A tendentious but enjoyable book for dog lovers.




Prolific animal-studies author Masson (The Face On Your Plate: The Truth About Food, 2009, etc.) examines the unique bond between dogs and humans.

Based upon evidence that the relationship has existed for at least 40,000 years, the author suggests that it played a major part in a process of “mutual domestication,” the simultaneous evolution of primitive humans to Homo sapiens and of wolves to canines. According to Stanford anthropologist Richard Klein, writes the author, humans experienced a “sociocultural big bang” around 50,000 years ago, when “language, culture, and the ability to innovate” were suddenly put on “fast-forward,” and Masson believes that the two species were drawn together by a shared unique capacity for love. Now approaching 70, the author lives in a New Zealand beach house with his wife, two young sons, three cats and Benjy, the golden lab to whom this book is dedicated and whose antics provide its framework. Unquestionably, dogs are an important part of our lives and have been for millennia. More disputable is Masson’s claim that their relationship to stone-age man as guard dogs, hunting companions or even perhaps a manageable source of food was less important compared to the “far more profound…effect dogs had on our ability to feel love, affection, and friendship.” Equally controversial is his suggestion that dogs are superior to chimpanzees, parrots and dolphins in understanding human language. The author is more even-handed in his consideration of the possibility that seeing-eye, narcotics-sniffing and rescue dogs may not understand the purpose of their actions they’ve been trained to perform, while acknowledging the benefits of their spontaneous companionship to the handicapped, the sick and the elderly.

A tendentious but enjoyable book for dog lovers.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-177109-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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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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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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