A sweet but slight bouquet: a gardening memoir told in a Southern drawl. Whaley, an 85-year-old South Carolina gentlewoman, sits down, as it were, in her Charleston garden to summon up memories of camellias past. Baldwin, a South Carolina architect and novelist (The Fennel Family Papers, 1996, etc.), observes that she ``moves with the imperial bearing of a grand Southern matron. But on the inside she's a knobby-kneed 14-year-old country girl.'' The matron's account of life and gardening can come across as regrettably mild. ``It's an awful lot of fun to live into your eighties,'' she declares. ``It helps to have some money, though.'' Likewise, she remarks, ``People are the greatest—the most fun that life offers.'' But Whaley also delivers some choice comments and vignettes: ``Dad said if everything Nan planted had taken, a rabbit couldn't have run across the yard.'' And she can be folksily tart: ``You have a muscle here between your ears. When you play tennis, when you do exercises, you use muscles. The muscle up top is the same. Unless it's used it is going to be flabby.'' Whaley devotes chapters to her rural childhood, her parents, and her lawyer husband; she also offers her thoughts on her dog, on self-esteem, and on her favorite recipes. Discussions of her Charleston garden, measuring 30 by 110 feet, takes up about a third of the book, and though her description of it is charming, one doesn't walk away with a convincing sense of place. Her gardening advice is pretty basic: ``DO water your plants in the morning so that the leaves are dry by nightfall. You'll have less trouble with fungal diseases.'' And too many of the non-gardening vignettes seem slender, unrevealing. It would have been better to drench those portions with details, which count for as much in life stories as they do in gardens. (illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: March 31, 1997

ISBN: 1-56512-115-5

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

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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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