It's a tall order to follow up what is, in effect, a definitive work, but Leibovitz delivers a different sort of biography...




A slightly different look at rock royalty.

Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen is one of rock's most polarizing figures. Those who love him do so rabidly and will soak up every morsel of music (or prose or poetry) that the baritone-voiced artist releases. One can assume that's also the case with biographies, since less than two years after Sylvie Simmons' phenomenal I'm Your Man was published, here comes another study of the revered Canadian troubadour. Though Tablet writer Leibovitz (co-author: Fortunate Sons: The 120 Chinese Boys Who Came to America, Went to School, and Revolutionized an Ancient Civilization, 2011, etc.) doesn’t add much new material to the Cohen biographical canon, his approach is certainly different than that of Simmons; it's considerably more academic. Religion was (and is) among Cohen's pet topics about which to write, and Leibovitz follows suit, at times even quoting the Bible to illuminate a concept. In one instance, he pulls a line from the book of Romans in a discussion about the Doors, noting, "The New and Old Testaments alike are books of waiting; the humans who populate them speak of salvation and cataclysm, but more than anything they linger in anticipation for God to act." That sort of academic verbiage permeates the discussions of Cohen's relationship with Judaica. On the plus side, Leibovitz's research and sources are impeccable, and there are plenty of good anecdotes to lighten up what could have been a dry study of this important performer. In an account of a 2008 performance, Leibovitz writes: “In true Zen fashion, it turned out that all he needed to do to let his songs state their case was nothing but accept Lorca’s definition of duende and allow the tightly closed flowers of his spare arrangements bloom into a thousand petals.”

It's a tall order to follow up what is, in effect, a definitive work, but Leibovitz delivers a different sort of biography that Cohen fanatics should appreciate.

Pub Date: April 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-393-08205-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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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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