An ex-priest's confessional attempt to make peace with his dead father. For nearly 20 years, novelist Carroll (The City Below, 1994; Memorial Bridge, 1991; etc.) barely talked to his father, the late lieutenant general Joseph F. Carroll, founding director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. They fell out over the war in Vietnam; over the way the younger Carroll conducted himself as a priest; and over the son's finally opting out of the priesthood, just as his father had done. Carroll confronts the demons left by his troubled relationship with his father and his church by telling his family's story, focusing especially on the political and religious turmoil that tore them apart in the 1960s. The book is sometimes embarrassingly heartfelt in a '60s bare-your-soul style that seemed fresh then but now sounds like the everyday kitsch of touchy-feely, tell-all television. Also, Carroll's lack of communication with his father, always a man of few words, forces him to speculate about the older man's emotions, just as he must speculate about what advice his father gave presidents on the war in Vietnam. But Carroll's honesty and sincerity, and the fascination of his story, triumph over any temptation to mock him as waxing too sentimental about his glory days as a radical campus priest counseling war resisters. Carroll argues persuasively that he is still that priest, albeit in a different role, and with a wife and children. And despite his falling out with both his father and his church, he thanks them for giving him the courage of his convictions and for making him a priest, even as they broke his heart. A fresh retelling of old stories about a son's struggles with his father and his God, and a memoir that may help put more demons to rest for others of the '60s generation. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 27, 1996

ISBN: 0-395-77926-X

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996

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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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