A spiritual autobiography in the form of a novelist's memoir about losing his lover to AIDS. What can you say about a book that makes you cry on page 3? That it does so again on page 4 complicates the reviewer's job further. Nevertheless, this is not a tearjerker: Johnson's (Scissors, Paper, Rock, 1993, etc.) memoir is a moving expansion of the genre. The last of nine children in a devoutly Catholic rural Kentucky family, Johnson was initially the pursued and not the pursuer in the relationship he memorializes here. Larry Rose's background—San Francisco high school English teacher, the only child of German-Jewish Holocaust survivors—could scarcely have been more dissimilar. Johnson resists entanglement: Larry is HIV- positive, and he legitimately fears having his life taken over by responsibility for Larry's care once he develops AIDS. He also fears the pain of becoming attached to someone he will lose. What he discovers is that being in love with Larry transforms him. As Johnson writes in an extraordinary passage about ministering to Larry on a daring trip to France just days before the invalid's death: ``I understood the shallowness of my fears that I might abandon Larry once he grew sick. Now I only wanted to be with him and to care for him, for in caring for him I was caring for myself. I discovered that I loved even his illness and his dying . . . because they were a part of him; there was no having him without these.'' The labors arising from love, Johnson learns, are not labors. We think of memoirs as retrospective narratives of long lives. Where AIDS is involved, the time frame is very different, the intention more urgent. This profoundly moving, painfully honest book is a remarkable testament to a short life and the enduring love that emerged from it. It deserves the widest possible audience. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-81417-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1996

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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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