COMING INTO THE END ZONE

A MEMOIR

Novelist/critic Grumbach (The Magician's Girl, 1987, etc.) confronts age and mortality in this rambling, if elegantly phrased, journal of the year following her 70th birthday. Stating at the outset that she is ``taking notes, hoping to find in the recording process a positive value to living so long,'' Grumbach proceeds with a month-by-month chronicle of a year in which, expecting little (``I'd be surprised if anything of interest happens...''), she instead experiences and learns quite a bit. Despite what seems to be an extremely busy life—writing fiction, reviewing books for National Public Radio, assisting her companion in their bookstore, traveling (to Mexico, Paris, Maine, New York, Boston, and Key West)—Grumbach feels haunted by death—in the daily reminders of her own diminished vitality and, more tragically, in the AIDS-related losses of several younger friends. And so, ``taking stock,'' she sorts through her life, recalling significant people, places, and events as they come to mind. She finds time to exult, writing lovingly about the Maya, the sea, finely printed books, writing, family and friends. More often, though, she grumbles—about ``shoddy'' new books, crowds in movie theaters, ``speed...fast cars, planes, rapid talkers, swift up and down escalators, athletes, the computer's cursor,'' overly familiar attendants in doctors' offices. Throughout, the author's vigorous activities and opinions contrast oddly with her sense that ``it is too late,'' the final turnabout being her move from an established life in Washington, D.C., to face a ``chaotic'' future in rural Maine. Regrettably, the shapeless journal form allows neither writer nor reader a chance to savor the unfolding ironies. Enmeshed in her ``new era of self-indulgence,'' Grumbach has fashioned only what seems to be rough fodder for a full-scale autobiography, a novel, or perhaps a collection of essays. As is, we get jottings, we get pronouncements, we get bored. Interesting content, badly in need of form.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1991

ISBN: 0-393-03009-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1991

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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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