An incisive, intellectually thorough analysis of one of the country’s most pressing political problems.




A former Democratic congressman reflects on the nation’s pernicious partisanship and offers some remedies.

There’s been no shortage of ink spilled on the deep ideological rift that seems to split the country into warring halves. But debut author Altmire, who served three terms in the House of Representatives, contends that the problem of political polarization isn’t chiefly the result of an increasingly partisan electorate. In fact, he avers, the average American is far more moderate than those who typically represent her. Rather, there are systemic reasons why the extreme, most ideologically monolithic voters dominate both the elections and public discourse. Political campaigns pinpoint the most energetic voters—who are also generally the most doctrinaire—and campaign finance laws exacerbate the situation by promoting the outsized influence of Super PACS that operate in the shadows. Closed primaries also disenfranchise political centrists and elevate the status of fringe voters. To make matters worse, studies indicate the profound power of widespread confirmation bias, or the psychological tendency to selectively curate only the information that flatters one’s unshakeable convictions, a predilection reinforced by the news and social media. The author discusses his own experiences with partisan dysfunction, regarding both fundraising and governing, and his participation in the historic vote on The Affordable Care Act is one of the highlights of the book. Altmire suggests several practical solutions to toxic tendentiousness that include limits on senatorial filibusters and congressional gerrymandering as well as requirements for schools to offer more civics courses. He also places a priority on reversing the trend toward low voter turnout, which only enhances the clout of reliably voting ideologues, and the incentive for demagogues to aim their messages at them. Altmire earned a reputation for being a centrist politician, and his philosophical temperance is impressive; it’s fitting that a book extoling the virtues of bipartisanship is itself an exemplar of it. And while many of the author’s proposals cover familiar ground, others are bold and even provocatively counterintuitive, like removing the limits on financial contributions to parties as a means of reducing the influence of partisan donors and increasing transparency. The entire work is written in an unpretentiously accessible style and represents precisely the kind of open-minded public discourse to which citizens should all aspire.

An incisive, intellectually thorough analysis of one of the country’s most pressing political problems.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62006-754-3

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Sunbury Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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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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