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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted September 3, 2013

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Tara Laskowski
  • Date Published January 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0983792840
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 87pp
  • Price $10.00
  • Review by Karen Seehaus Papson
When confronted with an awkward situation that falls outside the bounds of social etiquette, modern women and men may find themselves in a quandary over what should be done. Never fear, etiquette devotees, for a new volume has explored this uncharted territory and created a guide for those hapless sailors who find themselves adrift in such unfriendly waters. From adultery and infertility to illiteracy and obesity, Tara Laskowski has carefully documented the dos and don’ts for these sticky circumstances in Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons. How fortunate for the current generation to have such wisdom readily available! Emily Post never addressed the faux pas to avoid when choosing to elope. Miss Manners never opined on how to scout a location when engaging in recreational arson. And neither one discussed the missteps likely to occur when conversing with soon-to-be victims of homicide. In short, this is a necessary volume for the considerate psychotics and kindly sociopaths among us—and for those of us who are in search of an amusing read.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Kate Greenstreet
  • Date Published February 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934103-35-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 165pp
  • Price $20.00
  • Review by H. V. Cramond
Kate Greenstreet, painter, graphic artist, and poet, has published two previous books of poetry with Ahsahta Press: case sensitive (2006) and The Last 4 Things (2009). The back cover of Young Tambling, her third outing, is stamped “Based on a true story.” Fittingly, the first of its six sections, “Narrative,” begins with a retelling of Young Tambling, a Scottish ballad wherein the hero is not Tam or Tambling or Tom Line. Instead, the story belongs to the girl telling it, driving it: “for once, the hero is the girl and her point of view and actions are primary.” This story frames the mixed-genre artist’s memoir; also serving as a frame are epigraphs, each of which is printed at the beginning of a section but erased so only the section is visible, and later in the section, fully legible. Greenstreet’s black and white paintings, photographs, and lists round out the collection.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jerome Gold
  • Date Published February 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1936364022
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 270pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Lydia Pyne
The Moral Life of Soldiers is a collection of five stories (one novella-length) and a novel that fans of author Jerome Gold might recognize from previously published collections, such as Of Great Spaces and Prisoners. This collection is told from the perspective of an older soldier, Paul Donaldson, taking stock of his life and his experiences in the Vietnam War. The organization of the stories speaks to Jerome Gold’s commitment to the practical means of arranging the pieces—favoring a series of myopic encounters of ambiguous moral distinction rather than a longue durée quasi-biographical story of his main character.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by John High
  • Date Published April 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-58498-095-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 118pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
You are Everything You are Not represents the conclusion of John High’s lyric narrative trilogy of books he began with Here and A Book of Unknowing. The characters of a mute girl and one-eyed boy return, joining in with a circus man, blind monks, ghosts, and assorted unspecified masters in a journey more spiritual than psychological, across an un-named landscape of trees, wind, streams and rivers, which often brings to mind Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. Or, as Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno describes it in his preface, “a realm as magically realistic as any found in a García Márquez novel.”
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Montague Kobbé
  • Date Published September 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-61775-181-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 256pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Michael Caylo-Baradi
The Night of the Rambler is true to its title. It tells a story of a revolution rambling with plans on how to execute a coup d’état on a young government, perhaps too young to transform and reconfigure policies inherited from previous colonial administrations. The transition is mired with problems, which is not unusual: young governments in newly decolonized territories are still learning the ropes of being free. Like youth itself, these fledgling states are high on new-found independence or semi-independence. In this novel, that mindset disables effective government. A territory that such a state governs feels neglected and excluded from basic benefits and services. Ironically, here, the lack of organized surveillance through bureaucratic standards—which gave colonial administrations immense control—becomes a form of oppression: political marginalization, a loss of sovereignty that opens channels for organized protests. However, there is a twist in the revolution Montague Kobbé has fictionalized, which is not necessarily in the protest itself, but what it wants in the end: it prefers direct administration from its original colonizer.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Samantha Irby
  • Date Published September 2013
  • ISBN-13 9780988480421
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 224pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Kirsten McIlvenna
When I received my copy of Meaty at an event for the ALA conference, I knew I was in for a different kind of reading experience. She signed my copy with fair warning that she likes writing dirty messages: “your vagina smells amazing. love, Samantha.” This is just a small sampling of the type of writing that you’ll see in her essays. Creator of the blog “Bitches Gotta Eat,” Samantha Irby tells it like it is, whether through the gritty details of her Crohn’s disease or through her unfiltered rantings of men and sex. It is written very informally, following the aesthetic of her blog, and inviting readers in as if Irby is personally conveying her stories and thoughts to them.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Ernest Hilbert
