NewPages.com is news, information, and guides to literary magazines, independent publishers, creative writing programs, alternative periodicals, indie bookstores, writing contests, and more.

NewPages Book Reviews

Posted January 5, 2011

  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Ian Williams
  • Date Published April 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-894987-41-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 79pp
  • Price $17.00
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
If you’re asking who are Wolsak & Wynn, I can tell you that, located in Hamilton, Ontario, they’re the publishers of “clear, passionate Canadian voices,” a literary press with more than 122 titles published since 1986, including many winners of Canada’s most prestigious literary prizes. I can tell you that they produce beautiful books with smart designs on exquisite paper. And I can tell you that their website is worth checking out if you’re interested in Canadian poetry.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Shin Yu Pai
  • Date Published October 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-935210-18-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 108pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
Adamantine is not what it announces itself to be. By which, I mean adamantine (impenetrable as rock). Compact, solid, polished, focused in on itself, grounded as rock, yes.
  • Subtitle (& Other Poems)
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Jeanne Larsen
  • Date Published October 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0932412-959
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 74pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Why We Make Gardens, Jeanne Larsen’s second book of poetry, is divided into five sections: “Elementals,” “Generations,” “That Green Expiring Close,” “Annihilating All That’s Made,” and “Pleasance.” Each poem incorporates the word “garden” in the title in some way—some are more metaphysical, such as “Garden of Bitterness,” and some are more literal, such as “Garden After Winter’s First Storm.” The book is unified through this theme of gardens, yet Larsen’s finely tuned sensibilities never allow the poems to fall into redundancy.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by William Heyen
  • Date Published June 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1453608005
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 110pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Tanya Angell Allen
William Heyen’s Lord Dragonfly was first published in 1981 by Vanguard Press, but most of the copies of its paperback edition disappeared shortly after Vanguard sold to Random House. Although three of the books’ sequences have since been republished elsewhere, now all five are together in a 2010 edition by H_NGM_N BKS. The re-issue contains minor editing by Heyen, plus a glowing appreciation by Nate Pritts—the chief editor of the press and Heyen’s former student. There’s also an essay by Matthew Henricksen which maintains that Heyen’s “personal vocabulary of deep imagery becoming peak language…seems to have predicted the direction many young poets are taking today.”
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by David Philip Mullins
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-932511-88-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 184pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet
These linked stories of Nick Danze’s sexual experiences, though self-contained, are arranged chronologically from the age of fourteen through his adult years, and therefore read like a novel.
  • Subtitle A Novel of Fate
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Janice Eidus
  • Date Published October 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59709-393-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 147pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Patricia Contino
Fashion student Lillith Zeremba wants to be noticed. She also strives to be the total opposite of her mother Beth, a famous feminist professor. This good Jewish girl and sworn virgin from the Upper West Side gets more than she wished for when she walks into the “ageless” sunglass-wearing Baron Rock’s classroom in Janice Eidus’s The Last Jewish Virgin: A Novel of Fate, an entertaining, original, and psychologically creepy variation of immortal love…for while Lillith suspects it, readers know right away that Baron is a vampire.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Bruce Covey
  • Date Published October 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-98260000-1-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 142pp
  • Price $16.99
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
These are poems that will launch you “Into the air & land, two feet before / Every syntactical permutation (green).” Covey’s syntactical permutations are designed to “keep you teetering / on the edge,” considering the “hollowed out dictionary” of our lives and the “unexpected rivalry between east and west” (that constitute “Meaning”). His permutations extend to card shuffling (“the fewer of spades,” “the thigh of hearts”); a restaurant meal (“A lobster targets your toe”); a “declaration” with alphabetical aspirations (“all all are ask bad be bring cease comes day date drive / earth end faith felt few give give grave groups hints hopes is”); and a truck accident (“Forcing a spin, what direction”).
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Matt Hart
  • Date Published October 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-453-83227-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 90pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
In a poem that couldn’t be more aptly titled, “Poem,” the poet philosophizes: “The problem of meaning can’t begin / until you think it.” Judging from these quirky and oddly appealing poems, I would say that Hart thinks about meaning, meaning he thinks about thinking, a lot. His preoccupations—running, his dog, his marriage, his baby, his students—are excuses (reasons?) to think about meaning.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Chad Sweeney
  • Date Published October 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-882295-82-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 72pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Alissa Fleck
