The distinguished critic again examines the interactions among writers that have been the main focus of his attention since The Anxiety of Influence (1973).

As in that seminal work, Bloom (Humanities and English/Yale Univ.; Fallen Angels, 2007, etc.) takes a decidedly Freudian view of literature, depicting each generation of artists struggling with the titans of the past to carve out their own place in the pantheon. Ranking matters to Bloom; it’s not enough to proclaim Beckett, Joyce, Proust and Kafka “the masters of prose fiction in the twentieth century”—they must be judged as “transcending” Thomas Mann, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner. His audience is “those dissident readers who…instinctually reach out for quality in literature, disdaining the lemmings who devour J.K. Rowling and Stephen King as they race down the cliffs to intellectual suicide in the gray ocean of the internet.” Looking beyond sentences like that, and beyond Bloom’s trademark swipes at feminists and Marxists, readers (dissident or otherwise) will find his usual closely argued exegeses of the writers he loves—and that love goes a long way toward atoning for his aggressive contentiousness. He traces the poetic tradition stretching from Shakespeare through Shelley, Browning and Yeats to Walt Whitman, Bloom’s “American Homer,” whose epic presence shadows Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane and such contemporary poets as James Merrill and John Ashbery. Unsurprisingly, since Bloom prefers poetry “free of all history except literary biography,” he stresses existential themes: the nature of self, the soul’s quest for meaning, the omnipresence of death, our final destination. The octogenarian clearly has his legacy in mind as he strives to reject old charges of misogyny and exclusivity; he makes reference to his many Asian American students, and a few female names (Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop) have slipped into his references, if not his full-scale analyses. But we wouldn’t want Bloom to be anyone but Bloom: an old-fashioned literary critic passionately committed to art for art’s sake. An autumnal summing-up, winding through “the labyrinth of literary influence” to conclude, “[t]hat labyrinth is life itself.” 


Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-300-16760-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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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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