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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted March 27, 2008

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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Michael Pritchett
  • Date Published November 2007
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 416pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Cyan James
Meriwether Lewis can’t achieve death, much less the Northwest Passage. And his modern counterpart, Bill Lewis, can’t connect with himself, let alone the students he’s trying to instruct. Bill is simply stymied by his own life, and the suicidal end of Meriwether’s.
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  • Book Type Stories
  • by Mary Otis
  • Date Published April 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0977698905
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 210pp
  • Price $12
  • Review by Janet Cannon
“Beverly puts words in jail. She hunts and traps them, stuffs them into little black boxes. Crosswords.” This quote from the beginning of Mary Otis' short story “Picture Head” illustrates not only Otis’ skill with language, but also one of the over arcing themes in her first short story collection Yes, Yes, Cherries: the complacent trap we as humans must break out of if we are to live our life happily and completely.
  • Subtitle Histories
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  • Book Type Stories
  • by Jo Carson
  • Date Published April 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0821417546
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 138pp
  • Price $29.95
  • Review by Donna J. Essner
In the tradition of Southern oral storytelling style, Jo Carson writes her stories for telling aloud. Teller Tales: Histories, her newest book, carries on this almost lost art of speaking and of handing down the history created by previous generations. According to Carson, both stories, “What Sweet Lips Can Do,” and “Men of Their Time,” were originally written to be performed. Unlike many other traditional texts that recount American historical events, Teller Tales is a narration, a performance of two stories wrapped around the American Revolutionary War. Neither monotonous nor mundane, Teller Tales reads as if the narrators are standing on a stage, talking, reminiscing, throwing laughable tidbits, and handing down what they know about the events that helped shape the America we know today.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Ander Monson
  • Date Published January 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934832-03-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 33pp
  • Price $8.00
  • Review by Matt Bell
In some ways, Ander Monson’s new chapbook Our Aperture finds the writer up to his familiar tricks. Like his fiction and his essays, Monson’s poems are elegiac in mood, mourning the losses of old lovers and dead friends even as they pine for obscure shampoo ingredients and virtual realities. He concentrates his energies on lists of objects and failing technologies, on relics of recent memories, on complaints against the loved ones who once owned and inhabited the things and places that make up a life.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Matthea Harvey
  • Date Published October 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-1555974800
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 80pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Roy Wang
Like the mysterious dominoes that grace the cover suggest, Matthea Harvey’s poetry collection Modern Life deals surprise and gambles sentiment, tossing out disjointed associations with such daring that only the most careful reading will unravel the whole chain of implication. Harvey puts her strongest, most readable poems in the center, creating a core of potential energy to propel the reader through the peculiar, disorienting landscapes still to come. The strategy pays off, giving the book both symmetry and a needed respite from her more difficult works.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by John Darnielle
  • Date Published April 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0826428998
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 144pp
  • Price $10.95
  • Review by Matt Bell
As the singer and songwriter of the indie rock band The Mountain Goats, John Darnielle has often been called a “literary” rocker, thanks to the great lyrics contained in the approximately four hundred songs produced by that band. Whether listening to lo-fi productions of his earlier career or the more musically complex John Vanderslice-produced records he’s done with 4AD, the focus of Darnielle’s fans has always been on his lyrics and the stories contained within. Now he’s stepped off the stage and sat down at the typewriter to deliver Master of Reality, his first novel and a stunning piece of rock criticism and appreciation.
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  • Book Type A documentary novel
  • by William Walsh
  • Date Published March 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934081-01-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 228pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Josh Maday
William Walsh’s debut novel, Without Wax, is the story of Wax Williams, legendary male porn star and “the 8th wonder of the world,” whose shy, down-to-earth demeanor endears him to female fans while also making him accessible to male fans. Dissatisfied with (and even afraid for) his life, Wax decides to retire at the pinnacle of his career. In keeping with documentary form and style, Walsh weaves together interview fragments, traditional narrative, depositions, Consumer Profiles, and the script of Wax’s first feature film. The novel is structured in such a way that is entertaining and compulsively readable, getting as close to watching its filmic incarnation as the written word will allow.
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  • Book Type Stories
  • by Yannick Murphy
  • Date Published February 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0979312311
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 139pp
  • Price $13.95
  • Review by Matt Bell
Twenty years after her first short story collection, Yannick Murphy returns to the form with In a Bear’s Eye, the follow-up book to her highly acclaimed 2007 novel Signed, Mata Hari. The stories contained within are spare and elegant, most clocking in at no more than four or five pages.
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