Sometimes shocking, usually smart, always entertaining.

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AA GILL IS AWAY

Vitriol, humor and lashings of insight as British columnist Gill visits a smorgasbord of far-flung places.

Television critic for the Times of London, Gill moonlights as a travel-writer whenever he gets a chance. Here he applies his trademark acerbity to places rather than programs as he roves from famine-devastated southern Sudan to the site of an environmental disaster in Uzbekistan. Gill possesses the journalist’s trademark blend of cynicism and tenderheartedness, but in his hands, the old pairing sings. He can take a bit of tired, disgusting status quo—the dire pharmaceutical shortages in Africa, for example—and whip up a story full of elegant sentences with a fresh, potent sting. “Environmental disaster” doesn’t convey much, but horror is born anew when Gill visits the salt flats that used to be the Aral Sea, drained through a combination of communism and stupidity (the author would argue that this is a redundancy). His portrait of the Dinka as they wait in line for food is painfully vivid. Not all of the essays focus on human cruelty and idiocy as manifested across the globe, however; Gill also shares a stunning little piece about a tropical storm in the Kalahari and an uproarious account of the time he wrote and directed a pornographic film in Los Angeles. He starts by revealing his methods: Don’t take notes, don’t stay too long, don’t do research. “My sort of journalism is all about the surface of things,” he states. It would be wise to keep this in mind when reading his political analysis, or his merciless flaying of Japan and its culture. But Gill’s readers are accustomed to his style, and when Monte Carlo is compared to a “sewage outlet,” it hardly seems that he’s taking on a defenseless foe.

Sometimes shocking, usually smart, always entertaining.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-7667-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

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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MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    

 

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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