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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted February 1, 2012

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Megan Boyle
  • Date Published November 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0982206720
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 96pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Aimee Nicole
selected unpublished blog posts of a mexican panda express employee is a collection of unpublished blog entries that teeters between poetry and prose writing. Rarely do I come across writing that can pass as both styles, which is interesting. There are no capital letters in the entire book, which adds to the informal tone. Assuming the collection is autobiographical (as it stems from blog posts), Boyle is a 23-year-old bi-curious stoner who records her life. It is one of the most honest pieces I have ever read; she even lists every single person she has had sex with, never leaving out minor details such as whether or not they used condoms and if she had orgasms. After describing each of her 21 partners, Boyle enters a brief moment of self-reflection: “relieved I don’t have AIDS or children.”
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Fred Setterberg
  • Date Published November 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1597141666
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 256pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Audrey Quinn
In Lunch Bucket Paradise, Fred Setterberg gives a vivid description of life in California from the 1950s-1960s. Setterberg’s style of writing quickly pulls the reader into his world. I’ve never been to California, my parents were born in the years when his story begins and I seemingly have nothing in common with Setterberg’s experiences, but that doesn’t matter at all. The people in his “true-life novel” are so vivid that almost instantly you understand how their minds work and their relationships to each other.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Miguel Antonio Ortiz
  • Date Published January 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9801786-9-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 206pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Paul Pedroza
The Cisco Kid in the Bronx is a Caribbean emigrant bildungsroman that at moments may remind the reader of the classic collection Drown by Junot Diaz. Ortiz’s collection certainly fulfills many of the conventions of what could be considered a Caribbean Diaspora literature.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Leigh Kotsilidis
  • Date Published October 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55245-249-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 96pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
In Hypotheticals, the scientific method breaks down into a scattering of hypothetical circumstances. Leigh Kotsilidis’s debut poetry collection delves into the reimagining of knowledge and personhood, questioning, on an elemental scale, the configuration of the world. A variety of formal and free verse poems, Hypotheticals takes a hard yet lyrical look at the creatures and objects that inhabit our planet, inviting the reader in to experience these strange and surprising sensations.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Joe Fletcher
  • Date Published September 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-936767-00-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 52pp
  • Price $8.00
  • Review by H. V. Cramond
Brooklyn Arts Press has entered the business of publishing chapbooks with a collection about endings. Joe Fletcher, whose previous publications include the chapbook Sleigh Ride (Factory Hollow Press), evokes in Already It Is Dusk a world drunk on its own decay, whose fields are “abandoned by sowers” and whose “soldiers stare blankly at the smoldering embassy.” While not as bleak as, say, Blake Butler’s Scorch Atlas, this world is peopled with monsters such as “Ben Nez the Winged,” who threatens to suck the breath from that poem's narrator, so that he “drag[s his] boots to smear [his] tracks.” More often than not, the monster is within, such as in “Hunting” when the hunter must “Pry the chickens' chests open / with my beak” after they “walk right up into my outstretched arms.”
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Erri de Luca
  • Translated From Italian
  • by Michael F. Moore
  • Date Published November 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59051-481-8
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 175pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Erri de Luca’s The Day Before Happiness, a bildungsroman set in Naples after WWII, shows both memories of the war and the city at that time, focusing on characters in an apartment complex. It also offers poetic insights along with humor. The lyrical style ultimately doesn’t distinguish the two main characters, even though one is a boy and one his caretaker/mentor, but the humor does distinguish another character in his nouveau riche ignorance.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Alan Kaufman
  • Date Published November 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1936740024
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 360pp
  • Price $25.00
  • Review by Audrey Quinn
It’s clear within the first few paragraphs that Alan Kaufman has no intention of holding anything back in Drunken Angel. The book brings the reader into his life as a young writer, a soldier in Israel, a husband, an addict, and finally a father, with many more twists and turns throughout. There were moments, while reading, that I disliked things he did and had I met him then, I probably wouldn’t have liked him very much. However, Kaufman’s willingness to open up so completely to his reader, to put himself in such a vulnerable position, won my respect.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Dana Teen Lomax
  • Date Published December 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0982573174
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 81pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Aimee Nicole
Disclosure is by far one of the most interesting books I have ever read. It should perhaps be called “Full Disclosure,” as Lomax presents us with so many fragments from various areas of her life. Some pieces disclosed to us are FAFSA forms, an acceptance letter into the Peace Corps, pay stubs from several different jobs (including Taco Bell), student reviews of her teaching skills, bank statements, and medical forms. Lomax has no qualms about baring all of the personal, private information in these documents.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Wayne Miller
  • Date Published September 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-57131-445-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 104pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by James Crews
