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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted August 4, 2008

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by David Kirby
  • Date Published April 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1882295678
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 96pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Micah Zevin
David Kirby is the rare poet who juxtaposes humor and satire with a serious academic and classical knowledge without pandering exclusively to one or the other. It is a balancing act that is quite successful because it appears effortless. Mr. Kirby has a niche and a style that does not vary stylistically from collection to collection, a consistency that is not a weakness but a strength. If you desired, you could group David Kirby’s witty poems with the likes of Tony Hoagland, Dean Young and Bob Hicok. Kirby is a specialist, strumming his voice, his lone unique instrument, like a speed-reading comedian who makes the reader read until they are out of breath but rarely dissatisfied. In his new collection, this exploration of humor through knowledge and vice versa is gladly continued.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Xujun Eberlein
  • Date Published June 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1604890075
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 142pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Matt Bell
In "Feathers," the third story in Xujun Eberlein’s debut story collection Apologies Forthcoming, a young Chinese girl named Sail is forced by her mother into subterfuge to keep her grandmother from finding out that Sail’s sister has been killed while away at school. The lie continues for years, forcing ever more elaborate fabrications from Sail:
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Tom Noyes
  • Date Published March 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0802313461
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 160pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Anna Clark
What to make of Spooky Action at a Distance? The title of Tom Noyes’s story collection borrows a phrase from Albert Einstein that described his feelings about a phenomenon in quantum mechanics where two particles separated by vast distances – say, millions of light years – become entangled, so that changing the state of one of the particles will instantaneously change the other. The father of relativity thought this was counterintuitive, he never fully accepted quantum mechanics as a system for understanding the microscopic world.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Elise Blackwell
  • Date Published April 2008
  • ISBN-13 078-1932961508
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 152pp
  • Price $11.95
  • Review by Matt Bell
This first paperback edition of Elise Blackwell's debut novel Hunger comes five years after its original hardcover publication by Little, Brown in 2003, but the book has aged well, its short narrative seeming even more timely as it uses its historical setting as inspiration for an exploration of how our appetites at all times threaten to topple not only our personal morality but also our professional and political principles.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Carol Bly
  • Date Published June 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0977945863
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 254pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Jody Brooks
In this collection of overlapping stories, Carol Bly explores a town of moral highs and lows, a town held together by a family bakery, the ecumenical choir, and a need for automotive transportation. Bly has created a snow-covered community surrounded by the dark northern forest and the mysterious bears that inhabit it and a story about the chemicals that can either scrub the town clean or sully its very name.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Maureen A. Sherbondy
  • Date Published March 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1599481081
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 40pp
  • Price $10.00
  • Review by Roy Wang
One indication that a book is worth reading is the number of notes made in the margins, and I ended up with quite a few scribblings all over the clean, short poems of Maureen A. Sherbondy. Praying at Coffee Shops, with the striking cover image of a Jew praying at the Wailing Wall, suggests it will be about the modern Jew finding her place in the world. While essentially true, the stark image of close-eyed prayer belies the nuance, humor, and worldliness that come through in these poems. Nowhere is this more clearly exemplified than the title poem, whose full name is “Praying at Coffee Shops in the South”:
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Sergio Ramírez
  • by Michael B. Miller
  • Date Published September 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-1931896412
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 340pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Rav Grewal-Kök
The prolific Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramírez is almost unknown in this country. Only a handful of his thirty or so books have been translated into English, and just two appear to be in print in the United States, including Margarita, How Beautiful the Sea, which won the Alfaguara Prize, a major Spanish literary award, a decade ago. Margarita, translated by Michael B. Miller, is an ambitious, sweeping and beguiling work whose action spans more than half a century. With its huge cast of poets, journalists, generals, intelligence agents, failed cotton barons, whiskey priests, dictators, and many others (a character list at the end of the book runs eight pages and contains 75 names), it is a Nicaraguan national epic.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Jack Pendarvis
  • Date Published August 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1596922402
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 200pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by Matt Bell
In Jack Pendarvis's novel Awesome, the titular character is, in the most literal way, larger than life. A giant among men, he starts the novel off by proclaiming his own magnificence:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Christopher Janke
  • Date Published March 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-1934200001
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 84pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Cyan James
Christopher Janke has published a pretty book of poems. That’s obvious from the cover of Structure of the Embryonic Rat Brain alone: a mauve and purple tangle of presumable neuronal matter brushed with green. Fence Books, always pleasing with its designs, has cut Janke’s book wider than it is long and interspersed his poems with eye-catching doodles. If you flip the pages fast while staring at the lower right-hand corner you’ll see a rat put through its paces. This book makes it clear from the beginning that it intends on giving tactile pleasure while stimulating your mind. Like those famous lab rats pressing levers for cocaine, this book wants to keep you turning its pages.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Joyelle McSweeney
  • Date Published October 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0977901944
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 132pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Cynthia Reeser
To understand the world through its surfaces is sarcography, according to the titular character of Joyelle McSweeney's Nylund the Sarcographer. The term “sarcography” breaks down to mean “flesh writing,” and is somewhat expanded to include rain, reading, one’s children or the idea of them, the senses, possibly more. McSweeney does not marry poetic and prosaic language – rather, she brings them together in a collision of semi-fabulist writing. Chapter 1, “I’m a Lug,” begins, “What else could I be as I walked down the street but a sarcographer of raining. I had to build a cask around it, built like itself.”
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Pasha Malla
  • Date Published 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0887842153
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 256pp
  • Price $29.95
  • Review by Matt Bell
Pasha Malla's debut collection The Withdrawal Method starts off with "The Slough," a story divided into two parts. The first, a weirder, more fanciful tale, begins with the unnamed protagonist's girlfriend announcing that she intends to shed her skin, like a snake, and emerge as someone completely new. He begins to imagine what this new woman might be like and what he might mean to her, leading up to an abrupt shift as the story stops, resets and restarts as a more realistic narrative about a young man named Pasha whose girlfriend Lee is dying of cancer.
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