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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted June 01, 2015

  • Subtitle Natural History Rape Museum
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Danielle Pafunda
  • Date Published December 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9826587-5-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 80pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by H. V. Cramond
It's taken me a long time to write this review, at least six months according to the file creation date, and longer than that based on the date on my notes and the date on the book. But Natural History Rape Museum has been in my thoughts all this time, plaiting its Plath-sharp shrieks into my mind.
  • Subtitle To Imagine, Witness, and Write
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Melissa Pritchard
  • Date Published May 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934137-96-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 192pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Jason Hess
A Solemn Pleasure: To Imagine, Witness, and Write opens with “A Room in London,” a rumination on the physical space Melissa Pritchard occupied while temporarily living and writing in a borrowed London flat. This particularly brief piece (four pages) introduces the collection by touching on topics more thoroughly explored later in the book: Pritchard describes herself at work, presents her belief in writing as a spiritual—often religious—act, and embraces the essay’s ability to successfully grow around an ill-defined plot.
  • Subtitle Brick Books Classics 1
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Anne Carson
  • Date Published January 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-77131-342-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 75pp
  • Price $20.00
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
"Anne Carson was born in Canada and teaches ancient Greek for a living." So reads the one sentence biographical author note as retained in this new edition of Short Talks, the poet Anne Carson's first book of poetry originally published by Brick Books in 1992. In the years since its publication Carson has made a considerable name for herself as a poet, essayist, and astutely adept translator of Greek, with her translation of Sappho in particular garnering much well-deserved acclaim. While Carson has always kept her personal details on the relative down low even as she has, at times, courted a fair bit of notoriety, and while concision is a definitive hallmark of her oeuvre, the brevity of this bio note is thus at once both disarming and appealingly elusive, especially for a poet of her stature.
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  • Book Type Prose
  • by Laura Bylenok
  • Date Published December 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934832-47-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 72pp
  • Price $9.00
  • Review by Ryo Yamaguchi
Hemmed in by questions, suspended over days that mete out incremental evidence, with an investigative protagonist alternating between the archive and the street, this little chapbook—a/0—is an exemplar of the detective genre. But it is so much stranger than most. One wants to say Pynchon or Murakami. No usual suspects here, and the universe is not what you think.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Seth Abramson
  • Date Published 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60964-194-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 120pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Benjamin Champagne
A good poem places pressure on language in an interesting way. This mantra can be peeled from the pages of Seth Abramson’s Metamericana. However, his secret seems to be that a good poem places pressure on ideas in an interesting way—that a good idea places pressure on old ideas in an interesting way. Philosophy places pressure on technology and technology places pressure on philosophy. All of this interacts in a swirling and kaleidoscopic manner.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Laurette Folk
  • Date Published June 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0983066613
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 270pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Patricia Contino
The particulars of a Catholic girlhood have endured through centuries. Friends, enemies, and colleagues never tire of offering unsolicited psychoanalyses of that guilt-laden live, learn, and worship by rote existence. What outsiders will never understand is that abiding by those rules leads—if one is willing—to a freedom they can never appreciate.
  • Subtitle Essays on Travel
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Kevin Oderman
  • Date Published July 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-0989753289
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 238pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Rachel King
In these eleven essays that make up Cannot Stay: Essays on Travel, Kevin Oderman journeys widely: from Latvia to Italy to Turkey; from Indonesia to Cambodia to Vietnam. Oderman does not feign to completely absorb the cultures in which he travels. Who could in a week or a month? No, he does something better; he delves into an aspect or a couple aspects of a culture or its history. These aspects—whether a painting, a dance, a temple, a house, or a puppets show—he describes so intricately that, while I read, his obsessions became my obsessions, and, when I finished, I remembered my own obsessions, and was inspired to explore them with the same kind of passion and precision.
  • Subtitle Selected Columns on Poetry
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by David Biespiel
  • Date Published April 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1938308109
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 245pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Patricia Contino
According to the author, poetry anthologies are “like a museum exhibition.” They certainly suit every imaginable reading need: fulfilling the core curriculum; completing the home, school, or public library; satisfying the rare book collector; providing access to a favorite writer in one place. Now there is an exceptional anthology about poetry that is both quotable and useful. Readers of The Oregonian are already familiar with poet David Biespiel’s monthly column that ran between 2003 and 2013. Now selections from the series (ended by the author, not the newspaper) are available in A Long High Whistle; Selected Columns on Poetry.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Nick Flynn
  • Date Published June 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55597-710-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 96pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Brian McKenna
My Feelings, the aptly primal title of poet and memoirist Nick Flynn’s fourth poetry collection, appropriately marks the book as the end product of long winnowing—an unequivocally subjective appraisal of life’s equivocations. In My Feelings, Flynn brings a memoirist’s robust conception of personal history to the page, crafting finely textured poems about what it means to live in the ever-growing aftermath called the present. To underscore the subjective nature of his collection, Flynn even includes a disclaimer telling readers that “[t]he word ‘my’ in the title is meant to signify the author.”
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Alden Jones
  • Date Published June 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0984943999
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 168pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Elizabeth O'Brien
Unaccompanied Minors, winner of the New American Fiction Prize in 2013, is a slim volume of seven short stories about young adults facing teenage pregnancy, homelessness, prostitution, the death of a child on his babysitter’s watch, and so on. “Shelter,” the first story in the book, is an odd choice for an opening, in that the story largely relies on the limited shock value of having homeless teenagers for its protagonists. Reminiscent of Dorothy Allison’s project to represent the lives of young poor women from the South, Jones’s story is less angry, but similarly features young characters who hide their vulnerability behind tough facades and speech that is likewise patina’d with derogatory slang.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jessamyn Hope
  • Date Published June 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-941493-06-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 371pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Jason Hess
Jessamyn Hope’s debut novel opens with Adam, a 26-year-old drug-addicted burnout, fleeing from New York City to Israel. Adam’s caretaker and closest companion, his grandfather, has recently died. During the airplane ride, Adam broods on whether American authorities are following him. Experiencing withdrawals and toting an odd assortment of belongings, including an elaborate gold brooch, he volunteers to work on a kibbutz. He’s searching for someone. The circumstances of his grandfather’s death, the significance of the brooch, and the identity of whom Adam is searching for drive the thoughtfully plotted Safekeeping.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Shelley Ettinger
  • Date Published November 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0983666875
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 430pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Rhonda Browning White
In a family saga that spans two countries, a half-century, and three generations, Shelley Ettinger’s Vera’s Will is both historical document and social commentary, deftly couched in beautifully written fiction. The story opens with Randy, a young lesbian, reflecting on her past while attending her Grandmother Vera’s funeral. It is at this emotionally tumultuous service where Randy meets and reacquaints with her grandmother’s friends that she has a startling realization: both her deceased grandmother and her favorite aunt are also gay.
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