BORDERLANDS

THE ULTIMATE EXPLORATION OF THE UNKNOWN

A teasing, mildly skeptical, occasionally infuriating farrago of bizarre phenomena that struggles to remain intelligent and high-minded as it deconstructs reports of UFO encounters, the Loch Ness monster, telephone calls from the dead, and “abominable swamp slobs.” “If there is an underlying oneness in all things,” claimed Charles Fort, an obscure Baltimore compiler of allegedly true, if inexplicable, occurrences, then we can learn just as much about the human condition from what doesn’t make sense as from what does. In this thick volume of “Forteana,” Dash, a University of London Ph.D. in naval history and researcher for the international journal of strange doings, Fortean Times, takes a phenomenological approach: It doesn’t matter if what has been customarily dismissed as hokum, superstition, or badly digested mutton is a hoax or delusion; what does the occurrence mean for the people who claim to have experienced it, for those who report it, and for those whose eager explanations disguise a more penetrating truth? Is an urge to cling to ancient folk beliefs, for example, animating an urge to see monsters in deep lakes? Why is it that the aliens in UFO encounters tend to resemble science fiction characters? Does a Barnumesque contempt for a gullible public inspire back-country hicks to make circles in wheat fields, or fake Bigfoot prints? Dash can be fascinating as he exposes respected scientists and literary figures—from Arthur Conan Doyle to the hapless meteorologist who believed crop circles were caused by tornados—who dream up “scientific” explanations for outright hoaxes, communications with the dead, and phenomena like ESP that defy laboratory duplication. He becomes annoying only when he (all too often) hams up his cogent analyses with trite Twilight Zone monologues that liken these experiences to a visit to a mythical borderland. A peckishly melodramatic reminder that the source of so much superstition, blissful ignorance, and bad science is an unwillingness to live with mystery.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1999

ISBN: 1-87951-724-7

Page Count: 520

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

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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