UMBRIA

ITALY'S TIMELESS HEART

A charming and delightful, yet flawed, excursion. Two-thirds the size of Connecticut, and with a mere 800,000 residents, Umbria has often languished in the shadow of Tuscany, its more famous cousin to the northwest. Long known as “the green heart of Italy,” it has lately become a preferred roost for British and Americans long priced out of Tuscany, who are seeking an Italian home or an abandoned farm as idyll. For the average tourist, Umbria registers for the jewel-like cities of Perugia, Orvieto, and Todi, as well as for the religious shrine of Assisi. Former New York Times Rome bureau chief Hofmann (The Season of Rome, 1997, etc.) takes us on a leisurely stroll through the region’s countryside, towns, and history, beginning with the ancient and mysterious Etruscans. He shows a fine eye for the landscape, a sensitive palate for the cuisine, and a warm regard for the people. Beyond these, he also informs us of the best time to view the frescos of Perugino in the Collegio del Cambio in Perugia, and warns that fines for dogs found dallying in the Piazza della Signoria in Assisi may come to $625. (He’s also sensitive to the semipagan and erotic subtexts of the so-called “Celery Festival.”) Although Hofmann has often proved to be a master of understatement in his Italophile writings, here the narrator’s language sometimes falls curiously flat. The 27-page appendix, an “Umbrian Directory,” while perhaps indispensable for travelers, gives the book a brochure-like and inappropriate tone. And the subtitle is never really explained: Umbria may justly lay more claim to being Italy’s “timeless heart” than can cosmopolitan Piedmont, say—but not all readers will agree about this. More persuasive are those gently rolling hills, covered with grape vines and olive trees. Still, highly recommended.

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-4687-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

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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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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