In an engrossing but largely unpersuasive dual biography, Casdorph (History/Virginia State) argues that the ``close connection between Lee and Jackson started long before their glory days upon the fields of northern Virginia''; that ``it was an association, however sporadic, that enabled each man to test the other's mettle''; and that this ``interconnectiveness'' led the two soldiers to their military triumphs. The difficulty with Casdorph's thesis is that, while it is well known that Lee and Jackson were cordial acquaintances before the war and served together in Mexico, the author presents little evidence of a particularly close relationship between the two prior to the Civil War. Lee and Jackson were separated by 17 years (Lee was born in 1807, Jackson in 1824) and, although Captain Lee apparently conducted an examination of Cadet Jackson at West Point in the summer of 1844, there is no indication that either man particularly remarked the other. Casdorph presents no proof of a substantial prewar correspondence between the two; in fact, there is no record before the Civil War of a profound admiration of either man for the other. Indeed, when Jackson applied for a professorship at the Univ. of Virginia, Lee supplied Jackson with a character reference that Casdorph admits was ``not particularly enthusiastic.'' The real relationship between the two began when, as a professor at Virginia Military Institute at war's outbreak, Jackson joined his VMI cadets with Lee's army in April 1861. Casdorph gives over the bulk of his account to a superb narrative of the pair's dazzling victories—First Manassas, Seven Days, Fredericksburg—which ended when Jackson was mortally wounded by his own men at Chancellorsville in May 1863. The author is undoubtedly correct when he argues that the ``military loss to Lee and the Confederacy'' occasioned by Jackson's death ``almost defies analysis.'' Casdorph presents an excellent account of the war, as well as serviceable biographies of the two warriors, but offers little evidence to support his emphasis on the ``interconnectiveness'' of Lee and Jackson. (Illustrations, maps—not seen.)

Pub Date: April 29, 1992

ISBN: 1-55778-535-X

Page Count: 448

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1992

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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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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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