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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted September 1, 2010

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Mairéad Byrne
  • Date Published March 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0982081358
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 208pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Gina Myers
Thursday, January 01, 2004
Dammit more champagne.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Reginald Dwayne Betts
  • Date Published June 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-882295-81-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 66pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by James Mc Laughlin
Deconstruction of identity is a recurring motif in African-American literature. The exploration of the physical, emotional and spiritual devastation wrought by slavery continues to haunt its characters be it in literature, poetry or music. The most dangerous of slavery’s effects is its negative impact on the individual’s sense of self. Alienation underpins much of Black American writing. Slaves were told they were subhuman and were traded as commodities, whose worth could be expressed only in dollars. Consequently the much criticized “one theme” of African-American writing (slavery) cannot be escaped. In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, for example, Paul D – a typical exponent – describes his heart as a “tin tobacco box.” After his traumatizing experiences at Sweet Home and, especially, at the prison camp in Alfred, Georgia, he locks away his feelings and memories in this “box,” which has, by the time Paul D arrives at 124, “rusted” over completely. By alienating himself from his emotions, Paul D hopes to preserve himself from further psychological damage. In order to secure this protection, however, Paul D sacrifices much of his humanity by foregoing feeling and gives up much of his selfhood by repressing his memories. Although Paul D is convinced that nothing can pry the lid of his box open, his strange, dreamlike sexual encounter with Beloved – perhaps a symbol of an encounter with his past – causes the box to burst and his heart once again to glow red.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Moira Egan
  • Date Published December 2009
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 24pp
  • Price $9.00
  • Review by Jeremy Benson
It’s odd to start a collection of poems by politely turning down a pick up line, but Moira Egan just comes right out with it in the opening of the first of two dozen sonnets: “A glass of wine, a napkin, and a pen / are all I need.” But something – the cadence or the spitfire wit of the delivery, or maybe the way I imagine the speaker looking up and coyly drawing a strand of hair behind her ear as she flatly rejects her suitor – the way I, like a bully’s toady, am drawn to rejection – causes me to push past her declination and further into a formal introduction of the chapbook:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Lois Roma-Deeley
  • Date Published April 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0981516394
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 67pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Patrick Michael Finn
Winner of the Samuel T. Coleridge Prize, Lois Roma-Deeley’s latest poetry collection High Notes tours the bleak, unforgiving world of jazz in the late 1950s with a cast of five dramatis personae who move through impoverished landscapes of bars, pawnshops, grimy hotels and police stations. Carrying burdens of regret and despair, death and rage, the figures who people High Notes pacify themselves with liquor and dope in the loneliest corners of Chicago, New York, Detroit, Kansas City, and Los Angeles, destroying themselves on the edge of hope.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Charles Bernstein
  • Date Published March 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-374-10344-6
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 300pp
  • Price $26.00
  • Review by Larry O. Dean
In some fundamental ways, and at this far-flung point along the literary timeline, it's hard to believe that this is the first Charles Bernstein collection issued by a mainstream press. After all, here is a poet and essayist who has been publishing steadily for thirty-five years, yet not only that, an academic of some renown whose reputation has only become greater over those almost-four decades. What perhaps makes sense of this delay in making Bernstein's poetry available to a potentially wider audience is his foundational role within the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E school and his guilt-by-association with that movement's so-called “difficulty.” In fact, what All the Whiskey in Heaven makes abundantly clear is that Bernstein, anyway, is an immensely readable poet whose writing is varied, investigational, and quite often robustly hilarious.
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  • Book Type Novella
  • by Jesse Lee Kercheval
  • Date Published April 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-88083-486-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 126pp
  • Price $9.95
  • Review by Ann Beman
My copy of Jesse Lee Kercheval’s Brazil smells like Froot Loops, and I don’t mind one bit. The candy-fruit aroma only enhances the sensory snack that this novella serves. More than a snack, really, Kercheval’s short novel delivers dinner and a movie in the same timeframe in which most novels are just passing the hors d’oeuvres.
  • Subtitle Ed. Andoni Alonso, Pedro J. Oiarzabal
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  • Date Published April 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-87417-815-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 288pp
  • Price $44.95
  • Review by Chey Davis
Once upon a time, I could really get into this kind of writing. The title intrigued me. The topic was captivating. The whole idea of merging the concepts of new media and diaspora was fascinating. And then, I read the book. While the compilation spans a great breadth of “diaspora,” and as such is an inclusive and interesting mix of authors and definitions, the mix also falls flat as the connections between the various communities and medias the contributors talk about are hard to hold on to. For example, looking at the Digital Diaspora of India as seen in the growing emergence of Bollywood caricatures and Indian-ness in Second Life (“3D Indian (Digital) Diasporas” by Radhika Gajjala), juxtaposed with the use of social networking and Orkut in the outlanders of Brazil (“Tidelike Diasporas in Brazil: From Slavery to Orkut” by Javier Bustamante). The overarching understanding tacit in most of the contributors’ writing was that societal bonds, while already tenuous in splintered or diasporic communities, may be further impacted by the use and creation of “virtual” communities that reify or overblow particular essences of the original community (especially in “Maintaining Transnational Identity: A Content Analysis of Web Pages Constructed by Second-Generation Caribbeans” by Dwaine Plaza).
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Dewar MacLeod
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8061-4041-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 240pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Caleb Tankersley
As a member of Generation X, I’ve often wondered what happened culturally in the mid-to-late 70s. Our society went from peaceful, late-60s hippies to the mass-market and watered-down kitsch of the 80s. Dewar MacLeod’s new book can explain it all.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Roberto Bolaño
  • Date Published July 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0811217156
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 208pp
  • Price $23.95
  • Review by Michael Flatt
If you’re reading this review, on this website, you probably know who Roberto Bolaño is/was. You know he died at age 50, likely due to complications from drug and alcohol addictions. You know he was a poet who switched to fiction to support his family. You’ve probably read at least one of his two major works, The Savage Detectives and 2666, and probably a couple of the shorter works like Amulet, Antwerp or Last Evenings on Earth.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Jeni Olin
  • Date Published May 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1934909140
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 106pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by Sarah Rehmer
From the Morton Salt Girl to straight bois, the fever dream of Jeni Olin’s second full collection of poetry, Hold Tight: The Truck Darling Poems draws the reader into the solitary world of the personal: the private space where the ruminations and raw anxieties that dominate the human mind cavort. In this manner Olin explores identity and connection with an astute, pain-allied beauty in four sections of short poems.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Jeffery Beam
  • Date Published March 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-907489-01-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 242pp
  • Price $17.00
  • Review by Kimberly Steele
Jeffery Beam’s celebration of the “small poem” in his latest collection, Gospel Earth, diverts his reader from ambient noise, trims the excess from the natural world. His poems stand out because they whisper, infusing Gospel Earth with stillness and secrecy. Beam creates a quiet book in form and tone, filling the page with white space that emphasizes the solitude and fragility of his images. His aim is to observe the “wide silences that do not ache to be filled,” and he invites the reader to collude with his minimalist vision. His poems emerge like
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