THE PHANTOM EMPIRE

Pop-culturist/spiritual autobiographer O'Brien (Dream Time, 1988; Hardboiled America, 1981) spins a brilliant, bullying monologue telling you Everything You Always Felt Was Happening Just Below The Surface Of The Movies. Like Michael Wood and David Thomson, O'Brien is convinced that he can generalize from his own experience of films (which seems heavier on German silents and Italian splatter flicks than on, say, Renoir's French films or anything since 1980) to a sense of ``The Movies.'' Substituting a challenging rhetorical ``you'' for the more customary ``we'' (``the films get their hooks into you by propping up memory, or perhaps more accurately by substituting for memory''), O'Brien presents cinema as contemporary religion, history, and epistemology rolled into one. In chapters on the relation between realism and dream in the art film, on the coercive function of the director, on the western and the horror film, on TV as the ultimate recycler and trivializer of visual magic, he comes up with one gorgeous aperáu after the next. On movies as Scripture: ``Why settle for words when you could go see photographs of God?'' In Fritz Lang's geometric films, ``existence could be defined as what was demarcated by walls.'' Genres keep developing ``as if everybody set out to make exactly the same movie...and failed in revealing ways. The failed imitation then became someone else's original.'' But the shower of epigrams has a price: Instead of developing a sustained argument from chapter to chapter, or even from paragraph to paragraph, O'Brien keeps reinventing the reel with every indent. And his strenuous reverie borrows too much from Michael Wood's America in the Movies and Leo Braudy's The World in a Frame to justify what comes across as his relentless mannerism. Not the history or social anatomy of the movies the jacket copy promises, then—or even the systematic explanation of their enduring power—but a bracing trip through O'Brien's personal movie landscape, which just might turn out to be yours too.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 1993

ISBN: 0-393-03549-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1993

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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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