LOST IN AMERICA

The Nobel Laureate continues his selective, semi-fictional memoirs—"contributions to an autobiography I never intend to write"—with a third, large-print volume illustrated by Raphael Soyer. It's now 1935, and, "since I didn't possess the courage to kill myself," Isaac must escape from Poland and join his older brother in N.Y. Which means leaving behind his assorted amours: Trotskyite Lena, now pregnant; epically depressed matron Stefa ("If a grave would open for me, I'd jump into it this minute"); and cousin Esther. But Isaac, that "timid adventurer," does manage to get his visa—"I envied the cobblestones in the street, which needed no passports, no visas, no novels, no reviews"—and trembles his way across Europe to the boat at Cherbourg. He's lost on the ship. He fears that his dining-hall card marked "second sitting" is a signal to the waiter "to poison my food." He ends up eating in his cabin, served stale bread and cheese by "a man who could be a prison guard". . .until meeting congenial virgin Zosia (who's headed for Boston). And once settled in Brooklyn, near writer brother Joshua, he's overwhelmed with melancholy: he can't write (though the Yiddish Forward has bought his unfinished novel); he knows no English ("I knew that I would remain a stranger here to my last day"); he has an obsessive affair with an older woman, a haunted widow ("She hadn't lost her husband, she assured me—his spirit had entered by body"). Worse yet, he'll be deported if he doesn't get a permanent visa. So he embarks on a nerve-wracking scheme requiring him to sneak into Canada—and his accomplice is Zosia, who clearly hopes to lose her virginity on the trip. (But this loveless act is unconsummated: "our genitals, which in the language of the vulgar are synonyms of stupidity and insensitivity, are actually the. . .enemies of lechery, the most ardent defenders of true love.") Isaac returns to his cockroach-infested room, Zosia marries a rich oddball, life goes on: "I am lost in America, lost forever." And despite the nonstop laments, this sharp, shapely memoir bounces along quite merrily—with the wicked, ironic grace of three or four overlapping Singer stories.

Pub Date: June 5, 1981

ISBN: 0385177178

Page Count: 259

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1981

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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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