Anyone who loves Hugo, France, and the French language will revel in this delightful book that explains all the intimacies...

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THE NOVEL OF THE CENTURY

THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURE OF LES MISÉRABLES

A renowned French translator explores the life and legacy of Les Misérables.

The best translators must find just the right meaning, and Bellos (French and Comparative Literature/Princeton Univ.; Is that a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything, 2011, etc.) certainly understands that; he is also a crisp stylist capable of seizing the readers’ attention and holding it effortlessly. The story of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece is much more than an account of creativity. His work began as Les Misères, indicating the poor, but the story goes far beyond just those in financial poverty, encompassing the poor in spirit, the wicked, those in distress, and the mauvais pauvre, aka the “bad poor,” who were full of resentment and contempt. The novel is an indictment of three of the biggest problems of the 19th century: limited civil rights, the debasement of women, and a lack of education for children. The story itself and especially its characters grew and developed as names and dates changed, but the character of Marius always reflected Hugo’s life. Bellos opens our eyes to many fascinating elements of the book and its milieu: the depth and complexity of all aspects of French life; the differences between the rich and poor, even down to different terms for money; and Jean Valjean’s embodiment of “the potential that the poorest and most wretched have to become worthy citizens…[that] moral progress is possible for all, in every social sphere.” Particularly astute is the author’s observation that Les Misérables “is not a reassuring tale of the triumph of good over evil, but a demonstration of how hard it is to be good.” With the arrival of Louis Napoleon’s Second Empire, Hugo was banished, first to Brussels and eventually, in 1855, to Guernsey in the Channel Islands. It was there that he finished the 1,500-page masterpiece we know today.

Anyone who loves Hugo, France, and the French language will revel in this delightful book that explains all the intimacies of 19th-century French life.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-22323-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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