A leisurely tour of the coral reefs of Grand Turk Island, where novelist Harrigan (Jacob's Well, 1984) learns about nature and himself. Diving has always meant a great deal to Harrigan, but now, living far from the sea and worried that the activity is becoming nothing more than a hobby, he decides to spend an extensive period diving in the Caribbean. There, he will ``study the natural history of the coral reef, but the motivation was not as clear or, perhaps, as worthy. I wanted to be, at least for a time, my underwater self.'' He checks into a local motel on the island—a desolate and relatively unspoiled place where salt was once collected from inland pans—and begins his diving explorations. As he explores the reefs, dives down part of the great wall that edges the nearby 7,000-foot-deep channel, and chats to locals, Harrigan relates old diving adventures as far apart as Australia and Mexico. He observes the variety of fish and plant life, explains that coral is actually an animal, not a plant, and includes such diving lore as the story of the development of the aqualung—an invention that, as Jacques Cousteau wrote, meant that ``From this day forward we would swim across miles of country no man had known.'' Catching conches for his dinner, Harrigan laments the decline of the sea-turtle, ``a great being, venerable, unknowable,'' and admits to being angry with dolphins because he fails to interest them. Hoping to be transformed by the reef, his underwater destiny acknowledged, he ruefully realizes how indifferent the teeming underwater world is to his presence. He is ready to go home. A graceful and low-keyed celebration of diving and the dazzling underwater world it reveals, as much for the underwater enthusiast as for the armchair traveler.

Pub Date: May 26, 1992

ISBN: 0-395-46558-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1992

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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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