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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted February 4, 2013

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Rahimeh Andalibian
  • Date Published July 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0615672236
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 389pp
  • Price $14.99
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Rahimeh Andalibian calls The Rose Hotel a “true-life novel,” and aside from made-up scenes where she was not present, the book is a factual account of her family’s tragedies and secrets that reads like a novel. In spite of the chapters’ brevity and the book’s fast pace, the fully depicted scenes put us in the story while also proving informative regarding various cultural details.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Forrest Gander and John Kinsella
  • Date Published October 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60938-119-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 96pp
  • Price $25.00
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
This is both an interesting and useful book, particularly as a text of poetic collaboration that is at once an investigation and interrogation of, as well as elaboration on, ecological poetics. Forrest Gander and John Kinsella have gathered together poems along with various bits of investigative prose which they’ve been trading back and forth in personal correspondence to produce a hybrid text with simple intentions addressing a global issue of escalating crisis.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Shani Boianjiu
  • Date Published September 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-307-95595-1
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 352pp
  • Price $24.00
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Shani Boianjiu’s The People of Forever are Not Afraid is different from anything I’ve read and informative about a way of life that people outside of Israel are probably unfamiliar with. It is a story of three female friends—Yael, Avishag and Lea—during and after their obligatory military service, and the effects that service has on their lives. It is unlike the usual coming-of-age story, though the girls are young, in their twenties at their oldest. They come from a nondescript town, consisting of nothing but buildings, near the Lebanese border. Not only is the scenery bleak, but the service at remote checkpoints is full of boredom and brutality as well. Consequently, they come out of service brutalized and almost devoid of feelings. This is the effect of nonstop war becoming normal.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Mark Spencer
  • Date Published October 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59948-374-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 156pp
  • Price $12.95
  • Review by Patricia Contino
Future Hall of Fame pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddox once lamented in a classic Nike TV spot that “chicks dig the long ball.” According to Mark Spencer, the charms of an overweight, balding pro wrestler with “big bags under his eyes . . . like miniature pot bellies” are considerable—not to mention complicated. The Masked Demon chronicles in entertaining mock-epic fashion the tribulations of Daryl Lee, aka Samson, Bible Bob, and Masked Demon. He is literally at the crossroads of his career and triple-secret life.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Bernardo Atxaga
  • Translated From Spanish
  • by Margaret Jull Costa
  • Date Published September 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55597-623-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 250pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by David Breithaupt
Bernardo Atxaga has written the perfect book for deep winter reading. His latest novel, Seven Houses in France, takes you to the steamy Congo in the year 1903. Here you will join a cast of characters belonging to the Force Publique (a sort of military gendarmes) and ruled by King Leopold II of Belgium. The King apparently thought this spot in the Congo was his for the taking and dispatched his men to develop the area as well as take advantage of its rubber, mahogany, and ivory. Atxaga’s novel chronicles a collection of 17 white officers, 20 black non-commissioned, and a crew of 150 “askaris” (volunteer black soldiers). This conglomeration of characters is as diverse and as exotic as in any Shakespeare play. Their interactions are the meat of this novel.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Kim Rosenfield
  • Date Published November 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934254-37-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 171pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
In “the stigma(ta) of autopsy. [an introduction]” Trisha Low writes: “[Kim] Rosenfield’s book is a bricolage of dense and tenuous single-line poems, swelling at mid-section, only to bleed away.” She goes on to refer to this text as “a dynamic dream-state of everyday language, grammatical imperatives and overheard clausal-tidbits” and rather conclusively states: “our only readerly option is to follow these poems.” I would beg to differ. Considering two successive lines on just as many pages which read “How long did you wait? / I waited for you for nearly an hour” as “single-line poems” is a bit of a stretch. We may choose to follow the stilted and fragmentary conversation(s) scattered throughout the book or we might just as well choose not to.
