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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted June 1, 2011

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Joshua Edwards; Photography by Van Edwards
  • Date Published April 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-93489-19-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 109pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Marcus Myers
Joshua Edwards and Van Edwards’ Campeche, an ekphrastic collection of poems and photographs, meditates on the self as a song caught within the larger music of the world in decline. The book has a unique architecture, which derives its structure from both its historical setting and subtle references to ancient Greek and Judeo-Christian apocrypha. Arranged in seven sections, and consisting of thirty poems (three of which are translations) and forty photographs, the book launches its lyrical flights over Galveston Island, grounding symbolic expression in a real place already imbued with intrigue—the 18th century pirate Jean Lafitte, a man without a nation-state to call home, named this island “Campeche.”
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by William Corbett
  • Date Published February 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934909-13-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 61pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Stephanie Burns
William Corbett's The Whalen Poem is an enticing experiment and one I'm sure many poets would love to try. He describes the long poem as a response to reading Philip Whalen's Collected Poems. Whalen's style and influence permeate the book, but while Corbett revels in Whalen's signature stream-of-consciousness approach, it is clear that the consciousness propelling the poem is distinctly different. Corbett's poem is full of names and anecdotes, baseball statistics, and literary references. He seems to savor the sound and rhythms of these people and places he mentions, and it is fascinating to watch him sample culture and current events in this way. Still, the book is at its most compelling when Corbett delves into something closer at hand:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Noelle Kocot
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933517-52-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 78pp
  • Price $16
  • Review by Gina Myers
In The Bigger World, the reader is presented with the “character poems of Noelle Kocot,” as noted on the title page. And each poem does present a new character or two and a glimpse of their lives. The poems, written always as a single stanza, read like fables or fairy tales with their fantastic elements—whether it is Horatia giving birth to a fully grown man, a phoenix talking to a monk, the head of a woman becoming a house plant, or a wing-faced dentist who used to love war—and with their seemingly moralizing messages. At the end of “Rainbow Lanes,” Kocot writes:
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Michael Bible
  • Date Published April 2011
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 85pp
  • Price $10.00
  • Review by Hazel Foster
At first glance Michael Bible’s Cowboy Maloney’s Electric City is adorable, akin to an oversized coaster and just a quarter-inch thick, but inside, the prose is blunt and cut-down, and the illustrations match: page sixty’s is of black swans smoking cigarettes in a white lake.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Michael Kimball
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0615430461
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 203pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Audrey Quinn
Reading the first, very short chapter of Michael Kimball’s Us, I knew the book was going to make me cry repeatedly. A husband wakes to his wife having a seizure in their bed, and from that point we experience the complete change to their lives as he cares for her until her death. Their story is told from the point of view of the old man and there is no dialogue in the book. We are completely immersed in his experience as he tries to keep his wife alive and then helps her prepare for her death. I say “experience” because he is so unsure, scared, and sad that his descriptions are very physical because he doesn’t quite know how to process them: “I couldn’t feel any breath coming out of her anymore. I held onto her nose and tried to breathe some of my breath into her mouth. There didn’t seem to be enough air inside of me anymore to get her to breathe.” There are dozens of moments like this through the book, ones that start with a play-by-play description of what is happening and end in heart-wrenching realizations.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Mathias Enard
  • Translated From French
  • by Charlotte Mandell
  • Date Published December 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934824-26-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 517pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Zone is a contemporary Homeric epic, 500 pages of one sentence–and it works. Enard’s message is that no matter where the conflict takes place and what the issues are, the human atrocities are the same. Therefore, the style allows for the account of one savage leader and his victims to bump up against others with not even a comma in between:
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Craig Nova
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0982077146
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 176pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
Craig Nova’s quirky memoir mixes his life as writer, father, and husband in a series of short essays that all revolve around his life as a fly fisher searching for the native brook trout. This reprint and expansion of the original 1999 publication incorporates simple prose with wit and humor. Although predominantly known as a fiction writer, Nova, in a series of twelve non-chronological essays, informs the reader about how he developed his obsession with fly-fishing alongside other stories about his shared passion with friends and family. These essays, with a charming voice, invite the reader to share with Nova in his memories and pieces of advice that enrich the memoir.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Dinty W. Moore
