Macrae, former editor of the Economist and author of The 2025 Report (1985), offers an oddly jocular biography of the Hungarian mathematical prodigy who would become a highly influential cold warrior before his death in 1957—an account whose credibility is hindered by the author's unabashed reverence for his subject. One of the four Hungarian geniuses who would help introduce the Atomic Age at Los Alamos (the others were Edward Teller, Leo Szilard, and Eugene Wigner), von Neumann made his mark in Europe while barely past his teens through his contributions to a mathematical foundation for the new quantum physics. In 1930, the young, newly married mathematician emigrated to America to teach at Princeton. While von Neumann moved on in succeeding years to increasingly influential posts at the Institute for Advanced Study, the Los Alamos atom-bomb project, Teller's hydrogen-bomb program, and, finally, the freshly created Atomic Energy Commission, his agile and highly logical mind left an indelible mark on the computer revolution, games theory, economics, and, as his political clout increased, international relations. Despite the fact that the general reader is as likely to be interested in the development of von Neumann's hawkish political stance (particularly regarding the nuclear-arms race), and his odd fascination with such topics as global government and control of the weather, as in his scientific contributions, Macrae veers away from serious exploration of his subject's philosophical outlook—instead emphasizing (and applauding) the ease with which ``our Johnny'' used dirty jokes to evade emotional political debate, and ridiculing those of differing political temperament (e.g., deeming ``Bertie'' Russell and Norbert Wiener ``geniuses turned emotionally too dotty''). The effect is off-putting, and though ``Johnny's'' romp through world affairs is dutifully recounted, the private motivations of this hard-drinking, power-loving genius remain, in quintessential 50's style, drowned in nervous laughter. (B&w photos—16 pages—not seen.)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-679-41308-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1992

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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