An often entertaining history of a Minnesota farm family.

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MY NAME IS MELVIN

An account of the author’s family’s history in the American Midwest, starting in the early part of the 20th century.

Debut author Ehlert begins this remembrance with his father’s life in Stearns County in central Minnesota. Melvin George Ehlert was born in 1923, and until 1931 he was commonly known as “Bunny”; this changed at a family dinner when the 7-year-old declared that he would only answer to “Melvin” from that point forward. From there, the reader is given a tour of Melvin’s life, which included plenty of farm work, being rejected for service in World War II due to flat feet, and eventually opening a store and settling down to start a family. The titular Melvin is the focus of the book, but there are also moments from the author’s own life, as he’s Melvin’s oldest child. He was the first sibling to sweep the family store, he says, and he later attended and eventually dropped out of Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, before joining the U.S. Marines in 1967. Throughout the personal accounts are inklings of what was going on in the popular culture of the United States at the time; for example, the author notes that in 1958, when Melvin opened his store, the hula hoop was wildly popular. There’s also a portion of the book devoted to the life of a local celebrity: Nobel Prize–winning author Sinclair Lewis, who was born in the nearby Sauk Centre, Minnesota, in 1885. Regardless of the subject matter, the book maintains a folksy sense of humor throughout. For instance, the author says that when someone once remarked on the delightfulness of Melvin’s many stories, he responded, “But how do you know they’re true?” Such details are relatable and often touching. However, occasional accounts of small-town dramas are less memorable; at one point, Melvin is on the board of directors of a local hospital, and the board, which wanted to attract doctors to the town, discussed the merits of hiring a medical doctor versus a doctor of osteopathy. Neither this discussion nor its conclusion is particularly engaging. Overall, the book shines brightest when keeping things personal.  

An often entertaining history of a Minnesota farm family.                   

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-945330-20-9

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Telemachus Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2019

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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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