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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted January 7, 2013

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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Jean-Claude Carrière and Umberto Eco
  • Translated From French
  • by Polly McLean
  • Date Published September 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8101-2747-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 352pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
As our age at an ever increasing rate gives birth to what is rightfully referred to as The Rise of the Digital, are printed books going to disappear? This is the largely opaque question at the heart of the lengthy conversation between two accomplished artistic European intellects that forms This Is Not the End of the Book. Umberto Eco is surely the more easily recognizable interlocutor here—his books In the Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum enjoy a broad readership, especially since the former was made into a film starring a young Christian Slater alongside Sean Connery. Yet Jean-Claude Carrière is a no less distinguished literary figure. A French writer with numerous books to his name, though perhaps not an author widely recognized by English readers, he has also authored several screenplays for films which are likely quite familiar, such as The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Noel Sloboda
  • Date Published March 2012
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 34pp
  • Price $7.00
  • Review by Theresé Samson Wenham
Noel Sloboda released two chapbooks from different presses in 2012. His screen-printed, stanza-form chapbook, So Below (sunnyoutside, March 2012) contains four short poems and a deftly made two-color fold-out. Unlike So Below, the other chapbook of prose poems, Circle Straight Back, is sparse and unadorned. The effect is matter-of-fact, archival, and unsentimental. This seems an appropriate device for poetry of subtle misery and overt tragedy. It is certainly a theme running through the text. From the first poem, “Birth of Tragedy,” to the end of a species in “Of Species,” the threads of death, destruction, tragedy, and disappointment prevail.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Julie Zauzmer with Xi Yu
  • Date Published September 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0762780020
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 240pp
  • Price $21.95
  • Review by Karen Seehaus Papson
Adam Wheeler was by all accounts a very successful 21-year-old. He entered his senior year at Harvard University with everything going for him: top marks in his courses, a large circle of friends, and a steady girlfriend, not to mention scads of prestigious academic honors and awards. Indeed, it seemed that there was nothing this affable wonder boy couldn’t do. There was just one problem. All of his success—from the impressive academic grants he received to his very admission to Harvard University—was predicated on fraudulent transcripts, fake SAT scores, phony letters of recommendation, and enough plagiarized prose to fill a library. In short, everything people thought they knew about Adam Wheeler was a lie.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Ira Joe Fisher
  • Date Published September 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1935520658
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 132pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
In capturing the people and place of a small town, Ira Joe Fisher’s fourth poetry collection forges a strong relationship to form, meter, and rhyme. A keen sense of reminiscing for past ghosts filters through poems that range from brief lyrics to grander narratives. The Creek at the End of the Lawns resurrects the need for the performative aspect of poetry in terms of storytelling and mythmaking, prompting the reader to speak these poems aloud rather than remain silent.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Anis Shivani
  • Date Published November 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-936196-04-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 296pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Lydia Pyne
In his preface, Anis Shivani claims that The Fifth Lash & Other Stories is a collection of fiction that is fundamentally the work of a young man. He quickly points the reader to the collection’s immaturities—the anger of the narrators, the stylistic experimentation from story to story, transient identities of characters, and even the youthful rawness of emotions crammed into the assemblage as a whole. Indeed, The Fifth Lash was Shivani’s first collection (later publications include Anatolia and Other Stories as well as his poetry in My Tranquil War and Other Poems), but the poignancy of these sketches deserves more than to simply stand in the shadow of his earlier published—yet later written—work.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Steven Cramer
  • Date Published November 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-936747-46-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 65pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Trena Machado
In psychiatric terms, “clangings” is a thought disorder experienced by those with schizophrenia and manic states in which words are connected by sound rather than concepts, and speech and thoughts can quickly veer in a new direction in a disconnected way. In Clangings by Steven Cramer, each page has a poem of five quatrains that stands alone as a self-contained piece but also furthers the book’s connected story of a narrator reflecting on his life “in his way.” There are two pages that break this pattern and provide clarity of the narrator knowing his misaligned place in the scheme of things. Close to the end of the book:
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Patrice Melnick
  • Date Published June 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0980208146
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 150pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Courtney McDermott
Patrice Melnick’s memoir is a dance with language. Po-boy Contraband is a series of mini essays that outlines Melnick’s diagnosis with HIV and her journey to reclaim her life through music, writing, and relationships. The literary dance she creates is quick and jarring in the opening section “Finding Out,” sweeping us through the wilderness of Africa, where Melnick served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the late ’80s and where she contracted the virus. Characters pop up and out of the essays like soap bubbles, never reoccurring in later scenes—a nod to the flimsiness of relationships but also, at times, unsatisfying to the reader. Her relationship to music has the strongest hold in this book, so I more easily remember the album she listens to in DC when she discovers she’s HIV-positive than the friends she has in Africa.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Dorothea Lasky
  • Date Published October 2012
  • ISBN-13 9781933517636
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 128pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Pia Aliperti
The “other” world is a refrain throughout Dorothea Lasky’s startling new collection Thunderbird, which seeks the origins of creativity in the dark corners of anger, frustration, and even boredom. “I don’t live in this world,” Lasky writes (in “Death and Sylvia Plath”). “I already live in the other one.” These second worlds are easy to “breeze” into (“When you breeze upon the other world / O you are already there / O you are already there”); alternately, they seem impossibly insular (“Sweet animal, they locked us in this life / But I think we still have time before we have to get out of it”). In a book of flights—“Thunderbird” references a Native American spirit, but Lasky also conjures birds, planes, wind, and the mind’s movements—travel means to relinquish control. To disembody:
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