Dylan Thomas set out to make his life as striking as his poetry, but BBC journalist Fryer (Isherwood, 1978) denigrates the former while skirting the latter, missing both man and poet. Precociously gifted even as a child with an extraordinary imagination and literary talent, Thomas (19141953) decided early on to become poäte maudit of the sleepy South Wales town of Swansea. Despite his early death from alcoholism in New York City, his career displayed many facets (not all of them glittering): hack journalism, film scripts, radio readings, American lectures, short stories, and some of the finest modern poetry in English. It's evident even in the introduction here that Fryer dislikes Thomas's mercurial personality and finds his perpetually adolescent pub antics distasteful. Such prejudice makes it impossible for the author to trace any connections between Thomas and his poetry- -indeed, he prefers to discuss the latter as little as possible. Although he succeeds in recreating the social milieu of literary London, Fryer fails to prove his general thesis that Thomas was ``a writer of the Thirties'' comparable to Auden and Isherwood. His book could have been a welcome deflation of Thomas's mythmaking cult, to which admirers contributed as much as the poet himself, but it finally becomes a squalid and scornful exercise in gratuitous contempt. While Fryer has some sympathy for Thomas's put-upon friends, he offers no genuine insights into either side of such crucial relationships as those between the poet and his formidable wife, Caitlin, and his American promoter, John Brinnin (both of whom wrote books about Thomas themselves). Fryer cites recently published letters and includes some new anecdotes, such as Thomas's reaction to his father's cremation, but none of this material is more trustworthy or more illuminating than that already on record. In the end, his work remains overshadowed by Paul Ferris's intensively researched Dylan Thomas (1977), the authoritative biography. An example of poor quality control in the Dylan Thomas industry.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1994

ISBN: 1-85626-090-0

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Collins & Brown/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 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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