As with most of O’Rourke’s books, a mix of the smart and the throwaway but fairly entertaining throughout.




Noted wisenheimer O’Rourke (How the Hell Did This Happen? The Election of 2016, 2017, etc.) serves up a fan’s notes on “a blood sport that I greatly enjoy”—namely, the dismal science of economics.

Though a conservative on numerous mastheads and TV credits since the heyday of National Lampoon, the author isn’t reflexive in his cheerleading for capitalism; after all, he notes, it was capitalists who “hoovered my investment portfolio in the 2008 financial crisis.” Still, this is a mostly pro–free-market, conservative look at a complex subject that O’Rourke sometimes reduces to useful fundamentals—and that sometimes floats away on clouds of dumb abstraction. As to the former, the author points to the thought that the first thing a financial analyst needs to do is figure out how a company he or she is thinking of investing in makes money. In the instance of Enron, one mogul’s staff reported back that they were “utterly ignorant” even after studying the company up close for a month—a lesson, O’Rourke suggests, in the virtues of ignorance, or at least not proceeding until one is less ignorant than at the start. Where things get interesting is when the author turns subtly critical in the matter of corporations. As he notes, things got sticky in the financial realm when the banks sold themselves out to “clueless stockholders,” since the banks could then be comfortably managed by people who were clueless themselves. Of course, the whole business of corporate personhood is sticky. As for fundamentals, the author scores points with a sharp observation: The rise of credit cards suggests that the idea that goods and services seem sort of free if you don’t have to pay straightaway yields a topsy-turvy financial world, one whose craziness can logically be resolved only with the use of a “9mm Glock—VISA card of the future.”

As with most of O’Rourke’s books, a mix of the smart and the throwaway but fairly entertaining throughout.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2848-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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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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