Tender, realistic snapshots of life during bereavement.



A heartfelt journal spans the year following a partner’s death from ovarian cancer.

Alden (When I First Knew, 2016, etc.) wrote this in memory of her partner—photographer and graphic designer Catherine J. Hopkins (1940-1996), with whom she lived in Catskill, New York. At that time, the legitimacy of their same-sex relationship wasn’t widely acknowledged. The local courthouse and church both refused to marry the women, but their pastor performed a wedding ceremony at their home in 1991, and Alden considered Catherine her wife. However, she would later feel shunned at a bereavement support group, and her parents, who never approved of her relationships with women, announced that they wanted nothing further to do with her. Month by month, these diary entries from 1996—addressed as letters to the late Catherine—illuminate the first year of sometimes-desperate grief. The author recounts her struggle to accept her identity as a widow: “I don’t know this person who can’t find meaning or pleasure in anything.” Flipping through photo albums unearthed memories of parties and vacations, but early on, it was the painful scenes that tended to linger: cleaning Catherine’s stomach tube, the final moments before her death, and the rituals of washing her body and informing relatives. Looking back, though, Alden could see that, however ironically, “those difficult days were the most intimate.” The journal artfully sets the enormity of loss in the context of everyday activities. Life goes on with a broken toilet to be fixed, a wedding to attend, and an ex-lover’s body to identify. Short, poetic notes on the weather close most of the entries, providing a sense of inevitable forward motion. Catherine’s black-and-white photographs also illustrate the seasons’ passage. By September, the narrative sees the author moving on—selling their house, moving to start a new teaching role, and facing breast cancer unfazed. She resolves to “remember the past with gratitude” and “neither to flee the darkness nor fly toward the light,” instead taking a cleareyed view of life’s mixed fortunes.

Tender, realistic snapshots of life during bereavement.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4575-6298-3

Page Count: 202

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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