Ordinary lives rendered extraordinary by a master journalist who captures all their perplexity and quiet rebellion.




A selection of journalistic pieces from 1999 to 2007 by an accomplished Brazilian journalist, novelist, and documentary filmmaker spotlights “a country that exists only in the plural…the Brazils.”

A rigorous investigative journalist who attempts to inhabit the lives of her subjects while suppressing her own “biases, judgments, [and] worldviews,” El País columnist Brum (One Two, 2014, etc.) adheres to a method of listening carefully and letting her subjects unravel the story themselves. In the first piece, “Forest of Midwives,” the author chronicles the vivid tale of midwives in the riverlands of far northern Brazil, whose ancient skills at “baby-catching” are passed from generation to generation. Although the women don’t get paid or have a lot to eat, children are their riches: “Out here in these backwaters of death,” says one elder midwife, “either we fill the world with children or we vanish.” Brum writes eloquently of people mired in the doomed cycle of poverty, most of whom can’t get a leg up because there is no support. In “Burial of the Poor,” the author writes about Antonio, “feller of trees,” who walked to the hospital to retrieve his stillborn baby, just one of the numberless poor who “begin to be buried in life.” In the most heart-wrenching longer piece, “The Noise,” Brum tells the story of T., a longtime worker in an asbestos plant in São Paulo who was dying of mesothelioma (the “noise” was the hideous sound of his gasping for breath). Poisoned by the plant owners who knew the health danger and tried to get him to sign away indemnity (he refused), he told Blum, “I am made of asbestos.” Among many other poignant stories, the author describes the teeming underbelly of the favelas in Brasilândia, the desperately poor gold prospectors in Eldorado do Juma, a defiant elderly community in Rio de Janeiro, and a threatened clan of Indigenous people deep in the heart of the Amazon.

Ordinary lives rendered extraordinary by a master journalist who captures all their perplexity and quiet rebellion.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64445-005-5

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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