A concise, Dylan-heavy history of the American relationship between race and music.




A combination of cultural history of American popular music and race relations and a fan’s notes on Bob Dylan, whose story consumes the final 100 pages.

The author, who has published previously about the Beats (Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and America, 1979) and about the Grateful Dead (A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead, 2002), offers an extensive analysis of and tribute to the popular music that grew along Route 61, from New Orleans to Wyoming, Minnesota, paralleling for much of its length the course of the Mississippi River. McNally begins with Thoreau and abolitionism and then segues to Mark Twain and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (the author joins the debate about that novel’s controversial final chapters) before beginning his story about the founding fathers and mothers of our popular music. Readers will recognize many of the artists he discusses. Scott Joplin, W.C. Handy, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Benny Goodman, Lead Belly, Duke Ellington, Robert Johnson, Woody Guthrie, Dizzy Gillespie, Elvis Presley, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker—these and numerous others form the first three-quarters of McNally’s story. Lesser-known names and narratives are here, as well (Charlie Patton and Buddy Bolden among them). The author also offers a summary of key events in American racial history: the era of lynching, the Freedom Riders, the rise of Martin Luther King Jr., Selma and much more. He notes the transitions from blues to jazz to folk to rock and the emotions each emergence occasioned (he mentions that Pete Seeger wept when Dylan went electric at Newport in 1965). In 1965, Dylan released his album “Highway 61 Revisited,” and McNally’s praise for Dylan is unrelenting—and a tad disproportionate.

A concise, Dylan-heavy history of the American relationship between race and music.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61902-449-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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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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