India Charm Offensive

AN EXPAT PILOT FLIES THE SOUTH ASIA JUNGLE

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

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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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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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