A brisk, informative look at the complexities of human communication.




A linguist celebrates the adaptability and richness of language.

Economist language columnist Greene (You Are What You Speak: Grammar Grouches, Language Laws, and the Politics of Identity, 2011) sees language as “ambiguous, changing, incomplete, redundant and illogical” as well as “robust, organic, and evolving.” Language, he writes admiringly, “is a wild animal like a wolf, well adapted for its conditions and its needs.” Erudite and ebullient, he disparages prescriptive pundits and purists who bemoan the decline of correct word choice and resist change. Spoken language is continually in flux, and even written English, while abiding by grammatical conventions, “is a mixed language that provides a reader not with a rigid logical code, but a menu of options for getting ideas effectively into the reader’s mind.” Greene profiles a few notorious sticklers, such as the British writer Nevile Martin Gwynne, a self-appointed “grammar crank” with “a nostalgia and reverence for Latin.” Greene points out, however, that Latin and Greek can lead to a flawed analysis of English, which is a Germanic language. Some who argue that thought depends on grammar have tried to invent logical languages—Lojban and Esperanto, for example—but have attracted few followers. Although some language purists believe in the explicit teaching of rules, Greene argues that exposing students to “a blizzard of grammatical terminology” does not make better writers. Children “need to read, read and read some more, starting as early as possible,” so they gain “an implicit knowledge of the rules of good writing.” Language learning leads the author to consider efforts to program computers to understand and generate conversation and to design machine translation, which requires powerful machines with access to a huge database. Google Translate, using a statistical approach to translating texts from one language to another, has proven more accurate than earlier programs, although the results, Greene acknowledges, are not flawless. Language is inextricably connected to power, the author asserts, noting that majority-language nationalism may lead to political upheaval.

A brisk, informative look at the complexities of human communication.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61039-833-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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