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  • Book Type Edited
  • by Joshua Corey and G.C. Waldrep
  • Date Published September 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934103-29-6
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
The Arcadia Project’s massive size reflects the depth and quality of its content—poems that reexamine the relationship between our perception of the natural world and how natural environments are represented in contemporary poetry. Using the term “postmodern pastoral” to define the works included in the anthology, Editors Joshua Corey and G.C. Waldrep have carefully arranged a wide array of poems from both established and emerging North American poets in order to try and define a different facet of this term. In the anthology’s introduction, Corey explains how the “postmodern pastoral retains certain allegiances to the lyric and individual subjectivity while insisting on the reality of a world whose objects are all equally natural and therefore equally unnatural.” The poems in The Arcadia Project, then, remain inclusive rather than exclusive in subject matter, incorporating and adding, not subtracting.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Steve Stern
  • Date Published September 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55597-621-7
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 352pp
  • Price $26.00
  • Review by Wendy Breuer
In Steve Stern’s story collection The Book of Mischief, rabbis and lonely adolescents will themselves into flight. From such heights the stories track the Jewish trajectory from nineteenth century shtetl to post-assimilation present; from Galicia, the Lower East Side, the North Memphis Pinch to the Borscht Belt. We might expect to find familiar characters out of Singer, Shalom Aleichem, Woody Allen, and Phillip Roth. But Stern’s perspective is wholly his own. Taking off into surrealism and fairy tale, he observes the mortals below in the places they’ve come to ground and misses not a crumb of realist detail.
Ali Hosseini’s The Lemon Grove, the author’s first novel written in English, is a moving story set in Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. The characters are well-defined, the landscape vivid and the culture personal—we care about what happens to the characters, and we learn more than most Americans know about the country.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Kevin Goodan
  • Date Published June 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1885635-20-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 50pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Theresé Samson Wenham
Kevin Goodan’s new collection of poetry, Upper Level Disturbances, takes us deep into the forests and fields of an unpopulated landscape. The solitary wanderer who narrates this collection depicts an outdoor world of animals and weather, rivers and fires, ghosts and slaughter. Rarely are we sheltered from the elements or in the presence of other humans, which creates a lonely shadow of observation. Throughout, the ghost of the speaker’s father haunts the perceptions of his weather-ruled world.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Mary Ruefle
  • Date Published August 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933517-57-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 332pp
  • Price $25.00
  • Review by Cheryl Wright-Watkins
In 1994, Vermont College of Fine Arts hired Mary Ruefle to teach poetry to graduate students in their low-residency writing program. A reluctant public speaker, she was terrified to learn that the job would require her to give biannual standing lectures, and she responded by writing out her lectures, which she then read aloud to students. It turns out that Ruefle’s discomfort with public speaking is a gift to readers, for this book is the collection of those written lectures. However, to relegate the book to that narrow definition would be a mistake. Ruefle’s lectures are thoughtful, thought-provoking essays about art, literature, the moon, life, love, language, and philosophy viewed from the perspective of a wise poet who prefers asking questions to making proclamations.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Amber Sparks
  • Date Published October 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0983422877
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 156pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Jodi Paloni
Amber Sparks has sloughed off all constraints on imagination to blend story with science, fabulism with deep truths, narrative prose with language play—lists, boxing-match transcripts, poetics—but who can think about form when reading these shorts? Instead, think: Andrea Barrett meets Karen Russell meets Kurt Vonnegut to sustain bullying in the chemistry lab, preach scantily-dressed on the streets, trip up to heaven, or sink inside the rotting tissue of a body. In Sparks’s fictional world, Death is just a regular guy who “looked kind of like a J. Crew model,” a disenchanted dictator longs for the life of an American cowboy and practices on his people, a bathtub splurges up a new configuration of family, and wives turn into animals leaving “the husbands to worry, most of all, that their wives will finally fly or crawl or swim away, untethered from the promises that only humans make or keep.” This is the kind of thing you’re in for with Sparks in charge of the page.
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  • Book Type Anthology edited
  • by Grace L. Dillon
  • Date Published March 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8165-2982-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 272pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Lydia Pyne
Science fiction is nothing if not an enigmatic and eclectic genre. It’s a category of literature that would seem to take a number of subgenres—from imagined alternate histories, fantasy, magical realism, cyber punk, and everything in between—and deliver it as a multiplicity of reading experiences for its fans. As Ray Bradbury argued, “Science fiction is the most important literature in the history of the world, because it’s the history of ideas, the history of our civilization birthing itself. . . . Science fiction is central to everything we’ve ever done.”
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