Introductory guide to the life and works of the famous British duo, by poet/biographer Ffinch (G.K. Chesterton, 1987). Though of some service, it won't endanger the shelf life of standard works in the field, particularly Leslie Baily's classic The Gilbert and Sullivan Book. As you might expect from a poet, the emphasis here is on Gilbert over Sullivan. Ffinch traces the pair's career from their first collaboration through their final work, with some incidental discussion of Gilbert's other plays and libretti. A complete synopsis is given of each work, with liberal quotes from Gilbert's often amusing lyrics. Notes about the original productions and about critical and audience responses—as well as some glimpses of the backstage tensions between the collaborators and their producer, Richard D'Oyly Carte—are also offered, drawing on readily available sources. Perhaps most interesting are the descriptions of the original cast members, showing how Gilbert and Sullivan sensitively shaped their works to meet the needs of their repertoire company. Gilbert's pettiness in arguing over production costs with the wily D'Oyly Carte, and Sullivan's interest in cultivating the producer's friendship in order to ensure that D'Oyly Carte would produce the ``serious'' opera that Sullivan dreamed of composing, led to the duo's ultimate downfall. Although Ffinch emphasizes the importance of the collaborative effort, he offers scant discussion of Sullivan's music; and although well- known songs are mentioned, the author's obvious literary bent precludes any serious musical discussion. His sympathy for Gilbert, too, skews his book's ending, where it's apparent that Gilbert's own character faults led to the failure of the partnership. Not without its uses, but a more balanced account would help the beginning listener enjoy these works as comic operas, not just as comic texts. (Photographs)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-297-81236-X

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1993

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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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