A polemic twice as long as it should be by lawyer/engineer Huber (Liability, 1988), now taking aim at the hired-hand expert witnesses who are called upon in liability cases where appeal to science is the issue. Where are the days of yore when judges exercised judgment about the credentials of experts? Or when juries acted on the conviction that victims might be self-destructive, ignorant, or otherwise to blame? All that is gone in these days of ``junk'' science, says Huber, in which self-proclaimed fringe scientists are given equal weight in the courtroom. So we hear about trauma- induced cancers, chemically induced AIDS, the dangers of all IUDs and of self-accelerating Audi cars (dramatically depicted on 60 Minutes). Huber sees the new let-it-all-hang-in courtroom behavior as rooted in a new liability-science that uses law to effect social control by charging accidents to the person (or agent) who might have prevented it most cheaply. So instead of blaming the victim for mistaking the accelerator for the brake, blame the car designer; blame the tobacco company and not the chain-smoker; blame the IUD for pelvic inflammatory disease and not its promiscuous user. Indeed, Huber's blame-the-victim harping mars what is often an incisive indictment of stupidity, arrogance, and deception masking as fair justice. Moreover, the question of why America is so litigious a society, driven to vicious circles of fear and distrust, suit and countersuit, and what can be done about it are barely touched upon. Huber's appeal to good science and the noble search for truth are to be commended, but, it should be noted, manufacturers do make mistakes that cost lives, victims are often innocent, and medical science has yet to reach consensus concerning the cause and cure of many an ailment.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 1991

ISBN: 0-465-02623-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1991

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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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