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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted February 14, 2011

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jaimy Gordon
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-929701-83-7
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 296pp
  • Price $25.00
  • Review by Olive Mullet
National Book Award winner Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon, inspired by a summer job she had during her college years, reveals the world of the rundown horse stable/racing operation full of sore, over-run horses, cynical, sometimes drug-taking groomsmen and criminal owners. Indian Mound Downs in West Virginia has a number of such characters, with the most sympathetic of the humans being seventy-three-year-old black groomsman Medicine Ed, hobbling on his “froze-up left leg, the result of being run over by a big mare” and a newcomer with “frizzly” pigtailed hair, Maggie. But it is appropriate that the chapters have the names of horses, since the animals get most of our sympathy. The story involves the back-and-forth ownership of horses, culminating in the destruction of some favorites, caused perhaps by the meddling of “Medicine” Ed mixing up his unknowable potions.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Becky Dennison Sakellariou
  • Date Published October 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-980-1672-9-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 55pp
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
These are lovely poems from a poet who has lived for a long time in Greece (she also maintains a home in New Hampshire) and writes with grace and elegance about the natural world in its relationship to human stories and histories. Her verse is more restrained than effusive, more controlled than lush, rendering the landscapes of her geographies, her (our) history, and her mind in sharply etched lines:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Julie Hanson
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-58729-964-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 84pp
  • Price $17.00
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
“I love this book,” is this book’s opening line from a poem titled “Use the Book,” and while the poet is not ostensibly referring to her own book, the combination of the self-referential title and this first line are impossible to separate from the book we have in our hands. This is not to say that the poet means she loves her own writing, but that she loves the act of writing, of creating poetry, of offering us her book. One way or another, we’re meant to make the association between the book she loves and the book we’re holding in our hands. “Take this,” the poem ends. How can we think otherwise?
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Lesley Wheeler
  • Date Published June 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0981987620
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 77pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Carol Dorf
In Heterotopia, Lesley Wheeler considers the interactions of time and space—in particular, the space of Liverpool, England, and the time of her ancestor's lives, particularly her mother's, in that place.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Jim Moore
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1555975814
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 104pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Invisible Strings, Jim Moore’s sixth collection of poetry, is a collection of sparse, brief poems, focusing on single moments in everyday life. These snapshots are of ordinary events—his mother setting the table, a boy crossing the street with his father, a single car on a dirt road.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Albert Mobilio
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934029-16-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 88pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
onlineropositions written broken-english wise,” the poet writes in “Average Reader,” a phrase that embodies this book’s essence and which characterizes what is most appealing about it, original syntax, a unique sense of what can be “english-wise.” Perhaps the poet imagines that this unique language is precisely what we need to survive: “you want to be saved,” Mobilio insists in the collection’s opening poem, “Touch Wood.” And how could we not be saved by such lines as “we lay down housed,” reminding us of the human capacity for invention, for creativity.
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  • Book Type Collection
  • by Julien Poirier
  • Date Published October 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933254-60-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 120pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
Is the title page a subversive example of “golpe chileño” or a mistake: Peter Lorre Goes Buggy. A Biography. by Cem Çoker and issued by Gneiss Press (“on the dusty road to hits”)? According to Ugly Duckling Presse (from book publicity on the website) and a brief introduction in the book itself, golpe chileño is a form of street crime in Barcelona. (Spain’s major cities were, at one time, notorious for the many types of thievery perpetrated on tourists in the streets). So, perhaps this, too, is a trick—look over here (maybe you’ll think the book is in Spanish by the cover); no, look over here (this is a book about that odd classic movie actor, Peter Lorre). Gottcha!
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Meredith Quartermain
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1897388655
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 127pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by Alex Myers
Odd. There is just no other word to describe Meredith Quartermain’s collection of sixty short pieces. From the title, and even from the comments on the back of the book, I expected Martians and food. And while the collection contains both, neither one is the driving force. In fact, even having finished this volume, I am still asking that question: what propels these pieces? What is the organizing principle here?
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Feryal Ali Gauhar
  • Date Published August 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-936070-60-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 209pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Laura Pryor
You don’t have to know the political history of the many conflicts in Afghanistan to understand Feryal Ali Gauhar’s novel, No Space for Further Burials. In fact, the meaninglessness of politics in such a place is one of the key themes Gauhar explores. In an environment where survival is day-to-day—even minute-to-minute—and cruelty and suffering come from a myriad of conflicting sources, politics is the last thing on anyone’s mind.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Megan Harland
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-886157-77-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 66pp
  • Price $13.95
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
Mapmaking is last year’s winner of the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry, awarded annually by the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s BkMk Press. Harland’s book was selected by Sidney Wade, who praises the book as “imaginative writing at its best.” These are quiet poems, by which I mean they are never ostentatious or particularly bold or inventive. And they do not pretend to be. They rely instead, and successfully, on powerfully insightful and compact instances of poetic precision and emotional and philosophical acuity. “Picture a New York gone infinite, // a little pearly,” Harland writes; understand a morning as having “a bird’s worth of restlessness”; and a fossil is a perfume; and walking on Clare Island, the poet traverses “a place that lived beyond its future.”
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Mark Jarman
  • Date Published February 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1932511-89-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 304pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Bone Fires by Mark Jarman is a collection of new and selected poems. The book begins with the 19 new poems, which carry on themes found in earlier collections of Jarman’s work—a keen interest in nature and the surrounding world, a love of family, and a struggle with the mystery of spirituality. Many of the poems recount incidents from his childhood. One such poem, “Mary Smart,” reflects on the life of a widow he knew when he was young, who told him “Mark, you know we are not our bodies,” referring to the spiritual aspect of a person that the author questions and examines throughout the book.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Javier Marías
  • Translated From Spanish
  • by Margaret Jull Costa
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8112-1663-0
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 144pp
  • Price $21.95
  • Review by Elena Spagnolie
While the Women Are Sleeping by Javier Marías is a collection of ten beautifully written short stories that raise questions about love, death, the afterlife, and the capability of people to be truly original. The collection opens with the title story “While the Women Are Sleeping” and highlights the interaction between two men—strangers and fellow beach goers—outside a hotel pool in the middle of the night: “Viana buried his face in his hands, as I’d seen him do from above, from the balcony, but not from down here, by the pool. And I saw then that this gesture had nothing to do with suppressed laughter, but with a kind of panic that nevertheless failed to negate a certain serenity.” However, tension mounts as their friendly conversation morphs into one man’s obsession with his girlfriend, and Marías creates intensity and suspense with amazing skill.
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