This solid but too disparate collection of essays and panel discussions (drawn from a series of 1995 symposia celebrating the centenary of his birth) revisits Wilson's life, work, and legacy. Though he longed to be a novelist, Wilson found his greatest success with such classic critical and historical works as Axel's Castle, Patriotic Gore, and To the Finland Station. He had a true gift for elucidation and was keenly enough attuned to the subtleties of his culture to become an active shaping force. In the words of Random House editor Jason Epstein: ``He will eventually prove to be one of the greatest of our writers. Not so much for his individual works . . . but as perhaps the greatest teacher our literature has ever produced.'' Despite the similar accolades that lard this collection, one has to at least ask the question: Why? To critique the critic, to embed the historian in history, is to risk the law of diminishing returns, never mind academic navel-gazing. However, Dabney, a professor of English at the University of Wyoming and editor of several books by and about Wilson, has chosen most of his material well, and the list of contributors, from Arthur Schlesinger to Alfred Kazin and Louis Menand, is certainly impressive. But it is the nature of essays to be narrowly focused, and this leads here to a wallowing in minutiae. Essays on Wilson's philo-Semitism, romanticism, and lack of attention to minority writers, while well realized, are only fractionally revealing. More enlightening are the essays that broadly consider Wilson and his abiding cultural importance, particularly Louis Menand's ``Edmund Wilson and His Times'' and Paul Berman's ``Wilson and Our Non-Wilsonian Age.'' While the general reader will probably be lost throughout a good portion of this collection, it is a neat treat for die-hard Wilsonians.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-691-01672-0

Page Count: 285

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1997

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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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