A miscellaneous collection of nonfiction that will do little to enhance Doctorow's reputation as a writer. Almost all of the book reviews, speeches, introductions, and political commentaries included here were solicited by editors, and seem relatively uninspired. Doctorow's literary criticism is casual to a fault, revealing a not-surprising affinity for the social realism of "hack genius" Jack London, the materialist vision of Dreiser, and the antistatist satire of Orwell. Doctorow celebrates the signs of incipient feminism in Hemingway's unfinished Garden of Eden and shares Papa's monosyllabic style ("His stuff was new. It moved). A fierce if unoriginal critic of the Reagan years, he relies on boilerplate polemics: His Reagan-bashing profile is stale, and his Brandeis commencement speech makes a facile link between social decline and Reaganomics. His introduction to the Constitution as "the sacred text of secular humanism" is reader-friendly, but his bloated declaration of "The Beliefs of Writers" too readily accepts and expands Shelley's conceit that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." Doctorow is much better—more in tune with his fictive voice—when he writes around a topic: His meditative re-creation of 19th-century Manhattan's sights and sounds is hypnotizing; an essay on "standard" songs demonstrates a true feeling for the culturally ephemeral; a memoir of poet James Wright and the Fifties at Kenyon is both moving and clearheaded. And "False Documents" should be read by anyone interested in Doctorow's use of history in fiction—it's the closest thing to a defense of his method as we're likely to get. Fourteen fugitive pieces by a major novelist deserve some attention, if only to illuminate his far superior fiction.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0060976365

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1993

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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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