A scholarly yet accessible introduction to Gnosticism.




Sunderland (The Obelisk and the Cross, 2016) analyzes the central divisions between orthodox and gnostic interpretations of the life and meaning of Jesus Christ.

The orthodox, or traditional, version of Christianity’s Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) is the foundation of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant denominations. However, the Judaic and Messianic narrative promoted by these books faced competition from a rival set of scriptures, which were largely lost to history until the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts in 1945. The Gospels of Thomas, Judas, Mary Magdalene, and others provided early Christians—particularly those in the vicinity of Alexandria, Egypt—with an alternate story of Jesus Christ, Creation, and the entire spiritual order. This book first deftly notes their differences from traditional Christian writings, then examines attempts by orthodox Christians and Gnostics to find a “middle path” to reconcile the two sides: The Apostle Paul does this in his epistles by reaching out to gentiles who’d be alienated by an overemphasis on a Judaic Messiah; Gnostic theologian Valentinus does it by acknowledging the supreme deity as “Father.” However, by the year 325, orthodox Christians had successfully linked their interpretation with Emperor Constantine, officially canonized Scripture that aligned with that interpretation, and denounced Gnosticism as heresy. The book’s final third argues for the continued relevancy of Gnosticism in our postmodern world, which values tenets that Gnostics promoted—individualism, self-discovery, and self-fulfillment. Overall, non-Catholic readers may find the author’s relative dismissal of distinctive Protestant theology to be off-putting. Indeed, by lumping Protestants into the same “orthodox” category as Catholics, the author misses potential opportunities to explore some similarities between Protestant ideas and Gnosticism, such as the Quakers’ emphasis on “inner light.” These criticisms notwithstanding, the author writes in clear, concise prose that effectively explains the complex and varied theologies of Gnosticism for a general audience while also maintaining an academic tone and providing a solid foundation of research.

A scholarly yet accessible introduction to Gnosticism.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-925590-48-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Vivid Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2018

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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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