Be ready to hit the scan button repeatedly with this wildly uneven, day-by-day-by-day diary of a year—1995—spent listening to the radio. Like strip malls and superhighways, radio has become such an integral part of the American landscape that we rarely notice its sheer ubiquity. Between our houses, our cars, our offices, even our elevators, there are more than 500,000,000 radios in this country, all spewing a 24-hour-a-day hodgepodge of everything from rock to religion to right-wing ranting. Any account of this vast cacophony is necessarily subjective, but Vowell, a music columnist for San Francisco Weekly, spices her impressionistic stew with unhealthy dollops of narcissism and jejune banality: ``I only conceived this diary as a means to say that I'm just as confused and overwhelmed as my elders, just as ill-informed and worried and perplexed and lacking in answers (but willing to look) as people twice my age.'' In these limited terms, the book is a roaring success. As Vowell spins her way around the country, tuning in to the local radio stations, she reacts like the perfect poster girl for Generation X: I mean, don't you just hate Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich and all those mean Republicans? And how about National Public Radio, isn't it, totally nonadventurous and establishment? And doesn't Top-Forty completely bite? What little wisdom there is to be found in this landscape apparently comes mainly from grungy Seattle rockers like Nirvana and Pearl Jam (those who believe that truth resides in rock lyrics will be particularly taken with this book). By the end, Vowell is justly sick and tired of radio, of the noise and chatter, the hate and spew and ``all the stupidity.'' Unfortunately, one of those rare books in which subject and author are in near-perfect harmony.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-14712-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996

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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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