Massive (800 pp.) and excellent first volume of a projected two-volume biography by Boyle (German/Cambridge) of the protean genius Goethe. Writing for a general audience as well as scholars, Boyle opens with a carefully constructed historical context to show the Goethe was an anomaly in the age named after him: an elitist during an age of democratic revolution; a classicist during a period of sentimentalism; a man who secularized art and experience during a period of religious revival, grounding his knowledge in observation over theory and tradition-which led him to reject Newton as well as the received beliefs of Christianity. Each chapter is divided into life, events, nonliterary activities-such as Goethe's study of science (geology, botany, and physics)-and an analysis of related literary works, the lyric poems, The Sorrows of Young Werther (more a reflection of the taste of the age than Goethe), the classical plays, and the evolving Faust. The unifying theme is Boyle's belief that Goethe was motivated by unfulfilled goals, usually women but also an idealized life in Italy-which he ultimately visited at age 36, when from the shores of Venice he saw the sea for the first time. In spite of his self-image as Promethean creator, solitary, suffering, desolate, he became a cultural icon in Weimar, turning the ancient republic, where he had gone to be tutor to the Prince and rose to be Prime Minister, into a haven for the artistic and intellectual elite. At age 40, the handsome, charming, and seductive womanizer-after a long courtship with a married woman and many abandoned peasant girls-took responsibility for the son he fathered by the 23-year-old Christina Vulpius, whom he married 16 years later. This clear, methodical, dispassionate representation of Goethe is especially timely given the tumultuous social and intellectual changes in contemporary Germany, its reunification and cultural reassessment reminiscent of Goethe's lifetime.

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: O-19-815866-1

Page Count: 763

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1991

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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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