Suddenly, anthropic cosmology—which speculates on the relationship between scientific law and human life—is all the rage. David Darling's Deep Time (reviewed above) takes a self-consciously lyrical look at the field; here, Gribbin (In Search of Schrodinger's Cat, 1984, etc.) and astronomer Rees opt for a more nuts-and-bolts approach. The coauthors scamper across much of the newest turf in astrophysics and particle physics. Their main concern is to identify the nature of the "dark matter" that permeates the universe, and whose gravitational pull keeps the cosmos "balanced on a knife edge between being open and closed." This search for dark matter leads into dizzying tours through "the geography of the universe"—quasars, gravity lenses, cosmic strings, et al.—and the microcosmic "particle zoo." Since dark matter "controls the structure and eventual fate of the Universe," it also creates conditions that favor human life. The authors note that other physical events—the precise balance between nuclear, electrical, and gravitational forces; the homogeneity of the universe—also seem eerily conducive to human life. Coincidence or design? These orthodox scientists plump for the former, positing a vast number of universes, one of which—our own—just by chance gave birth to us all. The aforementioned conclusion is the book's Achilles' heel—neither Gribbin nor Rees is an accomplished philosopher, and in constructing their views on human life, they lean heavily on the most recent (and quite possibly evanescent) theories. When they're writing about what they know, however, they can knock your socks off. A heady introduction to a complex subject.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 1989

ISBN: 055299443X

Page Count: 302

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1989

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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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