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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted September 2, 2008

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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Joyce Hinnefeld
  • Date Published September 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1932961584
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 288pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Christina Hall
The quietly reliable narrator of In Hovering Flight, Joyce Hinnefeld's first novel, is an everywoman character named Scarlet Kavanaugh, who, despite being raised unconventionally by her bird-loving parents, is a remarkably subtle and relatable character. Possessed of her own interesting personality, Scarlet isn't excessively pro-nature like her recently deceased mother, Addie, or high society like their family friend, Lou. She is, however, the possessor of one of the three secrets that will eventually draw the primary themes of the entire novel together.
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  • Book Type Ed.
  • by Owen King and John McNally
  • Date Published July 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1416566441
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 432pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Matt Bell
Who Can Save Us Now? is a collection of twenty-two short stories that each provide a new take on superhero lore, twisting and turning genre conventions on their head in the hopes of providing a new experience within the framework of the short story. Editors Owen King and John McNally use the book's introduction to reflect on the difference between our world and the one that provided the more black-and-white conflicts of the Golden Age of comic books, setting the stage for tales of new superheroes "whose amazing abilities reflect and address our strange and confusing new conditions," specifically the more modern terrors of "suicide bombers, dwindling oil reserves, global warming, and an international community in complete disrepair."
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  • Book Type Stories
  • by Felisberto Hernández
  • Translated From Spanish
  • by Esther Allen
  • Date Published July 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0811217538
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 212pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Josh Maday
Even if most English readers don’t know it, the influence of Felisberto Hernández’s writing can still be seen today in the work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Julio Cortazar, and Italo Calvino. Despite the recent trend of rediscovered Latin American writers, such as Roberto Bolaño, and their torrents of translated work, it is unsurprising that the foundations of Latin American literature are still being unearthed. Luckily, with this collection of two novellas and four short stories by Felisberto Hernández, one more influential Latin American writer’s work is finally available to English readers.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Dan Kaplan
  • Date Published March 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0977718252
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 80pp
  • Price $17.95
  • Review by Micah Zevin
In Bill’s Formal Complaint, Dan Kaplan presents us with Bill, a typical American male who must face his life's various stereotypical boredoms with a smile and a wink, all the while struggling to avoid falling prey to anguish or despondency. Told in a haphazard, reflexive memoir style, the problems of Bill’s existence past and present are written in an informal, absurdist jump cut presentation, making it read like the haphazard biography of a C-list celebrity.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Curtis Smith
  • Date Published September 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1934081044
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 164pp
  • Price $13.50
  • Review by Matt Bell
Told in chapters which alternate viewpoints between its dual protagonists, the plot of Curtis Smith's Sound + Noise is quieter than its title suggests – it is less the thrashing of a building cacophony than it is the last gentle notes of a favorite ballad. Tom and Jackie are both people with heavy pasts, the kind that refuse to let them move forward with their lives as fully as they might like until, little by little, they help each other to start again. Tom's past is personified in the comatose person of his wife Karen, while Jackie's is tied up in the past life she led as a backup singer for a famous country band. For each of them, part of what makes their pasts so daunting to overcome is that they love the lives they once led – Tom loves his wife, but from the very beginning it is obvious that she's never going to awaken from her coma. Similarly, Jackie looks backwards from her new life as the owner of a local bar where she sings once a week, often covering the very band she was once a member of.
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  • Book Type Stories
  • by Derek Green
  • Date Published June 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1932870220
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 180pp
  • Price $17.95
  • Review by Dan Wickett
Baghdad, Dubai, Brazil, Mexico, Asia, South Africa, Perth, Australia, Central America: In the eleven stories that make up Derek Green’s New World Order, only one takes place in the United States and in that one, “Cultural Awareness,” the characters are taking a seminar to get ready to spend time working in different lands. Green has taken his decade of experience working as both a journalist and consultant in foreign lands, and created an excellent collection of stories.
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  • Book Type Flash Fiction
  • by Geoffrey Forsyth
  • Date Published July 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0978989847
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 34pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Sean Lovelace
When Flash Fiction was younger, you'd see it only occasionally in the neighborhood, maybe pedaling through the pages of Mid-American Review. But then something happened. Flash grew up, and got itself a diverse group of friends, with funky names like Short-Short and Postcard Fiction. Now, flash fiction is everywhere, in all of the magazines, online and in print, and we have publications devoted to the genre (SmokeLong Quarterly, Quick Fiction, flashquake, to name but a few). The next step of this maturation was natural, necessary, and finally realized: entire collections of flash fiction put out by publishers like Elixer, Calamari, Ravenna, and Rose Metal Press, who recently published Geoffrey Forsyth's In the Land of the Free, the winner of their Second Annual Short Short Chapbook Contest. Clearly, this innovative press respects the flash fiction genre, and the idea of book as artifact. The text is an aesthetic marvel. Carefully crafted from a textured French paper, with an emerald green endpaper of Indian silk with straw, this objet d’art is something to behold. In a word: impressive.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Michael Joyce
  • Date Published July 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0929701882
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 207pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Rav Grewal-Kök
Almost nothing happens in Liam’s Going, a novel by Michael Joyce now out in paperback six years after its hardcover release. Joyce has written a number of hypertext fictions, and there is something of the feel of hypertext to this novel too, both in its swirling temporality – it loops continually from the present to the recent and more distant past – and in its occasional lack of momentum.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Deb Olin Unferth
  • Date Published September 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1934781098
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 216pp
  • Price $22.00
  • Review by Matt Bell
In Deb Olin Unferth's Vacation, people are always following each other from one place to another, starting with Myers, a middling office worker whose main distinguishing characteristic is a dent in his skull from jumping out a window when he was young. When he discovers that his wife is spending her evenings following a man named Gray through the streets of New York City, he begins to follow her himself, a process that stretches wordlessly through the first two years of their marriage. Later, after Myers and his wife decide to separate, Myers goes looking for Gray directly, leading to yet another chase that takes him across the Americas in search of a man who, if not exactly a rival, is still the closest thing Myers has to a cause for the dissolution of his marriage. There are other characters throughout the book who have their own loved ones or enemies to follow, each of their stories intersecting the love triangle of Myers, his wife, and Gray, until the book is just one more place for its characters to get lost in, to lose sight of their goals, to find, if not what they were looking, then maybe something they needed instead.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Michael Kimball
  • Date Published September 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1846880551
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 288pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Josh Maday
Michael Kimball’s third novel, Dear Everybody, is wonderfully subtitled “A Novel Written in the Form of Letters, Diary Entries, Encyclopedia Entries, Conversations with Various People, Notes Sent Home from Teachers, Newspaper Articles, Psychological Evaluations, Weather Reports, a Missing Person Flyer, a Eulogy, a Last Will and Testament, and Other Fragments, Which Taken Together Tell the Story of the Short Life of Jonathon Bender, Weatherman.” Kimball juxtaposes these fragments to cultivate a swirl of humor and sadness, giving the reader a palpable sense of Jonathon’s intense alienation and loneliness at the center of the increasingly unhappy Bender family.
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