Uneven account of a 14-month-long exploration of the Gulf Coast as it arcs from the tourist traps of Key West to the temples of the Yucatan Peninsula. Along the way, Turner (Of Chiles, Cacti, and Fighting Cocks, 1990, etc.) encounters embittered commercial fishermen railing against conservationists, backslapping Mardi Gras float builders, Cajun activists, and investigators of the grisly Matamoros cult murders. But the author too often fails to breathe life into these potentially engrossing characters, either by overloading his portraits with finicky details or by leaving their outlines sketchy and undeveloped. Turner's account of the environmental depredations to be found along the rivers, streams, and bayous of Louisiana encapsulates his tendency toward literary overkill. Seemingly unwilling to allow his firsthand experiences to speak for themselves, he piles on statistics until his narrative reads like a governmental report. Meanwhile, his recapitulation of the facts concerning the 1989 ritual torture/murder of Mark Kilroy by drug- running cultists in Matamoros, Mexico, would have been more effective with deeper probing into the African/Caribbean/Christian roots of the crime's underlying ``magical'' motivations. Turner is at his best when he abandons so-called relevance and merely recounts the facts surrounding the lives of such ``endangered species'' as eccentric Mississippi potter George Ohr and prickly Cajun cultural revivalist Barry Ancelet. In these vignettes, the unique character of the Gulf Coast mentality is captured through vivid anecdotes. Yet another weakness here stems from Turner's reluctance to reveal his own idiosyncracies. He remains something of a cipher, recording but not reacting to the world through which he passes.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 1993

ISBN: 0-8050-2072-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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