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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted October 01, 2015

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Susan McCarty
  • Date Published June 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-941143-03-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 268pp
  • Price $16.50
  • Review by Katy Haas
If bodies are temples, Susan McCarty is an expert demolitionist. In Anatomies, McCarty breaks these temples down, rips through drywall and flesh, tears sexuality and humanity from their hinges, and leaves behind the barebones, the nervous system, the warm, buzzing electrical impulses buried beneath the exteriors of the temples housing her characters.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Elena Ferrante
  • Date Published September 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60945-286-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 464pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by Olive Mullet
This reviewer knows she might be addressing two possible readers of Elena Ferrante’s four-part series of novels: the ones who are already committed and want to read through the last book, The Story of the Lost Child, and the other, curious newcomer to the series. For the first reader, I will say that this last book does have a very good, real ending and of course is well-worth the effort. The Story of the Lost Child has a new emphasis on politics with characters we’ve grown to know, a glimpse of the effects of feminism on children, the motivations in maintaining success in writing, and as the epilogue called “Restitution” suggests, a final view of the female friendship and disturbing revelations of Elena Greco, our narrator.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Andrew Brininstool
  • Date Published September 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-938466-36-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 166pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Valerie Wieland
Andrew Brininstool’s stories in Crude Sketches Done in Quick Succession are not crude. They’re skillfully told, though some of the happenings within are crude, as in rough or harsh. For example, lots of males get into fistfights, lots of people get drunk, and liaisons don’t go smoothly. Brininstool, an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Stephen F. Austin State University, populates his stories with lively characters, some more likable than others.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jacob M. Appel
  • Date Published March 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-62557-933-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 155pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Jason Hess
The eight stories in Jacob M. Appel’s Miracles and Conundrums of the Secondary Planets are engaging, surprising, and often deeply affecting. They sometimes feature bizarre, fantastic details—a man grapples with the real possibility of his mistresses’ impending resurrection, a global cold snap rattles our understanding of global warming—but these features never distract from the human stories at the center of every tale.
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  • Book Type Poems
  • by Jehanne Dubrow
  • Date Published March 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8263-5553-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 72pp
  • Price $18.95
  • Review by Kimberly Ann Priest
According to my 1971 two-volume compact Oxford English Dictionary, trauma refers to “a wound, or external bodily injury in general; also the condition caused by this.” This imprecise definition, however, has been narrowed over time and refers more specifically to the emotional shock that follows a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. This shock may last indefinitely and can feel like a reoccurring visitation of the event that caused it in the first place. Jehanne Dubrow’s collection of prose poems titled The Arranged Marriage not only addresses the emotional complexities of arranged marriages, as well as the more specific situation of that marriage including Jewish tradition and life in Central America, but also trauma by its more modern definition.
  • Subtitle Autobiographical Essays
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Allison Gruber
  • Date Published February 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8076-0005-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 160pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Scott Russell Morris
Allison Gruber’s You’re Not Edith is one of the better books I’ve read this year. Her “autobiographical essays” are funny without being comic, personal without being egotistical, crude (because she describes teenage life and dog vomit) without stepping into vulgarity, showing a narrator who is lonely but not melodramatic, tender without becoming sentimental. I read the whole book in one short, luxurious morning, and found that the end came too soon. That the last essay tells the story of a fan who flirts with her after a reading is totally understandable: to read Allison Gruber is to want to read more and to get to know her better.
  • Subtitle Adventures (a Little Thorny and Familiar) in the Home Range
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Thorpe Moeckel
  • Date Published April 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-0881465310
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 256pp
  • Price $24.00
  • Review by Scott Russell Morris
love essays, especially the ones that don’t claim anything amazing about themselves, that stick to the quotidian and spend less time exploring stories than thoughts on lives being lived. But there is a danger in reading these sort of quiet, contemplative collections of essays: by the end you feel like you are best friends with the authors. You seem to know all their fears, cares, secret pleasures, weaknesses. You put down the book thinking you could probably buy them the perfect birthday present. But, of course, you don’t really know them and they don’t know you.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Sandra Beasley
  • Date Published June 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-0-393-33966-6
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 96pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Kimberly Ann Priest
Poetry forces its reader to think and think deeply—this is the principle reason I prefer it to other literary forms. Not that other forms fail to inspire deep thought, but that poetry requires its reader to examine, explore, and even research the metaphors and references embedded in the text if said reader wants to harvest the poem for everything its worth. I was so intrigued by Sandra Beasley’s Count the Waves, that I contacted the author herself hoping she would aid me in my exploration, satisfy my questions such as Why is this a “Traveler’s Vade Mecum”? Where is the speaker traveling? How does Elizabeth Barrett Browning influence the work? Am I right to see an inclination toward proverb in the poetry? To my intellectual relief, she answered. . . .
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Reginald Dwayne Betts
  • Date Published September 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-935536-65-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 72pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Dan Schell
Reginald Dwayne Betts rose from criminal obscurity to a current man of letters with an award-winning memoir and debut poetry collection, a Pushcart Prize, and now his second book of poetry, Bastards of the Reagan Era. The title conjures the time period of much of the work—Betts’s childhood in the 1980s—when he participated in a carjacking that put him in prison for the better part of a decade. Charged as an adult, sixteen year-old Betts spent ten days in solitary confinement while waiting for trial, where he discovered poetry after coming across an anthology of black poets being passed around. Soon after, he began writing heavily, and this dedication appears in his vivid imagery that often bites at the core of longstanding societal issues for urban youth.
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