A very good memoir, and with the right cast, its movie version would be even better.


The Broken Places


A memoir that recalls a gifted but troubled youth’s first love in the brutal setting of a psychiatric ward.

McBride (Hawks on Hawks, 2013, etc.) follows his past biographies of Orson Welles, Steven Spielberg, Howard Hawks, and Frank Capra with this unsparing account of a mental and spiritual breakdown he suffered as an hard-driving, highly devout Catholic senior at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee in the mid-1960s. At his nadir, he says that he was broken almost beyond repair. But he was saved, he writes, by an even more troubled but remarkable fellow inmate—a half-Irish, half-Menominee woman named Kathy Wolf. His love for her made him whole, he says. Eventually, McBride recovered and took early steps in a highly successful career as an American film historian, screenwriter, and film professor at San Francisco State University. However, he felt a certain ambivalence about the erratic Wolf and let her slip out of his life, even as she sank lower. At its core, this novelistic memoir acknowledges McBride’s debt to Wolf, who, as she later told him, gave him not just her body, but her soul. McBride is a masterful writer who’s very much at home with profanity-laden dialogue, although his quoted conversations with Wolf and others from a half-century ago seem more like screenwriting than recollection. In addition to his sympathetic rendering of Wolf, his highly detailed recollections of sexual repression and the abuse that he says he suffered during his strict Catholic education will resonate with readers who’ve had similar experiences. His narrative also shows a way forward for readers who’ve been touched by mental collapse.

A very good memoir, and with the right cast, its movie version would be even better.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-943784-12-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Hightower Press, Berkeley

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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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