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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted September 1, 2011

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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Ferenc Máté
  • Date Published August 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-920256-69-5
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 256pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet
In Ferenc Máté’s new book A Real Life, he asserts that what truly matters are family, good friends, and a true community. This is a telling indicator of his audience; people attracted to this book will relish their old-fashioned values being confirmed. Hence, Máté will be preaching to the already converted—unfortunately, because others should read this book to implement changes in our society. But even the already converted will find this book (termed a memoir by the publisher) fresh, given Máté’s examples, humor, quotable insights, and appropriate research.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Julie R. Enszer
  • Date Published 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9794208-5-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 64pp
  • Price $11.95
  • Review by Carol Dorf
Julie Enszer's first book of poetry, Handmade Love, embodies the political in a sensual context. This book, printed in a lovely 4x6 format by A Midsummer Night’s Press, centers on themes of relationships, including lesbian marriage and friendships.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Alison Stine
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-029928314-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 88pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Alissa Fleck
The title of Alison Stine’s collection Wait—and the repetition of this word in its multitudinous forms throughout the work—suggests a passivity and loss or relinquishment of control, which seem to be the driving force behind much of the book’s thematic content. Wait presents itself from an almost stark, feminine—if not feminist—perspective, with subjects who are distant and passive, but not without some veiled level of control. This power is deployed, among other means, through the forcefulness and tight control of the poet’s language, in sharply crafted poems which alternate between small consistent selections of loose forms. In one line alone, the talented Stine has the power to simultaneously wax nostalgic about a carefree, country childhood and come down critically on misogyny and the notion of the patriarchy.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Anselm Berrigan
  • Date Published August 2011
  • ISBN-13 9781933517544
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 65pp
  • Price $16
  • Review by Gina Myers
Anselm Berrigan’s new book Notes from Irrelevance opens with a simple declarative idea: “I came.” But what precedes that phrase gives a better sense of what a reader can expect from this long poem:
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Enrique Vila-Matas
  • Translated From Spanish
  • by Anne McLean
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0811218139
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 208pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Spanish novelist Enrique Vila-Matas takes his title Never Any End to Paris from Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. But whereas Hemingway was poor but happy in Paris, the narrator says of his two years as a young man in the 1970s, “I went to Paris and was very poor and very unhappy.” Although the narrator (a stand-in for the author) uses his early life in a Paris garret to give a three-day lecture, for the most part this novel feels more like a fictionalized memoir than a lecture. The narrative shows the intellectual life of the times with famous and not so famous writers and eccentrics. It also reviews approaches to writing, since the narrator asks advice while writing his first novel. And irony figures in this account with Vila-Matas’ erudite wit and keen eye for absurdity or the ridiculous. It even appears with the narrator’s not understanding irony: “irony is the highest form of sincerity.”
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Adam McOmber
  • Date Published June 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934414-51-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 180pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Patricia Contino
Judging by the expression of the startled damsel on the cover of This New & Poisonous Air, some things are best left alone. But what purpose does that really serve? There would be no experience. No meaning. It is the unknown’s transformation into a difficult reality that Adam McOmber explores in his strong collection of stories.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Joseph Riippi
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0984102556
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 92pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Angela Veronica Wong
In a collection that falls somewhere between linked short stories and poetic reflections, Joseph Riippi explores, through the words and story of a young man who shares his name, the strangeness of knowing so much about someone but also not knowing them at all—which is in a way true of so many relationships.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by alurista
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-931010-72-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 145pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
In his introduction to this selection, editor and scholar Rigoberto González, after interrogating two previous “popular readings” of alurista’s work (note: throughout this review I am respectfully and enthusiastically attending to the poet’s own refusal to capitalize proper nouns) which define it both as “experimental” and “radiat[ing] from an Amerindian consciousness,” declares alurista to be a “political poet.” González is really doing nothing more than extrapolating upon merging the two readings together as one and expanding the argument for the notable worth of alurista’s work, but his point nonetheless is well taken.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Zach Savich
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-880834-95-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 86pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Alissa Fleck
In The Firestorm, Zach Savich urges the reader along through the unknowable, manifested frequently in the whims of both the literal and human atmospheres, and resulting in the ultimate questioning of a belief in anything. A series of Savich’s poems, all beginning “I suppose I do believe in nothing,” highlight the paradoxical and infinitely regressive nature of belief. In “Silent Film,” Savich again forces us to examine our preconceptions of belief, writing, “The heart by definition the one thing we have not defined.”
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  • Book Type Collection
  • by Leslie Scalapino
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933959-12-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 298pp
  • Price $24.00
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
Longtime readers of Leslie Scalapino’s poetry and writings will appreciate this expansion of How Phenomena Appear to Unfold, a collection of some of Scalapino’s poetry as well as extensive coverage of her essays and critical writing. Scalapino’s contributions to poetics are extensive, as she explores the methods and theory of the avant-garde, writing on poets such as H.D., Lyn Heijinian, and Philip Whalen. For the poet or poetry lover who wants to further explore or add to their collection of writing concerning the avant-garde, this compilation will provide much context and critical inquiry into poetical debates still relevant today. As Scalapino claims herself in the introduction to the collection, “all of the essays, fictions, poems, and poem-plays, demonstration and examination of each other in a stream of comparisons, are tied to that concept…as also to the notion—a corollary/as the act of incorporating—of the outside and inside simultaneously creating each other.” Each work echoes off of the other, further creating that effect with each read.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Mark Neely
  • Date Published September 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0979713743
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 48pp
  • Price $10.00
  • Review by Noel Sloboda
Here are four reasons to read Mark Neely’s chapbook Four of A Kind, winner of the 2009 Concrete Wolf Chapbook Competition:
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by David Scott Gilligan
  • Date Published April 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59714-151-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 224pp
  • Price $18.95
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
From a long tradition of nature writing that intermingles reflection and poetic descriptive prose with an ability to recount minute detail, David Scott Gilligan’s newest chronicle illuminates the California landscape. Gilligan juxtaposes first-person narrative with clear science writing as he explains geologic activity, volcanoes, and evolution, all focused on the diverse landscape of California mountain ranges. Following in John Muir’s footsteps, Gilligan endeavors to capture his personal connection to the landscape by employing stunning language to bring the Sierra Nevada to the reader.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Chris Toll
  • Date Published June 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9831706-3-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 68pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Gina Myers
In “Carbon-Based Lifeform Blues,” Chris Toll writes, “The job of poets is not to explain the Mystery. / The job of poets is to make the Mystery greater”—which is precisely what Toll accomplishes in his new collection of poems. The Disinformation Phase brings together 50 poems—including some “translations”—that, though economic in language, are wide in scope, expansive in imagination, and linguistically playful. Divided into three sections whose titles exemplify the playfulness (“The Ritual in Spiritual,” “The We in Weep,” and “The Ion in Redemption”), the book consists of short, concise poems where inanimate objects are capable of action and emotion, as seen in the opening poem, “Insulator Drive Blues”:
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Shann Ray
  • Date Published June 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55597-588-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 192pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Alex Myers
Winner of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Prize, Shann Ray’s volume of short fiction features ten stories of the American West. Focused, as the title implies, on the question of what it means to be a man, the stories delve into relationships, substance abuse, and parenting. Hovering right underneath—and often entwined with—the question of masculinity is the question of racial identity: most of Ray’s stories feature Native Americans struggling with their identity (whether in the white world or within their own culture), or white Americans making their way in the Native world.
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