The bright bolt of Robert Graves's thralldom to The White Goddess in the figure of Laura Riding—a long, rich, butchering madness; middle volume in Richard Graves's life of his uncle Robert, begun with Robert Graves: The Assault Heroic, 1895-1926 (1987). Richard Graves opens with Robert's return from the trenches in France, where he'd been shot through the lung and left for dead. Now suffering bouts of shell shock and deep insecurity, Robert feels his marriage to Nancy Nicholson splintering, with financial hardship magnified by four children. Enter American poet Laura Riding into the Graves household, as collaborator with admired fellow-poet Graves on a book about modern poetry. At first Nancy and Laura dress alike, almost as sisters, and get along well as the family moves to Cairo. Soon, however, a menage á trois is born that shocks their friends and all of Graves's family. But the trio hangs tight, moves into a houseboat on the Thames. Riding proves herself a towering genius (and supreme egoist), corrects all of Robert's poems and novels. Nancy is not Robert's intellectual equal. Only Laura gives him a focus that raises him above shell shock and the horror of the trenches. In a fit of jealousy, she jumps out a fourth-story window onto concrete—and Robert jumps right after her!—but from the third floor. Both survive but now Robert is Laura's, body and soul; he departs his family miseries and despairs, sets forth with Laura to Majorca. However, now that Robert is her servant, Laura can no longer allow him her body since—no longer her equal—he's unworthy of her. Laura, no beauty, looks like a small Hittite princess, with large nose, receding chin, and she always wears a tiara lettered LAURA. While guiding him through his acclaimed autobiography Goodbye to All That and his historical best-sellers, including I, Claudius (whose success she despised), her influence takes over Graves completely—and she becomes The White Goddess. They stay together for 16 years until Laura discards the broken Robert in favor of an intellectually dominating replacement she can have sex with. A poet spellbound by truth, inspiration, and horror. Gripping.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1990

ISBN: 0333432258

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1990

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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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