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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted July 1, 2008

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  • Book Type Stories
  • by Etgar Keret
  • Date Published April 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0374531058
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 192pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Matt Bell
For many American readers, Etgar Keret’s 2006 collection The Nimrod Flipout was the book that first introduced them to this excellent Israeli writer. With his short, fable-like stories combining a fantastical whimsy with the political and social realities of the Middle East, Keret’s stories felt like they burst onto the scene from nowhere, while in reality it was his second American book taken from the five collections already published in Israel. Like its predecessors, The Girl on the Fridge contains a wealth of Keret’s short stories, including some that will truly amaze the reader at how much power he can pack into a two- or three-page story, or, even more impressively, into a one-paragraph story, like the opener “Asthma Attack,” quoted here in its entirety:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Matt Schumacher
  • Date Published March 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1877655579
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 104pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Micah Zevin
Matt Schumacher's first collection of poetry is an otherworldly journey of linguistic inventiveness that keeps you directly on this earth while simultaneously transporting you to locations that at first glance appear strange or surreal but become familiar once you peer into their profound insides. These poems make up a cosmic parade where you will meet cowboys from Venus, pizzas that fly and ghosts who haunt spaceships. Ultimately, these poems are about the redemption of humanity in spite of the obstacles you have to overcome and the distances you must travel to arrive at familiar, yet alien, destinations. The poem “Old West Town Discovered on Venus” takes the reader on a journey to one of these planets:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Warren Woessner
  • Date Published March 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0979393440
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 96pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Roy Wang
The Midwestern voice has been with us long enough now that sometimes we forget that, like all innovations, it once required inventing. The Chinese capacity for understatement is something that I have also taken for granted, not remembering that such stances would be considered a departure from our American ancestors of Whitman and Dickenson. Warren Woessner recently reminded me of this unexpected connection between the Minnesota miller and Tang aristocrat in a brief interview below his Minneapolis law office, eloquently providing his own juxtaposition.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Cory Doctorow
  • Date Published April 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0765319852
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 384pp
  • Price $17.95
  • Review by Matt Bell
Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother is his first young adult book, but don’t let that put you off reading it. This is perhaps the first essential book I’ve read this year, the first novel that feels important enough to recommend it to every single person I discuss books with. While it will resonate best with teens, who will identify closely with its protagonist and his friends, the issues covered over the course of the story are important enough to matter to every American reader.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Erin M. Bertram
  • Date Published 2007
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 31pp
  • Price $6.00
  • Review by Karyna McGlynn
I picked up Erin M. Bertram’s Alluvium less on the reputation of its writer, whom I knew little about, than that of its publisher. Kristy Bowen’s dancing girl press is an enviable little operation that publishes handmade chapbooks by a veritable who’s who list of emerging women poets, and I was curious to check out one of its latest offerings.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Solveig Eggerz
  • Date Published May 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0978945695
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 284pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Cynthia Reeser
In Seal Woman, a historical novel by native Icelander Solveig Eggerz, Charlotte is a German wife and mother fleeing war-torn Berlin and the ghosts of her memory. One of more than 300 people responding to an ad for “strong women who can cook and do farm work” in Iceland, Charlotte hopes to live in a land without war memories – one she hopes will prove a refuge from the difficult recollections of her missing Jewish husband and their daughter.
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  • Book Type Graphics
  • by Cristy C. Road
  • Date Published September 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0978866518
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 90pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Sean Lovelace
As the name implies, the DIY (Do It Yourself) movement is all about self-sufficiency. The punk branch of this larger concept pushes the ideology even further, basically shouting to all: “If your activities (aka consumer services or items) exploit planet Earth or creatures of, then f—k off! We’ll do it ourselves!” This model is essentially economic, finding new (and theoretically purer) paths around consumer culture, from music production (David Ferguson, Michelle Branch, etc.) to advertising (the very successful Sticker Junkie, among others) to the local farmer’s market or garage sale (or dare I say eBay?). DIY innately lends itself to the sensibilities of art and the internet: blogs, zines, forums, the arteries and chambers of the underground, of buzz, immediacy and verve – the hiss and crackle of punk.
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  • Book Type Stories
  • by Donald Ray Pollock
  • Date Published March 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0385523820
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 224pp
  • Price $22.95
  • Review by Matt Bell
There’s no way I could start this review with a sentence better than any of the first lines in Knockemstiff, the debut collection by Donald Ray Pollock.  Perhaps this one from the collection’s opening story, “Real Life," which starts, “My father showed me how to hurt a man one August night at the Torch Drive-in when I was seven years old.” Another, “Bactine,” opens with “I’ve been staying out around Massieville with my crippled uncle because I was broke and unwanted everywhere else, and I spent most of my days changing his slop bucket and sticking fresh cigarettes in his smoke hole.”
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  • Book Type Edited by
  • by Steve Almond, Nathan Leslie
  • Date Published July 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0979312342
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 353pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by Ryan Call
At the heart of Dzanc Books’ anthology Best of the Web 2008 sits a quiet essay titled “Thirst and the Writer’s Sense of Consequence” by David Bottoms. In the essay, originally published in the Kennesaw Review, Bottoms takes for his starting point Walt Whitman’s poem “A Noiseless Patient Spider,” the language of which inspires him to explore “the whole question of artistic sensibility, more specifically, the sensibility that gives impulse to poetry and literary fiction.” Although it is a change of pace from the poetry and prose of the surrounding pages, for example, Christina Kallery’s poem “Swan Falls in Love with Swan-Shaped Boat” and R.T. Smith’s story “What I Omitted from the Official Personnel Services Report,” the essay gives the anthology a solid center from which the other pieces might develop.
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