With as much myth-making as metrical analysis, poet Hughes's diverse pieceswhether on Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath, war poetry, or Norse mythscohere into a provocative, bewitched view of poetry. In Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being (not reviewed), Hughes formulated a central, universal myth of multiply incarnated warring male (rational) and female (creative) deities. Here he employs a similar critical apparatus with the atavistic figure of the Shaman-poet, complete with initiation rites and ecstatic trances, to everything he reads. Dylan Thomas, Wilfred Owen, Yeats, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, and Serbian poet Vasko Popa receive this unique treatment, and if it tends to level individual poetic talent, it heightens certain aspects in common, such as the formation of the imagination in conflict. The formation of Hughes's own poetic ideas unfolds in essays on the imagination, for and about children, and book reviews that absorb and transmute such subjects as ``primitive'' poetry, the ballad form, superstition, and environmentalism. Hughes's central myth, idiosyncratically exploiting Freud and Jung, views ``Westernized civilized man'' as ``the evolutionary error'' that has tried to suppress the Natural Goddess through rationality; specifically in England, he sees puritanical Protestantism ousting quasi-pagan Catholicism during the Reformation, and Britain finally losing its fables and mother tongue to Enlightenment neoclassicism. His themes unite in an extraordinary essay on Coleridge's conflicted imagination. This tour de force excursion through Coleridge's three famous visionary poems recasts his biography in a Shaman's mold while articulately examining his style and subject. Conversely, Hughes's essays about Sylvia Plath are sometimes strained, but those sparely and protectively written ones about her estate yield to a vivid reconstruction of the drafts of ``Sheep in Fog.'' Allowing for characteristic poetic license, the reader finishes Hughes's best pieces with a renewed understanding of poetryand a rekindled passion for it.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-312-13625-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1995

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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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