A set of brave works featuring first-rate prose.




Ramsey’s (Quitter, 2014) new collection of creative nonfiction and poetry takes on the topics of depression, addiction, and loss.

Structured in four parts, including nonfiction chapbooks and zines, uncollected autobiographical essays, poems, and interviews, this volume impresses with its fresh scrutiny of both inner and outer worlds. “Farthing Street,” for example, begins by describing weeds in a lawn, “tall and heading out to seed, the view from our front stoop full of henbit, broadleaf plantain and pepperweed.” The author’s keen eye then turns inward to recollect watershed moments: a birthday present of a hunting shotgun; a first episode of depression in high school; the difficult birth of his first daughter, Tennessee. The inventory of weeds—growing in a lawn so neglected that the city of Durham, North Carolina, places a notice on the mailbox—blossoms into a full-blown essay that meanders with purpose and insight through major topics, such as his partner’s miscarriage. The essay also offers an unflinching acknowledgement of how difficult early fatherhood is, especially for a person hailing from an abusive family and suffering bouts of debilitating depression, before the speaker strikes out to mow the grass while his daughter, now a toddler, waves at him through the window. Connecting current events and states of mind with potent memories gives the book a poetic resonance as well as solid structure within chapters and across the collection. The author is determined to describe the feeling of a depressive episode—“this understanding that gloom is coming”—as best he can for the sake of readers who might benefit and for his children, who might one day experience the “sinister or beautiful” fact of genetic inheritance. The inevitability of the next spell of depression is terrifying to read about yet necessary to share: “I am lightning connecting with a transformer on a pole; I am a race horse that just broke its leg.” To one of the interview questions, the author responds with a great understatement: “I am not a talker, but I can write.”

A set of brave works featuring first-rate prose.

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-939899-28-6

Page Count: 169

Publisher: Pioneers Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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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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