In the best belletrist tradition, Auchincloss offers these 23 literary sketches, short essays full of moral earnestness (though he's profoundly sympathetic to his subjects' frailties) and casual insight. What he doesn't tolerate is artless writing or sloppy thinking, which is why Auchincloss never inflates his arguments on behalf of these (often forgotten) figures. His subjects range from the pleasurable middle-brow fiction of F. Marion Crawford to the scathing attacks on American materialism contained in Robert Herrick's once-popular novels. Auchincloss not only celebrates out- of-fashion writers, he rescues a number of better-known authors from their embrace by trendy academics who are quick to impute adversarial notions where there may be none. Walter Pater, for all his alleged decadence, was in fact a Christian aesthete who thought that beauty ennobled and strengthened but was not an end in itself. Similarly, Auchincloss asserts that Sarah Orne Jewett offers more than grist for the gender-studies mill, especially when one reads beyond her obvious sentimentality. Auchincloss is particularly sensitive to writers who share his own fictional concerns, such as Robert Grant, a novelist of manners whose portrait of turn-of-the- century Boston might seem irrelevant today. Likewise, Auchincloss values those authors (such as the Belle Epoque dramatist Paul Hervicu) who understand the pull of social convention, the lure of money, the need to dwell in the ``great world'' of human affairs. Auchincloss considers S.N. Behrman ``the wittiest playwright since Oscar Wilde'' and admires Robert Sherwood but admits that his popular dramas indulged in much ``half baked idealism.'' An appreciation of Maxwell Anderson's efforts in verse drama segues into a surprising aside on T.S. Eliot's superior work in the genre. Henry James, ``the Master,'' is a touchstone throughout, guiding spirit as both critic and creator. A modest collection of critical essays that subtly defies the orthodoxies of the academy.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1996

ISBN: 0-395-82748-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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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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