Brevity may be the soul of wit, but biography often deserves a little bit more.



A slender biography of English composer Vaughan Williams that pays more attention to the music than the man.

Heffer (Moral Desperado, 1996) recounts the trajectory of Williams’s life with the broadest of strokes: a mere four pages cover the period between the composer’s birth and his enrollment at the Royal College of Music. This is indicative of the author’s deeper focus on Williams’s music and compositions rather than the quotidian experiences of his life. Although the author portrays Williams as a most genial and humane man, one who volunteered his services in both world wars and treated his friends (such as fellow composer Gustav Holst) generously, intimate—or even interesting—details about his personal life are in short supply. Rather, Heffer traces the interconnections between his subject’s music and the traditions of English folksong. Resisting the sway of Germanic influence, we are told, Williams’s compositions articulate a distinctly English voice, and this musical theme became a personal manifesto. He spoke widely on the virtues of a nationalistic voice in music, most notably in a series of lectures delivered at Bryn Mawr College and later published as National Music (1935). Heffer also details the influence that various writers and poets had on Williams, including John Skelton, Paul Bunyan, Walt Whitman, and A.E. Housman. Williams’s career was much lauded during his lifetime, and he was honored with the University of Bristol’s first honorary doctorate of music and the Albert Medal of the Royal Society of the Arts. So very much happened in this man’s life that the scantiness of Heffer’s account will leave the majority of the composer's fans hungry for more. This frustratingly slim volume concludes with a select discography of Williams’s works.

Brevity may be the soul of wit, but biography often deserves a little bit more.

Pub Date: April 6, 2001

ISBN: 1-55553-427-4

Page Count: 152

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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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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