Fresh from a sojourn as novelist (First Hubby, 1990), funny essayist Blount, Jr. (Now, Where Were We?, Not Exactly What I Had In Mind, etc.), returns to his usual modus operandi with a widely varied collection of entertainments. Blount is more pointed and trenchant than ever in this package of reportage, book reviews, poetry (O.K., Blount, we won't mention ``doggerel'' again—how's ``light verse''?), character sketches, travel writing, and, Lord help us, crossword puzzles. And it's all terrific. Despite an occasional dizzying shift in tenses, Blount's writing just gets better and better. The author rivals the Perils of Perelman in Westward, Ha! when he undertakes dog-sledding in Vermont, a safari in Africa, or assaults by piranha and by a memorable guide on a Conrad-like trip up the Amazon. There's a set piece, in true southern intonations, on how the narrator's old Mama became a famous storyteller; for those of a religious bent, there's also an exegesis on the Book of J. Then there are the folks Blount likes (Jimmy Carter and the late Gilda Radner) and the folks he doesn't (the Oval Office's incumbent and his predecessor, as well as malefactors of great wealth). Find out more than anyone ought to know about coon-dog hunting competitions and synchronized swimming meets (in which the girls offer such aquatic show-stoppers as Blitzkrieg-1939 or Rosh Chodesh-Israelean Festival). In a dozen crosswords, Blount explodes words and reassembles them to ``create advanced, antiestablishment, biodegradable crossword puzzles for gain.'' ``The public,'' he says, ``knows what it wants—something dumb—and it isn't easily fooled.'' Yet he may just be the writer to do the fooling; here's a text that's just clever and giddy enough. Comedy may indeed be hard for the moribund, as the old show- biz chestnut has it. But Blount, showman that he is, sure makes it look a lot easier than either dying or camels. All in all, some hard-shell writing talent.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-679-40053-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1991

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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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