An intermittently entertaining but sometimes banal collection.




A miscellany of literary musings.

Journalist and critic Zane (Journalism and Mass Communication/St. Augustine’s Univ.; co-author: Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, Technology, and Social Organization, 2012, etc.) has gathered over 100 columns he wrote between 1997 and 2009, when he was review editor and books columnist for the Raleigh News & Observer. Organized into a dozen thematic sections—contemporary fiction, Southern writers, book culture and sensationalism, etc.—the book, writes the author, offers “an overview of a period of dazzling, and sometimes lamentable change…marked by the rise of the Internet and the confessional memoir as well as the decline of the independent bookstore and the continued marginalization of serious literature and ideas.” Although serious ideas fuel some of the essays, Zane’s breezy tone is closer to Dave Barry than Sven Birkerts or Peter Gay, whom he lists among many writers who inspire him. In a piece about Andrea Dworkin, Zane admits that he came to her memoir with the image of a “foul-mouthed, fat feminist who favored overalls” in his mind and was surprised to find that she had “a provocative mind” that “challenged convention.” The memoir, he writes, “reminded me to resist the urge to stereotype and marginalize strong women.” In “What’s Up with the Muslims?” he concludes that “the overwhelming majority…pose no danger,” and “the relatively small number of hard-core ideologues...are driven by political goals, not religion.” In a column on the environment, he writes, “my idea of roughing it is hiking to the store, hunting for bargains or fishing for something to wear.” Nevertheless, he agrees with Bill McKibben that “to save Mother Earth, we must also get to know her better.” Turning to Southern writers, Zane’s pieces on Faulkner, Welty and Sedaris are appreciative rather than analytical.

An intermittently entertaining but sometimes banal collection.

Pub Date: May 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61117-508-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Univ. of South Carolina

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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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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