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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted March 1, 2010

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Helen Barolini
  • Date Published August 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9820626-1-6
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 32pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Lisa Dolensky
What’s this? A miniature gift book? That’s exactly how smug and loved I felt Valentine’s Day weekend when I opened up my NewPages reviewer envelope and discovered a novelty postcard-size stowaway jewel: Helen Barolini’s Hudson River Haiku. I was immediately transported to a mind getaway with Barolini’s simple turns of phrase, striking verbs, knack for colorful, condensed descriptions and the beckoning watercolor illustrations of Nevio Mengacci, an Italian artist. The reading experience is also textural since it’s printed on stippled watercolor paper stock.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Amy King
  • Date Published November 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1935402312
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 100pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Caroline Wilkinson
The epigram for Slaves to Do These Things brings up the quiet matter of love. In the poem that King quotes – Charles Baudelaire’s “Beauty” – the poet likens himself to “a dream of stone.” His hard breast is made to evoke love from other poets. This love, being “mute and noble as matter itself,” is one with the body it has inspired. In “Beauty,” the matter or subject of poetic love has merged with the matter or atoms of the body. The meeting place of atoms and ideas is familiar territory for King whose poems explore the line between the concrete and abstract. In King’s poetry, however, matters of all kinds – intellectual, material and political – are not always noble, and rarely are they mute.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Genine Lentine
  • Date Published January 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1934832226
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 70pp
  • Price $10
  • Review by John Findura
Reading Genine Lentine’s collection is like drinking deeply after a hike through the desert: refreshing and shocking in the way you didn’t realize how much you needed it until you had it. From concrete poetry to lines shaped likes the ripples of swords cutting through the air, Lentine manages to create an immediate and personal world within the pages.
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  • by Marv Gold
  • Date Published June 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59709-151-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 208pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Christina Hall
When I began reading this, I was expecting a biography, although a closer inspection of the subtitle, “A memoir,” should have clued me in that Silverstein and Me was not a typical biography. And how could it be? Marv Gold tells us “he was an outsider and a loner.” Silverstein only did two interviews in his lifetime, both to the same university magazine, one of which is included in its entirety in the memoir. Writing an “accurate” biography of someone completely open is complex as it is, but given the “recluse” status that Silverstein earned while he was alive would make writing his life story utterly impossible. But Gold does a fantastic job of evoking Silverstein through his anecdotes, and we are able to get to know the famous author through Gold’s words as well as anyone probably could have.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Silvio Sirias
  • Date Published September 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1558855922
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 240pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Elizabeth Townsend
This was a book where the narrator expressly stated that he wanted to tell the story of the last moments of Adela Rugama’s life. For some reason I had it in my head that this was going to be a murder mystery and was a bit surprised when I found out it wasn’t. So within the first couple of chapters the reader knows Adela Rugama is dead, knows who did it, and also has a vague idea of the reason behind her murder. Even though there was no mystery to figure out, the book kept my attention. I was impressed with the way a seemingly simple story about a woman who was murdered kept me reading longer than I intended.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Lynn Wagner
  • Date Published December 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1-9820626-2-3
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 32pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Sara C. Rauch
I don’t usually fall in love with a book before I’ve even opened its cover. But it just happened with Lynn Wagner’s chapbook, No Blues This Raucous Song. This is a jewel of a collection – albeit a tiny one. From the deep red cover, to the gold and ivory pages, to the crisp letters and evocative poetry inside, every element of this collection is beguiling.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Deborah Noyes
  • Date Published October 2006
  • ISBN-13 978-1-932961-29-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 204pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Alex Myers
This debut novel from Deborah Noyes is a must for any fan of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Hawthorne closes his story with Hester Prynne returning to New England’s shores while her daughter, Pearl, remains overseas, with wealth and a child of her own. It is from this moment of possibility that Noyes undertakes her own mission, to remove the ambiguity about Pearl’s character and explore the actuality of that closing scene.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Mark Statman
  • Date Published January 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1934909164
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 88pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by John Findura
Mark Statman’s first collection of poetry, Tourist at a Miracle, is an enjoyable read filled with Frank O’Hara-ish observations of the everyday, or perhaps more like Bukowski sans booze and racetracks with a little James Schuyler thrown in. Statman’s book is filled with poems that are not to be feared, but instead quench a thirst for big ideas stated simply, that anyone can understand and ultimately use.
