An insightful, at times amusing walk through America’s collective psyche and history by one of this century’s most popular newspaper columnists. For nearly 35 years, Royko (Like I Was Sayin’ . . ., 1984, etc.) entertained newspaper readers and alternately cajoled and aggravated bureaucrats. By the time the Chicago-based Pulitzer Prize—winning writer died in 1997, his columns were syndicated in more than 600 papers nationwide, and his “characters” (convenient pals, such as Slats Grobnik, who acted as literary foils) were fixtures in many Americans’ lives. Here his widow and some longtime colleagues have culled 100 of Royko’s best from nearly 8,000 columns. They are remarkable on many levels, not least for his ability to churn out five columns weekly (his only real break came after the death of his first wife). Royko also impresses with the breadth of his work. Sometimes he is the outraged muckraker: “A Faceless Man’s Plea” decries the Veterans Administration for refusing to pay for plastic surgery that would enable a Vietnam veteran to chew food once more. (The VA changed its mind almost within hours of the column appearing in print.) At other times he is the voice of just-plain-folks, questioning exactly why our government is acting in a particular way. Sometimes he’s just funny, as in the columns bemoaning his allegedly ugly feet. A gruff, no-holds-barred writer, Royko spoke for the many who are voiceless. Despite his success and the rise of celebrity journalists, he remained refreshingly unimpressed with himself. “I just hope my next column is readable, doesn’t bore people,— he said in a 1993 interview. —I don’t have any grand scheme.” Yet the continued relevance of these columns reminds us that good journalists can make a difference. A terrific compendium for those who always meant to clip and save Royko’s words but didn’t. (17 photos, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-226-73071-9

Page Count: 295

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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