An informative, unusual, occasionally challenging, and generally amiable account by a physician and nature lover.



In this memoir, a doctor reflects on a life devoted to academic medicine and, later, to his passion for birding.

Born in upstate New York, Fitchen (Birding Portland and Multnomah County, 2014) discovered his love of nature early on. When he was 8 years old, his father, “a professor of fine arts and a scholar of Gothic architecture,” taught him the art of catching and collecting butterflies. That year, the author accompanied his parents on a tour of European Gothic cathedrals. His fascination with the beautiful glass mosaic windows remained with him when he observed an “erythroleukemic” bone marrow sample on a microscope slide during a medical school externship in Oregon: “Looking at the glorious images and resplendent colors was like beholding the stained glass at Chartres Cathedral—stained marrow/stained glass.” It was a professional turning point for him: He decided that he wanted to specialize in academic medicine. After his graduation from medical school, a stint in the Air Force as a flight surgeon, and a residency back in Oregon came a prestigious hematology/oncology fellowship at UCLA. In 1981, he returned to Oregon and joined the Veterans Administration. But before leaving California, he recorded the sighting of his first “life bird.” It would be decades before he could immerse himself in this second passion, with a trip to Attu on the farthest reaches of the Aleutian Islands, “the holy grail of North American birding.” Fitchen is a veteran writer—who has published articles in both medical and birding journals—and his memoir is articulate and detailed, filled with engaging personal anecdotes. But it is also encumbered by the author’s extensive use of professional jargon, although he does include parenthetical layperson’s explanations. Each chapter ends with a notation describing one of the birds he has added to his lifetime total. The final quarter of the book can serve as a useful primer for aspiring birders. And there is much to be learned here about the inner workings of academic medicine, including how Fitchen and his team acquired FDA approval for their breakthrough “oral fluid testing system” for HIV.

An informative, unusual, occasionally challenging, and generally amiable account by a physician and nature lover.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62901-601-6

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Inkwater Press

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2019

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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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