THE LETTERS OF EVELYN WAUGH

Apparently bearing in mind the dull, distasteful impression made by Waugh's Diaries (1977), editor Amory's rather defensive introduction stresses that "this version" of Waugh "shows him to his best advantage so far." Well, perhaps. But though these 840 letters do certainly have more entertainment value than the Diaries (in most of them, Waugh is eager to amuse such taste-making ladies as Nancy Mitford and Diana Cooper), admirers of the fiction will still be dismayed by the smallness of mind here, the pettiness of soul. The most flattering letters are those sent from training stations to second wife Laura during World War II: Evelyn misses her, regrets her pregnancy (for her sake), rejoices too (for his sake and the sense of new life during a death-filled war). Fairly impressive, too, are the discussions of religion with poet John Betjeman and Thomas Merton. And some of Waugh's comedy is attractively self-deprecating (while courting Laura, he writes to Lady Mary Lygon: "I was sick a good deal on the table so perhaps that romance is shattered"). Most everywhere else, however, this is the familiar, waspish, snobbish, nasty, narrow Waugh—gossiping like mad (at times the necessary footnotes overwhelm the page), delivering wildly obtuse critiques ("Death to Picasso"—Proust and Lawrence too), spewing bigotry (against the Irish, Jews, French, etc.), praising McCarthyism, railing against any signs of reform in the Catholic Church. True, some of this may be outrageousness-for-effect, especially since correspondent Mitford (who gets detailed advice on her work) was a friend of all those Waugh hated. And a mostly good-natured Waugh does come across in letters to Graham Greene ("Come here quick. I have some caviar") and others. In fact, perhaps the most telling aspect of this collection is the chameleon-like nature of Waugh's epistolary style—silly with Lady Mary and such, very witty with Mitford, viperish with Cyril Connolly. . . but never particularly eloquent or grippingly human. An indirectly revealing collection, then, with a few intriguing oddities (restrained encouragement for fledgling novelist Alex Comfort) and reference points for the novels (the comic rhythms of the prose here, as well as EW's occasional work-in-progress comments)-but, all in all, another regretfully shallow display from a writer whose best work is anything but.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1980

ISBN: 1857992458

Page Count: 664

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1980

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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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