A peculiar but good-natured account of a varied, adventurous life, derailed at times by a theological obsession.


Kids, Sailors, Horses, Actors and Little Bird --- and God?

In a well-crafted debut memoir of youth, Ordick chronicles life’s twists and preoccupations in self-deprecating style.

Born in 1937 in Chicago, Ordick has impressively vivid memories of his first 25 years of life. “I don’t remember the womb,” he begins, but he seems to remember everything else: being cared for, as a toddler, by his grandparents in the apartment above their florist shop; confusing the dog for his sister; and terrorizing the babysitter. He was a clown but also perennially attracted to violence—which leads him to question how much of personality is innate and how God could possibly control human nature: “Is there a God who would bring his fantasies to life through us? If it is so, then we cannot control our destiny.” Ordick succeeds at re-creating a child’s perspective and recalling—or inventing—convincing dialogue. The tone is pleasantly jokey, with Groucho Marx–style puns, though Ordick often writes in blunt, choppy sentences that interrupt the narrative flow, such as “Still do have trouble responding.” His stream-of-consciousness musings grow darker after he joins the Navy, though his sarcastic manner is less attractive where it shades into racism or misogyny. Raunchy humor is borderline acceptable—“She was well done. Just the way I liked my burgers”—but Ordick later reveals that he occasionally entertained rape fantasies. As a naval radioman, part-time Texas horseman and aspiring Hollywood actor stuck in dead-end jobs, he met many enticing ladies, but none compared to Little Bird, a Kickapoo who stole his heart (she turned out to be married). The book contains many strong character portraits of friends, colleagues and roommates, and Ordick avoids melodrama when expressing regret at his failures. However, the Job-like refrains, expressing skepticism about God’s presence and benevolence, seem shoehorned in and rarely follow logically from the plot. Any unfortunate or seemingly unjust incident leads him into religious speculation. For instance, after his report of putting an injured dog out of its misery, he asks, “[H]ow could a glorious and holy God tell of his mercy, then be so indifferent?” The laundry list title and New Age cover could use a rethink, too.

A peculiar but good-natured account of a varied, adventurous life, derailed at times by a theological obsession.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2013

ISBN: 978-1475252118

Page Count: 452

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

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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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