Fraught lessons learned about the stuff of living and the staff of life, along with kvetching in the kitchen.

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LIFE, DEATH AND BIALYS

A FATHER/SON BAKING STORY

Dysfunctional family angst rises precariously in bread-baking classes at a New York cooking school.

Facing death, Schaffer’s father, Flip, who abandoned his family 30 years earlier, convinces son Dylan to join him for a week’s course in what is billed as “artisanal” baking at the French Culinary Institute. And so, bonding, more or less, they bunk together in a seedy neighborhood hotel. Workings of the culinary school are outlined, and classmates are neatly sketched. As others see Dylan’s father, a professor of history at Clemson University, as cute, his son sees him as oafish. Flip is sloppy. He lies. Long ago, he left his young children in the care of their mother, psychiatrist Cookie, who was certifiably nuts. “He left me to be raised by a crazy woman,” says Dylan, now a lawyer and writer of legal thrillers (I Right the Wrongs, 2005, etc.). Dylan hates Flip, and yet loves him more. Truly, Professor Flip is difficult. He’s no Morrie on Tuesdays or any other day, and his son expends much of his creative talent whining in a Woody Allen–esque mode about present anger and past slights. Ultimately, of course, understanding grows like yeast, and there is love in the loaves of bread. The intergenerational sniping ends in reconciliation and understanding as Dylan tends to his father in Flip’s last days. With much impassioned, highly personal confession, a son unburdens himself. Some readers may feel the author is sometimes too frank, but, withal, when he’s on a roll, the writing is as artisanal as the baking.

Fraught lessons learned about the stuff of living and the staff of life, along with kvetching in the kitchen.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2006

ISBN: 1-59691-192-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2006

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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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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