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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted March 3, 2014

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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Adam Gnade
  • Date Published September 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-9899-21-7
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 59pp
  • Price $7.00
  • Review by Katy Haas
Normally, I’m not one to gravitate to self-help or how-to books, but something about Adam Gnade’s 2013 chapbook drew me in. Maybe it was the cold winter months looming over my shoulder or, probably more likely, it was the blunt, unignorable title spread across the cover that led me to Gnade’s Do-it-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin’ Sad.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Laura Damon-Moore, Erinn Batykefer
  • Date Published May 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-56689-353-4
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 213pp
  • Price $23.95
  • Review by Patricia Contino
There are few surprises in The Artist’s Library: A Field Guide. Author-librarians Laura Damon-Moore and Erinn Batykefer do not have to convince bibliophiles that the library is hallowed ground. What they set out to do, and accomplish nicely, is offer ideas for becoming a more resourceful user regardless of intent.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Noah Eli Gordon
  • Date Published May 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1934103401
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 144pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by H. V. Cramond
The Year of the Rooster, Noah Eli Gordon’s eighth book, examines a crisis of faith: a poet-narrator who questions his impulse to write and not write, the trappings or usefulness of theory and craft, and the very ability of poetry to signify. Gordon, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder where he directs Subito Press, also founded chapbook publisher Letter Machine Editions with Joshua Marie Wilkinson in 2007; they both co-edit The Volta as well. Gordon is a writer fully immersed in a poet’s life, but his narrator questions the impact of such an immersion.
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  • Book Type Collection edited
  • by Lee Gutkind
  • Date Published April 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-937163-12-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 278pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Cheryl Wright-Watkins
The Jewish Healthcare Foundation enlisted Lee Gutkind, the editor of Creative Nonfiction magazine, to choose these twenty-one essays in this new collection from the two hundred submissions sent in response to a call for manuscripts. Gutkind, who in the past two decades has written five books about the medical world, reveals in the introduction that he has a clear memory of the doctors and patients in his stories but not of the nurses, who remain semi-invisible to most of us, even though there are over 2.7 million of them working in the United States. The purpose of this book is to bring nurses out of the shadows and shine a light on the difficult work they do, as well as to educate readers about the demands of this challenging occupation.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Laura McCullough
  • Date Published October 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-937854-29-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 80pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Emily May Anderson
The best word to describe Laura McCullough’s newest book might be “fearless.” This may seem strange, as many of the poems deal with the horrors and threats of the world. These are not poems without fear, but poems that directly confront the speaker’s fears, and in so doing, they offer a way through.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jane Gardam
  • Date Published November 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60945-141-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 208pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Olive Mullet
To read a Jane Gardam novel is to be sorry when it ends. In this country she is best known for her non-chronological Old Filth trilogy: Old Filth, The Man in the Wooden Hat, and Final Friends. But this early (originally published in 1971), seemingly autobiographical novel, A Long Way from Verona, has the same Dickensian, odd, well-defined characters. Her wit comes through as usual, in spite of the sometimes obscure British references.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Mary Ruefle
  • Date Published October 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933517-73-5
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 136pp
  • Price $22.00
  • Review by Elizabeth O'Brien
“What is the code for happiness?” Mary Ruefle asks in “Trances of the Blast,” a poem that comes midway through her book of the same title, but is as good a place as any to begin:
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Norah Labiner
  • Date Published April 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-56689-320-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 384pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Wendy Breuer
In Norah Labiner’s Let the Dark Flower Blossom, the character Roman Stone, a writer, says, “A story is a map to the underworld and how you follow that map is, of course, entirely up to you.” This story is cut into different patterns of back-story and forward motion, and point of view shifts from first person to third, character to character. Stone, a celebrity novelist, has been murdered. The news is shocking but not really a surprise to the lovers, enemies, and friends who have revolved around him, seemingly helpless to get out of his orbit. What the reader learns about Stone comes from the retrospective memory of the others. He appears to be the monster in the center of the labyrinth.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Ron Padgett
