This is the third volume of ``nonfiction'' from the prolific Austrian playwright, novelist, and poet (Absence, 1990), who often takes the writing life as subject. Handke delights in stretching his work across genres. Novels begin as screenplays, journal entries frequently record things as he'd have liked them to happen. Narration and description become interchangeable, as do representation and realization. Again, in these three essays, he toys with readers. ``Tiredness'' opens with the simplistic image of the little boy in church forcing his parents to take him home because he's tired, thus ruining the rest of their day. By the essay's end, some 40 pages later, that banal tiredness has taken on familial, erotic, political, and cultural dimensions. He describes a world slowed down, paid attention to, much as it might appear in a drug-induced state. Paragraphs stretch five pages or longer, contributing to the tedium. The final essay, ``The Successful Day,'' is also based on the mundane. Throwing an experience common to his audience back in their faces, he forces chuckles and all-out laughter as digressions become avoidances. Both these essays take the form of mock interviews, permitting him to play devil's advocate with himself. The longer title essay is harder to follow. His physical landscape is unfamiliar, and in constant flux. His subject is boredom itself: Staying in an insipid small town, the writer puts off sitting down at his desk by aimlessly searching for a jukebox like the one that filled his childhood. The joke here, of course, is that Handke is writing all this, accomplishing something the reader is not. This volume is a philosophical exercise by a mind taking multiple detours. Readers who lack the author's deadpan humor will stare blank-eyed at the page. They can't win. Handke has them precisely where he wants them.

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 1994

ISBN: 0-374-18054-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 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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