A love letter that sometimes loses control of its purpose.



Despite its decline in popularity, classical music retains enormous personal and cultural significance.

So avers first-time author Kramer (English and Music/Fordham Univ.), whose noble ambition here is to explain to a bigger classroom why more people ought to love what he loves. He’s a smart guy and knows that he will gain little by dissing pop culture, so he does his best to discuss and even salute the popular. He alludes to films ranging from the expected (The Pianist) to the surprising (Soylent Green) and to such TV shows as West Wing and The Simpsons. He tries to keep it real, even committing some pronoun-case errors for (presumably) an I’m-just-plain-folks effect. He does his best to show how people are like melodies, how the piano is a soul inside a machine. His passion is palpable on every page. He asks keen questions, such as, “How does the representation of pain give pleasure, particularly if the pain is strong and unrelieved?” But Kramer ultimately ends up preaching to the choir. He assumes his readers already possess considerable knowledge of music theory, discussing without any explanation major and minor keys, leitmotifs and contrapuntal interplay; he quotes Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and other heavyweights, as well as the poetry of Shelley, Wordsworth and Arnold. It’s almost as though partway through the manuscript he decided to forget about populism or popularity and give you his real—i.e., highbrow—reasons. The final chapter contains the most striking image: a busker playing a Bach violin sonata at a New York City subway station to an audience of more people than you would predict. This prompts Kramer to wax hopeful and even philosophical, but he underestimates one factor at least as powerful as the music: The girl playing it was hot.

A love letter that sometimes loses control of its purpose.

Pub Date: May 7, 2007

ISBN: 0-520-25082-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007

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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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