A former head writer for ``Late Night with David Letterman'' satirizes popular ``happiness materials'' (books, calendars, etc.) with her own entertaining (self-) investigations. Markoe (What the Dogs Have Taught Me, not reviewed) treads somewhere between the absurdism of Dave Barry and the intricacies of Henry Alford, with her own L.A. female spin. Each of her 33 brief chapters begins with a ``happiness hint,'' followed by her own efforts to follow the advice. So ``extend a social invitation to someone you've always been afraid to approach'' leads, natch, to dinner—courtesy of a TV Guide assignment—with the famous-chested Fabio, who bravely annotates his publicity photos for Markoe. Following the counsel of doyenne Martha Stewart on selecting a party theme, the author determines that, given her chaotic table settings and decorations, her theme should be ``the breakup of the Soviet Union.'' Deciding to take a new class, Markoe ends up at a session for would-be dominatrixes (``I realize I'm not in Comp. Lit. anymore''). Her muse guides her through a Medieval Times dinner, a meditation on pets, a close analysis of answering machine messages, and a visit with a psychic interior decorator. Markoe's targets are within the safe maw of mainstream pop culture; only occasionally does she exhibit real bite: when analyzing Madonna's book Sex, she tags la Ciccone as ``the world's first self-employed centerfold,'' and after going to see the play The Real Live Brady Bunch, she observes, ``All that binds us is shared dopey media experience.'' Well, that's a good reason to make fun of it, and for Markoe to try harder when a few efforts—like a satire on the Amy Fisher movies and a tour of movie star homes—go limp. Chuckleworthy in small doses—and a strong argument for caution. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-670-85332-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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