What the critic sees as brutal honesty too often seems unhinged and even irrelevant.




There’s some guilty pleasure for readers in these transgressive literary responses, but most of this collection reads more like blowhard venting than thoughtful criticism.

Titled after a column Williamson (Oakland, Jack London, and Me, 2008) wrote for a French magazine, where his brand of outlaw discourse has found favor, this Texas-based novelist-professor offers knee-jerk response rather than reasoned analysis. He inhabits a literary universe of verities that can occasionally sound more like prejudice: Female novelists hate men (except for the sainted Marilynne Robinson, “America’s Quiet Genius," whom Williamson embraces in part because he says female readers don’t like her.) Black novelists hate whites. Obscure is better than renowned (or popular). Small presses are better than large publishing houses. The South is better than the Northeast. Poor is better than middle class. Streetwise experience is better than pointy-headed intellectualism (though the author makes much of his multiple postgraduate degrees and his academic tenure, often with more revulsion than pride). Williamson either loves or hates, with little to no middle ground, though he writes that an author can move from one extreme to another by violating the verities. Thus, the once-obscure Cormac McCarthy (“the greatest fiction writer alive, bar none”) becomes “a dried-up, sentimental has-been” with his introduction to the viewership of Oprah. Many of the titles of these essays, some of them little more than book reviews that summarize plot, tell readers all they need to know (“Because He Has Wasted My Time, I’d Like to Bitch-Slap F. Scott Fitzgerald and Take His Lunch Money”; “Nathan Zuckerman Goes Pee-Pee in His Pants and We’re Supposed to Care: Or, Zuckerman Unzipped”).  

What the critic sees as brutal honesty too often seems unhinged and even irrelevant.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-933896-38-0

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Texas Review Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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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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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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