A one-of-a-kind story of grief that’s likely to have very broad appeal.



A young man reckons with his father’s sudden death through writing (and rewriting) fact and fiction.

When Polanzak was 17, his father literally exploded on the tennis court, vanishing in a wisp of white smoke, or so readers are told in the first chapter of Polanzak’s debut. They soon learn that this story is fiction—sort of. Subsequent chapters retell the event, adding layers of recollection, fabrication, and, ultimately, meaning. The narrative extends over a period of one week, 10 years after Polanzak’s father’s death, during which his mother asks him to speak at a bereavement group. However, he can’t imagine portraying his grief with sincerity or veracity—the central struggle of the book. This credible plot thread is, however, knotted with chapters of memoir, fiction, dream sequences, and pure rants—all attempts to tell the overall story and make sense of a senseless death. In the memoir sections, readers see Polanzak’s life divided into two different eras: before and after. They meet his father, mother, brother, and friends, and they watch his father teach him to play tennis and are invited into his teenage hangout over the household garage and, later, to his father’s grave. They also watch Polanzak become a writer and editor, trying for years to write about his parent’s demise. Fictional chapters include some of his attempts: “Milo” Polanzak discovers his dead doctor-father’s vast collection of literature and a single poem; “Martin” Polanzak’s father dies, and the family, having just remodeled the house, can find no way to remove a pink toilet from the lawn. These stories are highlights of the book, not because Polanzak’s prose is at its best—in fact, he’s quick, within the text, to critique such nascent work—but because they so vividly depict his grappling with incomprehensible loss. As he turns events over, he examines angles and slants, reality and artifice. If he edges toward self-indulgence, it seems warranted, even necessary: “What you write becomes all you’ve got,” he says. Clearly an inveterate writer, Polanzak continues until something clicks or, as he might quip, something pops.

A one-of-a-kind story of grief that’s likely to have very broad appeal.

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9905169-2-7

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Stillhouse Press

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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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