Intelligent observations about an array of important writers and worthy reflections on leading a more thoughtful existence,...




Pulitzer Prize winner Coles (Psychiatry and Medical Humanities/Harvard Medical School; Political Leadership, 2005, etc.) spotlights artists who guide us toward moral and social awareness.

Transcribed and edited from recordings of lectures for “A Literature of Social Reflection,” a course the author taught for two decades, the text has a casual, intimate tone. Coles frequently offers personal reminiscences, seeking to encourage students to connect literature with “the hidden curriculum we have before us over the decades of our existence. By this I mean not a subject matter that is intellectual in nature but one experiential and moral in nature. Indeed, he spends a lot of time taking potshots at intellectuals—himself as a younger man included—who avoid emotional engagement with art (and life) by overanalyzing and putting everything into academic categories. Though his central questions are the biggies—“How does one live a life? What kind of life? And for what purpose?”—Coles prefers writers who grapple with these questions on the level of daily detail and texture: William Carlos Williams, Raymond Carver, Ralph Ellison, Flannery O’Connor, John Cheever, Walker Percy, Zora Neale Hurston. (The author looks glances back at the Victorians, but his primary concern is with 20th-century literature.) Even when dealing with works generally evaluated as political statements, such George Orwell’s writings, he focuses on the authors’ personal relationship with the material, the way they challenge us to look into our own hearts for the sources of injustice and prejudice. That is also the Coles’s agenda, but with a distasteful twist. He assumes his students, and readers, are privileged people whose privileges are largely invisible to them, who must be goaded to acknowledge their human kinship with the poor, the ignorant and the oppressed rather than merely pitying them. This stance can be irritating, especially when the author parades his superior sensitivity under the guise of personal anecdotes.

Intelligent observations about an array of important writers and worthy reflections on leading a more thoughtful existence, delivered with an off-putting undercurrent of self-satisfaction.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6203-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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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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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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