While the book has an enormous amount to teach devotees of either Shakespeare or Verdi, opera fans in particular will enjoy...




One genius interprets another: English to Italian, words to lyrics, immortal drama to overpowering opera.

In his latest, Wills (History/Northwestern Univ.; Outside Looking In: Adventures of an Observer, 2010, etc.) proves once again that he isn’t just a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian, full-time public intellectual and Catholic apologist who is fluent in Greek and Latin. In examining how the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901) turned three Shakespeare plays into classics of his own, the authors demonstrates how an adaptation can both analyze and interpret its source of inspiration. Wills finds that these two creative dynamos, separated by two centuries, had much in common; both were as productive as they were pragmatic, each tailoring their work to the actors or singers who were available. Although Verdi could not speak English, he perfectly grasped Shakespeare’s complexities. The duets of Macbeth underscore the intent of the devious and deviant Lord and Lady: “[Macbeth] and his wife talk past each other, not to each other, hiding from each other, and each hiding from him- or herself. It is all there in the music.” With Otello, Verdi and his librettist Arrigo Boito turned a fiercely pessimistic play into a nihilistic one, in which Iago sees himself as the devoted servant of a cruel God. With Falstaff, he created virtually a new play, piecing together the larger-than-life character from the Shakespeare’s history plays and his lesser comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor. Just as Verdi “gave cosmic reach to Otello’s music,” writes the author, “he turns Falstaff into a force of nature, an earth-daimon.” Wills isn’t afraid to plumb the subterranean depths and the delicate infrastructure of these works.

While the book has an enormous amount to teach devotees of either Shakespeare or Verdi, opera fans in particular will enjoy the author’s close and illuminating attention to backstage history, as well as words, music and phrasing.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-02304-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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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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