A poignant and painful memoir of a son's suicide—the dark side of Mother's Day. At one point in this brief volume, Vanderbilt (The Memory Book of Starr Faithfull, 1994) says of herself, ``There's a place deep inside me that is hard as a diamond.'' It would have to be to survive not only the traumas of Vanderbilt's childhood (described in 1985's Once Upon a Time), but the sudden death of her husband Wyatt Cooper when their two sons were still young, and the death of her son Carter at age 24. The story begins as a celebration of the family that Gloria and Wyatt Cooper built together. The narrative is interspersed with diary entries recalling an idyllic family summer at the beach, with eulogies from Carter's brother and friends, and a prescient poem by Carter. Even after their father's death, the boys escape the spoiled rich kid syndrome. Carter finishes college, gets a job, falls in love, all the while impressing his peers as ``pure'' and ``good.'' On the day he dies, Carter does move back to his mother's house, exhibiting somewhat curious but not worrisome behavior. Waking from a long afternoon nap, Carter is at first disoriented and then, in an aberrant act, he races to the terrace of the apartment, climbs on its rampart and sits there before dropping to his death on the street below. His mother tries desperately to reach him, to talk him back down off the ledge, to recall him to sanity, to no avail. Vanderbilt relives that day and those moments again and again, in therapy, with her friends, and in the sorrowful letters she writes to Carter. Slowly she begins to heal—that is her message—but she will never be the same. A sometimes clumsy structure only underlines the remarkable intensity of feeling that Vanderbilt conveys. The reader will bear the weight of her sorrow, even after the book is closed.

Pub Date: May 10, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-45052-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

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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