This delightful collection of garden writings edited by Garmey, a travel, food, and gardening writer, is just what’s hoped for in a sampler: each bite is a likely pleasure, with a couple of duds thrown in to forestall complacency. Garmey has put together 63 pieces, many of them snippets from larger works (there are a few poems—Homer, Marvell, Pope, Schuyler—and newspaper articles), from writers rich in quirk and wit, and with dirt under their fingernails. They discourse here in a nonprescriptive way about the pleasures and foibles of gardening. The names are by and large familiar: Eleanor Perenyi writes about her stream of lunatic, incompetent, and tragic garden helpers, and Maribel Osler serves up a not-so-gentle plea for chaos. Henry Mitchell’s lament on the weather is so dry it’s in danger of spontaneously combusting (“As I write this, on June 29, it’s about time for another summer storm to smash the garden to pieces”). There is Michael Pollan on Marx and Freud in the rose garden, and Allen Lacy cutting rough: “Let me dwell for a moment on one plant I especially detest—the hydrangea.” Less household names are equally engaging, such as Cynthia Kling on gardening as a contentious blood sport, or Julian Meade’s nonconformist salute, “The more I hear of Horticulture, the more I like plain gardening,” for the “slipshod method suits me better.” Even fusty old Gertrude Jekyll and sniffy Vita Sackville-West are bearable since they are given just a little page space. Only Sara Stein’s predictable item on weeds and Lauren Springer’s uninspired ode to autumn and its “frost-tolerant annuals” and “lingering pastel perennials” are true disappointments, but then it’s easy enough to turn the page and move on to the well-turned earth of E.B. White or Jamaica Kincaid. A fun gathering of garden eccentrics and cranks of every radius.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 1999

ISBN: 1-56512-181-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet