A diligent but disorienting work, best suited for readers with a healthy appetite for all things archeological and Andean.




Documentary filmmaker and pre-Colombian historian Thomson (The White Rock, 2003, etc.) journeys to ancient archeological sites in Peru.

The author proves an adept and diligent tour guide in this scholarly work, though he’s less successful at bringing the extinct Andean civilizations to life. As he picks through the vine-covered ruins and desert arroyos, readers may feel like visitors to a dusty museum who never quite grasp just what they’re looking at. Because the Incas and the civilizations that preceded them left behind no written texts, many things about these master builders, skilled artists and resourceful survivors must be inferred by educated guesswork that doesn’t always satisfy. Mind you, the sites Thomson introduces often compensate. He and his team find extensive undiscovered ruins at Llactapata, sister city to Peru’s most famous archeological site, Machu Picchu. They visit the infamous Nasca lines: giant, elaborate designs carved into the landscape 500 years before the Incas arrived. Originally thought to be purely astronomical markings, the lines may have been followed by processions during ancient rituals, Thomson suggests. Indeed, some of those ancient rituals still exist. At the Festival of Qoyllurit’i, he joins thousands of costumed pilgrims in a bone-chilling all-night ascent of glacial mountains. At Sechin, he finds great pyramids rising nine stories tall, built as early as 1500 B.C.E. Along the way, he introduces us to colorful Peruvian locals and heroic unsung archeologists like Gordon McEwan, who has labored for 25 years in remote desert ruins. Among the eye-opening information Thomson imparts is the revelation that some pre-Inca civilizations were victims of ancient climate change, most likely fomented by El Niño; human sacrifice and gory mutilation may have been their groping attempts to halt the droughts and floods that eventually destroyed them.

A diligent but disorienting work, best suited for readers with a healthy appetite for all things archeological and Andean.

Pub Date: June 21, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-58567-901-0

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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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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