A slim, one-joke stab at pop-cult criticism from journeyman humorist Queenan (The Unkindest Cut, 1995, etc.). For 18 months, beginning with the musical Cats (“the worst thing on the entire planet”), Queenan immersed himself in the dregs of popular culture. He dined at Red Lobster and the Olive Garden, read Robin Cook and Robert James Waller, listened to Kenny G., Yanni, and John Tesh, watched the sequels of sequels of forgettable movies, such Body Chemistry IV and Children of the Corn III, and traveled to those meccas of bad taste, Branson, Mo., and Atlantic City. It’s an amusing idea for an article but, at least in Queenan’s hands, insufficient for a book. There’s more padding here than in a La-Z-Boy recliner, more fluff than in all the touring companies of Cats. Queenan’s research seems to have rubbed off on his writing: It’s remarkably structureless, and the invective is usually playground-witty. While most of his encounters with the bad are predictable—hit-and-run ad hominem lambastings of the usual suspects—he does find some semi-precious gems in the rough. Sizzlers is surprisingly tasty: “an eloquent symbol for all that is best about American cheap food, and lots of it.” Wayne Newton, Barry Manilow, and Andy Williams are hardworking and entertaining troupers. And Las Vegas could have been a lot worse. One of the best things about the book is its index, including such entries as, “Aykroyd, Dan,when coupled with ‘Starring,— 2 scariest words in English language,” or “Davis, Jr., Sammy, unforgivable crimes of.” In his travels through the badlands, Queenan frequently experiences what he calls “scheissenbedauren,” a feeling of regret “when things you do expect to suck do suck, but not as much as you would secretly like them to suck.” Readers familiar with Queenan’s labored oeuvre will understand this feeling all too well. (Author tour)

Pub Date: July 4, 1998

ISBN: 0-7868-6332-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1998

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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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