The collection shows two writers on the ascent, hungry, seeking fame and, at times, even the endorsement of the...

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JACK KEROUAC AND ALLEN GINSBERG

THE LETTERS

It seems fitting, somehow, that the correspondence of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, literary rebels and scourges of convention, should begin with a prison postmark.

The two got to know each other in 1944, and their first letter, Ginsberg to Kerouac, came in mid-August of that year, when Kerouac was cooling his heels in the Bronx County Jail for his small part in a sordid murder. That case is well documented in biographies of both Kerouac and Ginsberg, of which Ann Charters’s Kerouac (1994) and Bill Morgan’s I Celebrate Myself (2006), respectively, are essential. The letter is hitherto not well known, however, and it reveals no remorse on the part of the 18-year-old Ginsberg, who was also tangled up in the business, and the 22-year-old Kerouac. Instead, Ginsberg wrestles a novice’s apercu out of the fact that the victim’s apartment had been freshly redecorated: “The snows of yesteryear seem to have been covered by equally white paint.” For his part, newly married even while behind bars, Kerouac replies of Carr, “Hating himself as he does, hating his ‘human-kindness,’ he seeks new vision, a post-human post-intelligence.” Whitman meets Nietzsche, with some Keats and Dostoyevsky thrown in for good measure. But both Kerouac and Ginsberg would soon be on to something else—Apollo wrestling with Dionysus. Their letters multiplied, hundreds of them now collected in Bill Morgan and David Stanford’s new anthology Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters, letters that skip over oceans and continents—but also travel only a hop, from Ozone Park to Sheepshead Bay, say, on the rare occasions when the two were in the same town at the same time. Whatever the provenance or destination, the letters are full of enthusiasms: for books read, for people met, for impulses satisfied or soon to be satisfied. Kerouac is pleased because a child watching him work is “amazed because I type so fast.” Ginsberg is pleased because “I Allen Ginsberg one and only, have just finished cutting down my book from 89 poems to a mere perfect 42.” But then there are the professional jealousies, the squabbles and the gossip. Kerouac rails because others are being published. “Can you even tell me for instance…why they publish [John Clellon] Holmes’s book [Go] which stinks and don’t publish mine because it’s not as good as some of the other things I’ve done?” he demands. (This is in 1952, some years before his ship is definitively to come in.) Ginsberg replies, unhelpfully, that he thinks Doctor Sax is better than On the Road, as perhaps it was, given that On the Road was much different from the version we now know.

The collection shows two writers on the ascent, hungry, seeking fame and, at times, even the endorsement of the establishment. It tracks them as they achieve notoriety, then fame, and it hints at fissures that will soon open—chronicled, one hopes, in Volume 2, since this group of letters ends in 1963, before the Dionysian moment fully kicks in. (It’s there, though. Ginsberg to Kerouac: “Got high on junk last night and thought of you.”) Stay tuned as the long, strange trip unfolds. (Ginsberg sends T.S. Eliot a copy of Howl, seeking a blurb.) It tracks them as they achieve notoriety, then fame, and it hints at fissures that will soon open—chronicled, one hopes, in Volume 2, since this group of letters ends in 1963, before the Dionysian moment fully kicks in(It’s there, though. Ginsberg to Kerouac: “Got high on junk last night and thought of you.”) Stay tuned as the long, strange trip unfolds.

Pub Date: July 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-670-02194-9

Page Count: 500

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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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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