A fine summation of Kittredge’s excellent body of work.




A gathering of essays, mostly autobiographical, by the poet laureate of the Inland Empire.

Kittredge (The Willow Field, 2006, etc.) was in his 30s when he decided that he wanted to leave the family ranch in the desert of southeastern Oregon, earn a degree and become a writer. “An ill-educated boy,” he writes, “I once thought no one would ever give me much that would prove very useful in terms of realizing my evolving dreams. Turns out it’s been gifts all the way.” Out in the outback, news traveled slowly. In that vast remoteness, a place where the people were “secure from the world,” even such momentous events as the dropping of the atomic bomb took their time to become known. Now news arrives quickly, and so does everything else. Kittredge brings the news in reverse, writing about the eternal verities, the cycles of planting and harvest and butchering. His portraits of the people who work the land are immediate and affecting. In one piece, he recalls driving across the desert with a broken-down rodeo cowboy who traveled in a pink Cadillac with no windshield—“not broken out, but missing entirely, as if it had never been there,” oblivious to the fact that it was “a windy sonofabitch” out there but well aware that his shaven-for-Sunday-meeting face was now plastered with bugs and saddened by the fact, as Gregory Peck, Kittredge adds, was saddened in the movie The Gunfighter by the fact that he’d never owned a watch. Kittredge recounts missed steps along the way, moments of bad management and poor harvests and the beauties of living in a place where the wagon tracks from a century past were still carved into the desert floor and the air was sharp and fresh—a place that largely exists now in his imagination.

A fine summation of Kittredge’s excellent body of work.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-55597-479-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2007

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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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