The still-tender gay identity of his early adulthood is the overarching theme of poet Merrill's memoir of a postwar European sojourn—30 months, beginning in 1950, during which he tried (impossibly) to keep his parents from too full a knowledge of his homosexuality while immersing himself in the high aesthetics common to Italy and to the group of gay expatriate exquisites he surrounded himself with. Using his psychoanalysis with a Roman psychiatrist as the armature, Merrill remembers the gradual enlightenments of the era: the liaisons; the divergence from his straight boyhood friend, the novelist Frederick Buechner; the relatively modest and unsure place that his glittering poetic talent played in Merrill's own inner makeup. How to love and be loved—to be attractive to those who are attractive—takes up much more of his waking thoughts (he once even spurns meeting the great poet Montale because Merrill doesn't care for Montale's looks). Using two lenses—sections of the book are written in a looking-back mode as well as in an as-it-happens, chronicling one—Merrill is pleasingly frank all the time, often funny, never afraid to make himself seem less serious that others think him as being, never defensive about a period of his life, before his art truly took him over, when he could be a butterfly supported by the gentle winds of his family's fortune (his father was, as most everyone knows, a founding partner in the Merrill Lynch brokerage firm). Still, the book never quite satisfies: the prose is too precious and wobbly, the episodes undramatic, the portraiture indefinite. It seems to capture neither time nor place nor man with anything but an approximating diffidence. Readers of Merrill will be naturally curious, but also probably at a bit of a loss. (Four pages of photographs)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 1993

ISBN: 0-679-43217-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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