An essayist finds his voice within a hit-or-miss collection.




A TV veteran’s memories of coming-of-age—and coming out of the closet—as an aspiring writer and actor in New York.

This debut collection of essays shows how long it took Janetti to find his footing on a career path that included Will & Grace (as executive producer) and Family Guy (as a writer). “I hadn’t…decided if I was going to be a writer or an actor,” he writes, “since both seemed equally impossible it was almost like choosing between being an astrophysicist and a Navy SEAL.” The author knew he was gay from early childhood and was teased about it through adolescence, but he didn’t fully come to terms with himself until he was 18, when he “was finally born.” The thematic undercurrent throughout the book is how much different things once were—before cellphones and websites and Google and GPS—when it took so much longer to find anything out. The particulars vary in interest. Janetti’s stories about trying to convince his mother to let him stay home from school by feigning illness aren’t much different from anyone else’s. Nor is his pre-adolescent appreciation of Cher particularly noteworthy: “Today kids have thousands of role models,” he writes. “And a Google search will instantly connect you to a wide variety of organizations catering to the entire LGBTQ community. Then we only had Cher….She was our pride parade, our GLAAD, our OUT magazine, our Trevor Project, all rolled into one.” There are some allusions to the author’s husband and his successful career but little indication of how Janetti got from the “here” of his formative years to the “there” of his belated writing career. In “Letter to My Younger Self,” he assures his younger self that everything will turn out all right. “I have had a good run, I can’t deny that,” he writes, though perhaps he’s saving a lot of his material for a future book.

An essayist finds his voice within a hit-or-miss collection.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-22582-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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