A rich treat for Nabokov’s admirers.




Scores of interviews reveal Nabokov’s sly wit and powerful opinions.

Award-winning biographer, editor, and literary critic Boyd (English/Univ. of Auckland; Why Lyrics Last: Evolution, Cognition and Shakespeare's Sonnets, 2012, etc.) and scholar and translator Tolstoy (Junior Research Fellow/University of Oxford; co-translator: Nabokov’s The Tragedy of Mister Morn, 2013) have gathered more than 150 uncollected writings by the prolific Nabokov (Letters to Véra, 2014, etc.): essays, reviews, questionnaire responses, letters to editors, and—accounting for the majority of the pieces—interviews, most dating from the “post-Lolita years of world fame.” An informative introduction places the selections in the context of Nabokov’s life and writing career. After Lolita appeared in 1958, interviewers pressed Nabokov about not only the book, but also opinions of other writers, his decision to live in America (the “country where I’ve breathed most deeply,” he said), his interest in butterflies, and his assessment of his own work. Boyd has condensed some of the more repetitive interviews. Nabokov claimed that his favorite book was the just-published Lolita, “the story of a poor, charming girl” who was “caught up by a disgusting and cruel man.” To the suggestion that any of his books could be elucidated by Freudian interpretation, he was indignant: Freud, he proclaimed, “has been one of the most pernicious influences on literature…a medieval mind dealing in medieval symbols.” Psychoanalysis, he added, “has something Bolshevik: internal police.” Nabokov had similarly vehement opinions about a host of writers: Dostoevsky was “a journalist, like Balzac,” and “Camus is a third-rate novelist.” He admired Hemingway’s short stories, but he thought his novels were “abominable.” Of Nobel Prize winner Boris Pasternak, Nabokov derided Dr. Zhivago as “a sorry thing, full of clichés, clumsy, trivial and melodramatic.” J.D. Salinger, though, was “a great, wonderful writer—the best American novelist.” When asked what other career he might have chosen “if the muse failed,” Nabokov suggested a lepidopterist, chess grandmaster, or a “tennis ace with an unreturnable service.”

A rich treat for Nabokov’s admirers.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-87491-2

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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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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