A useful but oddly uncritical summary.




An account of fin-de-siècle investigations into the murky worlds and weird works of mediums, mesmerists, rhabdomancers and spiritualists.

Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Blum (Science Journalism/Univ. of Wisconsin; Love at Goon Park, 2002, etc.) has done her homework; she seems to have read all the relevant correspondence and publications of the scientists and psychologists who, around the turn of the 20th century, tried to determine if there was scientific basis for spiritualism. Although her focus is on the redoubtable William James, she offers much about his colleagues in the ghost-busting business, including William Crookes, William Fletcher Barrett, Edward Gurney, Richard Hodgson, Fred Myers, Henry Sidgwick, James Hyslop and others. The author also focuses sharply on two women with apparent powers: the medium Leonora Piper and the Italian telekineticist Eusapia Palladino, who could make curtains billow and tables hang in the air. Blum excels at demonstrating how troubled James and his cohorts were by their investigations. In some cases, they simply could not find scientific explanations for the stories they were gathering, or for what some of them had witnessed. In her trances, Piper said things that astonished them; Palladino flummoxed more than one cocky skeptic. Blum also does a fine job of showing how the scientific community was embarrassed and angered by the fact that some of its most respected members were pursuing research into the paranormal. Perhaps the most extreme reaction came at Columbia University, where a group of professors demanded that Hyslop abandon psychical research. What’s largely missing here is the author’s perspective. Blum seems content to relate rather than to analyze; her text lacks analysis. She ends with the patent observation that the conflict between science and the supernatural endures.

A useful but oddly uncritical summary.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2006

ISBN: 1-59420-090-4

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2006

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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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