A competent travelogue, but not much more.




A middling memoir of travels among the world’s far-flung islands.

Clarke (California Fault, 1996, etc.) takes us on a wide-ranging tour of islands that are off most tour-group maps. Some of them (such as the Bay of Fundy’s Campobello Island, where Franklin Roosevelt kept a summer home) are notable for their role in history, while others (such as the embattled and rapidly disappearing coral atolls of the Maldives) are notable for what they reveal about the fragility of islands as ecosystems. But most, it appears, figure in Clarke’s narrative simply because he happened to go there at some time or another, and his descriptions of what he calls “the last real islands” are often little more revealing than those found in standard-issue travel brochures. His pieces follow a standard formula: he travels to a distant island, takes a quick survey of its appearance and flaws, and then finds some offbeat character or another on whom to hang an anecdote or two. For instance, on Chile’s Isla Robinson Crusoe, “a strangely claustrophobic place” where the Scottish sailor (and, by all accounts, nasty punk) Alexander Selkirk was marooned between 1704 and 1709, Clarke homes in on a French curmudgeon who’d spent time in a Viet Minh military prison in the 1950s and now spends his days fishing in solitude, while on Vietnam’ s Phu Quoc island (a wartime vacation spot for Viet Cong and American fighters alike) he hooks up with a fearlessly contemptuous Amerasian anticommunist who “was careful to speak Vietnamese, but he dreamed in English.” Though Clarke is capable of inspired writing—his brief passage on the eerie silences of Jura is superb—he seems a little bored with the whole business of island-hopping, and his account compares poorly to Bill Holm’s Eccentric Islands (p. 1097), which covers some of the same ground with more vigor.

A competent travelogue, but not much more.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-345-41143-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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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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