Malcolm (The Journalist and the Murderer, 1990, etc.) explores psychoanalysis, art, literature, and her native Czechoslovakia in this provocative collection of essays, all of which originally appeared in either The New Yorker or The New York Review of Books. The first third of the book, consisting of four essays on psychoanalysis, plays in a minor key on themes in Malcolm's In the Freud Archives (1984) and Psychoanalysis (1981), including Freud's accidental discovery of transference in the famous ``Dora'' case and attempts by today's practitioners to refurbish the movement's ``sagging and peeling mansion.'' Malcolm's erudition is seen to its best advantage in a series of reviews that cover Milan Kundera; Thomas Eakins; Tom Wolfe; Ved Mehta; V†clav Havel's prison letters to his wife; a memoir of New Guinea; and the now-little-read Victorian Sir Edmund Gosse (letters by Gosse's contemporary defenders, Malcolm says, ``form an authoritative primer on how to write comforting bullshit on demand''). The three extended profiles that conclude the book—on an unorthodox therapist whose session the author observes through a one-way mirror; on Artforum editor Ingrid Sischy; and on a former Czech dissident adjusting to career and political uncertainties in post-Communist Czechoslovakia—show how Malcolm can fascinate as often as she irritates. Her sense of irony sometimes manages to disrupt the placid surface of her lengthy, quote-laden journalism (reading Jay Haley, a writer in the social-science field, ``is like being in the bedroom of a charming cad''). But it can also, for instance, make one wonder why Malcolm feels the New York art world is worth so much attention if so many of its artists and critics, as depicted here, are such pretentious boors. Malcolm at her lucid, informed, sometimes too-clever-by-half best, and minus the questionable journalism characterized by her imbroglios with Fatal Vision author Joe McGinniss and renegade Freud researcher Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-679-41232-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1992

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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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