An American writer from Chicago falls in love with what he sees as an ideal society in the Bruco contrada, an ancient subdivision of Siena, Italy, and strives mightily to become accepted into it.

To Rodi (Dogged Pursuit: My Year of Competing Dusty, the World’s Least Likely Agility Dog, 2009, etc.) the robust Italian appetite for life was a welcome contrast to the “dismaying anemia of modern American culture.” Driven by a deep desire to belong, he traveled to Siena seven times between 2003 and 2009. Several of his trips occurred during the Palio, the colorful civic competition among contrade held twice each summer and featuring a horse race around the Piazza del Campo in the city’s center. Rodi views this celebration and game as central to the life of Siena, renewing its people’s hope and making them the happiest and most self-reliant people he’s ever met. Usually, he was accompanied and guided by Dario, a genial entrepreneur who gave him entry into the society to which he longed to belong. Acceptance did not come easy for a gay, middle-aged American whose Italian was shaky, and Rodi worked hard to fit in. Good food and plenty of wine eased the way, however. In a generally self-deprecating manner, the author recounts his missteps, minor achievements (being recognized by a bartender, being greeted on the street) and embarrassing moments (wearing too-short yellow shorts in a footrace). In 2009, Rodi got his wish when he was honored by becoming an official member of the contrada, a ceremony during which he happily swore allegiance to its traditions. A lighthearted account, a touch snobbish at times, but entertaining and funny.   


Pub Date: June 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-345-52105-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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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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