In the end, even if it converts one or two of them to the cause of David Allan Coe and Bocephus, Ching’s account is for...

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WRONG’S WHAT I DO BEST

HARD COUNTRY MUSIC AND CONTEMPORARY CULTURE

A scholarly disquisition on an embattled musical genre.

Ching (English/Univ. of Memphis) is a true-blue fan of “hard country music,” which goes by other names—roots, Americana, alt-country, etc.—on the few radio playlists where it is welcome today. The province of influential artists such as Hank Williams, George Jones, Porter Wagoner, Waylon Jennings, Dwight Yoakam, Willie Nelson, and other performers who “often portray themselves as poor souls condemned to endlessly state the obvious,” hard country has been driven from the airwaves by the frothy pop of Garth Brooks and other Perrier-swilling yuppies in boots and Stetsons. To illustrate the “almost existential” differences between hard and pop country, Ching offers a nicely wry deconstruction of Brooks’s 1990 anthem “The Dance” and Jones’s 1980 lament “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” the second of which she characterizes, and not unjustly, as a “wallow in male misery” while recognizing its superiority on every score. The more prevalent the Brooksian, hook-laden, lyrically unchallenging brand of country becomes, Ching notes—and she is far from the first writer to do so—the farther hard country drifts from the mainstream, so much so that it now stands as an angry, countercultural critique of prevailing values. The author’s plainspoken appreciation for the merits of the hard-country genre is, unfortunately, surrounded by thickets of postmodern jargon that few other than fellow literary critics will want to enter, as when she observes that “abjection is constantly portrayed by an absurdly unregenerate white man who jokes and suffers while women and conventionally successful men brandish the normative values that underscore abjection.”

In the end, even if it converts one or two of them to the cause of David Allan Coe and Bocephus, Ching’s account is for professors—and not for civilian fans of the hard-drinking, lost-highway sound.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-19-510835-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

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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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