An affecting remembrance in which pinpricks of meaning light the darkness of grief.




Autobiographical essays that outline the days before and after a parent’s death.

“My mother appears regularly to me in the form of a dragonfly—or so I like to think,” writes Panning (Creative Writing/The Coll. at Brockport; Butter, 2012, etc.) at the start of this graceful bereavement memoir. In some cultures, she learned, dragonflies are hailed as the souls of the dead, and she whimsically appropriates this notion as she chronicles the decade following her mother’s demise. Barbara “Barb” Panning died in July 2007, three years after she’d had a mesh bladder sling surgically implanted to correct pelvic organ prolapse. A Food and Drug Administration warning against such slings came into effect the next year, following more than 1,000 complaints about side effects, the author writes. In Barb’s case, these effects included a hematoma and incontinence. A corrective surgery, Panning says, left her mother in hemorrhagic shock, and her organs shut down. After three weeks, the family decided to take her off of life support: “I wanted it to end, but I never wanted it to end,” Panning remembers. She offers similarly nuanced memories of her family’s earlier years. While looking through her mother’s yearbooks and a cache of apology notes that her father wrote to her mom over the years, she wondered why Barb stayed with him, despite his drinking problem, which he even had in high school. Panning, a 2007 Flannery O’Connor Award winner, delivers a remembrance that’s bittersweet with nostalgia and longing, but it never wallows in sadness, highlighting bright spots too—a jazz club outing with her mother, a six-month sabbatical that the author took in Vietnam with her husband and children, and a time when she and her sister re-created their mother’s lemon dessert. There are also dragonfly moments, often appearing as brief interludes between longer essays, including accounts of clouds of the insects surrounding a cruise ship or swarming the author on a jog. To her, the insects represent “sacredness” and “fleeting beauty”—the very things that her narrative seems determined to find.

An affecting remembrance in which pinpricks of meaning light the darkness of grief.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9969816-9-9

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Stillhouse Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2018

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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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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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