Let us now celebrate body parts, in this collection of generally fine essays from talented writers. Some of the 18 authors, like Jane Smiley, Mona Simpson, and Esmeralda Santiago, have contributed to the Fiffers’ earlier collections (Home, 1995; Family, 1996). Here both writers and editors seem to be hitting their stride with this format, with commentaries diverse in both tone and subject. Eyes, brain, hair, nose, teeth, scar tissue—literally head to toe—are themes of the individual sketches that the Fiffers have coaxed into this anthology. Smiley delights in her belly, whether flat or protruding with child; cartoonist Lynda Barry believes teeth are the “music [of] the face.” There is a challenging reflection on death, rebirth, and transformation from Richard McCann, who received a liver transplant (how would Lazarus, raised from the dead, be feeling?, he wonders). Thomas Lynch takes on the womb, beginning with his Roman Catholic rosaries (“blessed is the fruit of thy womb”), although he gets it seriously wrong in equating the Immaculate Conception with the Virgin Birth. Lynch does raise the question of whether men should have a choice in acknowledging paternity, as women have the choice of terminating pregnancy. Ron Carlson offers nothing new in his reflections on the penis, but Kyoko Mori runs engagingly along on the subject of her feet. Editor Sharon Fiffer discusses how she has mentally peopled the chambers of her heart with those she loves and despises (it got so crowded, she added a few rooms), and Rosario FerrÇ joyously celebrates “The Butt” both for its sexuality and its role as purifier of inner waste. Overall a winsome compendium, suitable for bedside or seaside, where body parts can be contemplated in their (relative) nakedness.

Pub Date: June 8, 1999

ISBN: 0-380-97713-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1999

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet