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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted August 2, 2011

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jonathan Baumbach
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9827975-3-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 144pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Sara C. Rauch
Dreams of Molly is a slim, somewhat befuddling novel. Narrated by a man (an “impatient” writer) who “dreams” constantly of his ex-wife (the Molly of the title), each night/chapter finds him in strange and complex situations, all circling around her mirage. Each chapter ends abruptly, as if being pulled out of a dream, and so the novel is elliptical, chasing and never finding either Molly or any sense of stability. Baumbach is a word magician; he expertly builds suspense very quickly, though like most dreams, he rarely concludes or fulfills in any expected manner.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Daniela Olszewska
  • Date Published May 2010
  • ISBN-13 5-800042-942314
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 20pp
  • Price $3.00
  • Review by Angela Veronica Wong
Daniela Olszewska’s chapbook The Twelve Wives of Citizen Jane is a collection of poems written in couplets with each poem, as the title implies, dedicated to a wife of Citizen Jane. The number twelve holds mystical, cultural, and religious significance: 12 tribes of Israel, 12 Olympians, 12 Apostles, 12-step programs, 12 imams, the number of studio albums released by the Beatles. There is this same mythical quality to Citizen Jane’s story—we feel Citizen Jane is a vessel for a story, that she is representative of something bigger than just herself.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Ann Scowcroft
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-926829-67-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 104pp
  • Price $19.00
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
Ann Scowcroft’s debut collection overlays simple language with the depth and complexity of family relationships. Centered in interactions with family and close friends, Scowcroft captures a sense of regret in presenting broken and austere images of the home. The Truth of Houses demonstrates how a poet can explore how relationships continuously change throughout the course of a life, providing rich and multifaceted people that populate its pages.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Brian Allen Carr
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933896-54-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 160pp
  • Price $22.95
  • Review by Hazel Foster
While Short Bus may not be a typical beach read, that’s exactly where I took this strong fiction collection by Dark Sky Magazine fiction editor Brian Allen Carr. I read this book on the shore of Lake Michigan, in the sand, in the sun, despite its lack of sunny-ness. It was that good.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Corrinne Clegg Hales
  • Date Published February 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-932870-47-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 112pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
To Make It Right examines the significance of words said and unsaid, as the speaker navigates the relationship between her family and heritage in a modern world. In coming to terms with past grievances and uncovering the harsh reality of religious persecution, Hales creates strong images that resonate throughout the collection. First-time and experienced readers of Hales will find her command of language succinct yet lyric, an enjoyable experience.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Christina Hutchins
  • Date Published April 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9819816-2-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 88pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Marcus Myers
In Christina Hutchins’ first full-length book, the speaker contemplates the development of the self within the body’s dissolution over a lifetime. Less abstractly, the poet-speaker interweaves meditations of aging within familiar surroundings which are themselves growing older, of slowly losing her father to Alzheimer’s while simultaneously finding renewal in her ripening love for her girlfriend. In the face of her life’s constant material change, she often sees a moment’s “beauty…in the distortion,” and she hears in the “small silences between waves” “the black hole in me.” And faced with the certainty of her loss, the speaker desires the clarifying sort of beauty found only within the quiet:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Michael Earl Craig
  • Date Published August 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933517-46-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 128pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Matt McBride
In Thin Kimono, Michael Earl Craig’s third book, Craig is a kind of Whitman for post-Google America, where everything is exchangeable and incongruous elements continually collide, creating an equalizing strangeness where no one thing is more important than another. This strangeness, however, doesn’t remove Craig from the world, but rather is his method of being in the world.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Brian Oliu
  • Date Published 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0983562504
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 56pp
  • Price $7.00
  • Review by Gina Myers
The twenty-two prose pieces collected together in Brian Oliu’s So You Know It’s Me were originally published on the “Missed Connections” section of Tuscaloosa’s Craigslist, and as such they follow the form established there—titled by the location where the missed connection occurred and the tag M4W (man-for-woman). Because Craigslist deletes posts after 45 days, the pieces, which were published every other day, began to disappear just after the final piece went up. The ephemeral nature of the project parallels the ephemeral nature of the moments where connections were missed, where they continue to be missed.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Maxine Scates
  • Date Published April 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1930974999
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 71pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Undone aptly describes the poems in this collection; they are poems of depth and density, stories told by a master storyteller, connecting the incidentals in life to the more profound. As a storyteller, Scates includes dialogue in many of her poems—“Friday Night Fights” recounts a conversation with friends during a game of Scrabble, which becomes more significant to the speaker, as he finds himself “doing my father imitation” with “everyone laughing / because I’m good at it though maybe feeling guilty / because no one knows it’s the anniversary of his death.” The imitation, something done as a joke during a Scrabble game, reveals deeper memories and pain in the speaker’s life, as he remembers his father as a “clown of a drunk.”
