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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted May 1, 2012

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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Kevin Young
  • Date Published March 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1555976071
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 492pp
  • Price $25.00
  • Review by Ann Beman
Kevin Young is smarter than I am, and a galactically better poet. Reading Young’s The Grey Album makes me feel dumb and confused, and part of that is due to his poetic leaps in tone from academic to vernacular. It’s also due to the fact that I’m ignorant. I am whiter than blank, and ignorant of more than half of Young’s references. But reading The Grey Album also makes me feel like reaching, like the exchange student who doesn’t yet speak or read the language, but her eyes and ears are burning to. With time, she’ll understand. With time, she’ll connect, become a part of the conversation. She just needs time. I just need time with Kevin Young’s essays.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Cheryl Strayed
  • Date Published March 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-307-59273-6
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 336pp
  • Price $25.95
  • Review by David Breithaupt
In the mid-1990s, Cheryl Strayed hit a wall. Her mother died of cancer at age 45, only 49 days after diagnosis. Soon after, her marriage unraveled, and she took up with a man of dubious qualities who introduced her to heroin. She liked it, smoking the black tar and occasionally sniffing the powder. It was certainly easier than coping with the out-of-nowhere shock of her mother’s death, coupled with the dissolution of her union with a man she once loved and perhaps still did. She was beating a steady retreat into oblivion.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Christopher Schaberg and Mark Yakich
  • Date Published October 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-615-46640-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 112pp
  • Price $9.95
  • Review by Cheryl Wright-Watkins
In this book, the two writers explore various elements and facets of modern air travel. The design of the pocket-sized volume is unusual: it is reversible, each half reflecting the unique perspective of its author. Both men are professors in the English Department at Loyola University in New Orleans where they met. Checking In contains the observations and experiences of Schaberg, who once worked as a cross-utilized agent for SkyWest Airlines at the Gallatin Field Airport near Bozeman, Montana while he was attending graduate school. In Checking Out, Yakich explores his lifelong fear of flying. Schaberg and Yakich recently launched a website, www.airplanereading.org, on which they publish an ongoing anthology about air travel in their effort, according to the website’s mission statement, to take airplane reading “beyond throwaway entertainment or mere distraction.”
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  • Book Type Edited
  • by Sarah Rabkin, Irene Reti, and Ellen Farmer
  • Date Published September 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-972334365
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 340pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
Gathering from the oral tradition of organic and sustainable farmers along the coast of the Central California region, Cultivating a Movement compiles selected interviews from key farmers that began and continue to pursue the sustainable agriculture movement in the United States and Mexico. While this project highlights only 27 individuals and couples, the vast online archive contains many more interviews with key farmers, politicians, academics, scientists, and many more ecologically minded individuals that contribute to this movement. Ranging in age, gender, class, and ethnicity, all of these farmers are involved with organic and sustainable farms that vary in size and crop.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Laura Maylene Walter
  • Date Published December 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1886157804
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 175pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Mantra Roy
Winner of the prestigious G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction, Living Arrangements, a collection of short stories by Laura Maylene Walter, offers the reader thirteen well-crafted stories, crisp in their language, tight in their structure, and thought-provoking in their effect. Most of the stories deal with loss, memory, family relations, and a variety of “living arrangements.”
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  • Book Type Edited
  • by Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black, Michael Northen
  • Date Published October 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1935955054
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 326pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Aimee Nicole
As the subtitle notes, Beauty is a Verb has been marked as the new poetry of disability. After a “Short History of American Disability Poetry,” this hefty anthology is broken off into sections, for example: “The Disability Poetics Movement,” “Lyricism of the Body,” and “Towards a New Language of Embodiment.” Rather than just including the actual poetry, authors preface their work with short autobiographies. They touch upon their disabilities as well as how they affect both their lives and their art. This allows the reader to have a more personal interaction with the poetry, as there is a foundation for the words and for the experience.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Stephan Eirik Clark
  • Date Published February 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1880100714
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 168pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Lydia Pyne
In 1953, Isaac Berlin composed what is perhaps his best known essay, “The Fox and The Hedgehog,” in which he outlines two specific types of literary genius. He describes Russian writers like Fyodor Dostoyesky who focus narrowly on a character—exploring the every nuance and complex mystique of an individual within his broader context. Authors like Alexander Pushkin, on the other hand, utilize a broad long duree approach to narrative, giving the reader such a sweeping perspective that the individual is simply one part among many of the fabric or context that surrounds him. In short, Berlin’s “foxes” and “hedgehogs” are a useful structure for making sense of two different traditions of literature—particularly Russian literature—along a continuum, and Berlin’s allegorical mammals become a shorthand reference to a specific perspective or type of narration. Vladimir’s Mustache and Other Stories by Stephan Eirik Clark is a brilliant collection of short stories that illustrate the genius of both fox and hedgehog types in Russian literature. Each of his short stories is a fox or a hedgehog with a unique or ironic plot twist that brings to light Clark’s dark absurdist humor.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Lizzie Hutton
  • Date Published October 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-936970-02-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 74pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
She’d Waited Millennia, Lizzie Hutton’s debut poetry collection of lyrical free verse, finds its emotional core by navigating through the rises and falls of motherhood. Poems ranging in stanzaic and linear form encompass the breadth of intimacies in relationships: from mother to child, lover to lover, and friend to friend. Each inextricably linked poem gathers strength through an accumulation of immediacy with images that build upon one another; the speaker’s examination of the world reveals a close and complicated relationship with description’s power.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Julia Kristeva
  • Translated From French
  • by Jody Gladding
  • Date Published December 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-231-15720-9
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 176pp
  • Price $34.50
  • Review by Patricia Contino
I never forgot that photo. It was in a history of the Metropolitan Opera, and soprano Olive Fremstad was Salome holding the platter with John the Baptist’s head. Even by 1907 standards, her beaded costume and big hair were beyond camp, but to my teenaged self the waxy, dead head looked real enough. I was sufficiently creeped out to avoid Richard Strauss’ opera until adulthood, when I discovered Salome’s true horrors: placing unrealistic demands on its lead to perform a striptease to music that’s impossible to dance—let alone time the tearing off of seven veils—to, before singing a punishingly long monologue to the Baptist’s head prior to kissing it (gross . . . even if it should resemble Bryn Terfel, a recent Met Baptist). With the exception of Electra, Richard Strauss was never again so creatively daring.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by George Steiner
  • Date Published November 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8112-1945-7
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 192pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
Polymath George Steiner offers up an essay that will, in all likelihood, either send readers into the library stacks with a long list of sources for further reading or drive them away from finishing his text. There are instances here where on a single page, no less than ten names from a diverse range of languages and eras throughout Western thought are bandied about as if Steiner were relaying a conversation with a young child or a walk he takes to the park every day. It’s most likely to be found either hopelessly intimidating or a joke, depending on the temperament of the reader.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Ericka Lutz
  • Date Published March 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9827084-4-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 326pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Jodi Paloni
Here’s an idea for a story. Take a beautiful life: happy marriage, comfortable home, and a smart and talented daughter, the three of you eating in a different restaurant every night. Ignore the husband’s loner party binges in the basement. Push aside the wife’s curiosity of her yoga teacher’s guiding hands on her hips. Everyone’s entitled to a little secret, except daughters. Don’t even suspect that daughters, locked in their rooms, are not doing homework. Now throw in a surprise visitor from the past and witness the beautiful life unravel. Next explore the aftermath from three points of view: wife, husband, daughter. Why not? All three are watching each other, and nobody’s really talking.
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