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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted July 1, 2012

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Julia Bloch
  • Date Published April 2012
  • ISBN-13 9780981497563
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 81pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Aimee Nicole
Letters to Kelly Clarkson is full of short letters written from the narrator to American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, beginning with “Dear Kelly.” Although there were certainly thoughts and points that stuck out as interesting to me, the majority of the letters were ungrounded and rambling. A letter at the beginning of the book opens with: “You know, sitting here, eating my microwaved tomatoes on somewhat tough toast, I think I could give myself another chance.” And I started silently cheering, we all deserve a second chance! Good for you! But then the next lines were: “Seriously, can you tell me why I keep dreaming of a chipped white truck? Could it be the swerve of it, the handle? A rush of blood to the hand.” I was so intrigued by the second chance that I wanted to know all the details of how she messed up and with whom and how she was planning to fix it. Yet there was no resolution for me and I felt like the writer had left me high and dry, though perhaps this was her intention.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by John Kinsella
  • Date Published April 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8040-1137-2
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 190pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet
John Kinsella’s In the Shade of the Shady Tree: Stories of Wheatbelt Australia should entice the reader who enjoys unusual fiction in a strange place of extremes, off the tourist map. Kinsella describes his very short short stories as “stories told for the moment, out of experience more than ‘art,’”—similar to Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. Kinsella’s interests are how the people
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Diana Salier
  • Date Published March 2012
  • ISBN-13 9780984084227
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 61pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Aimee Nicole
After reading the title, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this book. It gave me the strange feeling I’d be reading letters, or advice, from the future. Ironically, Salier focuses tremendously on the current so-called Mayan threat of the end of the world. Since we have already lived through a few apocalyptic threats within the last decade or so, it’s refreshing to contemplate the future through the lens of someone who admits that “every friday at 2pm i feel strongly / that i should’ve been an astronaut.”
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  • Book Type Edited
  • by Ingrid Ruthig
  • Date Published July 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55071-280-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 220pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by David Breithaupt
Poet and critic Richard Outram was for me one of those writers who occasionally popped up on the periphery of my poetry explorations. I saw him referenced and quoted until I began to wonder who he was. Outram was like one of those neighbors you never introduced yourself to. You passed him or her once or twice a week and waved without an inkling of who they were or what they did.
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  • Book Type Collection
  • by Dan Beachy-Quick
  • Date Published April 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1571313270
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 352pp
  • Price $20.00
  • Review by Lydia Pyne
A collection is an interesting thing. Traditionally, we can expect to find a collection in some sort of museum setting—a set of archaeological artifacts or art objects that allows the audience to understand another culture. A collection of writing, however, is particularly interesting as it allows a reader to examine an author’s intellectual and aesthetic commitments. In a collection of writing, the reader has more than simply the Objekt to examine or look at; the surrounding context for the author’s intended themes is available to the reader as well. These themes, in turn, become the real collection on display to the reader. In Wonderful Investigations: Essays, Meditations, Tales, author Dan Beachy-Quick amasses quite a cabinet of written curiosities that serve as the basis for his Investigations—a collection that does not seem to argue for a specifically particular point or theme, but, rather, a collection that allows the reader to examine Beachy-Quick’s intellectual and aesthetic commitments to his own treasured authors.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Meg Howrey
  • Date Published May 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-307-94982-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 384pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Patricia Contino
For an allegedly silent art, ballet has inspired many good words. Essays by poet Edwin Denby and critic Arlene Croce are worthy writing workshop handouts. Choreographer Agnes de Mille’s books are histories of dance and America. Jacques d’Amboise’s memoir I Was A Dancer is not only candid; the charming, legendary dancer wrote it as if he was telling his story over coffee.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Nathaniel Mackey
  • Date Published November 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0811219464
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 144pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Erik Fuhrer
Nod House is an epic poem, a surreal migration, an eloquent, fractured elegy. Its world and lyrics are volatile, traversing multiple landscapes, realities and bodies. Characters who start off as heads bobbing in a pond later turn bird:
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by John Rember
  • Date Published June 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1877655791
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 148pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Ryan Wilson
Age and the academy dominate John Rember’s latest collection, Sudden Death, Over Time. Master of the cynical first person male, Rember repeatedly places readers in the context of professors well past their prime, who know that their best choice left is to smirk at the absurdity surrounding their departments, their students, and their love lives and to plod along.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Loren Erdrich and Sierra Nelson
  • Date Published March 2012
  • ISBN-13 9780984616640
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 64pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Aimee Nicole
I Take Back the Sponge Cake almost looks like a children’s book at first glance. But in reality, this book is a whimsical, lyrical adventure that takes you down a different path with every read. Choose-your-own-adventure books are a rare but surprising delight to come across, and this book is no exception. I especially like how abstract the poetry is; it matches the artwork perfectly. Rather than choosing a direction or making an ethical choice at the turn of each page, the reader is given the privilege of choosing a word to fill in the poems themselves. The words are homonyms (for example, weight and wait, or ring and wring), so although they are pronounced the same, the different meanings lend different import to each choice. The readers’ personal styles and lives have an effect on which word they choose, giving them a unique experience.
