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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted August 1, 2010

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Kim Echlin
  • Date Published December 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-0802170668
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 235pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Katherine Kipp
The novel The Disappeared, by Kim Echlin, is one that defines how love can surpass not only generations but countries as well. The story comes through so naturally – the narrator not hesitating to let true statements of the heart come through when need be – that, by the end of the novel, I felt as if this was a story told to me personally by a good friend.
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  • Book Type Memoir
  • by Corbin Lewars
  • Date Published February 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9802081-5-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 171pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Laura Pryor
In her memoir Creating a Life, Corbin Lewars chronicles her difficult journey to motherhood. Along the road there is a miscarriage, unearthed memories of being raped as a teenager, a struggle to find meaningful work, and tough decisions about the birth itself: hospital or home? Drugs or “natural” childbirth?
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Oliver de la Paz
  • Date Published March 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-931968-74-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 88pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Lisa Dolensky
What’s in an author’s name? Just uttering, “Oliver de la Paz” is to be moved by poetry. Repeating the musicality of such a name over and over before even peeling back the cover to the opening poem makes one ponder, “Could this poet’s name be some sort of predestination statement at the root of his creative process? Or evidence of his introduction since birth to the rise and fall of words that have fine-tuned his ear?”
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Karyna McGlynn
  • Date Published November 2009
  • ISBN-13 1932511768
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 74pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Kristin Abraham
When titles are well written, they strike our interest and pull us into the main text, but they also are part of the main text – adding to the story, the voice, the emotional resonance – and should never be something without which a text can survive or make sense. I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl – chosen by Lynn Emanuel for the 2008 Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry – does just those things and is exactly what the title of a book should be; even before readers get to what’s inside of the book, it is striking, creative, intriguing, and relevant.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Mathias Svalina
  • Date Published November 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1-880834-87-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 83pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Noel Sloboda
Mathias Svalina’s Destruction Myth is a collection of great intellectual rigor, grounded by an awareness of the everyday. It presents a series of forty-four poems, all but one entitled “Creation Myth.” Reaching back into history – and sometimes prehistory – Svalina’s poems explore origins. Indeed, almost every work but the last (“Destruction Myth”) starts with some variation of “In the beginning.” Relying upon this formula lifted from “Genesis,” Svalina nonetheless demonstrates great range. He presents highly personal material, confessing “how I felt / when I was eight years old / & my home broke apart,” alongside thought-provoking anthropological generalizations (“Human life begins / at the moment / of contraception”; “Nothing without thumbs / is human”). And he displays skill with both free verse and prose – though the latter mode seems better suited for his forthright tone and frequent use of dialogue.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Michael Rattee
  • Date Published February 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9822495-5-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 64pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Caleb Tankersley
The latest collection from Michael Rattee, Falling off the Bicycle Forever, is a smooth, two-wheel ride through your nearest suburban neighborhood; if you don’t pay close enough attention, you’ll miss the subtleties of this book’s sedentary life, the thick underlay of muck beneath the gilded exterior of the American Dream.
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  • Book Type Novella
  • by John Cotter
  • Date Published June 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-4507-0091-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 200pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Dan Magers
John Cotter, author of the just published novella Under the Small Lights, is also a poet. The novella, a co-winner of 2009 Miami University Press Novella Contest, and a knowing yet earnest coming-of-age story about a group of college-age youths embracing a guileless hedonism and salvation through art, has many marks of a poet: a deft feel for spoken language and the ability to create vivid scenes through language. The very structure of the book – with short, often very short, chapters – has less of the expansiveness of prose, and more the concise cognitive breath of poetry.
  • Subtitle A Play of Sorts
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  • by Lisa Gill
  • Date Published 2010
  • ISBN-13 9780898232547
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 99pp
  • Price $13.95
  • Review by Richard Oyama
Not every writer could make a face-down with a rattlesnake in her Moriarty living room “a primal encounter waiting to be interpreted,” yet that’s precisely what Albuquerque poet Lisa Gill has done. Her introduction to the play, “The Catalyst & the Evolution,” contains one of the best descriptions of the writing process I’ve read: “Ecdysis is the word for the skin sloughing snakes do and might as well be the word for the process writers go through with revisions of certain manuscripts, those texts whose life cycles demand we shed draft after draft, abandoning each accrued preconception to ultimately access deeper instinct.”
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Mark Stephen Meadows
  • Date Published May 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59376-275-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 304pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Ann Beman
I recently became aware of the term personal watermelon. This is a smaller melon than your picnic-for-ten variety, weighing in at 5 lbs or less. Briefly, I entertained the false notion that the term meant the sweet, quenching fruit was mine mine mine and no one’s but. “Personal Watermelons. Get them here.” I’ve been reading about the seedless orbs a lot lately. They seem to be in season; it’s their time. Much like terrorism and terrorist were – and continue to be – ripe terms following September 11, 2001. On that date, artist, software designer, and global hitchhiker Mark Stephen Meadows found himself stranded in Paris, unable to fly home to California as planned on September 12.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Robert Kelly
  • Date Published April 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-929701-89-9
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 223pp
  • Price $24.00
  • Review by Thomas Hubbard
Entering my neighborhood from a different direction for the first time, I became disoriented, unable to find my building right away. Then, there it was! And I suddenly had a new "feel" for the place. Experiencing the familiar from a new perspective can bring disorientation that, fading, leaves an enhanced understanding. In much the same way, Robert Kelly's fiction shows us our familiar world from a new perspective, and expands our understanding of this life we live.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Lily Hoang
  • Date Published June 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934254-14-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 246pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Caleb Tankersley
The latest release from Lily Hoang, The Evolutionary Revolution is a history unto itself. Both a fable and a myth (“Myth is about the past, fable is about the future.”), this title revolves around stories of an ancient, watery Earth populated by “subspecies,” one of which is man, although she does not physically resemble modern homo sapiens. (I know I’ve used “man” and “she” together. It’s an oft-employed technique from the book, one of many contradictions of language that whirl about and simply shrug off their own existences, adding to the intricate mystery and progression of Hoang’s work.)
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Daniel Johnson
  • Date Published June 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-882295-79-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 56pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Kate Angus
The greatest strength in How to Catch a Falling Knife, Daniel Johnson’s first collection of poems, is its chosen silences. While that may sound like strange praise, this book’s sparseness gives it a paradoxical power where the poet’s ability to know what not to say and when allows what he does say to starkly shine in the same way that it is more arresting to see one light left on in a house you gaze at from the dark street than it is when all the windows are festively blazing.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Dana Elkun
  • Date Published December 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-09797137-3-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 20pp
  • Price $10.00
  • Review by Noel Sloboda
Winner of the 2008 Concrete Wolf Chapbook Competition, Dana Elkun’s Black Box Theater as Abandoned Zoo offers a guided tour of a rich, imagined landscape. The cover of the volume features a pair of monkeys, perched on a bed, releasing butterfly silhouettes into the air. Underneath the enigmatic cover art, 15 sophisticated yet accessible poems treat topics as varied as marriage, medicine, and history.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Ander Monson
  • Date Published March 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1555975548
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 208pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Nate Logan
Vanishing Point is not a memoir. It says so in the bottom right corner on the cover. On the back of the book, it says “Literature/Essays.” In this book, Ander Monson serves on a jury, spends time at Panera Bread, details his self-Googling results, and devotes a section to the flavors of Doritos. But Vanishing Point is about all of us. How the I of my life, of your life, of every life, blends together and vanishes, at least a little.
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