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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted May 1, 2009

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  • Book Type Stories
  • by Samuel Ligon
  • Date Published March 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1932870299
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 180pp
  • Price $17.95
  • Review by Ryan Call
Drift and Swerve, Samuel Ligon’s second book and winner of the 2008 Autumn House Press Fiction Prize, takes its title from the second piece in the collection, a road trip story about a family traveling behind a drunk driver as they return home after visiting their dying grandmother. While the family bickers, the drunk driver grows more erratic, weaving across the road, first lazily and then desperately, before wrecking the car into an enormous concrete ditch. Each family member reacts differently to the nearly fatal accident: the mother cradles the injured drunk’s head against her body to comfort him; the father weakly stands to the side with a blanket, pretending to offer help; and the children, disappointed because the man is not dead, go sliding through the mud “as if it were winter and the drainage ditch a frozen over river.”
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Arisa White
  • Date Published 2008
  • ISBN-13 0-9795905-8-2
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 18pp
  • Price $7.00
  • Review by Cynthia Reeser
In Arisa White’s debut collection, A Disposition for Shininess, family eclipses mere flesh and blood. Siblings are a unit that both torture and uplift one another, come what may in the strange universe of adults. White’s observations of family dynamics gain interpretive momentum as the reader progresses through this slim volume of nine poems.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Keith Ratzlaff
  • Date Published April 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1934695104
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 98pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Roy Wang
Keith Ratzlaff would like some answers. Or perhaps he would like a world that didn't need so much explaining. This collection of anecdotes and meditations, despite not being dramatically questioning, still seem to present the ghost of “I don't know why, do you?” From stories of misbehaving, fighting relatives to portraits of paintings in Amsterdam, a current of surprise runs through the plain text and action that reminds us that there are things worth knowing before we pass judgment on our neighbors.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Bernardo Atxaga
  • Translated From Spanish
  • by Margaret Jull Costa
  • Date Published February 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55597-517-3
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 370pp
  • Price $25.00
  • Review by Jason Hinkley
Bernardo Atxaga's latest novel, The Accordionist's Son, aims to expose the effects that the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath had on the collective conscious of the Basque people. However, it is not a novel of the war, nor is it record of the clandestine resistance that followed. It is a novel of a people and a place, about a way of living life that vanishes as soon as it hits the page. Into this world Atxaga has carefully injected the struggles and sufferings that can befall the oppressed. That he does so without sacrificing any of the everyday beauty that he has found in his people and their land is a testament to his power as a storyteller.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Lyn Lifshin
  • Date Published October 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1597091244
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 184pp
  • Price $20.95
  • Review by Vince Corvaia
It says on the “About the Author” page at the back of Persephone that “Lyn Lifshin has written more than 120 books.” I want to read all of them. Here is not only a prolific but gifted and generous poet. In Persephone alone, Lifshin offers 189 poems, every one of them skillfully crafted and emotionally resonant. Some of them are overwhelming.
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  • Book Type Edited
  • by David Jauss
  • Date Published January 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1582975405
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 480pp
  • Price $16.99
  • Review by John Madera
Words Overflown by Stars is a mammoth-sized compendium of thirty-two essays on the craft of writing fiction and poetry. At their best, these essays, culled mainly from lectures, are transcriptions of teachers compassionately addressing their students, inviting them to dig beneath the surface of language, to sharpen all of their senses as they write and read, to cross boundaries, to challenge their comfort zones, to write and rewrite and rewrite again.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Timothy Green
  • Date Published February 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59709-130-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 102pp
  • Price $18.95
  • Review by Jeanne M. Lesinski
Timothy Green’s debut collection of verse, American Fractal, is named for the concept of order existing within what appears to be randomness that mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot developed in fractal geometry. Although his new way of perceiving relationships has revolutionized modern science, initially others were not able to “see” what Mandelbrot discerned and represented in unconventional mathematical formulas. As a poet, Green also challenges readers to see with him the patterns he has discovered and recreated in this aptly named collection of fifty poems in five sections.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Roma Tearne
  • Date Published July 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1933372570
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 304pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Laura Di Giovine
The mosquito season never seems to end in Sri Lanka; the swarms, “deadly as flying needles,” are always lurking in the shadows, waiting to strike. Frequently referenced as a harbinger of death and strife, the image of the mosquito figures prominently in Mosquito, Roma Tearne’s eloquent and moving novel of love in war-torn Sri Lanka.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Jan Kjærstad
  • Translated From Norwegian
  • by Barbara J. Haveland
  • Date Published February 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934824-03-0
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 481pp
  • Price $17.95
  • Review by Rav Grewal-Kök
I read the opening scene of The Conqueror, the second novel in a trilogy by the Norwegian writer Jan Kjærstad, with relief. The trilogy depicts the life of Jonas Wergeland, an ordinary boy from an undistinguished Oslo neighborhood, who rises to national and even international fame as a television personality. In the 600 pages of the first novel in the series, The Seducer, we read of Jonas’s travels, triumphs, and yes, seductions (there are many, from a beautiful and accomplished cast of women to, eventually, an entire nation transfixed by his documentaries). Jonas is equipped with a magic penis, a set of memorized quotations from books he hasn’t read, a silver thread in his spine, a crystal prism in his pocket, and an unerring eye for great art. He can’t go wrong. The Seducer is a vast and undeniably ambitious novel, but also, in its unremitting catalog of the successes of its hero, a little wearying.
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