Exuberant—and funny—without neglecting the seriousness of surviving a year of love and war.

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India Charm Offensive

AN EXPAT PILOT FLIES THE SOUTH ASIA JUNGLE

An American helicopter pilot recounts his first year flying over the jungles of India.

Sobotta’s debut memoir kicks off on a Korean-owned fishing boat in the southwestern Pacific, where he flies a helicopter to aid the crew in its hunt for tuna. But poor safety standards and slapdash repairs to his aircraft make him uneasy, and he enthusiastically leaves the sea behind to take a job flying for paramilitary units in eastern India despite his new employers’ upfront warnings of the possible danger. An accomplished aviator, Sobotta thrives in the South Asian air, his time split among transporting soldiers, businessmen, and other VIPs; providing lifesaving airlifts to injured and sick soldiers; and doing reconnaissance work. The challenges are many, from navigating above long stretches of isolated jungle to weathering the heavy rains of the monsoon season and being fired upon by Maoist-Naxalite insurgents. His time on the ground becomes more difficult in its way—the constant stream of scorchingly spicy food, laxness of local hygiene, and eager mosquitoes often leave him feeling ill. Yet, while clearly uncomfortable with his rapid immersion, the expat pilot takes these trials remarkably in stride, an attitude that allows for great exploration, particularly with the beautiful and restless 30-something girl-next-door, Anika. The memoir is a wellspring of humor, with the author’s penchant for the occasional puns and corny jokes endearing and entertaining even when worthy of an eye-roll. Rejecting the tired trope of foreign exoticness, the narrative focuses instead on the author’s adventures and time between them. The book excels at balance: for instance, those interested in flying a helicopter will get a crash course in not crashing without being bored by constant technical intricacies. And while the humor will likely be the work’s most memorable feature, it shows a knack for pathos as well, from capturing the fear of undisciplined jungle soldiers to recalling the smell of gore inside Sobotta’s cockpit. As in the best memoirs, the author understands the need for complete candidness; he’s not afraid to share embarrassing anecdotes of drunken outings or scatological assaults from the eager bladders of India’s cows.

Exuberant—and funny—without neglecting the seriousness of surviving a year of love and war.

Pub Date: May 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-71871-1

Page Count: 366

Publisher: Globerunner Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

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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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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