An extraordinary and beautifully written chronicle that combines the best of different genres: travel writing, journalism, and history. His first book reveals Taplin, a former public-information officer in the American Embassy in Moscow, to be a keen observer of Russian life and a gifted writer. Fortuitously, he was living in Moscow in 1992 when Russia and the US signed the ``Open Lands'' agreement permitting free travel throughout both countries. Taplin immediately took action. ``Instinctively,'' he writes, ``I knew I had to go beyond Moscow and St. Petersburg, sly old deceivers of travelers past. Was there a truer expression of Russia's past and its future in those forbidden places of the Soviet era?'' He searches for answers in seven locales: Velikiy Ustyug, Vorkuta, Arkhangelsk & Solovki, Kabardino-Balkaria, Tuva, Kamchatka, and Vladivostok. His journeys are full of surprises, revealing a curious mixture of the old and the new, the Soviet-driven and the local. Contrary to general opinion, Vladivostok is not alien or exotic; ``it was a veritable bastion of Russianness.'' It is also, Taplin finds, the very embodiment of the new Russia, its future ``framed, at least for now, by commerce, crime and chaos.'' In Vorkuta, an inhospitable, snow-covered land that is home to isolated villages and the ruins of innumerable Gulag camps, Taplin discovers ghosts of Russia's past. With his malleable prose, he is able to convey the sentiments, personalities, and worlds of both the head organizer of monuments honoring the Gulag's victims and of a woman who defends and honors those who headed the forced-labor brigades that built the region's roads and railroads. Above all, it is Taplin's exquisite literary sensibility that animates this narrative. A description of Vladivostok's airport, applicable universally to former Soviet or East European transport vehicles illustrates his precision and wit: ``The airport terminal . . . was another of Russia's countless dysfunctional edifices, a glass-fronted incubator of grime and body odor.'' A modern classic tale of a foreigner's travels through Russia.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 1997

ISBN: 1-883642-01-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Steerforth

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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