Often intricate and lovely leaves from the author’s literary tree.

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CRITICS, MONSTERS, FANATICS, AND OTHER LITERARY ESSAYS

A veteran and venerated literary essayist, critic, and novelist collects some recent (some previously unpublished) reviews and essays.

For each of the terms in her title, Ozick (Foreign Bodies, 2010, etc.), a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, offers a brief essay of explanation and even elaboration, and throughout, she delights with her almost Emersonian aphorisms. In her section on “Monsters,” for example, which deals with the oddness of writers, she writes (alluding to Flaubert) that she will be considering “the condition of the writer as a deformed outlier.” Virtually every page of this strong collection features something memorable, and several significant figures appear more than once, mostly writers and fellow critics whom she admires: Kafka, Harold Bloom, Saul Bellow, and William Gass (whose sentences “are most exhilaratingly ingenious when they venture into unexpected and dizzying keys, diving from vernacular directness into an atonal Niagaran deluge”), among others. Ozick also deals with some key issues in the literary world—the difficulties of translation, the differences between a critic and a reviewer (she places herself firmly among the former and goes off on what she sees as facile and ignorant “reviews” posted on Amazon and on other sites—and notes with sadness how quickly literary figures pass away from the public mind when they die. More than once, she mentions Norman Mailer as a case in point. She doesn’t think Bellow has suffered such a fate, but this may be more her wish than a fact. Ozick’s pieces are also rigorously intellectual. Readers will need some patience and considerable knowledge to keep up with her in her essays about Kafka and Auden and Gass.

Often intricate and lovely leaves from the author’s literary tree.

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-70371-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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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