  • Date Published March 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59709-266-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 96pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Therese Samson Wenham
Ernest Hilbert’s second collection of poetry, All of You on the Good Earth, is an enlightening example of the revival of the sonnet. The poems are intelligent, topically indulgent, and extremely well crafted. The sonnets are capsules, compressing large ideas or expanding small ones, lined up in equal measure.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Donald Anderson
  • Date Published September 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60938-111-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 226pp
  • Price $21.00
  • Review by Cheryl Wright-Watkins
In his author’s note at the beginning of his book, Donald Anderson writes: “I concern myself in this book with matters of war, race, religion, memory, illness, and family, sources of humor and horror. And: boxing, which has been reported in literature from Homer on.” This diverse list prepares the reader for the book’s numerous intersecting threads of themes and topics. Boxing stands alone here, because in addition to being a theme for rumination, its images of bobbing and weaving, punching and ducking describe the book’s structure. As the title suggests, this memoir is not a linear narrative but a chronological series of memories, quotes, and data, some related and some seemingly random, that trace the writer’s life from his birth in Butte, Montana in 1946 to his current life as director of the creative writing program at the U. S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Ru Freeman
  • Date Published May 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55597-642-2
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 408pp
  • Price $26.00
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Sri Lankan writer Ru Freeman’s novel On Sal Mal Lane is an intense, in-depth portrayal of the years leading up to the Tamil Tigers’ demands for their own homeland and the chaos of that year, 1983. It focuses, however, on the children of a lane (not inside the capital of Colombo) and their playing and alliances with neighbors of different sects—Sinhalese, Buddhist, Catholic, Muslim, and Burgher, as well as Tamils. With Tamils often wealthier than the others and Sinhalese often the poorest, the prejudice in the neighborhood is particularly against the Tamils. One main example here is a bully Sinhalese child, not recognizing his family’s mixed lineage, who fatefully hates his Tamil uncle. Conversely, two of the child protagonists make strong and unlikely alliances with individual Tamil neighbors. Thus the lane provides a microcosm of the outer society’s tensions, with the writer frequently warning us of trouble to come. This dead-end lane will not be left unscathed.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Sophie Cabot Black
  • Date Published May 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55597-641-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 74pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Julie Swarstad Johnson
“Poetry is my way to understand what is difficult. How one thing can be explained through another—is to get closer, to unhide what feels hidden,” explained poet Sophie Cabot Black in an interview last year with The New Yorker. The Exchange, Black’s third collection of poetry, delves into deeply difficult subjects, primarily the loss of a beloved friend to leukemia—poet Jason Shinder, author of Stupid Hope (Graywolf Press, 2009). Like Black’s previous two collections, the poems in The Exchange render their speakers’ worlds in tight descriptions rich with the play of a quick mind. In The Exchange, the realm of finance and the Biblical story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac additionally play central roles, expanding the book’s lexicon of loss, gain, and worth. Using these three strands, Black crafts a cohesive collection of tightly woven, ruthlessly examining poems.
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  • Book Type Young Adult Fiction
  • by John Sandoval
  • Date Published April 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-155885-766-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 120pp
  • Price $12.95
  • Review by Patricia Contino
“The earth is much like a train with a destination unknown,” Beth Delilah tells boyfriend Elijah in The Witches of Ruidoso. Sadly, author John Sandoval’s journey ended with his death in 2011, making this his first and only novel. His bittersweet YA romance showed promise of him becoming an original storyteller.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Stacey Waite
  • Date Published January 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-936797-25-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 72pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Emily May Anderson
As soon as I saw the title of Stacey Waite’s first full-length book, Butch Geography, I was reminded of a line from the poem “Solar” by Robin Becker: “The desert is butch.” Unsurprisingly, Waite uses this line as an epigraph for the book’s title poem. However, while Becker’s poem focuses largely on the geography of landscape, Waite’s book concerns itself prominently with the intimate geography of the gendered body and its relationship to the world and to others.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Lorine Niedecker
  • Date Published April 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933517-66-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 112pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
Once upon a time the young Basil Bunting came across a succinct expression of a central concept in his own poetic practice which Ezra Pound quickly promulgated as a crystalline slogan of the Modern era: “dichten = condensare”—‘to compose poetry is to condense.’ Perhaps no other poet’s work sets a clearer, finer example of this than Lorine Niedecker. As she states in her rather infamously well-known poem “Poet’s Work,” her grandfather advised her to “learn a trade” and she
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