McPherson follows up his sprawling Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War epic Battle Cry of Freedom (1988) with a real change of pace: sparkling analytical essays on how Lincoln effected the most fundamental transformation of American society since the American Revolution. Picking up Charles Beard's concept of the Civil War as a second American Revolution, McPherson examines how the conflict "left a legacy of black educational and social institutions, a tradition of civil-rights activism, and constitutional amendments that provide the legal framework for the second Reconstruction of the 1960s." The seven essays woven around this theme—originally either delivered as lectures or printed in such publications as the Hayes Historical Journal and Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association—are, as befitting their origins, more academic and analytically rigorous than McPherson's earlier great narrative. In the opening and closing pieces, the author convincingly takes issue with the postrevisionist notion that Jim Crow laws wiped out all the advances toward freedom made by the Civil War. On the contrary, he demonstrates, the Union victory forever broke the South's "Slave Power" over the federal government. As thoughtful as these contentions, and more original, are essays on how Lincoln masterfully employed parables and figurative language to define the war's purpose, how he gave the war revolutionary momentum with his demand for the Confederacy's unconditional surrender, and how, unlike Horace Greeley and William H. Seward, he pursued a central vision of the conflict. Skillful as McPherson is, however, he can't disguise the fact that, because these essays approach the same theme from shifting points of view, the anecdotes buttressing his arguments sometimes sound recycled. Filled with the author's usual erudition and lucidity of style—although one wishes for a little more steak to go with the sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1990

ISBN: 0195076060

Page Count: -

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1990

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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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