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Robert Isenberg
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-932870-44-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 198pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Caleb Tankersley
The Archipelago: A Balkan Passage is a work of fresh travel writing, a sort of intellectual pilgrimage. In the book, Robert Isenberg—a teacher and playwright in Pittsburgh—journeys to meet up with his high school friend Amila in Sarajevo. Rather than flying directly to the Bosnian capital, he begins his trip in Athens in order to criss-cross the Balkan states, educating himself and his readers on the people, places, and history of the region.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by David Hadbawnik
  • Date Published April 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60964-010-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 138pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
From the beginning, Hadbawnik's book offers itself as a tale of self-discovery: the precocious journey of a young poet brimming with literary-mindedness working towards further developing into a mature, aware-minded, somewhat older poet dutifully reporting back as his development continues. Unfortunately, rather than further sharpening and developing insights on writing or living, the work loses focus as it progresses and is worse off for it.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Nate Pritts
  • Date Published October 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-609-64020-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 90pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Dan Magers
When reading the poetry of Nate Pritts, one gets the sense that his drive to write poetry originated from the ecstatic strain of the Beat Generation, namely through the poetry of Philip Whalen and the Ginsberg of “Supermarket in California,” as opposed to the more apocalyptic strain personified by Burroughs and Ginsberg’s “Howl.” This is the strain that has it that all of nature and even some man-made objects are imbued with a holy light and the possibility of transcendence. This is a source of yearning and salvation for Pritts, as he writes in the first poem of his fourth book, Big Bright Sun, “There are literally / hundreds of roses I could pick today // or leave for tomorrow & the evening / of a different year, the purple evening.” In the book, this is especially true of the sun:
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Manuel de Lope
  • Translated From Spanish
  • by John Cullen
  • Date Published September 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59051-309-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 304pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Manuel de Lope’s novel The Wrong Blood is about family secrets, set just before and after Spain’s Civil War, in the Basque region. As the author says in the introduction, “The circumstances include the death of a loved one, a rape, and a birth with disastrous results.” This is a story of women dealing with the effects of war, one rich, one poor, who nevertheless come together to help each other reach their dreams. A doctor living nearby is witness and also complicit to the strange agreement the two women make. Long after the death of one of the women, a young man’s arrival at the women’s house is enough to unravel the secrets of the past.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Camille T. Dungy
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0809330317
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 88pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Selected as the winner of the open competition award for the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, Smith Blue is a compelling collection about love and loss. The poems are prefaced by two quotes on loss, one from Gwendolyn Brooks and another from C.D. Wright, then moves into the short poem “After Opening the New York Times I Wonder How to Write a Poem about Love.” The poem details how the speaker hopes to love—“like God can love, sometimes”—and invites the reader to “Turn the page. / Turn another page,” concluding that “this was meant to be / about love. Now there is nothing left but this.” The introductory quotes and poem prepare the reader for the themes of love and loss that follow.
