Lally, managing editor of The Film Journal, offers the first Wilder biography in several years, covering the director's last films. Billy Wilder was a trailblazer: As Lally points out, he was one of the directors who dragged Hollywood kicking and screaming into the real world, pursuing subject matter that the industry generally wouldn't touch. Whether it was adultery (Double Indemnity), alcoholism (The Lost Weekend), the megalomania of fame (Sunset Boulevard), or media irresponsibility (Ace in the Hole), Wilder turned his often jaundiced eye on phenomena that made the Production Code office squirm. He was born in 1906 in Galicia, an area of Poland that was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father, a perpetual business failure, pulled the family all over that empire, but most of Wilder's youth was spent in Vienna. Streetwise and energetic, Wilder worked his way into journalism and moved to Berlin in the last heady days of the Weimar Republic. In 1929, after a long campaign, he landed work as a screenwriter, gaining experience and contacts that would prove crucial to his career in America. Wilder fled Germany when the Nazis rose to power, going first to Paris and then, in 1934, on to New York and Hollywood. (His mother, stepfather, and grandmother died in Auschwitz.) After a brief false start, Wilder's career began a meteoric rise: A great success as a screenwriter at Paramount, he swiftly moved into a director's chair, had a string of hits, and made several successful comebacks. Lally tells this story competently and thoroughly. He has talked to Wilder (a notoriously difficult man to interview) and has some fresh insights into the films, although he is often quick to reduce them to their themes. An intelligent if somewhat plodding biography that gets most of its occasional sparkle from the wit of Wilder himself. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: May 7, 1996

ISBN: 0-8050-3119-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1996

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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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