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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted May 31, 2013

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Sholeh Wolpé
  • Date Published February 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-557286-28-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 72pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
In Keeping Time with Blue Hyacinths, Sholeh Wolpé meditates on loss through succinct, tightly crafted lyric poems. Divided into four sections that call back to one another, Wolpé’s second poetry collection garners strength from its devotion to the quietude and magnitude of simple, clean lines with poignant yet oftentimes harsh imagery. With a keen understanding of how to create startling images, Wolpé provides access to a wider array of readers wishing to gain insight from these poems’ emotional clarity and depth. Although the majority of these poems are brief, their impression lasts.
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  • Book Type Anthology edited
  • by Dinty W. Moore
  • Date Published September 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9846166-6-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 180pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Elizabeth O'Brien
Rose Metal Press’s respected Field Guide series serves a literary need by focusing on less covered genres, such as flash fiction, prose poetry, and now, flash nonfiction. The press’s most recent addition to the series, The Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction, provides a number of examples of elegant flash nonfiction pieces, as well as context for thinking about the form.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction Anthology Edited
  • by J.L. Powers
  • Date Published September 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-935955-22-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 300pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Denise Hill
That Mad Game: Growing Up in a Warzone is a collection of personal essays from adults who survived childhood in various warzones around the globe. As much as this is a collection of stories about the atrocities of war, it is also, and maybe even more so, a collection of stories of hope for peace. Alia Yunis, in his examination of the Israel-Palestine conflict, comments: “A child can flee the war . . . or the war can stop. But in most cases, children become the adult voices in the background soundtrack of a new generation’s war.”
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jerry Stahl
  • Date Published February 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-098549-0249
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 160pp
  • Price $17.95
  • Review by David Breithaupt
Jerry Stahl’s new novel, Bad Sex on Speed, represents an evolutionary step in his prose style. It’s a bit like the jump William Burroughs made from his straightforward first novel, Junky, to his famous and less conventional masterpiece Naked Lunch. Stahl has written a book attempting to match his words to the hallucinatory state of mind of an amphetamine user wafting through a state of psychosis. It’s spooky, the way he morphs into the minds of his crumbling characters. This is a narrative born, I suspect, from experience, but who knew Stahl swung this way? Readers of his oeuvre will be familiar with his narcotic portraits and episodes of heroin, the very opposite end of the spectrum from the territory he explores in this novel. This book’s Library of Congress classification will still fall under the general heading of “drug abuse,” but you won’t find much nodding in this story line, though you may wish a few of the characters within would catch a few hours of sleep.
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  • Book Type Anthology edited
  • by Caroline Bergvall, Laynie Browne, Teresa Carmody, Vanessa Place
  • Date Published May 2012
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 455pp
  • Price $40.00
  • Review by H. V. Cramond
As an art school grad, I’ve spent my fair share of time staring at objects in galleries wondering about the artist’s intent. While I of course had my own experience with each piece of art, it was worthwhile to know that the pile of bones at the MCA was not a general memento mori but a statement about U. S. policies regarding “extraordinary rendition.” Frequently, I’ve thought that the idea behind the art was interesting, but the execution was unsuccessful, or even unnecessary. Rosemarie Waldrop, in the statement following her contribution to Les Figues Press’s I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women, makes the claim that this frame is an inaccurate description of the work of conceptual writers. Unlike visual or time artists who leave their sensuous medium for the intellectual exercise of writing, Waldrop’s conceptual writing focuses more on the sensual than writing from other movements. She focuses on the “shape” and sound of words, the experience of the word itself rather than its use as signifier. Further, unlike artists in other meanings, there is no “optional execution”; one either erases words from a canonical text, or one does not.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Karel Jaromír Erben
  • Translated From Czech
  • by Marcela Malek Sulak
  • Date Published December 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-80-86264-41-7
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 174pp
  • Price $22.00
  • Review by Lydia Pyne
It’s hard to imagine a more powerful and enduring genre than the folk tale. Few other literary types so completely cut across culture and time, artfully explicating the moral drama of humanity through stories and characters. While elements of particular folk tales are clearly specific to a singular culture, the narrative elements and arcs highlight a morphology of structure that demands engagement as it highlights a broader pattern. Indeed, in the space between folk tale, myth, and meaning lies the spectrum of the human condition—the foibles, the pettiness, but also the redemption. Undeniably, the folk tale operates in the collective cultural conciseness and history, demonstrating anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss’s point that “I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men’s minds without their being aware of the fact.” A Bouquet: of Czech Folktales by Karel Jaromír Erben is no exception.
