Spark's autobiography takes her from her Edinburgh childhood in the 20's to just after the publication of her first novel, The Comforters, in the 50's. Along the way come her half-Jewish family; school (and a portrait of Spark's beloved teacher, Miss Kay—the model for Miss Jean Brodie); a disastrous early marriage culminating in a prewar move to Rhodesia with her increasingly unbalanced husband; the birth of her son; divorce; wartime life in London doing work on the literary outskirts (e.g., directing the Poetry Society—an experience for which she took enormous factional grief but that she would later use in Loitering with Intent); and first writings and publications of her own. This memoir, Sparks says, is primarily to correct other critical versions of her life- -mainly Derrick Stanford's Muriel Spark—and there is to it, therefore, a bristling edge. But it rarely seems defensive—eelish, maybe, but not defensive: Spark's relationship to her son (raised mostly by her parents in Edinburgh) and to the Catholic faith she converted to are dispatched with an air of hardly-any-of-your-business. Cagey though it is, Spark's book will please her admirers all the same. Describing the Border ballads' ``steel and remorseful and yet so lyrical'' is to give a remarkable capsule of her own special fictional art—and the seriousness, comedy, and relatively depersonalized intimacy expressed here are completely congruent with the best of her work. (Twelve-page b&w photo insert)

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-395-65372-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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