In this collection of essays, novelist Kingsolver (Pigs in Heaven, 1993, etc.) displays considerable nature-writing talent, punctuated by stretches of smarmy self-reflection and hit-or-miss musings on issues ranging from biological determinism to the Gulf War. Kingsolver was educated as a biologist and is an inveterate traveler (some of these pieces appeared in the New York Times's ""Sophisticated Traveler"" section and elsewhere)—her piquant observations are, therefore, well founded. Her prose is particularly vivid and enticing in those essays where she describes the javelinas, coyotes, and roadrunners that share her desert domain on Tucson's outskirts. A backpacking trip within the crater walls of a massive, extinct Hawaiian volcano and a sojourn in the West African country of Benin make for exciting and colorful travelogues. A nice touch is when she returns with her daughter to the Kentucky countryside of her childhood and visits the forests and riverbanks where she first developed her appreciation of nature. Elsewhere, unfortunately, Kingsolver's writing treks through less attractive regions. Her visit to an abandoned nuclear missile silo launches a tired diatribe against war; her opposition to the US involvement in Iraq is superficially propounded; an essay that begins with a man watching basketball on television evolves into a familiar discussion on sex-role stereotyping, criticism of The Bell Curve, and the male fear of female equality in sports. Kingsolver seriously begs the questions in a discussion on violence in the electronic media versus violence in literature when she avers that researchers ""have known for decades"" that watching violence causes violence. Kingsolver aficionados (and they are praised and petted in this volume) will welcome these writings, but newcomers might reject her serf-righteous chattiness. Mined selectively, however, this will reveal some beautiful gems.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 1995

ISBN: 0-06-017291-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1995

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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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