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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted April 1, 2011

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Erika Meitner
  • Date Published February 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934695-23-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 98pp
  • Price $17.00
  • Review by Stephanie Burns
Erika Meitner's Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls begins with sexual awakening and its inherent perils and ends just short of marriage, its poems trading in both nostalgia and uncertainty. Meitner deftly tackles lust, harassment, dating, death, alien abduction and the ever-important life skill that is filling out a form, all while rendering her images in clear and unique ways.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Elizabeth Bradfield
  • Date Published February 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-89255-355-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 112pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
In her profession as a naturalist, Elizabeth Bradfield (Interpretive Work) uses a writer’s attention to detail and research. Approaching Ice, her second collection of poetry, captures the frozen climate of the poles, exploring not only the external packed snow of the Arctic and Antarctic but also the internal “climate of the heart.” Her poems resonate with a need to discover what lies beneath the ice, such as when she echoes John Cleve Symmes’s longing to find “another earth / within our earth, more perfect, richer,” to claim our planet’s last unexplored frontier.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Andrei Guruianu
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0932412966
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 124pp
  • Review by Ann Beman
Soccer balls, crusty heels of bread, Grandmother’s hands, fishing poles. Andrei Guruianu’s Metal and Plum: A Memoir is strewn with such images, such scraps—scraps of metal, scraps of food, red brick, fence posts, gypsy tunes, and scraps of words, language, and memory.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Carl Klaus
  • Date Published September 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1587299131
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 147pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Ellen Sprague
If personal essays are supposed to be nonfiction, then how can essayist and teacher Carl Klaus begin a scholarly book of essays with the following premise?
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Chris Martin
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1566892599
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 138pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Becoming Weather is introduced by a quote from Nietzsche that describes the shifting changeability of the collection—“That the world is not striving toward a stable condition is the only thing that has been proved.” Like the weather, Martin’s poems can quickly change from light to darkness, frigidity to a blazing heat. The writer explores this movement and the act of writing about movement—in poem 3 of the first section, “Disequilibrium,” he states:
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Michael Hemmingson
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0982520420
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 173pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Matthew C. Smith
The short stories in Michael Hemmingson's Pictures of Houses with Water Damage offer a disturbing, sometimes harrowing, portrayal of human relationships. Like water seeping down behind plaster walls, once the problems come into the open, it's already too late.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Tommy Zurhellen
  • Date Published April 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9845105-6-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 212pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Aaron M. Smith
What if the Messiah hadn’t been born yet? What if we never had Jesus? Or, what if he had been born in an insignificant town in North Dakota? Well, history would certainly be different, and Nazareth, North Dakota tells us how it may have happened in modern times. Tommy Zurhellen weaves a story of biblical intrigue, giving an age old story a new spin. Zurhellen makes it truly easy to step into a foreign world, but a world that has been known since childhood by many.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Matthew Salesses
  • Date Published 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9824697-3-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 40pp
  • Price $10.00
  • Review by Gina Myers
In Our Island of Epidemics, Matthew Salesses presents a series of fourteen pieces of flash fiction which work together to tell the history of an island of, well, epidemics. On this island, one epidemic follows another and the community suffers collectively. While epidemics of oversensitive hearing, hunger, and farts may not be so appealing, the epidemic of memory loss brought immigrants to the island who “came, after a bout of suffering, to catch the disease and stay.” Other epidemics the island must suffer through include unstoppably growing hearts, bad jokes, insomnia, obsession, unrequited love, magic, lost voices, and talking to animals, to name a few. The narrator writes:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Abraham Smith
  • Date Published October 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9799755-8-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 132pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by C.J. Opperthauser
After reading only a page of Hank, I remembered the “point” of poetry. Or art in general, really. To make the experiencer experience feelings. That's it. Isn't it? Hank is good at that.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Tony Trigilio
  • Date Published December 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60964-012-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 115pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Patricia Contino
That history and personal memory can become one and the same is nothing new. The Internet and Facebook are merely faster ways to gather fact and thought.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Gleb Shulpyakov
  • Translated From Russian
  • by Christopher Mattison
  • Date Published April 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0982237670
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 168pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Unlike much poetry in translation that seems to lose its flavor and to blend together into the bland, uniform “translated” voice, Christopher Mattison’s translation of Gleb Shulpyakov retains his unique voice and undeniable cultural heritage. Some poems emphasize his foreignness, with references to Russian history and culture, such as, on page 17, when the poem references “Suvorov’s infantry,” “beards from Vladimir,” and the phrase “From Moscow to Podolsk no Pasternak could find / the way through such weather.” Leaving in these cultural markers adds an air of authenticity and believability to the work, and, most importantly, ensures the preservation of the poet’s original voice.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jenny Erpenbeck
  • Translated From German
  • by Susan Bernofsky
  • Date Published September 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8112-1835-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 150pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Caleb Tankersley
The latest translation of the German author and theatre director Jenny Erpenbeck’s work, Visitation, is a philosophical thesis on permanence/impermanence filtered through the lens of a small lake and neighborhood near Berlin. This lake, called Brandenburg, is the setting for the entire work. More specifically, the reader is introduced to a singular plot of land, from its very formation to the present day. Most of the book is constructed as a series of closely intertwined short stories, each presenting the viewpoint of a character inhabiting or interacting with this particular piece of land.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Edan Lepucki
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9820348-7-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 102pp
  • Price $11.50
  • Review by Tessa Mellas
Edan Lepucki is a master at characterization and humor. Her novella If You’re Not Yet Like Me, narrated by a pregnant woman describing to her unborn child the series of events leading to its conception, would likely be a sentimental flop if not for the enormous personality of its protagonist, Joellyn. Joellyn is a woman who boosts her self-esteem by gazing at her breasts in the bathtub faucet, whose reflection makes them huge, “the nipples wide-eyed, like they’d just walked into their own surprise party.” She is someone who imagined as a kid that she would grow up to be a Valkyrie, warrior-type woman, “vicious and beautiful, the roar of some exotic animal made physical.” She habitually imagines herself intimate with men she’s not attracted to and sleeps with them as good deeds, but wears the ugliest pair of underwear she owns on first dates to prevent herself from taking off her clothes too early.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Dan Boehl, art by Jonathan Marshall
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9826177-4-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 112pp
  • Review by Michael Flatt
The concept of poet Dan Boehl and visual artist Jonathan Marshall’s Kings of the F**king Sea feels like something thought up in an Austin bar after an MFA workshop, between their third and fourth Lone Stars. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s an appealing looseness in the execution of the book’s idea, which I’ve mentioned twice now without explaining. Jack Spicer is the captain of a pirate ship whose crew goes by the name in the book’s title, and includes Jasper Johns and Robert Motherwell. The Kings face off against Mark Rothko, the captain and sole member of a rival ship called the Cobra Sombrero.
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