Yet, with ultimate tenderness, comes the taunting suggestion that we might have been better off in that jittery world poised...




National Book Award–winning poet Stern (Last Blue, 2000, etc.) brings the same renowned voice to prose, from a life that began in 1925 in what he recalls as the “Calvinist” Pittsburgh of his immigrant Russian parents.

“They were Sunday Jews,” he recalls, “nonobservant, indifferent to the mind, scoffers at culture. I was the first person to bring a book into the house.” And he read his way to the life of a poet—but hardly overnight. Using the memory he claims “my friends hated me for,” Stern plumbs the nonproductive decades of his youthful wanderings from Pittsburgh to Paris and through Europe to groves of academe for, no doubt, expiation. And while he always seems to remember whether he was reading Dickens or Milton when he was sleeping with a particular (often older) woman, he doesn’t always remember her name. His flowing style forms seemingly random narratives, but there’s also a cycle here: affirmation followed, inexorably, by self-deprecation and then the fears and doubts that lie in wait—for anyone—around the corner. Fortunately, the puckish Stern constantly spies on the impassioned Stern and informs on him. Considering, for example, a passage in Ezekiel, he notes: “It is a radical vision, and a little shocking, as well as being the kind of hyperbole that poets use to upset computer scientists and tree surgeons.” Holders of poetic license, of course, must always find the mystery in it. When there’s a lot of whiskey but no brute force, is it rape? Was the teenage Stern a feckless bystander or an accomplice? Were the nations of Europe in the postwar ’40s feckless bystanders or accomplices to the noble sufferings of sublime cellist Pablo Casals (a Stern hero) under Spain’s Franco?

Yet, with ultimate tenderness, comes the taunting suggestion that we might have been better off in that jittery world poised on the brink of a half-century’s Cold War.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-393-05818-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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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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