Lifelong companions are remembered in variety and gratefulness in this collection of original essays. Boston lawyer and essayist Shwartz has assembled a fine coterie of more than 100 writers. There’s strong representation of esteemed writers known by surnames—Barth, Hawkes, Lessing, Mailer, Oates, Ozick, Paley, Updike—plus academics Witold Rybczynski and Robert Coles, journalists Anna Quindlen and Pete Hamill, and current biggies Frank McCourt and James McBride. Those wanting full multicultural spread will need to look elsewhere, as will readers troubled by the mere presence of firebrands Stanley Fish or P.J. O’Rourke. Better than complaining is to luxuriate in the memories of intellectual awakening and young endless hours to drink books in. Early choices for Jonathan Harr and others was Sherlock Holmes, for Tracy Kidder and others, Little Women. But for adolescent siren call to serious reading and writing, most cited is Dickens. “Great Expectations is the first novel I read that made me wish I had written it; it is the novel that made me want to be a writer,” says John Irving. Nabokov, Yeats, Joyce, Melville, Woolf, Tolstoy, and Conrad are often named as lifelong influences on language and thought, though many writers cite the odd title as important. The Uta (a collection of early Japanese poetry) captured Gretel Ehrlich’s feelings of exile; the children’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon showed Rita Dove “the possibilities of traveling on the line of one’s imagination.” All these pieces enter a writer’s mind, but some are more welcoming than others. Not surprisingly, the most readable pieces are those by columnists and nonfiction mavens such as Roy Blount Jr., Justin Kaplan, and Dave Barry, who takes a funny trek from Archie comics to Calvin Trillin. For community with those who have loved Tarzan forever or inspiration to finally read Proust, this is a memory book of fond epiphanies.

Pub Date: March 8, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-14466-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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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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