HIGHWIRE

FROM THE BACKROADS TO THE BELTWAY--THE EDUCATION OF BILL CLINTON

An assessment of the first year of Bill Clinton's presidency with no major scoops but with long-term insight into Clinton's style and character. Brummett, a veteran Arkansas journalist and columnist for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, here competes not so much with fellow Arkansas reporter Meredith Oakley (On the Make, p. 614), who exhaustively portrays Clinton's gubernatorial reign, but with ur- investigator Bob Woodward (The Agenda, not reviewed). Though he can't claim Woodward's access or propound verbatim conversations, Brummett did move to Washington and spoke to Clinton, former chief of staff Mack McLarty, and other White House officials. ``Bill Clinton is a man of awesome talent and troubling personal weaknesses,'' Brummett declares at the outset, and his account of Clinton's major efforts and crises bears that out. He grounds Clinton's cautious liberalism and winning personal style in home- state politics and shows how Clinton thrives extemporaneously and dies by TelePrompTer. America needed either ``a great moral leader or a clever policy synthesizer,'' the author argues, and Clinton is the latter, as shown in his budget plan. Brummett's treatments of missteps like the Waco disaster and the White House travel-office scandal add little new. He finds himself sympathetic to Clinton— ``a victim of his own optimism''—regarding his withdrawal of the Lani Guinier nomination. Brummett is more pointed on the suicide of White House chief deputy counsel Vincent Foster: He discounts talk of a scandalous cover-up but argues that any veteran of Arkansas politics should have been prepared for Washington nastiness. While his defense of Clinton's foreign policy performance is weak—he blames subordinates—Brummett notes credibly that Whitewater pales in comparison to previous executive-branch violations of the public interest like Iran-contra. Ultimately, Brummett is optimistic that Clinton will grow into the job—or, if defeated in 1996, return ``Ö la Nixon for us to kick around some more.'' Weaker on policy than politics, but with nuance and psychological truth.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 1994

ISBN: 0-7868-6046-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

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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