The dying days of Communism—as observed by Russian ÇmigrÇ Romine, whose anecdotal but perceptive account traces the pervasive disaffection, cynicism, and mixed emotions that marked that dramatic time. Relatively privileged by Soviet standards, 30-ish and divorced Romine, a former Intourist guide and teacher who'd obtained her Ph.D. in philology, had been able to travel quite widely before the advent of Gorbachev—but always under official auspices. Perestroika now meant that she could go alone; this journal begins with a trip to Munich in 1988 and recollections of others, and ends with her departure for her first visit to the US. These journeys, like so much else within the Soviet Union, required tireless persistence, great humor, and numerous useful friends—Romine quotes an old Russian saying, ``Better to have a hundred friends than a hundred roubles,'' especially in a country where money has lost its significance. It is a land where colleagues come to work not to teach but to arrange shopping forays, eat the cafeteria food, and socialize; where a friend, suffering from insomnia and sent to recover in a real ``Psycho Ward,'' is tempted to stay because he ``felt almost like a free man in a free society.'' It is also a country in which fear perverts the closest of friendships, as revealed when Romine describes a visit shamefacedly made to Andrei Sakharov, a beloved friend of her late father's, to apologize for his silence during Sakharov's troubles. Yet Romine's feelings are ambivalent, and often despairing, as she also notes her close family ties and warm friendships, and the strong appeal of Russian culture—though not strong enough to keep her from moving to southern California. One of those personal records, refreshingly idiosyncratic and frank, that does more to foster understanding than any number of more ponderous and ambitious studies.

Pub Date: July 16, 1992

ISBN: 0-688-10416-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1992

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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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