ON THE FIRING LINE: The Public Life of our Public

Extracts from Buckley's Firing Line program, plus much sparkling new commentary. The interview extracts, drawn from the show's 24-year-old files, include joustings with such figures as Norman Mailer, Barry Goldwater, Timothy Leafy, Muhammed Ali, Margaret Thatcher, Richard Nixon, George Wallace, and George McGovern. Buckley groups the interviews into subject categories—"The Sixties," "The Impossible Guest" (Panamanian Demetrios Lakas, who evaded all questions for an hour), "Crime and Punishment," etc., each introduced and interwoven with retrospective reflection that, as Alistair Cooke puts it in his introduction, "restores [Buckley's] roles of district attorney, mocker, lover of the last word, and. . .confessor of grevious sins." There are shocking moments (Lakas stating off camera that "I'd just as soon fuck Castro as sign a treaty with him") and priggish ones (Buckley pointedly ignoring porn star Harry Reems, an unwanted added guest: "He deserved," writes Buckley, ". . .the ostracism that anyone deserves who makes his living by exhibitionistic obscenity"). Buckley also shows his less astringent side by tackling cultural subjects—e.g., harpsichordist Rosalyn Tureck's thoughts on live vs. recorded performance—and his less dogmatic side, e.g., declaring that, in his fight for conscientious-objector status, Muhammed Ali was a victim of the establishment. Vintage Buckley, sure to preach to the converted and outrage the skeptical, executed with maximum charm.

Pub Date: April 28, 1989

ISBN: 394-57568-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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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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