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  • Book Type Essays
  • by Daniel Nester
  • Date Published October 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1593762537
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 260pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Steve Caratzas
“All my life I have acted wrongly, very wrongly,” Nester opens this collection, threatening us with a voice that suggests a morose combination of Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe. The tone is confessional, and not a little self-hating, and perfect. For Daniel Nester is the rarest of humorous essayists: he’s actually funny. He also happens to be a fine poet, and a keen authority on popular music, and his writing in How to Be Inappropriate radiates the kind of intelligence and insight that inspires a reader to conduct his own self-examination vis-a-vis inappropriateness.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Elise Blackwell
  • Date Published April 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-936071-66-1
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 272pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Sara C. Rauch
An Unfinished Score is not a novel to get lost in. It is a tough novel, well-written, with major and minor rhythms coursing through it to carry the plot. It is broad and narrow at the same time. It is an exploration of grief, the history of music, being an artist, the concept of hearing, and the emotional life of a woman torn between her every day and a fantasy world.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Matt Baker
  • Date Published July 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9789808-9-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 212pp
  • Price $10.00
  • Review by Keith Meatto
Odom Shiloh is not the most successful or ambitious guy. He’s pushing 40, his second marriage is on the rocks, and he works as an Assistant to the Assistant Coach for a miserable high school football team. And life only gets worse when Odom runs over a French bicyclist and, inexplicably, flees the scene of the crime.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Tony Hoagland
  • Date Published February 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1555975494
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 100pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Larry O. Dean
One lingering aesthetic argument posits that popular culture has no place in poetry – that by adding references to current movies, TV shows, or common-day jargon – to things as disposable as Styrofoam or SpongeBob – the poetry itself runs a risk of becoming outdated, or perhaps worse, inevitably obscure. But what ultimately matters is how skillfully the poet chooses to use his or her referents. Tony Hoagland is particularly adept at incorporating pop culture into his poems. Like one of those jugglers who keeps their audience on edge by tossing knives into the air, Hoagland regularly risks injury as well as insult, often with dazzling results. Even the less successful of Hoagland's poems are better than average; what they might lack in verbal oomph they make up for in readability, and what they all evince is a sincerity of emotion and purpose that is as rare in modern literature as it is thoughtful.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Gilbert Sorrentino
  • Date Published February 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-56689-233-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 144pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Alex Myers
The Abyss of Human Illusion is a novel only in the postmodern sense, consisting as it does of fifty short narratives. Though the prose in terms of style and diction is traditional, the form challenges literary standards; the fifty pieces progress in size from approximately 130 to 1300 words over the course of the novel, as if the author had planted some verbal seed early on that germinates and sprouts with each successive page. The composition and editorial process is also non-traditional, as Gilbert Sorrentino passed away before fully finishing the novel and his son, Christopher Sorrentino, finished the work for him. Christopher’s preface illuminates not only this particular novel, but his father’s writing process in general, serving as a fitting tribute to a notable career.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Kate Greenstreet
  • Date Published September 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1934103098
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 104pp
  • Price $19.00
  • Review by Dan Magers
Kate Greenstreet’s deeply elegiac second full-length poetry book The Last 4 Things is an expansive meditation on a life’s moments and memories flashing before one’s eyes, but very slowly, each one lingering. The tone, wounded without being outraged, urgent but not desperate, gives the sense that what is being described is from the deep past. Some of it may be, but much of it is reflection also of how life should be lived, present tense. Descriptions are by turns elemental (“We worshipped these names as the names of our gods”) and domestic (“because we had the rakes, / we had to stop every little while and / do some raking.”). While the speaker and the characters drifting through the poems are artistic, they are portrayed also as earnest and industrious. Passages feel like they are pulled from black and white snapshots, yellowed pieces of paper, American rural life.
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