Memoir of Vietnam by the author of A Very Large Consulate (1988) and other novels, including one about the French war against the Vietnamese (To a Silent Valley, 1961). Well over half of Simpson's book concerns his tenure as press officer for the US Foreign Service in Saigon, 1952-55. Simpson got along well with the French, and the set-pieces here are his accounts of the battle of Dien Bien Phu and the vital engagement at Nasan that prefigured that great turning point. Particularly affecting are the desperate hopes of the French commanders and their Algerian/Moroccan/Legionnaire troops as the battle goes badly and they beg, in vain, for American air support. There are shades of Graham Greene's The Quiet American in Simpson's depictions of the dying French empire and the brash but naive American opportunism; and the portraits of the eternally patient General Giap and of the corrupt Diem regime are painstakingly informed, not only from Simpson's personal observations but also from declassified accounts. The chronicle ends with Simpson's 1991 return, as a correspondent, to Hanoi and Saigon, where he visits the set of the French-made film Dien Bien Phu, in which he is a character. He meets with General Giap, who muses on the inevitability of his peasant army's victory. But mostly what Giap and others want, Simpson explains, is for the American trade embargo to be lifted and for Vietnam's economy to achieve its considerable potential. The embargo, says Simpson, has lost every rationale and is now simply ``vindictive.'' Particularly engaging as a chronicle of French defeat and, despite all best advice, the taking up of the doomed struggle by the US.

Pub Date: May 31, 1992

ISBN: 0-02-881008-2

Page Count: 259

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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