The overall effect is somewhat slight and rather disjointed, but not without attraction.




Seven essays by novelist Byatt (The Biographer’s Tale, 2000, etc.), all ostensibly linked by the motifs of writing and reading fiction set in the past.

Byatt is at her best in the three opening essays (“Fathers,” “Forefathers,” and “Ancestors”), originally given as concurrent lectures. Taking Salmon Rushdie to task for his oft-quoted assertion that the British novel after WWII was moribund and in desperate need of infusions of vigor from its former colonies, Byatt adamantly refutes the image of the postwar UK novel as terminally cozy, unambitious, and genteel—making the case for a lively, postwar British canon with such authors as Muriel Spark, Anthony Burgess, Penelope Fitzgerald, and Jeanette Winterson at its center. Subsequent chapters broaden the discussion to include the works of European writers, a few Americans, and the now properly chastised ex-colonial Rushdie. An essay on literary scholarship and Byatt’s own Angels and Insects (1993) has some further relevance here; another, on images of ice and glass in poetry and prose, does not. Wrapping it all up is a perfunctory quickie on storytelling in general and A Thousand and One Nights in particular. The tone throughout these pieces remains consistent: eager, polite, informed, rushed. Not the least of the pleasures provided is that of having a respected writer reel off the names of some books she quite fancies (followed by a cursory description and a brief sentence or two of lavish praise)—a service that ultimately offers more to a reader looking for something new to pick up than to one wishing for either critical insight or the coherent investigation of the literary trends and strategies (as the title would seem to promise).

The overall effect is somewhat slight and rather disjointed, but not without attraction.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-674-00451-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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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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