The noted American pianist receives an overlong popular biography, stuffed with irritating detail on virtually every page. Cliburn (b. 1934 as Harvey Lavan, Jr.), a wonderful talent in his chosen repertoire, is by all accounts a genuinely attractive character as well. Unfortunately, by page one hundred, Reich (an arts critic for the Chicago Tribune), has crossed so far over the line from legitimate admiration into hagiography that he risks making the reader despise his subject. Reich has apparently read every newspaper and magazine article about Cliburn and has interviewed everyone who's ever known him. Seemingly few have had anything unflattering to say about the man, and their fond remembrances and musical tributes are quoted at interminable length. From Cliburn's high-school high jinks to his wonder years at Juilliard, his early concert successes, his fabled first prize in the 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at the height of the cold war (an event that Reich sees as the beginning of the end of Communism 30-some years later), his subsequent international celebrity, his decade-long retirement from the concert stage, and his triumphant return—it's all here in suffocating detail. The names of judges and contestants at many competitions; the history of the teachers of his teachers. Where's the real person here? And if Cliburn finished second in a competition, the first prize winner and the competition are not-so-subtly trashed. Fortunately, the pianist is still alive, or the book would have to detail his resurrection. Even the annotated discography—probably the best thing here—is so uncritical (cf. John Ardoin's The Callas Legacy, 1977) that many music lovers will dissent from Reich's reverent appraisals of most every record. There's a legitimately interesting history here somewhere but, as written, it's strictly for the People crowd. Prospective Cliburnites are better advised to invest in the CD re-release of his legendary performances of Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto and Rachmaninoff's second. (Illustrations—16 pp. color & b&w—not seen) (First printing of 35,000)

Pub Date: May 15, 1993

ISBN: 0-8407-7681-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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