A witty, deft compilation of curated observations.

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MORSELS OF REFLECTION

An exploration of the aphorism, a time-honored literary form that has delighted audiences for centuries.

In this slim collection of maxims, author Figna and annotator Bonini engage in a form of conversation with roots in the Socratic dialogues. Figna crafts remarks that oscillate between being sincere and tongue-in-cheek, and Bonini often responds with annotations that speak both to Figna and the reader. Although the volume is generally optimistic and affable, it’s punctuated with tart interludes of pointed cynicism, as when Figna revises a fairy tale: “Sleeping Beauty is a lady who got the dose of Valium wrong.” The adages range from the quixotic to the practical, the absurd to the serious, the personal to the political. At times, the two authors agree, but the exchanges are most thought-provoking when they diverge, as when Figna says that if she “could found cities, I would rebuild Sodom and Gomorrah,” and Bonini notes that she’d rebuild Alexandria. Bonini’s annotations often add a layer of humor to the discourse, and also explain references to authors, poets, philosophers, theorists and essayists—among them are Roland Barthes, Gertrude Stein, Arthur Rimbaud and Marcel Proust. Insights into the modern imagination abound, such as Figna’s droll twist on René Descartes’s most famous motto by substituting “coito”—Latin for “I mate”—for “cogito” in “Cogito, ergo sum” (“I think, therefore I am”). At times, the bons mots are so strange as to be indecipherable or so enigmatic that readers may become lost. On the whole, however, the collection reads like the intellectual diary of two writers whose combined cultural knowledge is as sharp as it is estimable.

A witty, deft compilation of curated observations.

Pub Date: July 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456784287

Page Count: 60

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2014

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

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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MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

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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