Intelligent history about building an indispensable part of our infrastructure.




A tale of large-scale engineering during the Gilded Age, when America was on the rise and grand enterprises were the badges of its ascendancy.

Historian Jonnes (Empires of Light, 2003, etc.) evidently had to spend much time burrowing into the slime and muck of Tammany politics before she could get down to digging through the Hudson River silt and mud. The Tammany-dominated Board of Aldermen had the power to kill the Pennsylvania Railroad’s ambitious project to link its mainland rails by subaqueous tunnels to the island of Manhattan. But the PRR’s stalwart president, Alexander Cassatt, who had already done away with free rides and secret rebates, had no intention of paying the customary bribes. Aided by newly elected reform mayor Seth Low, the PRR forced the Board’s approval without boodle on Dec. 16, 1902. Though North River tides caused the tubes to undulate slightly, the difficult construction was finally completed successfully. At the culmination of the 16-mile tunnels, where Manhattan’s seedy Tenderloin District had formerly sprawled, stood Pennsylvania Station, the grandest public space in Gotham. Opened in 1910, Charles McKim’s magnificent Roman-style terminal survived just 53 years, approximating the life expectancy of a citizen born when the PRR’s first train made the cross-river transit. In the tradition of David McCullough’s narratives of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal, Jonnes’s elegy to a mighty engineering feat is clearly reported and populated with a well-delineated cast of robber barons, heroic builders and a few crooks sporting handlebar mustaches.

Intelligent history about building an indispensable part of our infrastructure.

Pub Date: April 23, 2007

ISBN: 0-670-03158-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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