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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted May 31, 2013

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Marie-Helene Bertino
  • Date Published October 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1609381141
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 164pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Katy Haas
In her debut short story collection, Safe as Houses, Marie-Helene Bertino fills the pages with wit and warmth in her nine stories. Bertino, who served as the associate editor of One Story for six years, shows good mastery of the short story in her unique storylines—such as dating the idea of your significant other, or a lonely alien coming to Earth to learn more about humans.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by François Villon
  • Translated From French
  • by David Georgi
  • Date Published December 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8101-2878-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 304pp
  • Price $21.95
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
I’ve found more often than not among poetry fans the myth of Villon the “criminal poet” usually exists far in advance of any experience reading the actual work. Much of this is a result of the general lackadaisical attention given in our day and age to searching out older texts on our own to enlarge our reading. We tend to hear from others more than discover for ourselves, taking what we hear as valid evidence rather than looking for ourselves. Books such as this one are needed opportunities to rectify this behavior.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Selçuk Altun
  • Translated From Turkish
  • by Clifford Endres and Selhan Endres
  • Date Published April 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1846591488
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 288pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Patricia Contino
“What are you, some kind of aristocratic character escaped from a romantic novel?” asks the comely professor of the narrator/protagonist, who fits this description so perfectly. He also may or may not be The Sultan of Byzantium of Selçuk Altun’s absorbing novel. The longest-lasting and most satisfying intrigue is that readers never learn the name of the narrator, a dashing economics professor, until the book’s conclusion. How it is revealed, resolving many a loose end, is well worth the journey getting there.
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  • Book Type Anthology edited
  • by Katey Schultz and John Carr Walker
  • Date Published November 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-6157-2189-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 121pp
  • Price $12.95
  • Review by Kirsten McIlvenna
In the editor’s note, Katey Schultz points out that to her, the best flash fiction “mark[s] a moment in the story with such vivid texture, the reader has no choice but to feel it right between the eyes.” And that is a great description of all of the pieces included in this collection. In each one, you can pinpoint the exact moment where it twists, revealing a deeper meaning, a hidden truth, or a surprising plot change.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Frances Kazan
  • Date Published April 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-62316-004-3
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 256pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Girija Sankar
Turkey is in turmoil. World War I has just ended and the mighty Ottoman Empire is on the brink of collapse. The empire is being carved up as Allied protectorates. In a world of foggy truths, mistrust, deceit, and the weariness of war enters a young American widow, who is fleeing from memories of a distant past and wounds still raw from the death of a loved one.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by George Monteiro
  • Date Published August 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-7864-6693-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 224pp
  • Price $55.00
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
George Monteiro’s series of critical essays investigating Elizabeth Bishop’s work during and outside of her time living in Brazil is geared toward readers already familiar with Bishop. Divided into two sections, “Brazil” and “Elsewhere,” Monteiro’s essays range from a few pages that briefly analyze a single poem or event to larger works that encompass multiple poems, collected letters and correspondence, and Bishop’s biography. Astonishingly comprehensive, Elizabeth Bishop in Brazil and After manages a thorough undertaking of situating Bishop’s life to her work through careful close readings and archival research in order for the already well-equipped Bishop reader to better understand her work.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jane Gardam
  • Date Published April 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60945-093-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 240pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Olive Mullet
If you have not read Jane Gardam, you’re in for a treat. Her fans will be delighted that this British writer—the only two-time Whitbread Award winner—has a third novel in her Old Filth trilogy, Last Friend. Old Filth is Sir Edward Feathers’s nickname, an acronym for “Failed in London, Try Hong Kong.” Feathers is a judge for engineering and industrial suits in said city. His by-gone era, the Empire’s end, is represented by old people, his friends, and his memories, which are unsentimental although nostalgic. The characters are Dickensian quirky, some even with actual Dickens names. Readers will get more out of Last Friends having first read Old Filth and Man in the Wooden Hat, though all are companion pieces rather than sequels. The center of the trilogy is Old Filth and his marriage to Betty; the first book is told from his point of view, the second from Betty’s, and this new book from that of Veneering, Old Filth’s professional and romantic rival.
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  • Book Type Edited
  • by Jerry Stahl
  • Date Published January 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-161775-106-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 240pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by David Breithaupt
If President Obama created a cabinet position for a Department of Heroin, he would no doubt appoint Jerry Stahl to run it. Chances of this happening are slim, so instead we have Stahl editing this wide-ranging anthology of pieces that, as the title suggests, chronicles the joys, pitfalls, and harrowing nature of the American narcotic experience.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Larry Beckett
  • Date Published October 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0956952530
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 154pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Lydia Pyne
Any collection of poetry and prose tells a particular story. It speaks to the influences, the narrative threads, and the aesthetic focus of the collector. The collection—the set of prosaic curios—provides the reader with the story the collector (the anthologizer) has pulled together to display. Beat Poetry is a particularly interesting collection of poetry—one part encyclopedia, one part timeline, one part showcase for the poetry itself, and one part literary critique. Beat Poetry is an assortment of moments from the Beat movement, carefully arranged by poet and songwriter Larry Beckett. Beckett’s collection celebrates the classic (from “Howl” to Jack Kerouac) and then moves on to Gregory Corso’s “BOMB,” John Wieners, and others. Although it is difficult to follow a single or specific narrative thread of the anthology, what is unambiguously clear from the collection is the diversity and freedom in poetic form that Beckett highlights.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Susan Jackson Rodgers
  • Date Published October 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1935708650
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 180pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Jodi Paloni
In the nineteen stories from Ex-Boyfriend on Aisle 6, Susan Jackson Rodgers creates strategically placed portals for readers to enter the private world of her characters as they embark on the difficult work of being human. This may sound like the ordinary job of short fiction, but often Rodgers imposes intriguing acts of karmic justice to waken her characters out of any chance of going about business as usual.
  • Subtitle New and Selected Poems: 1968-2012
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Andrei Codrescu
  • Date Published December 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-56689-300-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 352pp
  • Price $22.00
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
Andrei Codrescu is a grown-up punk kid who cherishes the pleasures of life. Reading his poems is to enter into the mind of a brilliant classroom prankster (and at least part-time sex junkie). There’s a lot going on, and he has a lot to say about all of it. Zany, off-the-wall goofiness finds its place alongside serious astute reflection. This New and Selected is all the more cherished for exhibiting the range of the poet’s self-transformation over the course of his lifetime. This remarkable range is significantly reflected by way of the mini-introductions Codrescu offers before each book selection presented here, ranging from bibliographic comments to personal memoir of the particular time and place of the original composition-specific poems. As a result, this volume comes to represent Codrescu’s shot at a tour-de-force performance.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Elena Passarello
  • Date Published October 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1936747450
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 240pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Julie Swarstad Johnson
“Once the Voyager was loaded with its telemetry modulation units and spectrometers and radioisotope thermoelectric generators,” writes Elena Passarello in Let Me Clear My Throat, “we then made the decision to affix human voices to the contraption’s flanks.” This image of singing voices rocketed beyond the edges of our solar system vivifies Passarello’s major concerns in her debut essay collection. Here, she examines the human voice, what it represents and communicates, and the global cultures and historical periods that have highly valued it. In these lively, memorable essays, Passarello describes the voice in different settings, explains what the voice communicates, and awakens her readers to the voices surrounding them.
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