Fails to register on the scale of substance.




Feathery observations on The End of It All.

Veteran culture warhorse/novelist/rock critic/essayist/poet Meltzer (The Night [Alone], 1995, etc.) is playful with the language (you must give him that), and he can make you laugh (ditto). Meltzer clearly has much fun swinging wildly with his rhetorical bludgeon, breaking cultural taboos like so many piñatas. But, ultimately, what can you say about a poet who composes verse about his penis or pens such lines as “His life was like a fart”? What can you say about an essayist who sprinkles his text with neologisms (and no-logisms) like “fuckadoodle,” “doodooheads,” and “bearzy-wearzy”? Who claims that jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker was the greatest musician ever to record a note? What can you say about a son who writes, “My father was almost dust before he stopped being a world-class asshole”? Who records in grim detail an explicit dream he had about having sex with his mother and reproduces lengthy transcripts of conversations with her in her dotage? Who congratulates himself on having “slipped the sausage to Helen Wheels”? Who writes about a box containing the shit of God? Who seems determined to offend as many people as he possibly can, especially those who think seriously about everything he takes lightly? Oh, sure, Meltzer lands a few punches, zapping conspiracy theorists and parents who pound into their little children the bleak notions of hell and damnation. Even wild swingers occasionally connect. But just when you think the author has found his rhythm, just when you begin to consider taking him seriously, he offers up some half-baked, repellent, reeking concoction and invites you to eat it blindfolded. Finally, there isn’t much to say about a writer who invites his readers to take some of his ashes (post-mortem, we presume) and rub them in our “filthy fat butt.”

Fails to register on the scale of substance.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-306-81228-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2003

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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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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