A scrupulous and contentious investigation of Hardy's (18401928) life and work, striking a sensible balance among his melodramatic Wessex novels, his impassioned and pessimistic poetry, and a life more mundane than other biographies have presumed. Hoping to avoid biographers posthumously as he did journalists during his lifetime, Hardy destroyed most of his personal papers and ghost-wrote his life story for his second wife, Florence, to publish under her name after his death. This odd work serves as Seymour-Smith's touchstone, despite Hardy's reticence about his personal life and Florence's own further editing. Of Hardy's early life in Dorset and architectural/literary apprenticeship in London, Seymour-Smith (Robert Graves, 1982) differs from earlier biographers in portraying a more stable childhood home life, a more influential relationship with the Dorchester philologist and poet William Barnes, a less sordid youthful affair with Tryphena Sparks, and a completely heterosexual friendship with Macmillan reader and Oxbridge dropout Horace Moule. In Seymour-Smith's view, Hardy had a mostly happy marriage with Emma Gifford, an independently minded helpmate from whom he was only later estranged (and who died in 1912); myths of their incompatibility came mainly from Florence, portrayed here as devious and pathetic. While Seymour-Smith takes to task other biographers (particularly Thomas Millgate in Thomas Hardy, 1981) for their egregious suppositions, he makes many minor ones himself, such as using a poem to infer developments in the collapse of Hardy's midlife affair with the novelist Florence Henniker, or asserting with only circumstantial evidence that the second-century heresy Marcionism informed the philosophical cast of The Dynasts. At his best, however, Seymour-Smith plays well the delicate game of reading Hardy's novels and poetry as biographical sources while chastising the critics who substitute sensational speculation for an acknowledgment that sometimes a writer just makes things up.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 1995

ISBN: 0-312-11819-8

Page Count: 896

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1994

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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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