THE PUSHCART PRIZE, XXIV

BEST OF THE SMALL PRESSES

For this year’s anthology, essays again rank higher in quality than stories, despite being outnumbered. In the top slots for essays and memoirs, Gabriel Garc°a M†rquez reveals his origins as a writer; Elizabeth Sifton traces the theological-activist career of her father, Reinhold Niebuhr, and the unexpected popularity of his famous “serenity prayer”; Alexander Theroux collects cases of obsessive collectors; and Amitav Ghosh browses his inherited literary tastes in “The March of the Novel Through History: The Testimony of My Grandfather’s Bookcase.” The next rank, even with the standard essays on chronic ailments, childhood, and cultural/religious heritage, fares pretty well: Daniel Henry vividly recounts an Alaskan camp’s Hitchcock-like invasion by “A Murder of Crows,” and Pam Houston gives a winsome survey of love in San Francisco in “The Best Girlfriend You Never Had.” The short story selection is headlined by Charles Baxter, Frederick Busch, Richard Bausch, Rick Moody, who all submit satisfying tales, but only Robert Coover, with his Wild West phantasmagoria, “The Sheriff Goes to Church,” really delivers the goods. Elsewhere, Stacey Richter goes over the top with a drug-addict teacher and her pusher students, Bruce Holland Rogers weaves a spooky allegory in “The Dead Boy at Your Window,” and Steve Stern crosses The Dybbuk with the Borscht Belt (and a touch of Updike’s Bech) in “The Wedding Jester.” Writing seminars show their influence in the stories by the few newcomers Mary Yukari Waters, Tom Bailey, and Peter Love, but the diversity of stories and styles is a far cry from the last decade’s assembly-line MFA fiction. Unfortunately this time there are no critical essays to balance the selection of poems, which, led by Alicia Ostriker and Robert Creeley, ranges from open-mike slam verse to metered artifice. To independent publishing what Sundance is to independent films: a little buzz, a lot of variety, some second-raters, and many chances for discovery.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1999

ISBN: 1-888889-19-5

Page Count: 590

Publisher: Pushcart

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1999

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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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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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