Humorist O'Donnell (The New Yorker, Spy, etc.) presents a dizzy little satire and a miscellany of literate fun in diverse modes. Without shame or remorse, the author has his way with the English language, committing several assaults and a battery or two on a defenseless Mother Tongue. For example, ``Vertigo Park,'' an aborted real-estate development (so named in a mistaken stab at suggesting lush greenery) was ``the gateway to tomorrow, since the future is only the present left to run wild.'' One of the players in this long title story appears in a dubious flick called Will Wanda Never Cease?. There's playboy Culvert Booney and ``prestigious Leeward College, whose motto was Stand and Mingle.'' Add a scourge known as Fatal Urogenital Carnal Kinesis, which ``claimed its victims without any right to such claims.'' Maybe this is O'Donnell's attempt at The Great American Novelette, with its youthful romances, malefactors of some wealth, politics at the highest level, and pervasive all-American silliness. Maybe not. Wisely, he also presents a clever drama—sort of a Joycean play, playing on words—and a Bunyanesque tall tale about Johnny Business, who could sell feathers to a fish, retail, and his secretary, Babe the Blue Blood. There's the story of Bitty Borax, girl detective, who could postulate speedily—a modern Jonah tale wherein ``the crew and most of the passengers were superstitious under their clean clothes,'' and, as they say, more. The gathering is not large but it's inventive. Sometimes it invokes the spirit of Benchley, sometimes Perelman; then it's Bob and Rayish or Woody Allenish. Finally, it's the work of a comic chameleon, whose parodies smirkingly lurk in the verdant flora of the language. A small collection, sometimes silly, mostly funny, written with verve of steel. Send more japes, O'Donnell. (Cartoons throughout, hand-drawn by the author.)

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 1993

ISBN: 0-679-40040-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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