Filtering out the mythic anecdotes that have built up around Steinbeck, Parini (The Last Station, 1990, etc.) presents a straightforwardly readable portrait and assessment of one of the last practitioners of the Great American Novel. For one of the most popular American authors worldwide, Steinbeck seemed happier as an aimless young man, surviving off odd jobs, intermittently attending Stanford University, and harboring an intense conviction of his talent, than as a bestselling author, Broadway and Hollywood success, and Pulitzer and Nobel prize winner. Steinbeck's personal life was complicated by his intense need for reassurance and stimulation, at odds with a sometimes withdrawn, rigidly principled nature—a product, Parini suggests, of his loving but forceful mother and distant father. But his friendships with the mythologist Joseph Campbell, the eccentric marine biologist Ed Ricketts, actor Burgess Meredith (who starred in the film Of Mice and Men), and the editor Pascal Corvini were long and deep. Campbell and Ricketts had considerable influence on Steinbeck's larger vision: the latter, in his ``organismal'' approach to man's place in society and on earth, and the former, in his mythic sensibility (though their friendship was cut short by Campbell's affair with Steinbeck's first wife, Carol). Parini also gives Carol Steinbeck due credit for her editorial assistance to her difficult husband and her social activism. Parini underscores Steinbeck's passion for writing, whether journalism during WW II, travelogues of scientific expeditions and journeys across the US and USSR, or a translation of Malory. Rounding out this perceptive biography, Parini judiciously charts the paradoxes of Steinbeck's later years: his happier third marriage complicated by his uneasy relationship with his sons from his second; his progressive disillussionment with postwar America and his equivocal support of the Vietnam war; and the hostile critical reception of his Nobel Prize. Parini's persuasive and lucid biography creates a vivid diptych of a turbulent individual and a neglected paragon of American letters. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 1995

ISBN: 0-8050-1673-2

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1994

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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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