An outstanding memoir of young motherhood, love, political dedication, and madness in the 1930s. What Hettie Jones did for the New York bohemian scene of the 1960s, Davis (The Dark Way to the Plaza, 1968) has done for the leftist 1930s. Her tale begins in 1933, when her daughter Claudia is born in New York City. Her husband, British journalist Claud Cockburn, has already returned to Europe to cover the struggle against German and Spanish fascism for his insider bulletin, The Week, soon to become an indispensable source of war news for the English-speaking left worldwide. For a time Davis, herself a published writer and magazine promotion manager, hopes for their reunion; while waiting, she and Claudia go to stay with her sister in Virginia. There she gradually builds a life working for the Department of Agriculture and is introduced to Washington's intellectually dynamic liberal-left world. She falls in love with economist Hermann Brunck, and they move in together. Then they join the American Communist Party, and Davis's account of that experience is masterful; she captures the intrigue of underground culture and the seductive, even irresistible, logic of Communist solutions, as well as Party operatives' frightening refusal to see contradictions or hear dissent. Brunck has a sudden breakdown, described by Davis in intimate, painfully stirring detail—from his paranoid delusions (which came to seem increasingly sane with the unfolding of the intricate webs of conspiracy spun by the Party, government Red-baiting, and world politics) to their moments of sexual passion in the mental hospital. Her conversations with both Freudian doctors and Party comrades reveal intelligent people participating in terrifyingly rigid thought systems, yet she reduces no one to caricature. Davis's memoir of her struggle to think for herself while buffeted by love and ideology is an agonizingly human account of one of history's most tormented decades.

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 1994

ISBN: 1-883642-17-5

Page Count: 341

Publisher: Steerforth

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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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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