A must for movie lovers and more proof that Denby’s gifts are better displayed in a full-length text than in a short review.

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DO THE MOVIES HAVE A FUTURE?

From the New Yorker film critic, a collection of critical essays that’s more than a miscellaneous roundup.

Denby (Snark, 2009, etc.) has selected only pieces from the magazine that flesh out his premise that mainstream American films today consist for the most part of obscenely expensive franchises, usually centered on comic-book figures, that have abandoned any attempt to interest adults with the visual grammar with which movies have told stories and developed characters for more than a century. “Conglomerate Aesthetics,” a 2001 essay published for the first time here, dissects the results: movies in which “content becomes incidental, even disposable,” that have more in common with TV commercials and music videos than the classic Hollywood cinema Denby lovingly (but not blindly) celebrates in comparison. He’s not incapable of enjoying contemporary films, however. “Romantic Comedy Gets Knocked Up” is a smart and generally positive appraisal of the Judd Apatow school of moviemaking, and the previously unpublished “Chick Flicks” gives a critically dissed genre its due (in both cases, with some feminist caveats). In this context, the individual reviews, ranging from Avatar to Winter’s Bone, and think pieces such as “Pirates on the iPod” (a glum look at the diminution of film-watching), have additional bite and significance. Among Denby’s particular strengths are an impressive ability to understand and convey the way directors employ spatial relations to make artistic points and a concern for the moral and social implications of film—the belief that “the nation’s soul was on trial in its movies” that he ascribes to the two predecessors who most influenced him: James Agee and Pauline Kael. Each gets an acute, appreciative assessment; Kael, a mentor who later told Denby “you’re too restless to be a writer,” receives a particularly shrewd and surprisingly balanced profile.

A must for movie lovers and more proof that Denby’s gifts are better displayed in a full-length text than in a short review.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4165-9947-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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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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