DAMON RUNYON

A LIFE

The life of the mythic, wealthy journalist/short-story writer of the Broadway classic Guys and Dolls, told by the legendary, wealthy journalist/novel writer of Table Money, World Without End, Amen, etc. Making some allowances, this book is like Hemingway on Shakespeare. At first Breslin's bragging—making the reader brilliantly aware that the Breslin Mouth is equal to its subject— is off-putting. But as his Runyon anecdotes gather force, we slowly grasp that Breslin's self-esteem is tested to the breaking point by this portrait of a figure even more legendary and cynically witty in his day than Breslin himself. The Runyon/Breslin team on the page is, with its fruity richness of newsroom lore, simply overwhelming, better than Runyon's buddy Gene Fowler on John Barrymore in Good Night, Sweet Prince, with Breslin tailoring Runyon's every word and move to cut the most—well, Shakespearean- -figure possible. This Runyon with all his invented dialogue must be a fiction—but so what when the page is drugged with such high humor? Runyon at eight cut his teeth as his father's printer's devil in the western states, at 15 was on his own as a wandering reporter. He was a shy, quiet poet with a withering view of mankind—and also a man of warm fellowship with murderers, gamblers, and criminals who fed him the life in his copy and later became his fictional characters. Breslin excels at creating the mirror-reversed moral world of criminals, with the reader, like Alice, on a Broadway of monsters ruled by Runyon, their re-creator in print—people who later become Runyonesques by choice. Companion to Al Capone, Arnold Rothstein, Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, and Walter Winchell, and William Randolph Hearst's highest-paid sportswriter and war-reporter, Runyon never bit the hand that fed him—which included many, many hands, only some of them legitimate. Breslin's best—and more impressive in its sustained cynicism than Runyon's own writing. Could live forever.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 1991

ISBN: 0-89919-984-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1991

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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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