Chad Sweeney’s Parable of Hide and Seek reads like the experience of stepping into someone else’s bizarre but magnificently imaginative dreamworld. In Sweeney’s world, deserts have doors and rats swim to the sun, calling to mind a surrealist painting. There exists also a prevailing wariness about the deceptive nature of cities, and the oddness of various geographical landscapes, which can be paralleled only in the absurdity of language.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Melody S. Gee
  • Date Published August 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0979458231
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 78pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Noel Sloboda
Melody S. Gee’s Each Crumbling House won the 2010 Perugia Press Prize. The volume advances the mission of the press, which “publishes one collection of poetry each year, by a woman at the beginning of her publishing career.” Each Crumbling House includes 52 poems, many of them autobiographical, in which Gee dwells on the challenges of negotiating relationships with lovers, family members, and history. Adding atmosphere and nuance to her verse, Gee’s Chinese-American heritage often haunts her speakers, as they navigate multiple continents as well as in-between spaces not found on any maps.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Drama
  • by Sarah Ruhl
  • Date Published October 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55936-360-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 144pp
  • Price $13.95
  • Review by K. Frithjof Peterson
For fans of Sarah Ruhl’s fanciful often highly theatrical works (Clean House, Eurydice, Melancholy Play) the premise of her latest, Pulitzer Finalist play, In the Next Room or the vibrator play may seem a risky departure from her trademark style. For starters, it is a period piece rooted heavily in historically specific research. At the least, this venture could limit the scope of the timeless, amorphous worlds she often creates and at the worst it could stifle the lyrical beauty that often spills from characters in their theatrically heightened worlds. Fortunately, In the Next Room lacks none of the poetry of Ruhl’s early work.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Essays
  • by Curtis Smith
  • Date Published December 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1934513286
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 150pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by Ann Beman
Recently, I failed to participate in National Novel Writing Month. But…while I wasn’t writing a 50,000-word novel, I was staying abreast of NaNoWriMo’s weekly missives from well-known authors. I caught the pep talk penned by Lemony Snicket in the same week I read Curtis Smith’s Witness. “Writing a novel is a tiny candle in a dark, swirling world,” Snicket wrote.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Children's Fiction
  • by Anne Dublin
  • Date Published October 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1897187814
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 124pp
  • Price $8.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Award-winning Canadian children’s writer Anne Dublin has created in The Orphan Rescue, an exciting family rescue story in the real world. Dublin constructs her story from her father’s story of a Jewish family, a boy aged 7 and his sister 12, living in the small town of Sosnowiec, Poland in 1937 (before WWII). Fortified by maps and real details of a poor family’s life and of a Jewish orphanage and factory, Dublin says in her Afterword, “l wrote the story inspired by the events of the time and because the experiences of the characters are relevant to young people today.”
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Kate Bernheimer
  • Date Published August 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-56689-247-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 185pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Gina Myers
In Horse, Flower, Bird, Kate Bernheimer, editor of Fairy Tale Review, gives readers eight of her own dark fairy tales centered on sad heroines. There is a certain timelessness to the tales, except for references to things like easy-bake ovens, plasticine dolls, and Star Wars, which place these stories firmly in contemporary times, or at the very least post-WWII, due to the haunting references to people in ovens. In the opening story, “A Cuckoo’s Tale,” the protagonist is a young Jewish girl who likes to atone. She describes spending Yom Kippur downtown with perfumed ladies: “Neither she nor the perfumed ladies were much interested in God. They were interested in forgiveness and, the girl vaguely understood, people who had been cooked inside ovens.” The girl traces her own fear of ovens back to stories her grandmother told, which include tales of a witch who cooks little girls to eat them.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Gary Jackson
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55597-572-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 80pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Kimberly Steele
In Missing You, Metropolis, the 2009 winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, first-time poet Gary Jackson uses the motif of comic book lore, with its hopeful yet unforgiving treatment of the superhero, to speak about childhood feelings of isolation and sexual maturation against the backdrop of a racist culture. Sometimes the speaker uses the comic book theme as a protective blanket, relying on the fantasy world it offers to escape the harsher elements of life that children often fail to understand. At other times, seeing the world through the anvil-heavy metaphors of the graphic novel helps the speaker come to terms with his actual environment. Good and evil are drastically polarized in this genre, which offers straightforward solutions to worldwide problems and therefore appeals to a child’s sense of simple justice.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Rosmarie Waldrop
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8112-1879-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 133pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
Waldrop, co-founder and publisher of Burning Deck Books, an extraordinary translator, and an accomplished poet whose work I have always found utterly breathtaking, just keeps getting better. I admire Waldrop’s lyrical stamina—she sustains long series of related poems with impeccable control over every syllable, there is nothing superfluous, careless, or casual—and her ability to ground the abstract and abstract from the grounded, from the world of objects and circumstances (driven, as she is, to abstraction).
newpages-footer-logo

We welcome any/all Feedback.