When should life-support be withdrawn? What level of medical care is appropriate for whom? These and other tough questions— too tough (or too hot) for one person to handle—are faced by ethics committees that now are as commonplace in hospitals as respirators and government regulations. Here, New York Times reporter Belkin tells how one such group deals with questions like these. Belkin spent three years observing the ethics committee's meetings at Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas, talking to doctors, committee members, patients and their families. Nearly all gave permission for their real names to be used, which says something about Belkin's empathy and discretion. Besides describing the dynamics of meetings and delving into the background of some members, the author focuses on a few patients whose plight the committee is asked to consider: Patrick, a 15- year-old with a chronic, incurable disorder of the digestive tract; Taylor, born at 25 weeks and weighing only 24 ounces; Armando, a young man with a bullet in his brain that has paralyzed him from the neck down; and Landon, a baby born with severe spina bifida. Decisions must be made, and Belkin shows how the committee makes them, demonstrating that there are never easy answers and sometimes no right ones. There are no perfectly happy endings, either: Patrick and Taylor die; Armando and Landon live, but the quality of their lives is debatable. Nevertheless, the narrative is not depressing, as the individual stories are always absorbing and Belkin relates them with warmth and understanding. A behind-the-scenes account that's hard to put down and difficult to forget.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 1993

ISBN: 0-671-68538-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1992

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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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