The principal aim of The City, Our City, the latest poetry collection by Wayne Miller, is to construct a difficult, philosophical poetics that most audiences will have trouble wrestling into meaning. I have no problem with being pleasantly mystified or even confused (Lynn Emanuel’s latest work baffles me even as I gasp with wonder), but this book straddles a fine line between unsettling readers and completely turning them off. Since Miller’s previous volumes, especially The Book of Props, have won praise from many circles (including The New Yorker), perhaps he need not worry about losing readers; his audience may well be confined to those in the academy. And after all, The City, Our City does still showcase the poet’s remarkable skill, though it should be noted that his most successful poems establish a scene and context in which his talent begins to shine. In “Winter Pastoral,” a quiet love poem, he writes:
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Bruce Jay Friedman
  • Date Published October 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1926845-31-9
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 290pp
  • Price $26.95
  • Review by David Breithaupt
The title of Bruce Jay Friedman’s new “literary” memoir, Lucky Bruce, is an understatement. All the old adages about luck come to mind, you make your own luck, some are luckier than others, etc., but when you read Friedman’s life story you can’t help but agree: Bruce is one lucky guy.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by James Grinwis
  • Date Published October 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-156689-280-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 79pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Gina Myers
It is impossible to think of forking paths without recalling Borges’s garden of innumerable possibilities. And so in James Grinwis’s second book of poems, Exhibit of Forking Paths, selected by Eleni Sikelianos for the National Poetry Series, it makes sense that we find a poetry of possibilities and alternatives, a bit of play, an interest in “what the sounds mean before the definitions of sounds,” and a space where things can simultaneously be and not be. The title poem, which opens the book, presents different lives captured on numbered tablets, with the speaker coyly stating, “In the case of tablet 31, we will not speak.” Grinwis delivers a lot in this collection, but he reminds us we cannot have it all.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Beth Holmgren
  • Date Published November 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0253356642
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 432pp
  • Price $39.95
  • Review by Patricia Contino
Prior to audio and video, theatre history is a frustratingly silent one. Reviews, illustrations, journal entries, photographs, designs, and prompt books are helpful—and rare.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Vinnie Wilhelm
  • Date Published October 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9844889-64
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 156pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Wendy Breuer
Vinnie Wilhelm's “Fautleroy’s Ghost,” included in his short story collection In the Absence of Predators, first appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review. I remember reading it and feeling great affection for a writer who could encompass an empathetic account of the doomed revolutionary faith of both Leon Trotsky and Patrice Lumumba within a Hollywood spoof. Ben Stuckey leaves his leaky living room in Seattle to pitch his script for a bio-pic of Trotsky:
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Deborah J. Swiss
  • Date Published November 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0425243077
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 384pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Lydia Pyne
In the late eighteenth- through mid-nineteenth centuries, the British Empire exiled close to 162,000 men, women, and children under the Transportation Act to serve their prison sentences in Australia—simultaneously ridding Britain of an overcrowded prison population and providing the Empire with expendable colonists.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Ann Cefola
  • Date Published August 2011
  • ISBN-13 1936715074
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 31pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
Within this brief but multitudinous chapbook, Ann Cefola contemplates ordinary existence alongside the sacred. In 28 poems of varying form—some splaying across the page, others in neat, organized stanzas—St. Agnes, Pink-Slipped investigates the constant buzz and movement of modern existence through these lyrical narratives. The world of schoolboys, make-up counters, hotels that may appear familiar is elevated into something of greater importance.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Judith Kitchen
  • Date Published April 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1566892964
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 214pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Ann Beman
A fan of Judith Kitchen’s Short Takes, In Short, and In Brief anthologies of flash nonfiction, I could not wait to get a hold of Half in Shade, which—it turns out—is not your standard memwah. Rather, it is a collection of prose poems disguised as essays, the only difference between the two being how they’re typeset on the page. Kitchen characterizes it as “a series of lyric pieces written variously to, from, or around old photographs found in family albums and scrapbooks.” Whatever you call them, each of the lyric tidbits develops before the reader as if with toners and fixers and gelatin-silver in a darkroom, the process yielding startling and wondrous results.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Anis Shivani
  • Date Published October 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933896-72-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 300pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
Admitting his aim is to provoke, and filled with acidic rectitude, Anis Shivani rants on in Against the Workshop about what demonstrably awful affects MFA programs have upon American writing. Under his analysis, the entire academic system of American letters appears corrupt: a viral sham in which all involved would feel ashamed if only they weren’t so mired within its murky workings. Shivani’s not exactly wrong—his points are, for the most part, well made, and there’s no doubting his sincerity. Yet despite the at-times attractive bluster Shivani coats his commentary in, he fails to finally offer up any central focus for complaint. This haphazard collection of book reviews and essay-length, bombastic taking-to-task of academic career fiction writers and poets is finally nothing but a roller-coaster jaunt through several publications of the last decade or so; Shivani’s arguments realize no greater whole to counter his provocative railings against the status quo.
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