A sometimes-jaundiced, sometimes-comic, but always revealing view of life in the ballet.




A middling dancer reaches for heights just beyond his grasp in this wry, bittersweet memoir.

Langlois, a massage therapist and writer for Ballet Review, recounts his early years as a dancer, from childhood lessons to ballet school in New York to a prized job with American Ballet Theatre, the country’s premier troupe, in 1980. ABT was the fulfillment of the 19-year-old dancer’s dreams, but it later became a purgatory of thwarted ambition. Langlois started in the corps de ballet, dancing minor ensemble parts around soloists and principal dancers, and he stayed there for six years while colleagues rose to starring roles. Relegated to bit parts—his one significant turn was wearing a cat costume in Cinderella, which won him positive reviews for his feline piquancyLanglois rarely saw his name on casting lists and had little to do on tours, except in Japan, where he was mobbed by autograph-seeking schoolgirls who mistook him for an ABT principal. He worked long hours, got private coaches, and starved himself down to 135 pounds, hoping to get the superthin physique that choreographers wanted. Working against him, though, were the cursory teaching standards in the industry, which he painstakingly describes in well-observed passages on ballet training and technique. Rather than getting help and direction, he was left to sink or swim by teachers who either ignored him or tossed out baffling koans (“I turn, but I don’t turn”). Yet even when he felt he’d made progress and was able to try out for better roles, he never quite made the cut. Langlois recalls disappointments with good humor but doesn’t hide the pain or neuroses that plagued his career, as his mind shrank into a “narcissistic, incredibly self-critical little box.” Centering his narrative is his vivid portrait of Mikhail Baryshnikov, the world’s greatest dancer and ABT’s artistic director, who emerges as both inspiring and maddeningly neglectful. The enigmatic “Misha” gave Langlois little feedback other than Latvian-accented asides—“Mikey, vaad you doink?”—and vague suggestions to try something different with the placement of his arms; their annual 5- or 10-minute conferences are portrayed as ordeals of fraught, uncommunicative squirming. Nonetheless, Baryshnikov’s brilliant performances, which the author analyzes here in passionate appreciations, were central to Langlois’ aspirations as a dancer. Pirouetting around this relationship is an entertaining ballet picaresque that’s full of sharply etched thumbnails of luminaries, such as the sublimely gifted but drug-addled ballerina Gelsey Kirkland, and the straight Langlois’ efforts to politely fend off gay colleagues and patrons. Threaded throughout are evocative performance scenes that marry technical detail to aesthetic impact: “out I came, stomping out the rhythm in my absurdly deep, absurdly turned-out second position as Prokofiev’s music lurched forward, its odd timbre a perfect reflection of the off-kilter characters…we marched across the apron of the stage like a drunken caterpillar.” The result is an absorbing saga that finds enduring value in artistic effort despite humiliations and questions of what might have been.

A sometimes-jaundiced, sometimes-comic, but always revealing view of life in the ballet.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-948796-14-9

Page Count: 358

Publisher: Epigraph Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet