As he did in The Lady and the Monk (1991) and Video Night in Kathmandu (1988), Iyer again turns his attention to the quirky and the quixotic, this time in what he calls ``the et ceteras in the list of nations.'' Included in these ``lonely places'' are Iceland, Paraguay, Vietnam, Argentina, and Australia. Iyer confesses early on to a lifelong attraction to regions that in ``their very remoteness'' take on an ``air of haunted glamour.'' He doesn't necessarily mean geographically distant, though Bhutan and Patagonia are among his destinations. Rather, it's the psychological and economic isolation of these areas- -occasioned by, for example, lack of tourism and international investment—that intrigues the author. Iyer depicts with wonder and affection the varied idiosyncracies he encounters, studding his narrative with colorful, off-beat facts—e.g., that, by law, one evening each year the members of the Icelandic Parliament must speak in rhyme. Throughout, Iyer displays a winning, self- deprecatory humor. When a Cuban doctor asks him to touch his nose with his eyes closed, the author jokes, ``Luckily, it is a big target: I pass with flying colors.'' Iyer's also aware of the dichotomies that exist within the countries he visits. Vietnam, despite decades of war, is ``one of the gentlest and most peaceful countries I have ever seen.'' His comments on that nation's eagerness to enter the world economic market are revelatory and unexpected: ``It is impossible not to feel that Saigon, with its Ca-Li-Pho-Nia Ham-Bu-Go stores and its karaoke bars, its Chiclets and water ski clubs, its private Mercedeses and hustlers and `Atlanta Placons' baseball caps—Saigon, with its rogue economy—is the image of the country's future.'' Economically written yet immensely resonant: a funny, stimulating, eminently humane work, charming and instructive.

Pub Date: May 4, 1993

ISBN: 0-679-42264-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1993

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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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