  • Subtitle Elizabeth J. Colen, John Jodzio, Tim Jones-Yelvington, Sean Lovelace, Mary Miller
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  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0984616619
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 248pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Gina Myers
They Could No Longer Contain Themselves brings together the winner of the third annual Rose Metal Press short short chapbook contest and four of the finalists from the fourth annual contest, resulting in an off-beat, varied, and vital flash fiction collection. The work presented here by Elizabeth J. Colen, John Jodzio, Tim Jones-Yelvington, Sean Lovelace, and Mary Miller shows a range of style and concerns; however, each author presents work that is lively and engaging, making this an essential collection to anyone interested in not just flash fiction but fiction in general. As Rose Metal Press editors Abigail Beckel and Kathleen Rooney write in the preface, “For all of the differences in writing style, technique, and theme, the characters throughout these five chapbooks are barely contained and bursting out.”
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Daniel Jones
  • Date Published April 2011
  • ISBN-13 9781552452455
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 102pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Angela Veronica Wong
When an artist produces only one piece of work and when the work is anywhere close to stunning, it’s hard not to see it as representational of “promise” and lament what could have been. Daniel Jones authored only one collection of poetry during his lifetime and published it under his last name. Jones was twenty-six when it was published; after The Brave Never Write Poetry was originally published in 1985, he never again published a poem (though he did publish fiction). His sole collection was beautifully republished by Toronto’s Coach House Books in 2011.
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  • Book Type Edited
  • by Gayle Wattawa
  • Date Published April 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59714-156-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 320pp
  • Price $20.00
  • Review by Jeremy Benson
From California publisher Heyday Books comes New California Writing 2011, the first of an annual publication that aims to be the America’s Best of writing from the Land of Fruits and Nuts. The book compiles poetry, fiction, and nonfiction; some are taken from larger works, others from newspapers and weblogs, and at least one is a commencement speech.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by James Grinwis
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-935716-06-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 84pp
  • Price $17.95
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
James Grinwis possesses a wry sense of things. He’s aware "Stuff has a way of perpetuating itself" ("Valse Triste"), and also of how important familiar haunts are. Where the poet walks, eats, and sleeps services his needs in and around the writing of poems. Grinwis comments on such matters from an appropriate distance and gives due acknowledgement, how "knowing your own corner / of the city" ("Shapes") does allow for "you realize it's just you, your room" where writing happens alongside the big realizations, such as "stars absorb light / like nothing else absorbs light" ("Still Life"). His poems are full of the irony of the mundane.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by J.M. Tohline
  • Date Published June 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9845105-5-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 204pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Patricia Contino
Maybe women saw Lenore and despised her at first, because she was lovely to such an unfair degree. But they met her, and she was the opposite of any negative attribute they could possibly have ascribed her. She was everything they wanted her to be, and she was everything they wanted to be themselves.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by A. Minetta Gould / Amber Nelson
  • Date Published January 2011
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 80pp
  • Price $10.00
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
This is a flip-over book, i.e. Gould's poems run through half the book, then flip it over and Nelson's poem runs through the back half. In the middle, between the two works is a portrait by—it is assumed—cover artist Kelly Packer, of a gentle-looking antlered beast which serves as a somewhat puzzling yet soothing centerfold: aside from having no clear connection to the poetry, the artwork stands in rather jarring visual contrast to the harsher, more abstract-leaning cover art. However, this does turn out to be a good pairing overall, especially since while the poets share in common a penchant for swift lines full of vivid imagery, each work diverges from the other when it comes to subject and concern.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by N. Scott Momaday
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 9780826348425
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 152pp
  • Price $29.95
  • Review by Erik Fuhrer
The oral transmission of verse is an intrinsic element of N. Scott Momaday’s literary heritage as a Native American storyteller. Though his accomplishments in fiction, such as the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel House Made of Dawn, are often more critically noted, poetry seems to come closest to his ideal expression of language due to its ancient relation to oral tradition. In his preface to Again the Far Morning, Momaday exalts the oral possibilities engendered by poetry’s primordial connection with the human voice: “We most often think of the poem as a composition in writing, but it may also be spoken or sung.”
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