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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted February 3, 2014

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Amy Sara Carroll
  • Date Published March 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8232-5091-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 104pp
  • Price $19.00
  • Review by H. V. Cramond
Poetry is often viewed as a respite from the noise and violence of the “real world.” A podcast that paused to lament the anti-intellectual culture of American politics talked of a book of poetry at a president’s bedside in the same breath as vacation and exercise. These things are necessary, or productive even, but not of the same world.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by April Moore
  • Date Published July 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-61035-172-0
  • Format Hardcover
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Patricia Contino
The backstory of Folsom’s 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison’s Executed Men would make a pretty good book of its own. Author April Moore’s great-great-aunt Betty, a “fiery redhead” who worked in Los Angles nightclubs, was married to Tom, a professional gambler and bookie with ties to LA and Las Vegas crime syndicates. If that wasn’t enough to keep family phone lines and dinner conversations buzzing, Tom had photos and dossiers of all 93 men executed at Folsom Prison between 1895 to 1937. Why he had them is a mystery; they came into his possession following a visit to the prison to collect a debt from a prisoner. After Betty’s death, the author acquired, as her grandfather labeled them, “the ugly mugs.” Moore follows this irresistible film noir of an introduction with straightforward accounts of how the condemned went to the gallows.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Dexter L. Booth
  • Date Published November 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55597-660-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 696pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Aimee Nicole
Scratching the Ghost is Dexter L. Booth’s first full-length book, though he has been published in a variety of literary magazines; this manuscript was the winner of the 2012 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. From the first stanza to the very last, I found myself reading like I had an addiction to his prose, and I just couldn’t put the book down. The beginning to one of his Abstracts:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Stan Sanvel Rubin
  • Date Published September 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9883166-6-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 88pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by Andrea Dulberger
The beautiful cover image for this book of poetry—a painting by an artist named Linda Okazaki—features an animal, probably a fox, alone on a bridge over a vast expanse of water, with trees and mountains in the distance under an orange-red sky. There is a mythical quality to this painting that matches the energy of the best poems in Stan Sanvel Rubin’s There. Here. In this fourth full-length book by Rubin, I find an author who sometimes muses about life in direct, observant narratives and, at other times, offers images with the compression of Zen koans.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by S. Lochlann Jain
  • Date Published October 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0520276574
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 304pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Lydia Pyne
It’s impossible to do justice to the breadth of literature that surrounds cancer. We can view cancer in a historical context through works like Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies. We can read reflections from the medical community in Atul Gawande’s Complications. We can see literature through the decades—like Death Be Not Proud—take on the question of how to balance art and science in practicing medicine and what might determine what we would call “good medicine.” Countless examples shape how we, as a culture, think about and make sense of cancer. And at the forefront of all cancer genres is the personal anecdote: the story of experiencing cancer either firsthand or through a family member or friend. Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us, by S. Lochlann Jain, takes the jumbled milieu of medicine, anthropology, culture, and history and tells us how we (broadly defined) think about cancer through the lens of her experience with it.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Joshua Isard
  • Date Published March 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-935955-54-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 240pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Michael Caylo-Baradi
Even if you were only half-awake in the late ’80s and early ’90s and only occasionally watched prime-time shows on ABC, you may remember the nostalgic narrator of The Wonder Years and the young urban professionals in thirtysomething, which sparked the now-commonplace term and later earned a place in the Oxford English Dictionary. Both shows were framed in the imagination of baby boomers, the Clinton-Gore age group back in 1992 whose childhood memories of Sixties counterculture now feels muted, ironed out into designer suits and body language that secure career paths and retirement plans. You might get a whiff of those two shows in Joshua Isard’s Conquistador of the Useless, through the tone of nostalgia for one’s teenage years that, to some extent, acts as an element of restraint and caution about being pulled too fast into an upwardly mobile career in information technology. The narratives of urban alienation in Pearl Jam, Kurt Cobain, MTV’s Daria, and Kurt Vonnegut are not mere artifacts in Nathan Wavelsky’s suburban world, but serve as imaginary sticky notes for a life filled with statistical reports, deadlines, and board meetings. Thus, Nathan accepts a big job promotion with trepidation and, knowing the ball is in his court, requests a few months off for something unrelated to his career: his condition for accepting the offer is that he starts working in his new job after climbing Mt. Everest.
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Kelcey Parker
  • Date Published October 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9887645-3-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 208pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Courtney McDermott
“Each material has its own message and, to the creative artist, its own song. Listening, [s]he may learn to make the two sing together.” Frank Lloyd Wright knew the art of crafting a structure that complements the space it inhabits. And as he suggests, artists must make music from the intersection of materials and messages. Like Frank Lloyd Wright’s infamous Fallingwater (the setting for this book), Liliane’s Balcony is an architectural treat.  Form and content are married perfectly in Kelcey Parker’s novella. Even the font and structure of the book were intentionally engineered. The font is influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright and the time period in which he created Fallingwater, and each symbol beneath the chapter’s heading is taken from Wright’s own Prairie-style geometric patterns. The various narratives speaking throughout the novella operate like the various cantilevers and balconies of Fallingwater, allowing the reader to step out into a new narrative, but always ducking back inside to the narrative of Liliane.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Janice Gary
  • Date Published August 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-61186-072-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 246pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Cheryl Wright-Watkins
In this memoir covering more than thirty years, teacher and award-winning writer Janice Gary expertly braids together her life’s themes and experiences, focusing on her fifteen-year relationship with Barney, a stray Lab-Rottweiler that she finds in a supermarket parking lot. Barney fulfills the prediction made during his first visit to the veterinarian: he grows into a very big dog. This presents a complex problem for Gary after Barney becomes dog-aggressive as a puppy when he’s attacked by a larger dog and subsequently attacks and injures several neighborhood dogs. Gary, a trauma survivor who at fifteen years old found her father’s body after his suicide and then four years later was raped at gunpoint in a dark alley, explains how Barney’s size and power initially provide her with a sense of safety and security, although, since he outweighs and overpowers her, she’s challenged to control him when other dogs are present. The writer wins the reader’s sympathy for this life-loving dog, whose emotional wounds mirror the wounds of his owner: “We were twins, the two faces of fear walking side by side.”
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Diane Raptosh
  • Date Published August 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0983934660
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 72pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Andrea Dulberger
How would it feel to suddenly find huge distortions in your memories of your own life, and then sense ripples of distortion when looking at the story of the world all around? The narrator of Diane Raptosh’s American Amnesiac speaks from within the swirl of such an ongoing confusion: “I’m a man without a past, like so many folks who’ve been expelled / from their own but dare not detect it. Shake your head no; nod your head yes. // There’s enough amnesia out there to kill a horse. . . .”
"Each material has its own message and, to the creative artist, its own song. Listening, [s]he may learn to make the two sing together." Frank Lloyd Wright knew the art of crafting a structure that complements the space it inhabits. And as he suggests, artists must make music from the intersection of materials and messages. Like Frank Lloyd Wright's infamous Fallingwater (the setting for this book), Liliane's Balcony is an architectural treat. Form and content are married perfectly in Kelcey Parker's novella. Even the font and structure of the book were intentionally engineered. The font is influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright and the time period in which he created Fallingwater, and each symbol beneath the chapter's heading is taken from Wright's own Prairie-style geometric patterns. The various narratives speaking throughout the novella operate like the various cantilevers and balconies of Fallingwater, allowing the reader to step out into a new narrative, but always ducking back inside to the narrative of Liliane.
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