NewPages.com is news, information, and guides to literary magazines, independent publishers, creative writing programs, alternative periodicals, indie bookstores, writing contests, and more.

NewPages Book Reviews

Posted September 1, 2012

  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Alejandro Zambra
  • Translated From Spanish
  • by Carolina De Robertis
  • Date Published March 2012
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 83pp
  • Price $13.00
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Chilean writer Alejandro Zambra’s first novel, Bonsai, for all its short length (83 pages), is easy to read, dense with events if not with explanations, and intriguing. The chapters are short, the prose clear but remote from the “characters,” who the author claims are not characters but only given names for convenience’s sake. He also tells us which characters are not important even though he gives information about them. Of necessity, the reader slides over these bewildering directives to get two main themes—lying and love. Overriding all is a love story between Emilia and Julio, who meet at age fifteen in a Spanish class.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Lydia S. Rosner
  • Date Published February 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-936419-10-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 104pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Patricia Contino
Never judge a book by its title. The Russian Writer’s Daughter sounds like one of the far-too-many tragic family histories of life and creativity during the Soviet Union. And while Lydia Rosner is the daughter of Russian writer Abraham Sokolovsky (changed to Sokol upon immigrating to America in 1917), her accessible, thoughtful memoir is an American one, specifically a New York City one. She focuses on her own life and that of other Russians in the United States, at one point taking aim at another famous Russian writer’s daughter, Alexandra Tolstoy. Rosner and her father deride the charity Tolstoy founded and the White Russians (anti-Communist Russian immigrants) who take advantage of it as “fake.”
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Christopher DeWeese
  • Date Published March 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9801938-9-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 65pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Sarah Carson
Christopher DeWeese’s The Black Forest is a book that falls into a family of highly imaginative, surreal, dream-like poetry collections that seem to be especially trendy lately. I’m certainly not complaining. Many of my favorite books of poetry fall into this family, like James Tate’s Return to the city of white donkeys and Zachary Schomburg’s The Man Suit.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Thani Al-Suwaidi
  • Translated From Arabic
  • by William M. Hutchins
  • Date Published July 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9838683-1-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 88pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by H. V. Cramond
First published in Beirut in the mid-90s, Thani Al-Suwaidi’s The Diesel was labeled a “shock-novel” by early critics; this novella’s protagonist shifts gender identity and moves in a world of desire that spans not only the range of hetero- and homosexual yearnings, but stretches to encompass the sea and the sun. The book has since gained acceptance, and, according to translator William M. Hutchins, Al-Suwaidi has become an important Emirati author. As the United States continues to awaken from cultural isolationism and its political activists are inspired by uprisings in the Gulf region, this important translation is more relevant to English-speaking audiences now than when the book was first written.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Geoffrey Clark
  • Date Published September 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59709-227-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 144pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Ryan Wilson
Nostalgia, a common pitfall for many fiction writers, works purposefully in Geoffrey Clark’s Two, Two, Lily-White Boys, a risky, old-fashioned themed novel that takes aim at the usual sentimental tropes: adolescence, sex, innocence, apathy.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Brent Cunningham
  • Date Published January 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1891190353
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 120pp
  • Price $13.50
  • Review by Trena Machado
In Journey to the Sun, the author tells of his travels at age thirteen to the “Source of All Life.” The book is difficult to categorize; no ready vessel of satire, political tract, manifesto, spoof, spoken word will corral it, but there is shouting, exuberance, spontaneity of energetic discovery in short narrative phrases: OK!, alight! alight!, Gold & Heat & Progress for all! 4x4x4!, you are not the FIRST!, you are not even the TRILLIONTH!, this is AMERICA!, Double Slash Zero! The human VOICE is heard in this writing. The book begins with an Invocation:
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Ibrahim Abdel Meguid
  • Translated From Arabic
  • by Noha Radwan
  • Date Published May 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-56656-882-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 156pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Egyptian prize-winning novelist Ibrahim Abdel Meguid’s The House of Jasmine, though set in the ‘70s during Anwar Sadat’s presidency, has a lot of resonance for Egypt’s current Arab Spring. Shagara, a low level employee of Alexandria’s shipyard, reflects in his own petty thievery the corruption not only of his shipyard administration, but that of the Sadat regime. As the translator Noha Radwan explains, this novella is “a story of deception and fraudulence, planned by a scheming administration and carried out by a disenchanted and dejected population.” Shagara redeems himself in the reader’s eye because of his love of beauty, his simple desires, and his own self-criticism.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Etel Adnan
