In this selection of 300-plus (from over 2500) surviving letters of Vanessa Bell (1879-1978), Marler adds a warm, modest, humane, and maternal tone to the raucous Bloomsbury chorus—to the ironies, cruelties, and wit of Virginia (Bell's sister) and Leonard Woolf, Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes, Roger Fry, Duncan Grant, and Ottoline Morrell, all of whom appear in these casual letters. A painter and decorative artist, Bell wrote letters that reflect the trivia and gossip of the atheistic, unsentimental, sexually liberated Bloomsberries, to whom she was a loving and unassuming center. However self-deprecating she was about her feelings—expressed in her disheveled appearance and frugal style- -Bell's painting, aside from experiments with abstraction and her decorative murals, was aggressive, a distorted and raw realism. Devoted to her art, her husband Clive, and her lovers Roger Fry and Duncan Grant, Bell was fascinated by the ``maternal instinct'' awakened by her children: Julian, who died in the Spanish Civil War; Quentin, who became an artist (and who writes a moving prologue here); and Angelica, her daughter by Duncan who grew up to marry David ``Bunny'' Garnett, a man 26 years her senior and once her own father's lover, and to produce four daughters to delight Vanessa. The best letters here include a caricature of the Bloomsberries attending a film depicting a Caesarian section (1931); several to Julian in China (1935-37); laconic responses to Julian's death and Virginia's suicide (1941); and explicit homosexual fantasies about Keynes and Strachey cavorting with young boys. Vanessa was by her own admission a better painter than writer- -and, indeed, her letters lack the bite and wit of other Bloomsbury writings. But Marler's biographical introductions and meticulous footnotes, as well as the 25 b&w photographs, add substance. The real pleasure here is in seeing Bell mature with the century, her fashionable attitudes replaced by authentic experience.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1993

ISBN: 0-679-41939-X

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1993

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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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