THE WORLD, THE TEXT, AND THE CRITIC

Said (Orientalism, Covering Islam) presents his more strictly academic/literary side here—in a dozen more-or-less-related essays, most of which derive from lectures and academic-journal pieces. The primary point: Said argues, though rarely very concretely, for an "affiliative" sort of criticism—for seeing literary texts as "dynamic fields." ("A certain range of reference, a system of tentacles. . . partly potential, partly actual: to the author, to the reader, to a historical situation, to the other texts, to the past and present.") And, on even more slippery ground, Said also argues against the deconstructionists—envisioning a criticism which will determine the "intention" (social, mostly) behind any work. Thus, in two thoughtful essays on Swift, Said defends the satirist against the pigeonholing of Orwell and others (who dismiss Swift as a "reactionary"); Said insists that Swift be viewed in the context of his era's "sociopolitical and economic realities"—and that "not enough claims are made for Swift as a kind of local activist. . . ." With Conrad, too, a world outside the text—here a psychological, Freudian one—is brought into the discussion of craft and intent: "Conrad's writing was a way of repeatedly confirming his authorship by refracting it in a variety of often contradictory and negative narrative and quasi-narrative contingencies. . . . He did this in preference to a direct representation of his neuroses." But the considerations of both Swift and Conrad end up rather murkily, with little sense of a freshly illuminating critical approach. And when Said attempts to delineate his ideal brand of criticism, with examples from his work on Islam, a lot of it seems like slightly coy but unstartling Marxist criticism—as in references to "the network binding writers to the State and to a worldwide 'metropolitan' imperialism that, at the moment they were writing, furnished them in the novelistic techniques of narration and description with implicit models of accumulation, discipline, and normalization." Still, Said does, in one essay, superbly digest the divergent revisionist/revolutionary ideas of Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault (a valuable service); and if he fails to present a strong case for the originality or coherence of his own approach to criticism, he touches on a wide spectrum of lit-crit schools with erudition and balance—making this a quietly provocative collection for specialists in critical theory.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1982

ISBN: 0674961870

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1982

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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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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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