Absorbing discourse on a surprisingly evasive fundament.



A deep examination of the talionic code—“an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, measure for measure”—and its evolution and permutations as a foundation of the justice applied in modern societies.

Apart from being the perfect gift for Supreme Court nominees with no bench experience, Miller’s “meditation” on the talionic code is a rare entertainment. In an ambitious milieu of intellectual focus incorporating word origins, tantalizing glimpses of religious paradoxes and far-reaching historical perspectives wherein Norse sagas buttress Hebrew philosophy, the author (Law/Univ. of Michigan Law School; Faking It, 2003, etc.) explains how the ancients got down to evaluating offenses against honor and meting out repayment in kind long before the intricate labyrinth of a tort court. He also notes that anti-talionic arguments were regularly advanced and tolerated long before Jesus arrived to announce the merits of turning the other cheek. He is at his most engaging in pointing out how the “poetry and poetics of revenge” have become the aesthetics of the most popular and remembered myths. As in the author’s previous single-subject forays into human motivation (courage, humiliation, disgust), he sometimes chases the semantic rabbit down a seemingly bottomless hole, but his lurking suggestion that our litigious society has lost something by refining the talion to the point where money now routinely represents honor is intriguing.

Absorbing discourse on a surprisingly evasive fundament.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-521-85680-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Cambridge Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?