While not completely persuasive, this alternative theory on van Gogh’s death manages to provoke doubt as to what actually...




A debut work of historical investigation argues that the famous painter of The Starry Night was murdered.

Most historians believe that the clinically depressed Vincent van Gogh died in 1890 of wounds he had sustained when he shot himself in the abdomen with a revolver. Physician and amateur sleuth Arenberg feels differently. The great artist, the author argues, was the victim of a murder and coverup so devious that they have gone largely unsuspected for well over a century. “This intriguing and epic cold case of the death of Vincent van Gogh involves multiple theories and scenarios of what happened on July 27, 1890,” writes Arenberg. “With almost no agreed-upon facts, it remains one of the most enduring legends and enigmatic unsolved mysteries of art history.” Using modern forensic analysis, documents from van Gogh and his associates, and the most recent theories of experts, the author meticulously examines the case for suicide and accident, attempting to show the ways in which the record has been misinformed, misinterpreted, or ignored. He then chases down the various suspects that might have been involved, landing finally on those who he believes actually killed the man, offering their reasons for doing so and the ways in which they were able to keep the truth from the public. Arenberg’s prose is exact and excited, making it clear just how much fun he has had trying to solve the puzzle. “She was there and saw and heard everything!” he writes, defending the credibility of Adeline Ravoux, the subject of one of van Gogh’s paintings. “She has no obvious or nefarious agenda.” As with many conspiracy-minded books, this one sometimes gets lost in the weeds, slowing momentum and diffusing tension. The audience will likely think a tighter, less shaggy work would have been a better read. Even so, there is much to be learned about the artist’s milieu and his final days, and the author enjoyably transforms some of the famous faces in van Gogh’s portraits into whodunit suspects. Fans of the revisionist theory genre should enjoy this earnest work in which the pleasure lies not in the truth but in the uncertainty.

While not completely persuasive, this alternative theory on van Gogh’s death manages to provoke doubt as to what actually happened.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72950-757-5

Page Count: 350

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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