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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted October 4, 2011

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by John Oliver Hodges
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59948-288-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 160pp
  • Price $8.00
  • Review by Patricia Contino
For better and usually much worse, fictional runaway teenage girls end up on ships bound for the colonies, the big city of offices and/or brothels, behind enemy lines, or never far from an estate with a wealthy young landowner. Ruth is the Florida native taking refuge in an upstate New York commune in John Oliver Hodges’ neo-Gothic coming-of-age novella, War of the Crazies. Though set in 1989, the situations this 19-year-old beauty finds herself in recall those of her literary ancestresses: growing up too fast, local men and boys falling hard for her, the hysterical obsessive of love (Silva, who prefers “meditation over medication”), and a serious household accident.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Vyacheslav Pyetsukh
  • Translated From Russian
  • by Krystyna A. Steiger
  • Date Published June 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-80-86264-36-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 186pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Olive Mullet
The New Moscow Philosophy by Vyacheslav Pyetsukh, translated in many languages since its publication in 1989, has finally been translated into English this year by Krystyna Anna Steiger. As Steiger notes, this is a gentle parody of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, but even if the reader is unfamiliar with that book, The New Moscow Philosophy is easy reading and full of insights into literature—particularly the Russian reverence for it. The book offers a mystery story and a debate, often humorous, over good and evil. And the reader may have heard of the competition for apartments in Moscow, which is at the heart of this book.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-93295-58-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 79pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Marcus Myers
With “The Secret of Soil,” Aimee Nezhukumatathil opens her new book of poems, her fourth, within a secret: “The secret of smoke is that it will fill / any space with walls.” This secret truly belongs to the poetic imagination, of course, and speaks to how we daily embody the world, “no matter how delicate” the space, by giving it breaths of us, taking back lungfuls, placing ourselves here, and pressing our weight onto it:
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Sven Birkerts
  • Date Published September 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1555975937
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 192pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Ann Beman
We’re walking. We’re walking. Like “those colored paddles and banners (the new tourist universal)” that tour guides wield to direct their charges’ attention, Sven Birkerts holds up a metaphorical banner to keep us following along. When he wanders, it is not without direction. Invoking Robert Frost’s diverging road: “This morning, going against all convention, I turned right instead of left and took my circuit…in reverse.” The author, one of the country’s foremost literary critics and editor of the literary journal AGNI, links walking with thought: “There is the rhythm, the physics, of walking, the drumbeat of repetition, stride, stride, stride, and then there is the fugue of the walking mind, laid over it, always different, always tied in some way to the panning of the gaze and the eye’s quirky meandering.”
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Rebecca Farivar
  • Date Published July 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0980193862
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 84pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by J. A. Tyler
Rebecca Farivar’s Correct Animal, released in July from Octopus Books, is not unexpected or aggressive or raw or surprising. It is not a collection of poetry that blew me away. But this isn’t to say that I disliked Correct Animal—in fact, I liked it quite a bit, and I liked it for not being unexpected or aggressive or raw or surprising. I liked Farivar’s methods of quiet, of understatement, the lithe quality of her poems:
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Patrick Michael Finn
  • Date Published July 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0982622896
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 220pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by Ryan Wilson
Winner of the 2009 Hudson Prize, Patrick Michael Finn’s short story collection From the Darkness Right Under Our Feet includes plenty of dark circumstances, all set in the industrial sinkhole of Joliet, Illinois in the mid- to late 20th century. The stories are of the type popular in the early 20th century literature, when American Naturalism dominated the landscape. Every character’s fate feels pre-determined, based upon heredity and social conditioning.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Bernard Noël
  • Translated From French
  • by Eléna Rivera
  • Date Published October 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55597-600-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 120pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
Bernard Noël is a cerebral, urban-realist mystic caught up by the extraordinary in everyday language as it passes by, carried in things themselves. He captures the instant of wonder, filled with longing, lust, and above all necessity, grounding it in earthy satisfaction. What the eyes see wanes but lives on as a concern of thought. The book is a record of a life of such sight:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Kate Greenstreet
  • Date Published 2011
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 24pp
  • Review by Jeremy Benson
The Battleship Potemkin, either the film or the ship itself—the allusion, in any case—makes its appearance early on in Kate Greenstreet’s single-poem chapbook, Called: “First we hear it. Trucks, helicopters. The / Battleship Potemkin. He’s building the shape.” Throughout the poem, Greenstreet works in concise stanzas such as this, each image and line constructed with a controlled hand. As such, the Potemkin is no toss-away detail. Its facts and mythology, of restless soldiers and fledging revolutions, and of propaganda, get bundled and pulled into the poem, while calling to mind the montage theories made standard by director Sergei Eisenstein, the great-grandfather of all modern film editing techniques.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Meg Pokrass
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-935708-17-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 171pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Tessa Mellas
Meg Pokrass’s collection Damn Sure Right packs in a whopping eighty-eight stories. Short-shorts. Flash fiction. Whatever you call them, Meg Pokrass is their queen. She’s made a career out of flash fiction. She teaches flash fiction workshops nationally and has published over a hundred pieces in journals. In a market that goads short story writers to crank out novels, she’s firm in her commitment to keep it tight. But while most of us literature lovers have enjoyed a brilliant short-short in our time, few of us have read a whole book of them or even know how.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Heather Christle
  • Date Published July 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0980193879
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 72pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by J. A. Tyler
The Trees The Trees, the second poetry collection from Heather Christle, is a loosely-knit collection of poems that sometimes has to do with trees, that often has to do with the dichotomy of relationships, and that always has an overwhelmingly and wonderfully infectious use of rhythm:
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Shannon Cain
  • Date Published September 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8229-4410-2
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 160pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
In a world where habit drives and consumes lives, Shannon Cain’s short story collection takes steadfast aim at those who cannot resist the pull of what society deems illicit. Nine stories delve into seemingly average people, who, upon closer inspection, engage in the illegal, the deadly, and the bizarre, risking their lives and jobs to continue pursuing their obsessions.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Janisse Ray
  • Date Published September 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8203-3815-6
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 256pp
  • Price $22.95
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
Drifting into Darien, part memoir and part natural history, logs the memory of not only the people of the Altamaha River region in Georgia, but the landscape itself. In a multi-part larger essay and a series of smaller essays, Janisse Ray reminds us of this essential but little-known river. Readers who already possess knowledge of ecology and biology, as well as novice environmentalists, will appreciate the detail displayed by Ray’s knowledge of her native landscape. A strong environmental focus propels this collection of essays forward, urging the reader to take action to preserve not only the Altamaha, but their own rivers as well.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Arlene Kim
  • Date Published July 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-57131-440-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 96pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by H. V. Cramond
Now wake up it's time to eat! Show me
your tongue, my sweet…
boil her down to bone.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Ida Stewart
  • Date Published August 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-979458248
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 84pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
Musical and deeply rooted in a sense of place, Ida Stewart’s debut poetry collection highlights the essential element of sound within contemporary poetry. In a series of free verse poems that engage with the lyric quality of traditional nature poetry, Stewart delves beyond a simple examination of nature; instead, nature ties into a sense of past and place, ever-present in the depths of memory. Set within the concrete of ground, the minuteness of soil, Gloss condenses language to its potential as rich medium for the human voice and soul.
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