Piazza, whose short-story collection Blues and Trouble (1996) won the Michener Prize, looks again at his favorite music in this collection of occasional pieces. Writing on jazz between 1979 and 1997 (for which he won the 1996 ASCAPDeems Taylor Award for Music Writing), Piazza has had the opportunity to watch this musical phoenix arise once again resplendent from its supposed ashes. In the course of the two decades covered by the pieces in this volume (most of them previously published in the New York Times, the New Republic, Atlantic Monthly, and the Village Voice), Piazza has recounted the arrival of a new generation of young jazz musicians, headed by the controversial Wynton Marsalis. The author has been one of the more forceful advocates for Marsalis and his acolytes and their brand of neoclassical jazz. Briefly, Piazza believes that the critics who decry Marsalis's lack of ``emotion'' are unwittingly and tacitly racist, reducing all jazz to a sort of primitive expression of raw feeling and undervaluing the role of intellect in the creation of the music. It's an argument that's not without some merit, as his lengthy attacks on James Lincoln Collier (particularly a scathing review of Collier's egregious Duke Ellington biography) show. But too many of the pieces here—the opening reviews of McCoy Tyner and Mary Lou Williams in particular—have little or nothing to do with this thesis. The best essays are reportage from the road, a previously unpublished piece on a jazz festival in Dahomey and a recounting of days and nights on tour with Wynton and his band. Piazza is a writer worth paying attention to, but this book is too slight a framework to support his arguments. In fact, it is too slight a framework to call a book.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-16789-X

Page Count: 208

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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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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