Richly researched, smoothly dogged biography of Bette Davis that outweighs in sheer detail Barbara Leaming's strong effort Bette Davis (1991), though in a less lively voice, and that fairly well defines Davis. Spada has written serious bios of Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Peter Lawford, and many others. Davis's two earliest shaping forces were her attorney father Harlan—a ``cold vacuum'' who thought she had little to offer, which maddened the mercurial Bette—and her mother Ruthie, who quickly divorced Harlan and guided her sometimes raging daughter toward the stage. Though they had wall-shaking rows, Ruthie bathed Bette nightly until well into her teens. Davis worked her way up through regional theaters, being directed by George Cukor in Rochester, early landed Broadway leads and a summons by Warner Brothers. Marriage to early beau Harmon Nelson, an orchestra leader, flopped as her career boomed; ``Ham'' (Harmon) talked her into two abortions. Her fury as the vile Mildred in Of Human Bondage made screen history as she became filmdom's first leading actress ever to set out to be absolutely revolting—audiences cheered when she died. Her first Oscar came a year later for the alcoholic lead in Dangerous, as did her first of many extramarital affairs—with her leading man, Franchot Tone, then engaged to Joan Crawford, with whom Bette feuded right up through their roles as sisters in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? When Ham records her bedroom noises with Howard Hughes, Spada calls the recording both a disc and a tape—and weakens the reader's faith. The rest of his dirt—more abortions, adultery, alcoholism, rage, husband Gary Merrill strangling her and beating their horse with barbed wire, the split with daughter B.D.—if not fresh, adds pungency. Familiar, and the acting gets slighted, but Davis gives fiery focus.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-553-09512-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Bantam

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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