A meticulous but dry biography of the British director, himself a meticulous but dry filmmaker. Sir Carol Reed's reputation, once quite grand, has fallen considerably in recent years. As even London journalist Wapshott (Rex Harrison, 1992) reluctantly admits, with the exception of his very best films—The Stars Look Down, Odd Man Out, The Fallen Idol, and The Third Man—Reed's work is impersonal, commercial, and merely competent. The filmmaker was a highly private man, in large part because of his origins. As Wapshott copiously chronicles, Reed was one of several illegitimate children fathered by the great actor-producer Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree; although Tree lived intermittently with Reed's mother and was very supportive of his ``second'' family, as an adult Reed himself was very guarded in any discussions of his private life. Like his father, the director was a big man, gentle and outgoing. His career was boosted early on by a professional friendship with the popular novelist and playwright Edgar Wallace, who led him from theater into cinema. After he began directing in the mid-1930s, his career became a parade of ``one picture after another'' (as Reed himself put it), and so does Wapshott's book. The author is frank about Reed's disastrous first marriage to actress Diana Wynyard and his often childish behavior at home. He also writes well about the circumstances surrounding the director's major films, particularly the humiliating experience of grappling with Marlon Brando in Mutiny on the Bounty, which led to Reed's firing after a year of work that produced seven minutes of footage. However, Wapshott has little of interest to say about the films themselves, relying mainly on quotes from contemporary reviews. Proficiently written and well researched, this book begs a simple question: If Reed's work is for the most part undistinguished, why bother?

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-40288-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1994

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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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