YELLOW RIBBON

THE SECRET JOURNAL OF BRUCE LAINGEN

The personal journal of the highest-ranking US envoy to be interned during the 444-day siege that became known as the Iran Hostage Crisis. Relatively speaking, Laingen was fortunate. Posted to Tehran in mid-1979 as chargÇ d`affaires while Washington decided whether to accredit a full-fledged ambassador to the theocratic regime that overthrew the Shah, he was away from his office when militant ``students'' seized the American embassy and took its staff prisoner. Consequently, the author spent all but the last three weeks of his confinement with two subordinates in the reception rooms of the Iranian Foreign Ministry. More like birds in a gilded (if dirty) cage than political prisoners, the three detainees had access to books, newspapers, radio, and TV; they also had plenty to eat, endured no physical or psychological abuse, and received periodic visits from fellow members of the local diplomatic community. Constant contacts with the outside world enabled Laingen (who turned 58 during his ordeal) to keep an impressively detailed log of his captivity and to remain informed on current events, including the ayatollahs' efforts to make an Islamic state of Iran. Much of the material here, including letters to his wife and three sons, was spirited out of the chancellory by Swiss colleagues. Taken together, the near-daily entries offer an affecting, albeit kaleidoscopic, account of a good and decent man's response to protracted adversity. Lonely, hopeful, despairing, frustrated, resigned, and outraged by turn, Laingen relied on traditional values—duty, honor, country, family, religion—to sustain himself. That these oft-deprecated virtues obviously helped him through some very rough times represents the most important message of this low-key testament. (Illustrations, including facsimiles of journal entries smuggled out of Iran.)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 1992

ISBN: 0-02-881030-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1992

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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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