Deft, graceful essays from a sharply incisive writer.




The award-winning fiction writer gathers essays written over the past three decades.

Reviewing Claudia Roth Pierpont’s Passionate Minds, Moore (English/Vanderbilt Univ.; Bark: Stories, 2014, etc.) offered generous praise for the collection of literary profiles: “with its unintimidated questions and explorations,” the book, she wrote, “is provocative and bracing, a wizard’s mix of innocence and fire.” Much the same can be said of these articles, reviews, bits of memoir, and commentaries, many published in the New York Review of Books and the New York Times. The collection opens with a review of Nora Ephron’s Heartburn which Moore wrote for Cornell’s literary magazine in 1983 and ends with an essay about blues guitarist Stephen Stills, whose concert Moore attended in “late-middle-aged ecstasy” in 2017. An astute, sympathetic reader, she appreciates the “friendly irony” of Bobbie Ann Mason’s stories; Don DeLillo’s “ability to let America, the bad dream of it, speak through his pen”; and Joyce Carol Oates’ “richly witty and despairing” Broke Heart Blues. Moore defends the controversial choice of Joan Silber’s Ideas of Heaven, a novel as linked stories, as a finalist for the 2005 National Book Award: Silber writes like “a graceful swimmer on a leisurely swim, though her brisk, radiant prose chops the water like a sprite.” Although most pieces focus on books, Moore rings in on a few TV shows, including The Wire, which she found riveting for its “admirable and unblinking look at a cursed people—America’s largely black and brown urban underclass”; and the “legitimately brilliant drama” of the NBC series Friday Night Lights. On politics, Moore can be unsparing in her disdain: in 1998, during the Starr investigation of the Lewinsky scandal, she wondered at the public’s apparently sudden shock and anger about a man who always seemed to her “a charming shark, a user, a yuppie, a bad actor, and a sexy, lying fool.” She skewers Trump as “part Crazy Eddie, part Henry VIII, part AWOL Andrew Jackson…in it for the adventure and applause.”

Deft, graceful essays from a sharply incisive writer.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3248-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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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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