A strong selection of the 60-year-old Peruvian novelist's (Death in the Andes, 1996, etc.) journalism and literary essays, spanning 30 years of prodigious, passionate creativity. Such collections of fugitive works by great writers are tricky: Some seem to consist largely of pet peeves and fragmentary musings. That's not the case here. Vargas Llosa writes with compelling insight, verve, and intelligence about even the most modest matters. He is a cosmopolitan figure, having spent a great deal of time in Europe and the US, and the wide range of his knowledge and experience is frequently on display. He writes with vigor and clarity: Essays produced in the 1960s and '70s on, say, the difference between Comus and Sartre, are just as alive and relevant now as when he wrote them. Naturally, Vargas Llosa writes a good deal about politics, especially South American politics. ("The raison d'etre of a writer," he reminds us, "is protest, disagreement, criticism.") Though politicial essays are especially prone to seeming dated and irrelevant, in Vargas Llosa's hands the opposite is true. He cannily brings out the element of the permanent that inhabits the ephemeral. But perhaps his best efforts in this book are the literary essays. He turns his analytic gaze on Doris Lessing, Grass, Dos Passos, Faulkner, Cortezar, Bataille, Bueuel, de Beauvoir, Joyce, Bellow, Rushdie, and Hovel, among others, to considerable effect. In addition, he has interesting things to say about such diverse topics as Lorena Bobbit, the British school system, and the grave of Rin Tin Tin. The collection is also of interest because it offers an intimate chronicle of Vargas Llosa's intellectual life, tracing his trajectory from the political left to the right, a transit he has made with admirable honesty and self-criticism. A fine collection demonstrating that, like his American colleague John Updike, Vargas Llosa has done some of his finest writing in essays and reviews.

Pub Date: June 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-374-20038-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet