This Canadian naturalist's polemic shows humanity as abandoning a holistic natural order for a self-centered life as a rogue species. Humanity's initial step toward separating itself from wild nature was, in effect, to remake itself into the first domesticated species, argues Livingston (Environmental Studies/York University, Ontario; One Cosmic Instant, 1973, etc.). Just as domestic animals can no longer live the way their wild ancestors did, humans have interposed technology between themselves and nature. The price of this insulation from nature is high: a loss of sensory detail (especially in senses other than sight), homogenization of the human environment, and a sense of life as a competitive enterprise rather than a cooperative one. Citing the primate studies of Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall, Livingston contends that, in the natural world, aggression between members of the same species is so rare as to be pathological. He goes to some length to point out Darwin's (unconscious) adoption of the paradigms of market capitalism as the basis for his theory of natural selectioncreating a picture of nature that fit all the preconceptions of Victorian Englishmen. Livingston stresses the evidence for self-awareness in animals, removing the last barrier between ``higher'' and ``lower'' intelligence. But he also presents the evidence for a form of ``group consciousness'' in natureas in the simultaneous changes of direction of the members of a flock of birds. While Livingston takes potshots at a wide array of easy targets (colonialism, vivisection, fur hunters), he saves the heavy ammo for ``zero-order humanism'': the belief that any action can be justified if it serves the ultimate good of humanity. This way lies the destruction of what remains of the natural world. The problems Livingston sees are real enough, and he articulates them powerfully; but at the end, he has no answers other than somehow getting back in touch with our innate ``wildness.''

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1995

ISBN: 1-57098-058-6

Page Count: 228

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1995

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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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