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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An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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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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