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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted July 3, 2014

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Jeffrey Bean
  • Date Published May 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9883101-9-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 32pp
  • Price $6.00
  • Review by Brian McKenna
Four lines into the opening poem “The Bread” from Jeffrey Bean’s award-winning new chapbook Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, the speaker recounts the defining experience of his life: sitting down at a restaurant table with a girl. Doling out description with subtle music that captures the slowly evolving intimacy of the situation, the stanza quite literally sets the table for the flash of love’s bittersweet onset that occurs in the stanza’s final line. While the straightforward description of the scene details the outward circumstance of the meeting, the allusion to Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem “God’s Grandeur” captures the true scope of the meeting’s importance:

The bread, the salad, simple, oiled.
The coats on hooks, exhaling winter smoke.
The hand that was mine, the knuckles, the table, smooth oak.
The girl I’d come to meet, the sky behind her hair, shook foil.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Takashi Hiraide
  • Translated From Japanese
  • by Eric Selland
  • Date Published January 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8112-2150-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 144pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Takashi Hiraide’s The Guest Cat is nothing like the usual cat book. Takashi Hiraide is an acclaimed poet in Japan, and this novel resembles a poem, recreating the immense world in small images, opening up to life with love and loss. It’s short like a poem, but though nostalgic and moving, it is not sentimental. The end of The Guest Cat indicates this novel evolved as a reshaping of a collection of essays and journal notes about the narrator and his wife’s relationship with a neighborhood cat Chibi, meaning “little one” in Japanese. This is a quiet, reflective, even philosophical book, which can appeal to more than cat lovers, since it is about how a relationship can change a person, how a communal animal can make one question who owns the animal, and how loss can reveal not just grief but resentment. By the end of The Guest Cat, the narrator notices and loves more, even extending his love to a house he doesn’t own.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Douglas Watson
  • Date Published April 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-937502-62-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 182pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Audrey Quinn
There are a few things that make A Moody Fellow Finds Love and Then Dies feel like a modern fairytale: its decidedly lyrical verse, the pithy unseen narrators, and the fanciful notions of people dropping dead upon seeing one of the most beautiful women to ever live. The structure of the novel, however, is what lends the book most to this form. As is common with fairytales, perhaps because they seem to follow a particular formula, the reader knows, more or less, what is going to happen before it even begins. A moody fellow, who is moody and whose name is actually Moody Fellow, does indeed find love and then die. Moody begins as someone with a rather naïve impression of love: “One thing Moody was sure of, though, from books: love always brought out the best in people. Poor Moody. He really wasn’t cut out for the world as we know it.”
  • Subtitle A Novella & Stories
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Bonnie ZoBell
  • Date Published May 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-941209-00-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 192pp
  • Price $17.95
  • Review by Patricia Contino
Bad Things never choose their location. A storm’s path is traceable but its final destination can be wider and more destructive than projected. Earthquakes, tsunamis and twisters strike without warning.

Humans cause Bad Things too. The real-life event that connects the stories in Bonnie ZoBell’s unsettling What Happened Here is the kind of Bad Thing that receives attention when it occurs, on anniversaries, and when something equally terrible happens. In 1978, Pacific Southwest Flight 182 collided with a private Cessna plane over the San Diego neighborhood of North Park. The Cessna’s pilot failed to inform air traffic control of their course change, the other pilot was unable to see the other plane on the radar, and air traffic control ignored the alarm that the planes were heading toward each other. The result: 137 people from both planes were killed, seven died on the ground with nine more injured and 22 homes destroyed. It remains the deadliest air disaster in California history.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Maceo Montoya
  • Date Published February 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8263-5436-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 224pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Audrey Quinn
After reading the title, I had a feeling that The Deportation of Wopper Barraza would be about someone named Wopper Barraza who, for some reason, was deported from the United States. (Clearly, astute powers of deduction were at work.) However, after the first few chapters, I wasn’t sure whether or not we would be following Wopper or if he would be a symbolic figure since the early chapters aren’t actually told from Wopper’s perspective. What soon became clear was that the narrative structure of the novel was going to be an experimental, often playful, journey through the minds of people affected by Wopper’s deportation, including, at times, Wopper, himself. What I originally thought could be a clunky narrative style quickly proved to be a delightful, multi-dimensional foray into the immigration experience from both sides of the Mexican-American border.
  • Subtitle A Biography
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Daniel Schreiber
  • Date Published August 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8101-2583-4
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 280pp
  • Price $35.00
  • Review by Trena Machado
The first biography since her death in 2004, Susan Sontag: A Biography by Daniel Schreiber, gives a straightforward account of a very complex life. Sontag graduated high school at fifteen, married at seventeen, earned a BA from the University of Chicago at eighteen, had a son at nineteen, and was divorced at twenty-five. Sontag left the academic world, not completing a doctorate, as she explained, in order to explore the world intellectually on her own terms. She was a novelist, cultural critic, filmmaker, stage director, playwright, and political activist. She became an international pop icon and intellectual celebrity. She wrote about photography, illness, human rights, AIDS, media, minority rights, and liberal politics. When doctors told her twice she had cancers that were rarely survivable, she survived by her own efforts to find new treatments.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Susanna J. Mishler
  • Date Published May 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59709-970-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 101pp
  • Price $11.00
  • Review by Andrea Dulberger
Termination Dust is the fitting title of Susanna J. Mishler’s first collection of poems. As this Alaska-based poet describes in a poem, “termination dust” is the name locals use for the first snowfall in autumn: it names the meeting point between seasons, and suggests an essential ending and beginning. Moments of such meeting-grounds—between humans, between the human and the wild—are key elements throughout the wide-ranging poems of this striking collection.
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