An intense, quirky, and feverishly absorbing account of Leo's journey from urban conformity to a wilderness homestead in Alaska. Ten years ago, with little more than a dream, $900, and a game if wary girlfriend, Leo abandoned the safe path seemingly assured for Harvard-educated children of privilege in order to try to live ``way out at the edges instead of just traveling through.'' Unfolding with almost hallucinogenic fervor, this is the intimate, often quite beautiful record of his improbable success. Starting out with virtually no survival skills, this latter-day ``pilgrim'' manages to master such anachronistic necessities as building a house from self-cut logs, handling a dog team, and climbing glacial peaks as he moves from N.Y.C. to ramshackle Talkeetna (pop. 200) and on to his own ridge—with ``no people or roads for a hundred square miles''—nestled in the land below Mt. McKinley. Along the way, there are genuinely charming portraits of the strange assortment of disaffected veterans, ex-cons, ``broccoli'' (Alaskan bush-slang for marijuana) farmers, visionaries, and lost souls attracted to the literal margins of society—and these are matched by brilliantly poetic glimpses of nature closely observed as a daily mystery. Leo himself, disconcertingly, comes across as self- absorbed, pompous, and frantic (constantly seeking ``signs'' and ``angels''; alienating his girlfriend, the mother of his son, by his insistence on solitude over human connection). But perhaps these are precisely the qualities needed to achieve his odd and lovely goal of ``continuity, a lasting home where my son could see what was real: death interwoven with life, inexplicable sorrow and sudden radiance.'' A striking, stubbornly idiosyncratic chronicle of a defiantly different life—and a memorable and often spellbinding book debut.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1991

ISBN: 0-8050-1575-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1991

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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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