Maintaining a detailed, personal view, Walton captures much that’s vivid about the hardships, ironies, and small victories...

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LITTLE TENEMENT ON THE VOLGA

An unusual personal narrative that captures a human portrait of one of the former Soviet Union’s castoff satellites.

New London Writers Award winner Walton (Ivan Petrov, not reviewed) moved in 1993 to a communal apartment block (kommunalnii) in Russian Samara, which she depicts here as a Soviet armaments stronghold known for its semi-barbarism in pre-Soviet times (such as the 1920s famine, when the region’s residents reverted to cannibalism). Walton now finds a place “rooted in a time warp” that’s untouched by glasnost: a petty bureaucracy rules one’s every move, residents are crammed into 1970s concrete tower blocks, and everywhere can be glimpsed “skeletons of the Soviet past” (sometimes literally, as when Stalin-era victims’ bones are unearthed in public-works projects). The author paints a colorful if bizarre portrait of kommunalnii life, with residents accepting an utter lack of privacy in exchange for the vanishing security of state-subsidized housing. She also observes contrasts between older residents, who embody Russian stoicism, and the new generation of youthful entrepreneurs (who, in her view, are “plundering the state”). She sees this avaricious impulse as universal, though, and even necessary to survival for ordinary Russians, noting that “Nothing had prepared me for the senseless tedium and hardship of Russian daily life.” A number of Walton’s roommates are quoted in running monologues that do arouse sympathy. Yet the writer’s delight in the earthiness of Samara is outweighed by concern over such thorny issues as the Russian dependency on drink (and the “infantilism” it engenders in Russian men), and the recessionary upsurge in nihilistic violence and Mafia heavy-handedness. She is indignant about the embattled position of women, whom she views as the backbone of a hypocritical society, and about the rumblings of a resurgent, xenophobic, racially based nationalism.

Maintaining a detailed, personal view, Walton captures much that’s vivid about the hardships, ironies, and small victories of life in the far-flung territories of contemporary Russia.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2001

ISBN: 1-891053-78-7

Page Count: 147

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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