Promising, but hampered by jejune subject matter, Daum fails to hit her target.



A Manhattan-centric, playful collection of essays from a young writer searching for authenticity in a material world.

Born in 1970, Daum (whose essays have appeared in the New Yorker and Harper’s) introduces herself as a Gen-Xer in desperate pursuit of the poshness associated with Manhattan’s elite. These ten essays focus primarily on the author’s life—the trivial world of an egotistical, self-proclaimed shiksa—ranging from subjects like Visa card debt to online romance to her aversion to wall-to-wall carpeting. Daum’s candid voice is at once engaging, blithe, and pretentious as she describes her determination to attend Ivy League schools, where she happily assimilated into the highbrow culture of her wealthy classmates. Readers who abandoned suburban homes to pursue low-paying glamour professions in the Big Apple may relate to living in denial (of student loans) and in hope (of finding an affordable apartment), but Daum’s endless whining about her inability to live within her means will tax anyone’s patience in short order. Her choice of topics reveals her youth—many essays seem to emerge from her school experiences. She’s at her best when recalling unique and highly personal events, such as her romantic expectations of the infatuated fan who contacted her via e-mail, and the seemingly heartless way in which she reacted to the death of an underachiever friend. The two journalistic pieces (one concerning the unconventional lives of American flight attendants, the other on a Northern California cult that justifies promiscuity with homespun spirituality) aim for shock value but fall flat as she rambles, incongruously, about her childhood recollections of practicing the oboe, destroying her baby dolls, and flirting with Jewish boys.

Promising, but hampered by jejune subject matter, Daum fails to hit her target.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-890447-26-9

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Open City

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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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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