An engrossing, thorough, and revealing portrait of a beloved beachside community confronting disaster.

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MALIBU BURNING

THE REAL STORY BEHIND LA'S MOST DEVASTATING WILDFIRE

A writer offers stories of California residents caught in the flames of a deadly wildfire.

On Nov. 9, 2018, the Woolsey Fire spread from Simi Valley to Malibu, destroying 100,000 acres of land and forcing 250,000 people to evacuate. What debut author, actor, and longtime resident Kerbeck remembers of that day is “the terror of thinking you’re about to be burned alive in front of your kid.” His book, a collection of tales blending memoir, investigative journalism, and narrative, begins with his own harrowing account of the fire’s rapid descent toward his home. The author then goes on to reconstruct the stories of his neighbors. There are plenty of shocking close calls with “flaming embers”—one standout is the experience of Tanesha Lockhart, who had to “shelter in place” with the youths of a detention center. But Kerbeck also uses the residents’ recollections as a springboard to reach deep into the history of Malibu and the questions of liability surrounding California wildfires. Stars like Bob Dylan and Sean Penn make cameos, but what is more important to the author is the community of Malibu that exists at the edges of its multimillion-dollar homes: the Morra family, which struggled, ultimately in vain, to buy a fire engine dedicated to locals; Valerie Sklarevsky, a hippie activist who lived in a covered wagon; and the Gonzalezes, who built their own doomed, wooden home themselves. Throughout these and the other tales, the author deftly digs into the terror of that day, the deep connections these people felt to the land, and the varying factors that played a role in the Woolsey fire’s rapid development. His ample research allows him to makes surprising connections, linking the fire to the electric provider’s mismanagement and even possibly to nuclear testing in the 1950s while providing a thorough examination of the volunteer and Los Angeles County fire departments. Kerbeck writes about policy and history with the same urgency that he brings to cars engulfed in flames. And he focuses on just the right details—such as a high school production of Spring Awakening and a lost collection of airplane models—to give a robust and very human face to Malibu and the increasingly frequent dangers it faces.

An engrossing, thorough, and revealing portrait of a beloved beachside community confronting disaster.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73347-053-7

Page Count: 262

Publisher: MWC Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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