A JOURNAL OF JAZZ, 1981-1990

A fine 14th book from Balliett (Bradley, Barney and Max, 1989, etc.)—taken, like many others, from his New Yorker jazz column- -that is, he suggests, his farewell jazz hard-cover. And the pages overflow with goodbyes to great jazzmen who have died, many in the past decade, with genial elegies for Duke Ellington, Ben Webster, Roy Eldridge, Benny Goodman, Thelonius Monk, Count Basie, Earl Hines, Sarah Vaughan, and Bill Evans. Balliett also reviews Gunther Schuller's The Swing Era and James Lincoln Collier's Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong bios. Collier does not get high marks for either of his books; the Armstrong bio is faulted for not covering Pops's big-band Decca years and for not breathing life into him through lively interviews on hand from his friends and sidemen, and the Ellington bio for dismissing the Duke's later concert pieces. Balliett thinks that ``It is unlikely that anyone will write a good biography of Duke Ellington.'' Nicely handled here is electrifying trumpeter Bunny Berrigan, whose virtuosic agility has never been more aptly limned in words. Also well examined are hornplayers Warren Vache, Rex Stewart, Jabbo Smith, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Coleman, Cootie Williams, and Wynton Marsalis. Miles Davis is given a stiff rap on the forebrain for hiding in heavy metal and forgoing his genius. Ol' Blue Eyes's package of 83 songs recorded with the Dorsey band is called largely inert, with only a handful of livelier, more choice ballads singled out for praise. Love for swing drummers Big Sid Catlett and Buddy Rich sings off the page, with their every rim shot, press roll, cymbal smash, or snare whisper itemized and weighed for color. If this is it, Balliett leaves in top form and we are all in his debt.

Pub Date: June 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-19-503757-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1991

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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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