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  • Book Type Edited
  • by David Baker
  • Date Published March 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55728-981-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 203pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
In my own reading experience, nothing beats the first-person account of the interview, offering as it does an essential glimpse into what’s happening in the mind of the subject. As the instigator of responses in this collection, David Baker takes a rather light hand and offers little fleshiness, certainly no blood, yet presents an easygoing introduction to both the poet-as-person as well as the work.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Sergio Troncoso
  • Date Published September 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55885-710-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 216pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Cheryl Wright-Watkins
In this collection of sixteen essays, Sergio Troncoso writes about family, fatherhood, education, illness, love, politics, religion, social issues, societal responsibility, and writing. He observes that his clear, direct writing about difficult questions “has sometimes condemned [him] in academic circles” and that his writing is also “overlooked by those who never desire to think beyond the obvious and the popular.” Troncoso chronicles his transformation from “a besieged outsider needing a voice” to “an outsider by choice deploying [his] voice,” creating an intellectual borderland from where he tried to push his mind with the philosophical ideas that form the framework of his writing.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Andreï Makine
  • Translated From French
  • by Geoffrey Strachan
  • Date Published June 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55597-614-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 194pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Andreï Makine, whose Dreams of My Russian Summers won France’s highest literary award, employs his beautifully lyrical style again in The Life of an Unknown Man. Maxine, who was born in Siberia and has lived more than twenty years in France, has set this novel in both Paris and Russia during the siege of Leningrad and Stalin’s purges. In spite of some of the grim details of starvation particularly, the beauty of the prose makes these images dreamlike, almost ephemeral. The sense of humanity at the core abides in two old Russians, one living in Paris and one whom the protagonist meets in Russia, both having lived beyond their generation and thus becoming “unknown.” The span of this novel takes us from literary concerns to love during wartime to the music that kept the Russians going in spite of deprivation. At the end, the reader feels keenly the loss of an unknown but incredible life of survival and the sacrifice of love.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Meg Tuite
  • Date Published June 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0982829523
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 150pp
  • Price $14.99
  • Review by Mantra Roy
A poignant ride through different phases of the protagonist’s life, Domestic Apparition is funny, sarcastic, dark, reflective, and touching. The first few stories are set in Michelle’s domestic life—her resistance to being drafted to school when she is six years old, her awe for her brilliant but eccentric brother’s courage in challenging a strict Catholic teacher in school, her admiration for her older sister’s guts, her parents’ relationship, and her mother’s unfulfilled dreams. Gradually, we move toward her life when she starts living by herself in college with roommates, her tedious job at a Holiday Inn which she is pushed into by her demanding boyfriend, and finally her job in the heart of corporate America.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Carmen Bugan
  • Date Published July 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1555976170
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 192pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Ann Beman
Not many memoirs approach the act of resisting a totalitarian regime through a child’s eyes. But then, reading Carmen Bugan’s Burying the Typewriter is an unusual experience.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Quincy Troupe
  • Date Published January 2012
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 157pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Alissa Fleck
It’s not just the references to Mad Max in Quincy Troupe’s Errançities which suggest a sense of perpetual collapse. It’s also the rampant amnesia. It’s the ignorance of cultural amnesia, the acknowledgement of this amnesia but having too many of one’s “own vexing / problems, way too many”; it’s the amnesia of important thoughts you fail to record. It’s a desire to be somewhere else, somewhere otherworldly, somewhere “beyond our knowing” where “silence reigns.” It’s a desire to dissociate from the “I” for a while, and to become the “eye” instead. It’s the admission that even you are quick to discard society’s discards. It’s the never-ending cycle of forgetting and reminding. It’s smoothing over the past with a kind of politeness that doesn’t change anything in “these yet to be united states.”
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