A well-argued work of rock criticism for a specialized audience.

READ REVIEW

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF TOMMY

HOW A ROCK ICON REVEALS THE MIND

Daniels (Blended, 2017, etc.) explores the Who’s famous rock opera from the perspective of a psychotherapist and fan in a work that combines memoir and art criticism.

For many people of Daniels’ generation who grew up in the 1970s and ’80s, rock music offered a reflection of teenage angst and alienation. The author writes that he found particular resonance in the music of the Who, especially the songs on their landmark 1969 album “Tommy,” which was adapted as a film in 1975. Daniels argues in his introduction that rock opera’s “lyrical motifs, such as the ‘deaf, dumb, and blind boy,’ its references to mirrors, and pinball, carry the feel and weight of archetypes, affording Tommy a mythic status that is unrivalled in pop music.” His book—part memoir, part literary critique, and part psychological evaluation—explores not only the album and the context in which it was created, but also the eponymous character at the center of the work. Daniels discusses his own discovery of the Who as a child in 1970s Britain, noting that it wasn’t until his family moved to the United States that he became a true fan. He provides some background on the album’s origins and on the development of attachment theory before continuing, full-bore, into the “Tommy” story. While investigating the life of the isolated, abused, pinball-playing Tommy, who’s paraded before a series of doctors in the album’s narrative, Daniels draws on relevant, anonymized cases that he’s encountered in his own psychotherapy practice. The author goes on to offer his own “sequel” to the album, imagining what it would be like if Tommy were to walk into his office for treatment. Daniels’ deep fandom of the album is the book’s defining characteristic, and it’s present in nearly every line of his prose. As he didn’t secure the rights to reprint the album’s lyrics, Daniels is forced to get creative in his descriptions of its plot and themes, and he does an admirable job of capturing the overall feel of the record this way, as in this description of the hit single “Pinball Wizard”: “Blending fantasy with evocations of the past, the song is a stroke of genius, conjuring depression era taverns, Brighton Pier arcades. The ephemera easily comes to mind: a battery of lights illuminating flippers, comic-book imagery, bumpers, and launch springers.” He offers a number of intriguing ideas about the Who, as well—which, he argues, was “perhaps the first act in rock history conceived as a reflection of its audience rather than a self-contained performing act”—and about Tommy as a character. That said, his deep dives into the minutiae of each song from a psychoanalytic perspective can make for dry reading at times, even for those who love the album. It’s difficult to imagine this work, which blends the intensity of Who fandom with the esotericism of psychology, finding a large readership. That said, it’s still an impressive work of intellectual labor.

A well-argued work of rock criticism for a specialized audience.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-09-214297-7

Page Count: 213

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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