QUESTIONS OF HEAVEN

THE CHINESE JOURNEYS OF AN AMERICAN BUDDHIST

A brief but valuable narrative of travel by essayist Ehrlich (A Match to the Heart, 1994, etc.), exploring the sacred and the profane in contemporary China. Ehrlich's search for an authentic Chinese culture and spirituality at first leads only to frustration. She climbs Emeishan, a mountain sacred in both Buddhist and Taoist traditions, only to find it overrun by crass commercialism. The few monks who operate a guesthouse for pilgrims don't impress Ehrlich as being very devout; instead, they are obsessed with TV. When she reaches the peak, she finds partially constructed ``Las Vegasstyle'' hotels and aggressive, ravenous monkeys who steal food and jewelry from tourists. Ehrlich suggests that much of this shambles can be traced back to Mao's Cultural Revolution, which irrevocably destroyed many of the remaining elements of an ancient culture. The second half of the book offers a slightly more optimistic view. Ehrlich travels to Lijiang, a remote city in the mountains near Tibet, and discovers a stubborn, persistent strain of ancient Chinese culture. She meets an aged musician who was imprisoned for 20 years by Mao and kept his sanity while in isolation by singing Taoist melodies to himself. Now free, his commitment to preserving elements of Chinese culture has led to the formation of a small orchestra, which has revived ancient musical traditions. In the book's last pages, Ehrlich travels with the orchestra to London on their first international trip, bringing the music of a lost culture to the West. The book is a fine travelogue but would have been more compelling if the author had provided a bit more on her own spiritual journey. In all, though, a worthy read. (3 b&w illustrations, not seen) (Quality Paperback Book Club selection; regional author tour)

Pub Date: May 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8070-7310-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1997

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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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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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