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 July 1, 2013

  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Endō Shūsaku
  • Translated From Japanese
  • by Van C. Gessel
  • Date Published December 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-231-16282
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 328pp
  • Price $29.50
  • Review by Patricia Contino
End? Sh?saku’s Kiku’s Prayer is not a typical love story. While passionate, it is never romantic. The mysterious village outsider Seikichi and tomboyish Kiku are star-crossed from the start when he rescues her from a tree branch about to snap. Their subsequent, infrequent meetings always end in arguments and tears. The source of their heartbreak is the impact of Japanese law on their lives long before and during the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912), because Seikichi is Catholic—a banned practice that for thousands meant imprisonment, torture, and death. Thus the love here is both personal and spiritual, and never easy.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by David Seed
  • Date Published November 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1606351468
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 384pp
  • Price $60.00
  • Review by Lydia Pyne
In history, we look to very broad narrative arcs as explanatory mechanisms. We look toward causal factors and try to make sense of how these components act within their variety of contexts. We look for underlying stories and connections within the past. As such, broad historical narratives can be incredibly general and deeply impersonal—without the right hook or character, readers are left trying to connect fragments of a dry and disconnected set of events. In Under the Shadow: The Atomic Bomb and Cold War Narratives, David Seed uses film, science fiction, and a host of alternative cultural mediums from the early twentieth century onward to highlight very specific Cold War narratives and to pull together characters to highlight various historical trends. He finds personal hooks for his readers in order to invest them in his historical analyses. His collection and analysis of these specific narratives illustrate a variety of tensions that, he argues, permeates the very cultural fabric of the Cold War. While his work does not comprise a historical meta-narrative of its own, it brilliantly illustrates smaller, more specific narratives pertinent to Cold War literati and historical scholarly enthusiasts.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Wendy Videlock.
  • Date Published January 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1927409091
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 96pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Theresé Samson Wenham
Even from the title, you know you’re getting into something unusual. Wendy Videlock’s The Dark Gnu and Other Poems is a farcical combination of rules and shenanigans, truths and nonsense, stories and impossibilities. These contrasts bounce against each other in the language and poems, and we are given an unexpected experience in contemporary poetry. Videlock acknowledges influences from Mother Goose, Strega Nona, and Mnemosyne, so perhaps we should expect something for children, but these poems, although delightful in that way, are not for children alone. We find blue truths for our adult selves, too.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Kelly Davio
  • Date Published March 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59709-236-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 88pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Emily May Anderson
The title of Kelly Davio’s debut collection establishes an expectation of anger, bitterness, perhaps violence. Burn this house. Burn it down. The book, however, is much more interesting than that simple emotion, although there are moments where anger slices through clearly.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by José Maria Hinojosa
  • Translated From Spanish
  • by Mark Statman
  • Date Published November 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1608010882
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 192pp
  • Price $18.95
  • Review by Elizabeth O'Brien
Black Tulips, published by the University of New Orleans Press as part of The Engaged Writers Series, is the first translation available in English of the work of Spanish poet José Maria Hinojosa.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Bennett Sims
  • Date Published May 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-937512-09-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 242pp
  • Price $16.50
  • Review by David Breithaupt
At last, someone has written a thinking man’s and woman’s book of zombies. Let’s stop here though; you just read the word “zombies,” which, consciously or not, paraded a reflex action of several split-second images across your mind from our collective Jungian zombie attic. Here’s what you probably saw: black-and-white film stills from campy 1960s B-movies, dozens of acting roles for those who can’t act, close-ups of blank-eyed crazies and legions walking as if they’d just overdosed on bath salts. After that trailer you concluded, not interested.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Shira Dentz
  • Date Published April 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933880-36-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 96pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Erica Walburg
Door of Thin Skins by Shira Dentz is more an artistic display of raw emotion than a collection of poems. Part visual art, part narrative story, the book traces the consequential turmoil of a young woman’s life after she was sexually preyed upon and mentally harangued by her therapist. But it is more than simple prose. The poetry is scattered, ripped apart and shoved back together in seemingly fast, nonsensical quips, much in the way a person can’t be fully aware of the firing of neurons in their own brain. It begins with conventional stanzas and solid lines of prose, and opens much in the way a dramatic movie might, centered on a small detail, in this case, the figurine of a woman:
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Katharine Coles
  • Date Published March 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59709-710-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 120pp
  • Price $17.95
  • Review by Julie Swarstad Johnson
The Earth Is Not Flat, Katharine Coles’s fifth collection of poetry, considers the meaning of discovery in the context of the Antarctic landscape. “If you wanted to be first / You live in the wrong time,” Coles writes in the book’s opening lines (“Self-Portrait in Hiding”). This desire to arrive first, to know first—and a contemporary inclination to question this desire—informs Coles’s wide-reaching poems recording her experience in Antarctica, made possible through the National Science Foundation’s Artists and Writers Program. In The Earth Is Not Flat, Coles invites her reader to undertake the unsettling experience of approaching the vast Antarctic landscape along with her, and to both push against and embrace a deeply-rooted desire to explore and know the world.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Danielle Collobert
  • Translated From French
  • by Nathanaël
  • Date Published April 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933959-17-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 104pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by Courtney McDermott
Murder is hard to describe. Written in 1964 by Danielle Collobert, it has recently been translated by Nathanaël. Is Murder a series of prose poems? Vignettes strung together? A novella? And who is the story about? Who is the story for? To decode how to read Collobert’s work, examine the first line: “It’s strange this encounter with the internal eye, behind the keyhole, that sees, and finds the external eye, caught in flagrante delicto of vision, curiosity, uncertainty.” Collobert reveals the interior worlds of people through their external motions, their external grasping at memories shared. This story is both in and outside of itself.
newpages-footer-logo

We welcome any/all Feedback.