THE GYPSY IN ME

FROM GERMANY TO ROMANIA IN SEARCH OF YOUTH, TRUTH, AND DAD

In this affecting travel memoir, Simon (The River Stops Here, 1994) pursues both a component of his own history and a vision of post-Soviet eastern Europe circa 1994. A Californian reared in wartime England, Simon decided to check out eastern Europe, the one area of the world he had not traveled. (He wrote about his global curcuit by motorcycle in the widely translated Jupiter's Travels, 1980.) He knew virtually nothing of his estranged father's background other than that he was a Romanian Jew who emigrated to London as a young man. The trip, he suspected, would help him deal with the fact that, through much of his life, he had neglected (and even denied) his Jewish heritage. The civil war in Yugoslavia also pressed home on him the realization that the Balkans were more than a global hot spot—they were also his family's old home. From this welter of factors he formed the idea of walking through eastern Europe to connect the two halves of himself, northern Aryan (his mother was from Hamburg) and southern Jew. The result, this book, is lush with personality and anecdote on subjects ranging from the author's shrewd reading of the nature of life behind the now vanished Iron Curtain to eastern European youth's ``tangible sense of self-worth'' in the face of drastic economic decline and hardship. ``It was the society itself that had fallen apart,'' he writes, ``and it was clear that they thought of themselves as part of the solution.'' When, with luck, he finds in the town of Botoani, in Romania, the original record of his father's birth, he notes that ``the handwritten page had for me something of the quality of . . . a piece of clothing that a loved person might have left behind.'' Simon is a connoisseur of travel and travel writing, and his story shines with an understated brilliance. He weaves a vibrant, detailed tapestry of character and experience; his discoveries are manifold. (map, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-44138-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1997

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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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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