ARCANUM 17

Another never-before-translated volume by the famous surrealist, from the translator who, along with Bill Zavatsky, recently won the PEN/Book-of-the-Month-Club translation award for Breton's Earthlight. Taking its title from the Star card in the Tarot deck, this heavily annotated 1944 work is extremely dense, difficult to read and to categorize—it combines poetry, memoir, philosophy, a journal, social commentary (criticizing France and the rest of Europe from the safe harbor of America and Canada), a cautionary tale, mysticism (verging on automatic writing), and a political treatise. As in his better-known novel Nadja, Breton turns woman into myth, endowing her with dreamlike, superhuman qualities. Written for (and inspired by) his third wife, Elisa, these ramblings are haunted on a large scale by the shadow of WW II and on a small scale by personal loss. (One bond between Breton and Elisa, if we are to believe surrealist authority Anna Balakian's introduction, was that both had lost a child: he to divorce, she to drowning.) The theme of Arcanum 17, not stated directly until its final page, is the Utopian quest for ``light,'' which ``can only be known by way of three paths: poetry, liberty, and love.'' Breton appended three ``Apertures'' to the text in 1947 in an attempt to make it more accessible. He begins with an apology for his ``polemical fervor'' in the earlier work, but these three pieces are even more polemical, if only because they are more straightforward. He expounds upon elements that his readers found difficult three years before: war, surrealist love, and a friend's account of a chance (most likely preordained) meeting. Truly an unusual work, elegantly translated. Whether readers will be any more receptive to it now than they were 50 years ago remains to be seen.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 1994

ISBN: 1-55713-170-8

Page Count: 148

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1994

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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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