  • Date Published November 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1566893428
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 840pp
  • Price $44.00
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
Many readers associate Ron Padgett with the so-called second generation of the New York School of Poets. He did, after all, edit, with David Shapiro, the multi-generational spread An Anthology of New York Poets (1970), was at one time director of the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in the Lower East Side, and has continued for decades to split his time living between homes in Vermont and Manhattan. He has also written intimate memoirs of, as well as edited works by, his friends, poet Ted Berrigan and artist Joe Brainard. And of course in the 1960s, the three collaborated on the infamously mischievous Bean Spasms, now a classic of collaboration from the era.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction edited
  • by Paul Herron
  • Date Published November 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0804011464
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 440pp
  • Price $34.95
  • Review by Trena Machado
Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1939-1947 begins with Anaïs Nin and her husband, Hugo Guiler, escaping the war in Europe to relocate to New York City. On the first page, she is also concerned about whether her two lovers, Henry Miller and Gonzalo Moré, would come to New York with her. They did. Also on the first page, she writes: “I am still baffled by the mystery of how man has an independent life from woman, whereas I die when separated from my love.” Four hundred and forty pages and a dozen or more lovers later, she is still in the realm of needing love, experiencing loss, and longing for the one love that will make her whole. Her lovers are the content the narrative is hung upon, but not the most interesting. There is very little written outside her desire for love, finding love, being in love, leaving the lover, very little written about the art of the day or even about the city of New York or the world that was at war. The drama here is within the psyche of Anaïs Nin.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Frank Montesonti
  • Date Published July 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-937854-35-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 90pp
  • Price $11.95
  • Review by Cindy Hunter Morgan
The front matter of Frank Montesonti’s Hope Tree asserts something interesting for an erasure formed from a how-to manual about pruning: “method / is unnecessary / to remove / the past season.” It is a fitting introduction to a book in which leniency and ruthlessness, and growth and death, are inexorably intertwined.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction edited
  • by Sanford E. Marovitz
  • Date Published November 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60635-172-7
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 256pp
  • Price $60.00
  • Review by Lydia Pyne
Call me inspired. Most audiences come to know Herman Melville through Moby-Dick and Billy Budd, Sailor—deep, complex narratives that swell with metaphor and allegory. Both have entered the classical Americanist canon of literature thanks in large part to the early twentieth-century “Melville revival” within academia. Melville’s writing, however, extends well past the White Whale, and for the latter half of his literary career, his publication efforts and creative energy focused on his poetry. In recent decades, scholarly interest has turned to Melville’s canon of poetry as a window into American history and the understood role of a poet. (“[Melville’s] pained ironic view of his position as poetry weighed upon him.”) Melville as Poet: The Art of “Pulsed Life” (a bit of an odd title, but better than Melville: More than Moby) explores the breadth and depth of Melville’s poetry through its emphasis on the history, narrative, and imagery of a unique, careful, and lyrical American poet.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Sarah Beth Childers
  • Date Published November 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8214-2062-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 224pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Julie Swarstad Johnson
The word “Appalachia” can call to mind a host of stereotypes: poverty, fundamentalism, environmental exploitation, backwardness. Each word conjures up a vague image of a broad region that many have never visited. By contrast, specificity and personal experience come to the forefront in Sarah Beth Childers’s debut essay collection, Shake Terribly the Earth: Stories from an Appalachian Family. Here, in linked essays that consider family ties, faith, and history, Childers reveals her unique understanding of West Virginia as seen through her eyes and the eyes of her family. Through careful attention to the personal, these essays gently argue for the validity of each person’s understanding of their own world.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Mary Molinary
  • Date Published August 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-936797-23-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 80pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Andrea Dulberger
One challenge with reading poetry that seems to be creating its own forms for what it is seeing and expressing is the tension between the urge to absorb the work as it is presented and an urge to search for clues—to go digging in, and perhaps between, the lines. On my first read through Mary Molinary’s Mary & the Giant Mechanism, I jotted little notes to myself and often thought, “hmmm . . .” On my second read-through, I mostly flipped through the pages at random, sometimes reading sections out of order, and thought “Ohh!” I think one of the successes of this poet’s first book of poetry is that it did compel me to go searching for larger “mechanisms” (to echo the title) that link the images and themes presented here.
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