An orthodox approach that works. Old-fashioned gross anatomy, cell biology, neurochemistry, and physiology are the tools Washington-based neurologist Restak (The Modular Brain, 1994, etc.) uses to teach the wonders of the human brain. Thus, the first chapters recap what we know about the brain's hemispheres and the major landmarks that demarcate areas associated with language, emotion, thought, vision, movements, and the like. These are followed by the essentials of how nerve cells are organized, how they communicate with each other, and the many varieties of chemicals that grease the neural circuitry. To be sure, along the way there are countless examples that illustrate what can go wrong when illness or injury strikes, from all too familiar incurable conditions like Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease to more rare syndromes like Lesch-Nyhan, a genetic disease involving self-mutilation. Later, Restak introduces case studies from his own practice and explains how a subject's reports combined with new methods of brain imaging can help pin down the diagnosis as well as illustrate normal brain function. Toward the end of the book Restak comes to grips with some old and new issues: the perennial problems of self-awareness and free will; the ethical dilemma raised by defense lawyers who may argue that their client's neurological illness predisposed them to violence (too simplistic; we don't know enough to eliminate personal responsibility). Equally problematic is the issue of ``improving'' our minds through drugs (like Prozac). Perhaps the question to be raised here is whether such psychoactive drugs improve ``normal'' performance or only correct deficits. Overall, Restak has managed a remarkable sweep of information in a short book: proving that if you lay down your anatomical landmarks in advance, you can lead the reader to some very exciting and promising brain(land)scapes. (15 b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-7868-6113-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1995

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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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