Quaint, quirky, leisurely, and often confiningly parochial, this is a paean to the rambling farmhouse in Normandy that's been in his family since 1920 and that Kilmer can't resist trying to restore to habitability. Kilmer, author of the Fred Taylor mystery series that debuted last year (Harmony in Flesh and Black, 1995), is also a painter, as was his grandfather, Frederick Frieseke, the American impressionist who first found the property near the isolated town of Mesnil. Kilmer's wife, Julia, smitten herself, pretends to pragmatism in the face of his love for the place where they've roughed it intermittently en famille since 1968. Her resistance to his idea to finally commit real money to it makes for such dramatic tension as there is here. Nick solos in Mesnil for a week to assess the situation seriously. The bathroom floor caves in, an owl takes up residence in the chimney, the sheets seem to have vanished just when old friends from home come to stay. One of those friends gets it absolutely right when, talking to Julia about the place, she says, ``Why don't you just think of it as his mistress?'' Any task, from preparing a Calvados-marinated rabbit to arranging for the rehabilitation of the family cemetery plot, easily engages Kilmer, a born adherent to the do-it-yourself ethos (which, he observes, is so inimical to the French that they don't even have their own word for it), but when not thwarted by custom or inexpediency, his ambitions are subject to sidetracking by all manner of social and commercial transactions. He does take time out to appreciate local color, patiently recording details of private and provincial genealogy and collecting and sharing natural and civic arcana. Kilmer's gentrified-hippy sensibility, at first rather engaging, grows thin long before the narrative winds down. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8050-3930-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996

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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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