shield children from ever more explicit material. Despite its flaws, then, an essential reference on how artistic rebels have defied social norms on creative expression— and on how the judiciary has responded in incremental, sometimes contradictory, ways.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-394-57611-X

Page Count: 992

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1991

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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?

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?