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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted November 1, 2010

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Neil de la Flor
  • Date Published March 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0984117734
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 72pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Neil de la Flor’s Almost Dorothy is a collection of poetry dealing with issues of sexuality, the past, and coming of age. AIDS is a recurring theme, as is death. The world he writes in isn’t inviting or pretty, yet he seems to find humor in it and approaches it in a playful way.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Tony Gloeggler
  • Date Published June 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-935520-15-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 140pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Kimberly Steele
Tony Gloeggler’s latest poetry book, The Last Lie, celebrates imperfection in all its ubiquitous manifestations – in people, relationships, memories, and dreams. It is about the lies we tell ourselves when we discover that the truth is insufficient, and the tools we use to renounce those fabrications that distract us from recognizing beauty in imperfection and experiencing fulfillment from that which seems lacking at first glance.
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  • Book Type Ed. Barbara Hamby, David Kirby
  • Date Published April 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8203-3569-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 427pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Larry O. Dean
I was drawn to this collection for two – make that three reasons: I enjoy versifying power-couple Barbara Hamby and David Kirby's individual work, and I believe good, 'funny' poetry is, if not quite as uncommon as some might argue it to be, at least worthy of omnibus analysis and appraisal. I suspected that these two editors, no strangers to humorous writing, would take a broad enough approach to compiling what they deem “seriously funny” poems, and the book's introduction – a fine read in its own right – bears that out.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Alex Grant
  • Date Published September 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9826171-3-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 53pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Renee Emerson
The Circus Poems by Alex Grant defied my expectations, becoming more than “just” a book about circus performers through contextualizing the circus in history and myth and leading the reader toward the idea of the circus as metaphor.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Bragi Ólafsson
  • Translated From Icelandic
  • by Lytton Smith
  • Date Published October 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934824-13-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 298pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Bragi Ólafsson is a well-known author of poetry, short stories and novels in Iceland. His fifth novel The Ambassador was the finalist for the 2008 Nordic Literature Prize and received the Icelandic Bookseller’s Award as best novel of the year.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Rob Schlegel
  • Date Published December 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1-885635-12-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 54pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Matt McBride
Rob Schlegel’s debut collection of poems, The Lesser Fields, winner of the 2009 Colorado Poetry Prize, creates a kind of rarefaction through decay. As Schlegel states, “I breathe away the parts of myself I no longer require.” The titles of the three sequences which comprise the book, “The Lesser Fields,” “November Deaths,” and “Lives,” seem to underscore this theme. Indeed, the collection itself feels rarified, taking up a miserly fifty-four pages, including notes and acknowledgements.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Ayane Kawata
  • Translated From Japanese
  • by Sawako Nakayasu
  • Date Published May 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933959-08-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 144pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by C.J. Opperthauser
Sawako Nakayasu's translation of Ayane Kawata's Time of Sky & Castles in the Air proves that translating Japanese to English can result in a beautiful rebirth. The first half of the book, Time of Sky, is full of number-titled poems usually no longer than three or four lines in length, but these poems pack so much imagery and beautiful sounds that the reader often has no choice but to reread immediately. I found myself pausing to soak in all of the wonderful, unique images and ideas. Even simple things resound with beauty, like the description of a pigeon in 12:
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  • Book Type Young Adult Fication
  • by Katie Williams
  • Date Published June 2010
  • ISBN-13 9780811871754
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 256pp
  • Price $17.99
  • Review by Laura Di Giovine
Katie Williams’s debut YA novel, The Space Between Trees, is a lyrical journey into the lonely world of 16-year-old Evie, a friendless teen whose life changes forever after a childhood friend, Elizabeth “Zabet” McCabe, is murdered. Evie was friends with Zabet in middle school, but they hadn’t been close for ages. Adept at small, usually innocuous stretches of the truth, Evie finds herself telling Mr. McCabe at Zabet’s funeral that she was his daughter’s best friend. Evie’s lie initially repels Hadley Smith, a troubled, unstable teen who was Zabet’s real best friend, but Hadley soon draws Evie into her dangerous obsession to find Zabet’s killer.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Michelle Hoover
  • Date Published June 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59051-346-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 216pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Skip Renker
In a brief, illuminating YouTube interview on the publisher’s website, Michelle Hoover discusses the genesis of The Quickening. She discovered a typewritten memoir, composed in 1950, by her great grandmother about her experiences as a farmer and farm wife. The memoir of twenty or more pages covers much of this strong woman’s life in the first half of the Twentieth Century. Hoover used this story and further research on family history and U.S. farm life as a springboard to create the imaginative world of this novel.
