Laudable coverage of an undeniably important, unsettling cultural transition.




Were John Carmack and John Romero the Lennon and McCartney of PC gaming? Spin magazine contributing editor Kushner answers yes in his detailed re-creation of the genre’s transition from basement to big time.

Creators of the notorious games Doom and Quake, “the Two Johns” achieved fortune by transforming a previously marginalized subculture. During their archetypically 1980s dysfunctional adolescence, computer games were considered a fad for seedy arcades, yet the duo simultaneously discovered a hacker underground exploding in fanzines and university labs. When volatile game addict Romero met coolly monastic programmer Carmack at a low-end Louisiana software startup, he saw the potential in his new friend’s ideas, specifically when Carmack divined how to duplicate Nintendo’s “scroll” on then-limited PCs. As in any scruffy underdog tale, readers will initially root for the Two Johns, although their tendency to betray backers and associates is an unsettling portent. By 1992, their team of unorthodox programmers had settled in Texas, and their company, id Software, rapidly established itself with violent “first-person shooters” like Wolfenstein 3-D. Then Doom became a full-fledged phenomenon, creating a blustering “deathmatch” culture. Predictably, id’s outsized success fractured the company into two entities, as Romero focused on pure design and a rock-star lifestyle while Carmack assigned importance to innovative programming. Kushner bolsters this narrative with a resume of rapid technological transformations over the past ten years, explaining why “porting” the games for different hardware became increasingly lucrative as shareware-style distribution became less so. He writes perceptively about these twists of commerce and technology, yet the book becomes rather repetitive in its portraits of all-night hacks, deathmatch sessions, frenzied game releases, and programmers’ increasingly petty conflicts. (Perhaps inadvertently, the author suggests a pathetic insularity as characteristic of many in the gaming world, who seemingly forsake community involvement and political awareness for their beloved PCs.) Many may well skim the final third in pursuit of the dirt on the Two Johns’ eventual falling-out.

Laudable coverage of an undeniably important, unsettling cultural transition.

Pub Date: May 13, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-50524-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2003

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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.


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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