From someplace called Minnesota comes a Nelson funnier than Ozzie, Ricky, Lord or Half. Nimble foolery packed in minipieces.



The author of Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese (not reviewed) and quondam host of Comedy Central’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 offers some small, comic essays. The result is, happily, laughable.

In nearly 60 short pieces, Nelson covers the traditional bases required of funny authors and easily gains admission to the Professional Droll Writers' Union. He deals nicely with such facetious topics as the arts, outdoor life (with animals), indoor life (with relatives), recalled youth, food, human anatomy, coping with life, and general introspection. He has difficulties, like Great-Grandfather Leacock, in diverse everyday settings. He delivers a generic business speech that could easily precede Grandpa Benchley's immortal Treasurer's Report. And, like Cousin Dave Barry, he sees value in eponymous book titles. The good old subjects of pique include hotel stays and semi-amateur theatricals. Other, more modern, takes cover cell-phone shouters, big-box stores, and performance art (semi-amateur theatricals). Nelson reveals that he's for flesh-based food. He asserts, in another thoughtful think piece, that the heyday of the buttock is past. Especially neat is a thumbnail novel in the mode of Dickens, or someone very like Dickens, in which the final colloquy calls for a performance in the style of the late Stepin Fetchit or, perhaps, someone very like the late Lionel Atwill. And there's a fine little history of television that could only have been produced after some pretty shameful viewing and detailed study of many fanzines. Certainly, not all of Nelson's columns stand equally well, but the memoirs and prescriptions, the discourses and proscriptions are, on the whole, bright and easy. Take them a bit at a time and savor the once and (we pray) future world of comic writing.

From someplace called Minnesota comes a Nelson funnier than Ozzie, Ricky, Lord or Half. Nimble foolery packed in minipieces.

Pub Date: March 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-093614-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperEntertainment

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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