  • Date Published January 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9844598-7-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 118pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
In the morning as I walk to work down the streets of San Francisco and the endless movement of fog and wind brings the crisp salt air in from off the bay water, setting it to swirling about the buildings and sidewalk, I’m oftentimes reminded of how much this really is a beach town. Etel Adnan’s Sea and Fog is an extended series of lyric meditations contemplating human desire, loss, war, art, and much more through the lens of writing towards this landscape, though Adnan’s own daily observations take place from her home in Sausalito across the bay. In these definitely ordered, yet infinitely variable, short prose-blocks, consciousness is fully immersed in the act of writing as motifs and concerns overlap and reoccur. There’s guiding awareness that “here,” wherever we may find ourselves, remains a definitive spot in observable time: “There’s a moment to the moment. We’re in the world.”
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by John Morgan
  • Date Published June 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-907056-91-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 166pp
  • Price $21.95
  • Review by Cheryl Wright-Watkins
This book is ostensibly an essay collection, but poet and creative writing teacher John Morgan has also filled the pages with poems, biographical information, journal entries, book reviews, interviews, and reading and writing instruction. These various elements within the same volume combine to create an intimate portrait of the poet and his spirituality, teaching methods, family life, writing practice, and interactions with nature and place.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jack Driscoll
  • Date Published February 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8143-3612-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 173pp
  • Price $18.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Jack Driscoll’s short story collection The World of a Few Minutes Ago reflects Michigan’s weather, concentrates on mostly blue-collar workers and trailer inhabitants, and offers a mostly masculine voice but also a beautiful lyrical style, describing the beauty of stars as well as perfectly capturing the lives of his characters and their personality clashes. His story structure is meticulous and convoluted as we twist from the characters’ sad hard lives toward a resolution of acceptance and sometimes release.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Paisley Rekdal
  • Date Published April 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1932195965
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 300pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Courtney McDermott
Paisley Rekdal’s artistic book Intimate may be, at first glance, part of an indefinable genre. Flipping through its pages, one finds snippets of poetry, family stories, photos, and biographies. As the subtitle indicates, this is a textual and visual photo album of American family history. In her book, Rekdal challenges the definition of “American” family by examining race, lineage, and gender through the fictional biographies of Edward Curtis (a photographer of American Indians) and his translator, Alexander Upshaw, as well as scenes from Rekdal’s own life and the lives of her white father and Chinese mother. These biographies are interspersed with Curtis’s photographs and Rekdal’s poetry. She urges us to take accountability—not only for our dysfunctional family histories, but for the bloodied and prejudiced histories that belong to the American identity. Rekdal’s language is both delicate, and sharp—like a thin slice of glass cutting through our histories, our masquerades, our deceits.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Katharine Haake
  • Date Published March 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9845782-1-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 294pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by H. V. Cramond
With increasing frequency, well-meaning friends have been sending me articles that encourage me to stop worrying about the next generation and just have fun. It’s not that they think everything will turn out OK, but rather, that we’re so far gone, there’s nothing to be done. It seems that groups of climate scientists are predicting our demise with a specificity and immediacy that would make an old-timey cult leader blush. The Water Wars are coming: look busy.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Rick Hilles
  • Date Published January 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8229-6182-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 82pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Lydia Pyne
A Map of the Lost World is literary blending of history and poetry through lyricism, realism, and, it would seem, an almost empathetic touch of irony that leaves the reader caught between literary landscape planes. The book is comprised of five parts (each of the parts and each of the poems, by the way, with utterly fantastic titles) that do not necessarily work to frame a specific narrative whole, yet they nevertheless contribute to A Map of the Lost World in specific ways. What author Rick Hilles does, then, is weave together the particular commonalities between these parts: unexpected geographies, small moments, specific people, connected anecdotes, stories, transliterated language. The real literary strength of Hilles’s writing comes from his broad familiarity with historical themes and his ability to connect individuals—and his readers—to those themes.
newpages-footer-logo

We welcome any/all Feedback.