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  • Book Type Poetry/Prose
  • by Dan Beachy-Quick and Matthew Goulish
  • Date Published September 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934103-30-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 96pp
  • Price $19.00
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
I’ve never read the work of Marcel Proust. Although I’ve always understood Proust to be an author everybody should read, I simply haven’t gotten around to doing so myself. This gap in my reading is admittedly a mild embarrassment, especially as I often find myself the antagonistic provocateur busily berating friends and associates over authors and key texts which they absolutely must read. Much more generous than I, Dan Beachy-Quick’s and Matthew Goulish’s Work from Memory doesn’t berate the reader for any lack of familiarity with its source text. Even without firsthand awareness of Proust’s work, there’s plenty to chew on here concerning reading, memory, ideas of “the book,” and how conscious or not we as readers remain in relation to ongoing and past experience. My understanding is that Proust sought to set down in writing the details of everyday life in as exact, excruciating detail as possible—not the bustling activities with which our lives are ever busily preoccupied, but rather the minutiae of time’s passing, or as Goulish phrases it, “the book project of a life.” Or as Beachy-Quick describes Proust’s protagonist: “The writer dreams of the book as a life.” Work from Memory turns round and round these themes.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Edythe Haendel Schwartz
  • Date Published December 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-936419-14-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 72pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
Edythe Haendel Schwartz skillfully employs ekphrastic poetry in her second collection, A Palette of Leaves. Through describing and responding to artists and their art—conception, process, and result—Haendel Schwartz focuses on the interplay of art forms in the face of tragedy, emphasizing a need for the written and the visual to interact. Divided into three substantial sections, the collection reads as events always in the middle of an action, adhering to process and memory rather than finality. While the mostly narrative forms vary from neatly organized, consistent lines to ones swaying across the page, these poems remain closely tied to the tangible things held onto through life.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by George McCormick
  • Date Published December 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1934819241
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 103pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Michael Caylo-Baradi
In this collection, interstate highways are stoned with sad songs, while accelerating on The Stones. They speed towards motel rooms and roadside bars, sweaty in premonitions of tomorrows through the Mojave Desert, or swanky Palm Springs hanging out on tan lines and glamour that might turn off George McCormick’s characters. His are not L.A. types, hoping for alternatives to traffic jams, smog, or specters of road rage. But they are not rural either; they are somewhere in between, suspended in that vast space girdled by truck stops, railroads, dry landscapes, and coffee refills on Sunset Boulevard, before accelerating the 101 or I-5 towards midnight and beyond. They take anything outside the nine-to-five hustle, anything stable, to support a family, a budding romance, or dreams that might wake, glimmering, in their baby daughter’s eyes.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Megan Roberts
  • Date Published July 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1622290789
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 28pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Elizabeth O'Brien
The nineteen poems that make up Megan Roberts’s chapbook, Matters of Record, combine to offer readers a compelling narrative portrait of the lives of women and girls executed in the United States across a wide span of time (the earliest execution takes place in 1860, while the most recent is dated 2005). The book opens with an epigraph taken from Jean-Paul Sartre: “I say a murder is abstract. You pull the trigger and after that you do not understand anything that happens.” And in most of these poems, the murder itself does indeed remain abstract. Even the more graphically violent pieces, such as the eponymous “Matters of Record,” which describes how a young girl was “seven when whipped / to death and the scars / was tortured with a red hot poker,” does so with a curious sense of remove. The violence occurs in the passive voice, and the poem focuses on the young victim rather than on the perpetrator of the violence.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Aaron Smith
  • Date Published December 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8229-6219-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 72pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Emily May Anderson
Appetite, Aaron Smith’s second full-length poetry collection, is wide-ranging, unapologetic, and clever. Its five sections all include references to gay experience, but many poems also focus on popular culture—particularly film—as well as many other topics. The book’s title implies a desire for something, but to me, the dominant emotion of the collection is loneliness; this is not a bad thing, however, and Smith offers the reader a beautiful, thought-provoking journey through many facets of his speaker’s life.
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