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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted July 14, 2011

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  • Book Type Edited
  • by Jason Lee Brown, Jay Prefontaine
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8040-1135-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 281pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Lee Martin’s introduction in New Stories from the Midwest promotes Midwest writers, sometimes overlooked by East Coast literati; however, this collection of nineteen writers illustrates less a sense of the Midwest than daring developments of plot and character, which illustrate contemporary realities.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Lisa Gill
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-98226968-5-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 144pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Richard Oyama
If a writer addresses conditions of extremity, does that exempt the work from critique, putting it somehow beyond the pale? Objectivist poet Charles Reznikoff wrote Holocaust, a volume based on testimony from the Nuremberg Trials. There were times when it seemed to me that collection lacked what Gabriel Garcia Marquez considered a first condition for literature: “poetic transfiguration of reality.”
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Robert Fisher
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9827136-3-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 122pp
  • Price $10.00
  • Review by Hazel Foster
Robert Fisher’s The God Machine takes after Orwell’s dystopian classic, 1984, with bits of Margaret Atwood’s more modern approach, Oryx and Crake. In The God Machine, a planet is harvested and controlled by “God.” God is, in fact, a computer maintained by a “superior” race of humans. The inhabitants of the planet, bred and brainwashed into submission, lead lives tightly controlled by the computer and its manipulators. That is, until Walter Dodge. Dodge questions, finds the truth, and reveals all, in turn becoming a god-like figure and bringing down the machine. This all happens in “Part 1.”
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Peter Brown Hoffmeister
  • Date Published June 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1593764203
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 224pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Ann Beman
It could have gone the other way for Peter Brown Hoffmeister. He could be strung out, in prison, or dead. In his first book, Hoffmeister chronicles his adolescent downward spiral and the events which signaled that he needed to pull up, one way or another, into wild, blue manhood. “When I think about my childhood, I am confused,” he says. “There is a lot about everything I don’t understand.” We readers are game to grapple alongside for understanding, as the author doles out suspenseful moments, employing super-tuned senses, providing rich imagery, grounded reflection, and the tension inherent in a coming-of-age tale in which drugs, violence, and a genetic tendency toward OCD conspire—“I bite my fingernails until they bleed, then I bite them over again to make sure they’re all even. They never bleed evenly enough. There is so much I can’t control.”
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Chad Faries
  • Date Published June 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9830226-2-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 254pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Holly Zemsta
It takes a while to settle into Chad Faries' Drive Me Out of My Mind: 24 Houses in 10 Years. A memoir that chronicles the author's itinerant childhood, the book devotes a chapter (including a foreword and afterword, as well as three unnumbered “lost chapters”) to each childhood home. The book's format is important, as it provides structure for the narrative events, flights of fantasy, poetic imagery, and dreams contained therein.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Joan Aiken
  • Date Published April 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-931520-74-4
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 203pp
  • Price $24.00
  • Review by Laura Pryor
British author Joan Aiken died in 2004, leaving behind a huge volume of work, including over a hundred books. She began with short stories, and this collection of nineteen tales is a fun introduction to Aiken’s quirky, imaginative style. The word “tale” is particularly apt for these stories; many of them read like old folk tales handed down through generations.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Kate Hanson Foster
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0931507274
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 64pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Mid Drift is Kate Hanson Foster’s first book of poems. Written in free verse, the poems are lyrical, dark as they plunge into snapshot memories of her past, and powerful. The poems take place in the city, at night, circling images of water, particularly of rivers, and the narrative, though only seen in glimpses, reveals a betrayal, an affair. Lowell is a recognized influence, in the last poem “Dear Lowell,” where the speaker claims, unconvincingly, to plan to leave the place she has written about so meticulously in poem after poem. The line in “Mill City,” “My mind is filthy with old, dear secrets” encapsulates the book—the speaker simultaneously holds the past “dear” yet recognizes it as “filthy.”
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Niki Herd
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59948-267-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 62pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
A painfully articulate and driven first collection, The Language of Shedding Skin employs the powerful force of words to speak about struggles with race and gender. Niki Herd, a Cave Canem fellow, follows in a tradition that engages with lyric and rhythmic language, using song as a guiding principle. In poems that freely range in form yet always possess an emotional depth, this compact debut collection will captivate with its spirited language.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Sommer Browning
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-982617-75-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 96pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Elena Spagnolie
I don’t claim to understand all of Sommer Browning’s poetry, but I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading her first full-length collection, Either Way I’m Celebrating. Her work is smart and requires some effort to interpret; the eccentric, stream of consciousness writing subtly shifts from thought to thought and challenges readers to follow. And it’s certainly worth the undertaking. Browning’s poetry is flat out funny. For example, in the poem “Sideshow” she writes:
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by A.G. Mojtabai
  • Date Published June 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0810127661
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 208pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Alex Myers
Tom Limbeck, a social worker in New York City, lives a mundane life. His office life constrained ever more by budget cuts, his social life limited by his own depressive and obsessive tendencies, his world is restricted and hemmed in. But one thing fascinates Tom: a homeless young man named Michael who becomes part of his caseload. Such is the premise of A.G. Mojtabai’s novel Parts of a World.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Ludvìk Vaculìk
  • Translated From Czech
  • by Káca Polácková
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934824-34-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 180pp
  • Price $13.95
  • Review by Jeremy Benson
Though hardly a household name in the U.S., Ludvìk Vaculìk is probably best known first among historians for his provocative publications during the Prague Spring in 1968, and then among the more eccentric students of literature and journalism. Even then, he’s not recognized for writing, but for championing modes of literature: samizdat, the precursor of underground DIY zines, which enabled Prague writers to thrive under harsh censorship, and the editorial street-beat columns known as Feuilleton. A Cup of Coffee with my Interrogator, published in 1987, collects Vaculìk’s feuilletonic samizdat essays for an English audience.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Kirsten Kaschock
  • Date Published October 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-56689-275-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 330pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
The creation of an entirely new form of performance art—drawing from modern dance, spoken word, and architecture—provides a provocative debut novel by Kirsten Kaschock. Sleight attempts to address the ever-pervasive issue of how art should function in and respond to the tragedies of the modern world. With an array of characters depicted in lyrical, short language, the novel unfolds in traditional from, small plays, word sequences, and boxes filled with words that experiment with the novel form in a self-reflective manner, allowing further introspection.
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  • Date Published December 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0977935178
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 208pp
  • Price $11.00
  • Review by Erik Fuhrer
Home/Birth is a wonderfully intimate term that invites an exploration of the body and the space it inhabits. When I first noticed this book, I was struck by this term, not yet knowing that this book is literally about the physical act of home-birthing. When I began to read the book, I was comforted to find that its content matched the intimacy of its title. From the start, the reader is placed in the midst of a conversation between Arielle Greenberg, Rachel Zucker, and various other voices which are frequently quoted by the two authors. The conversation is very personal, often detailing individual accounts of birth both at home and at the hospital.
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