  • Date Published September 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-58297-796-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 262pp
  • Price $17.99
  • Review by Laura Pryor
Perhaps the highest praise I can offer Moore’s instructional book on writing the personal essay is this: when I started reading it, I had no intention or desire to write an essay, and now, having finished it, I already have a list of potential projects I’m ready to begin. His easygoing, conversational style and encouraging tone (“Everyone has bad days. So don’t beat yourself up about it”) make the book an easy read, and most of his advice is concrete and specific.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Lizzy Acker
  • Date Published December 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9789858-3-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 84pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Tessa Mellas
Lizzy Acker’s book Monster Party is hard to categorize. Is it a fiction chapbook? A novella? A story cycle? Maybe a fictive autobiography? Maybe a collage of short-shorts? Or should we call it a badass bildungsromanesque manifesto with a poetic ode to the 90s computer game Oregon Trail thrown in? Whatever it is, it’s a must-read. Especially for all you 20 and 30-somethings who grew up on He-Man and Nick at Nite. And you literary types who have always wanted to do something gnarly and totally against-the-rules with metaphor. And especially all you who may be considering boob tubing it tonight—Acker’s protagonist would—but are thinking it’ll be loads more fun hanging out for eighty pages with a slacker tomboy named Lizzy who drools sarcasm, shoots Fourth-of-July bottle rockets out of her mouth, and accidentally participates in the murder of a possum because she thinks it’s mortally wounded when the poor critter is just playing dead. Trust me, friends. This hipster hip, tough girl, love-rock, indie narrative word-thing is for you.
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  • Book Type Stories
  • by Chelsea Martin
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934513-24-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 68pp
  • Price $13.00
  • Review by Sara C. Rauch
If you’re the sort of reader who likes a nice, linear plot and a trustworthy narrator, then Chelsea Martin’s charming collection of stories, The Really Funny Thing about Apathy, is probably not for you. If, on the other hand, you delight in the odd, the cerebral, the uncanny, and you love the possibility of language and the unexpectedness of the human brain, then by all means, go get your hands on a copy.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Matthew Henriksen
  • Date Published February 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9844752-2-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 108pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
Matthew Henriksen’s poems are fun to read. They aren’t elaborate constructions, even when concerned with painful circumstances or disturbing displays of psychological torment, neither are they simple in statement or form. Tony Tost’s blurb mentions T.S. Eliot and Gram Parsons. This works as Henriksen is of a generation for whom turning from reading Eliot to listening to Parsons without missing a beat comes easily. (Parsons, after all is very much in Eliot’s lineage—wealthy white and southern, Parsons was a musical star who readily mixed country with rock, his personal setbacks and limitations reflected by his art and life.) Henriksen, however, is not merely deploying a grab bag of insights he picked up from the college dormitory. So, while there’s a bit of looseness deployed under cover of freehanded collage in these poems, Henriksen surprises as being far subtler a poet than to boringly lay everything straight out.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Matthew Rohrer
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933517-50-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 73pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Michael Flatt
If you’re like me, the title Destroyer and Preserver will make you expect a speaker who finds himself filling both roles at once, somehow. You’ll long to embrace the conflict of some tragic irony. You’ll look forward to witnessing small, tender moments nestling together in the shadow of something supremely horrible.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Susan Briante
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934103-19-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 104pp
  • Price $17.50
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
The idea of the suburbs as a “Utopia minus” comes to the fore in a collection that laments the rise of the suburbs as a “rise into ruin.” Susan Briante has written a bold second collection that tackles issues plaguing the American landscape and, even more urgently, the American people. Utopia Minus challenges notions of industrial and social progress in emboldened poems, fearlessly examining the plight of current American culture and even addressing the wars in the Middle East. These poems seethe with a silent anger and worry for the future.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jess Row
  • Date Published February 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0982939222
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 196pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Alex Myers
Seven short stories, linked by the event and resonance of September 11th, constitute Jess Row’s Nobody Ever Gets Lost. Modern, pertinent, worldly, these stories speak directly to the reader, drawing one in, compelling one to keep reading, to engage. Row’s prose is self-conscious but never awkward, rich and rewarding.
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