A lyrical recollection of a segregated Memphis childhood, rich in love and wisdom, that, unfortunately, peters out in typical Sixties-generation preoccupations. Wade-Gayles (English and Women's Studies/Spelman College) grew up in a housing project in Memphis during the late 40's and early 50's at a time when a housing project ``was a stopping-off place. A decent, but temporary home you lived in until you were able to buy a real home.'' Her parents were divorced, and her father, though a railroad porter living in Chicago, was a vital presence in her life—as were her mother and grandmother, figures of outstanding courage and determination, and relatives like the tragically doomed Uncle Prince. It was Wade-Gayles's grandmother who responded, when the author complained of whites ``always pushing us back,'' that ``They don't know it, but they're pushing you back to us, where you can get strong''—a response that held the family together, set high standards of behavior and accomplishment, and gave Wade-Gayles the confidence to go to college and graduate school, to become an activist in the civil- rights movement, and, later, to teach college. Though segregation was a harsh presence in Memphis, the author poignantly contrasts life in the projects, in schools segregated but ``challenging and uncompromising in their insistence on excellent academic performance and exemplary character,'' and in the supportive black churches with the bleak killing-fields the inner-city has become today. Now married with two adult children, Wade-Gayles relates her somewhat undifferentiated opinions of whites; her belief in ultimate integration preceded by a period of racial separation; her ideas on gender; and a spiritual quest after her beloved mother's death that led to an encounter with an Ndepp priestess from Senegal. An evocative recollection of a community cruelly defined by race but sustained by loving strength and deep faith.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 1993

ISBN: 0-8070-0922-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1993

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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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