In essays that appeared mostly in The New York Review of Books, veteran critic Crews sets out to rescue major American authors through common-sense and empirical readings in an evenhanded but firm indictment of current academic ideologues and lit-crit theorists. ``My discussions of American novelists and their professor- critics will show that even within the theory-saturated academy, truly liberal criticism still exists,'' Crews declares; and, severing himself from ``conservative'' critics like Allan Bloom and Roger Kimball, he sets down what might be his own real credo: ``I want keen debate, not reverence for great books.'' And keen debate he provides, albeit not always along with the easiest of reading. A reformed theorist himself, Crews rescues Hawthorne from the tail- wagging-the-dog Freudian analysis he himself once created in his influential The Sins of the Fathers (1966); and in ``Whose American Renaissance?'' he calls for a reading of American literature that's free of the ``partisan myopia'' brought to it by recent, aggressively politicized critics. Granting that ``political belief of one kind or another'' is ``part of the motive force behind most intellectual and cultural interests,'' Crews draws the line at the craven twisting of evidence, books, and their meanings to fit political agendas—in his words, ``the ad hoc adjusting of investigative premises to forestall politically unwelcome implications.'' Fair play, then, for Twain, Hemingway, Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, and John Updike doesn't mean denying these writers' warts and blemishes—or even their cancers—but it does mean calling them no more nor less than they really were. Sometimes heavy going for the nonacademic reader, but, even so, a bracing dose of high literary reasonableness with, at its heart, ``a concern for understanding American fiction with as few illusions as possible.''

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 1992

ISBN: 0-679-40413-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1992

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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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