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

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2006



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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