Davis Schneiderman vividly creates a desolate and backward futuristic word in his novel Drain – a world that is made all the more terrifying for its uncanny resemblance to our own. Part sci-fi/fantasy (though certainly not the kind you want your kids to read), part psychological thriller, and part commentary on contemporary religion and politics, Drain follows numerous paths and occasionally fights the urge to draw extraneous ideas into its already-teeming domain.
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  • Book Type Illustrated
  • by Friese Undine
  • Translated From German
  • by Paul North
  • Date Published October 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933254-74-6
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 64pp
  • Price $20
  • Review by Gina Myers
Swiss writer Robert Walser opens Answer to an Inquiry, originally published in 1907, by stating his purpose for writing it: “You ask me if I have an idea for you, sir, you ask me to draft a sketch, a play, a dance, a pantomime, or some other thing you could use, that you could depend on.” From there, Walser lists the materials needed for costumes, set, and lighting, and gives step-by-step instructions with commentary on how to convey true suffering to an audience:
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Brendan Connell
  • Date Published May 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0974323572
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 100pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Alex Myers
A geographical whirlwind, Connell’s debut collection presents 36 cities in alphabetical order (some letters get more than one hit … why eschew Moscow for Madrid? Xi’an, on the other hand, has no X peer). Each destination offers a story, a scene, or a vignette – as I read I came to think of them as little windows – into the city. A moment, a place, a person. Each encounter is an intense mixture of location and love.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Jason Schneiderman
  • Date Published September 2010
  • ISBN-13 9780912592701
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 61pp
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Striking Surface by Jason Schneiderman focuses on death, religion, and the violence and exile of war. Though writing on such serious topics, Schneiderman still manages to weave in pop culture references, referencing several leading ladies such as Grace Kelly in his poem “Billboard Reading,” Sandra Dee and Lana Turner in “Susan Kohner (Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life),” and Audrey Hepburn in “Elegy VII (Last Moment).”
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  • Book Type Memoir
  • by Tom Grimes
  • Date Published 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9825048-8-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 256pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Jeremy Benson
Mentor: A Memoir by Tom Grimes details the relationship of the author and his friend, teacher, and surrogate father, Frank Conroy. It opens with their initial meeting: Tom, a budding writer considering MFA options, is snubbed by Frank after a reading. "I spotted Stop-Time [Conroy's own critically-acclaimed memoir] on a high shelf and reached for it ... I struggled to tear it in half. When I failed, I ripped out pages by the handful until I'd gutted the thing, splitting in two the author's name and the book's title ... I turned and said, 'Fuck Frank Conroy.'"
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Tina May Hall
  • Date Published September 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8229-4398-3
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 145pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Kimberly Steele
Occasionally you stumble across a piece of literary fiction so eloquent in its style, honest in its material, and direct in its approach that it resonates with you days, weeks, years after you read it. Such literature is valuable for both its simple sensory pleasure and its faith-restoring powers. Tina May Hall’s The Physics of Imaginary Objects is one of these intelligent, enlightening, and brazen books that you’ll want to place on your shelf at eye-level so you will remember to keep picking it up. Hall’s poetic style and articulate precision give this book a revolutionary quality. It nudges you along with an air of solemn importance and modest wisdom. Expertly composed and awesomely beautiful, Hall’s hybrid of poetry and prose is neither sparse nor excessive, sentimental nor detached, diffident nor ostentatious. It is, however, seamless – so delicately woven you forget it ever required stitching in the first place. The words fit together so effortlessly it sometimes feels like they just naturally occurred that way.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Emma Donoghue
  • Date Published September 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-316-09833-5
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 336pp
  • Price $24.99
  • Review by Sara C. Rauch
I was website hopping the other day, and came to the Brooklyn bookstore BookCourt's list of Top 10 fiction bestsellers. On their hardcover list, at #3, was Room by Emma Donoghue, which they call "a perfect example of that book (maybe Wolf Hall is also in this category) that's been a total success without being read by a single person under the age of 30." I am here to attest that I am a person under 30 (though not for long) who has read the book. Not only read it, couldn't put it down. While I was on vacation in Miami. It is that good.
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  • Book Type Edited by
  • by D.A. Powell & Kevin Prufer
  • Date Published June 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9641454-1-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 183pp
  • Price $12.99
  • Review by Caleb Tankersley
The contemporary American literary scene is as vibrant and diverse as any other art community; thousands of writers and millions of readers participate and interact on a daily basis. But looking back to any past period of the community – say the 1940s and 50s, somewhere in the layover between modernism and postmodernism – the world of letters looks sparse. One can’t help but imagine that literary circles must surely have been as wide and broad as they currently are. But it feels as if so few writers have lasted even such a meager sum of time. We’re often led to believe that there’s a reason past artists fall into obscurity. D. A. Powell and Kevin Prufer prove that notion wrong.
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