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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted July 1, 2011

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  • Book Type Edited
  • by Nate Liederbach, James Harris
  • Date Published February 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9844510-4-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 412pp
  • Price $24.00
  • Review by C.J. Opperthauser
In a competitive field such as creative writing, where anybody who's anybody needs to make their name a brand, this anthology makes the monstrous crowds a family, pairing mentor with student. Each person introduces somebody else, and gives some refreshingly personal insider information on how they met and who they are. Instead of a wimpy, some-odd-word-count biography stuck in the back, the reader is provided with a backstory, making the entire collection significantly more personal.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Susan Scarlata
  • Date Published February 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-982989-61-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 90pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by L.S. Bassen
A quotation attributed to William Butler Yeats can be found in cyberspace, "What can be explained is not poetry." At least 63 people have “liked” this quotation, but not me. I appreciate explanation. Susan’s Scarlata’s new collection is bookended by both an introductory “Proem” and end “Notes.” The “Proem” explains that her 64 poems are: “A recoup of the Sapphic Stanza form… They are strung… linked without attempt to present any sum total.” The first poem, “What Is Your Business Here?” begins, “I dreamed I carried a snake / to a burnt cracked tree /…Our needs and wants” include “a plectrum” and we are advised to “throw these bits / in two directions at once.” “Plectrum” is explained in the notes: “A plectrum is a spear point used for striking the lyre.”
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Pedro Ponce
  • Date Published 2010
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 55pp
  • Price $10.00
  • Review by Jeremy Benson
There’s something to be said for the matter-of-fact voice that short-form fiction so effectively encourages. With it, images and situations that would be surprises if not entirely doubted are accepted without a bat of the lash from the narrator.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Jennifer Knox
  • Date Published December 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0982658710
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 84pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Noel Sloboda
In The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway, Jennifer Knox reveals a gift for making readers laugh. All 43 poems in this volume display great wit—a possible liability in hands less adroit than Knox’s. Fortunately, while rendering comical scenes, she never sacrifices pathos for a joke. Her poems feature complicated humor that emerges from funerals and interventions. Always keeping in view the high stakes for her speakers—and their friends, parents, and lovers—Knox dances on the edge of the ridiculous, obliging people to laugh at difficult situations for which there are not rational responses.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Rusty Barnes
  • Date Published August 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934513323
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 154pp
  • Price $18
  • Review by Hazel Foster
Rusty Barnes’s Mostly Redneck, is, in fact, not “mostly redneck,” at least not in the way most would think of “redneck.” There are a few yokels, some pickups, a shotgun, but the pages are not inhabited by slack-jawed, one-overall-strap-loose, hill folk. The stories in this collection follow real people in all situations. For instance, in “This is What They Call Adventure,” Bob, who is simple, feeds the hens and meets a girl:
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Kelcey Parker
  • Date Published February 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-888553-55-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 144pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Elena Spagnolie
Though Kelcey Parker’s collection of short stories, For Sale By Owner, falls comfortably into the genre of discontented housewife lit—tackling subjects such as the disillusionment of a “perfect” marriage, the depression that often accompanies excessive material wealth, or the fantasies people create to distract themselves from reality—it stands out in that it has distinctly well-developed characters who are crafted with beautiful depth. Parker’s writing is thoughtful and highly literary, and she pulls readers into the disappointment of her characters’ lives while maintaining a sense of wry humor and irony. For example, in the short story “Best Friend Forever Attends a Baby Shower,” Parker describes the ache of social rejection and the growling bitterness it inspires:
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Katie Farris
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934851-30-2
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 76pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Martin Woodside
Fiction writers have long used the fairy tale genre as a potent vehicle for innovation and subversion, a trend that only intensified after the post-modern assault on canonical literature launched by Messrs. Barthes and Barth. By the 1960s, Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges had already used the stuff of fable and fantasy to breathe new life into old forms, and authors such as Angela Carter and Robert Coover began manipulating both the form and content of classic fairy tales to interrogate and re-imagine some of the most basic assumptions of literary fiction.
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  • Book Type Cross-Genre
  • by Richard Froude
  • Date Published February 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-982989609
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 112pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Michael Flatt
One could describe Richard Froude’s FABRIC as a meditation on memory presented in prose poetry, but this description would elide too many deeply interesting facets of the work. While working from the basis of a consideration of memory’s inherent virtues and flaws, FABRIC creates a space within that consideration for the inspired moment. By “inspired,” I mean several things: the invented, the possibly mistaken, the obsessive, and the associative.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Jennifer Frost
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8147-2823-9
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 281pp
  • Price $35.00
  • Review by Patricia Contino
The close-up begins on the stairway. Forgotten silent star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) has been lured into police custody for the murder of screenwriter/kept man Joe Gillis (William Holden, the dead narrator in the pool) with the promise of cameras. Trailing her like movie extras are several LAPD officers and an attractive older woman. She and her wide-brimmed hat are the only bright objects in the frame. Moments ago she was pleased landing the exclusive on this Hollywood cougar murder, but her demeanor crumbles watching the demented Norma walk towards the newsreel cameras until her face blurs, then fades.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Binyavanga Wainaina
  • Date Published July 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1555975913
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 253pp
  • Price $24.00
  • Review by Matthew C. Smith
In One Day I Will Write About This Place, Binyavanga Wainaina fulfills the promise of the title by returning to explore the paths he traveled while coming of age in Kenya and South Africa. Along the way, he traces the birth of his own desire to write down what he was experiencing, developing a complex narrative in which the personal and the public, the psychological and the political, are intertwined, sometimes joined harmoniously and at other times pulling in opposite directions.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Joseph Lease
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-56689-258-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 78pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by James Meetze
To testify, in the Christian sense, is to tell the story of how one became a true Christian. In the legislative sense, to testify is to provide an account or evidence under oath in a court of law. In his new poetry collection, Testify, Joseph Lease seizes the cultural moment in which one’s testimony is as important as one’s identity, when testimony supersedes identity to the extent that it becomes identity. In our recent moment, we have seen America’s financial cornerstone crumble and watched those responsible (well, some of them, anyway) plead their ignorance and innocence interchangeably, while others have used religious belief systems to shake the very foundational elements of our nation.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Kathleen Ossip
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-932511-95-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 82pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
In trying to locate an American identity, the politics of class infiltrate a collection seeking to amend the impossible with art. The Cold War, Kathleen Ossip’s second poetry collection, tackles the complex socio-economic class status conflicts that have been a staple of American culture for nearly the past century. Combining psychological and sociological documentation of the class phenomenon with past experience, in a relevant historical context, both challenges and informs the reader.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Ammiel Alcalay
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933254-84-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 88pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Kevin Kinsella
Everything has come before and will again,
But only the moment of recognition is sweet.
—Osip Mandelshtam, from “Tristia”
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