Bateson sets out to show that ``most of learning occurs outside the settings labeled as educational'' and that ``living and learning are everywhere founded on an improvisational base.'' Bateson (Anthropology and English/George Mason Univ.; Composing a Life, 1989, etc.) brings the reader along on a winding journey through different cultures to look at the process of learning as a spontaneous, nonlinear endeavor. The daughter of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, the author has her intellectual roots in anthropology, but her writing is freewheeling, philosophizing, and personal. She spent time in Israel as a high school student; in the Philippines with her Armenian husband, as a professor and field worker; and in Iran with her daughter, Vanni, teaching and researching. The book begins with a scene in a Persian garden as Bateson takes the two-and-a-half-year-old Vanni to observe the ritual slaughter of a sheep in the Iranian countryside. The incident leads to Bateson's pondering the multiple levels of learning involved in participating in the ritual; the link between people and animals; the meshing of Eastern and Western culture; the connection between Islam and Christianity; the role of anthropologist as outsider and, in this case, as participant; the relationship between mother and daughter; and the class differences among the participants. It becomes a touchstone for Bateson's thoughts on how we learn. The book continues to string together seemingly disparate events, out of chronological order, which cycle back to Bateson's reflections on intellectual growth. It challenges the reader to remain open to learning and holds that goal up as one of life's great pleasures. But because the thinking rambles and the examples seem random, the book lacks the weight it needs to persuade or inspire.

Pub Date: June 22, 1994

ISBN: 1-55594-748-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1994

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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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