A back-to-the-land and back-to-the-old-ways collection of often charming autobiographical essays. Wetherell, a novelist (The Wisest Man in America, 1995, etc.), and short-story writer and a longtime resident of the hill country of western New Hampshire, is a resolutely happy man, blessed, he writes, with a perfect mate and a perfect home. He finds his happiness to be due in large part to the simplicity of his life; he owns no television, writes only grudgingly on an electric typewriter, and refuses to purchase a computer. Wetherell occasionally belabors his us-against-the-world stance, but he has a point; his book is full of little pieces on life's simple pleasures, like reading, or gazing at the stars, or contemplating the history of his forebears and the ways of his neighbors. ``I am revealing myself to be as extinct as a dinosaur, dead as a dodo, a relic of another era, a footnote to an age that not only rushes ahead in heedless bondage to the new, but tramples in contempt on anyone who stubbornly refuses to keep pace,'' he writes. That stubbornness takes a sometimes curmudgeonly tone, as when Wetherell grumps at the noises his neighbors make with their V8 engines and boom boxes. But more often Wetherell is a courtly critic of the modern age, an age in which ``it's becoming impossible to live with any kind of economic modesty,'' even way out in the sticks. Still, he sees signs of hope for a return to at least some of the old ways, including a reemerging ethos of repairing rather than discarding, a yearning for community, and a newfound ``reverence . . . for the land.'' A pleasing declaration in favor of the country life.

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-55821-651-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1997

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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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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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