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NewPages Book Reviews

Reviews of newly published and forthcoming independent and university press titles.

Posted November 01, 2016

  • Subtitle Essays Mostly About Poetry
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Lawrence Raab
  • Date Published December 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-1-936797-76-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 188pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Valerie Wieland

Lawrence Raab poses the question Why Don’t We Say What We Mean? as the title of his newest book. To answer the question, he dissects various poems and comments on their authors. The title was pulled from a 1931 essay by Robert Frost called “Education by Poetry: A Meditative Monologue.” Frost wrote: “People say, ‘Why don’t you say what you mean?’ We never do that, do we, being all of us too much poets.”

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Nicola Gardini
  • Translated From the Italian
  • by Michael F. Moore
  • Date Published January 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8112-2476-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 232pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet

Those who have read Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog might see echoes in Nicola Gardini’s Lost Words in that this later novel has main characters of a concierge, here called a “door woman” and an adolescent, here a thirteen-year-old. Chino/Luca is the doorwoman’s son and like in Barbery’s book, he finds inspiration for his intellect in someone living in the apartment building, here on the outskirts of Milan instead of Barbery’s Paris. Lost Words, however, is a darker view of the apartment dwellers and the labors of the narrator’s mother, which makes the unusual inspirers who enter the scene that much more exciting. In addition, the contrast between the intellectual newcomers and the backbiting and hypocritical tenants makes for drama and humor.

  • Subtitle Poems from the Life of Helen Keller
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Jeanie Thompson
  • Date Published July 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8173-5857-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 80pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Ryo Yamaguchi

To undertake a cycle of poems on the life of Helen Keller is to throw oneself at an interesting poetic problem: how to capture the perspective of one who lived in a wholly different perceptual world than most other people. To be sure, there are plenty of fine collections on the experiences of disability—Nick Flynn’s startlingly original Blind Huber comes to mind—but Helen Keller is a singular historical figure who, in our cultural imagination, bears a particular burden as the standout radical subject who, as if through magic, was able to speak from beyond an impassable veil.

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Charlotte Holmes
  • Date Published March 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-1-943491-04-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 162pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by MacKenzie Hamilton

Charlotte Holmes’s The Grass Labyrinth weaves an equally heartwarming and heartbreaking path through the intertwined lives of its characters. It explores the consequences of passion and the difficulties of an artistic life. The stories span thirty years and the consequences we read about unfold through generations of one painter’s wives, lovers, and children.

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Emily Leithauser
  • Date Published July 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-1927409671
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 84pp
  • Price $18.95
  • Review by Daniel Klawitter

The title of Emily Leithauser’s debut poetry collection, The Borrowed World, hints at the theme of impermanence that runs throughout the book. Whether it is the fleeting nature of childhood in the poem “Chest of Dolls” or the dissolution of a marriage in “Haiku for a Divorce,” Leithhauser gestures toward the price we pay as finite beings living in a world that is on loan to us. What is borrowed must eventually be returned. There is sadness in this, but sweetness and nostalgia too, for such fleeting moments of experience can be treasured precisely because they cannot be repeated.

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jodi Paloni
  • Date Published May 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-1-941209-38-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 204pp
  • Price $17.95
  • Review by Allyson Hoffman

They Could Live with Themselves by Jodi Paloni is a strong collection of short stories linked by the rural town of Stark Run, Vermont. The stories range in point of view and voice, from first-person perspectives of children to third-person point of view closely following a grandfather. Each story is self-contained yet enhanced by the others so that the collection ends with a clear picture of the New England town. Full of quiet tensions and unforgettable characters, Paloni’s collection presses into the daily conflicts and triumphs of the characters in ways that are both familiar and new.

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Ranbir Singh Sidhu
  • Date Published March 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-1-939419-68-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 243pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by David Breithaupt

One of the gifts of great literature is to allow us passage into the lives of others unnoticed. Such is the case with Ranbir Singh Sidhu’s novel, Deep Singh Blue. His story takes us to a small town in northern California during the mid-1980s. It is the type of community where anyone “different” is sometimes cruelly focused upon. Being neither Hispanic nor African American, Sidhu’s hero, Deep Singh, is Indian. He is different from the usual different, which does not make his sixteen-year-old life any easier. He must come of age in a geography and culture very different from his land of origin, with parents who unabashedly refuse to adapt to their new country. Theirs is still a land of arranged marriages and caste systems and Deep Singh is plunged between two worlds.

  • Subtitle A Diary of My Sixty-First Year
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Ian Brown
  • Date Published August 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-1-61519-350-9
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 320pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Valerie Wieland

If you’re lucky, you’ll get to experience your 60th birthday. Ian Brown did in 2014 and decided to begin a year of journaling he turned into a memoir titled, Sixty: A Diary of My Sixty-First Year. Here’s what he wrote on February 4th, his birthday: “At sixty [ . . . ] you are suddenly looking into the beginning of the end, the final frontier where you will either find the thing your heart has always sought, which you have never been able to name, or you won’t.” Then in May he wrote: “Lying in bed, I couldn’t overcome the fear that I have wasted my life, wrecked it, spoiled it.”

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Sherrie Flick
  • Date Published March 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-1-938466-56-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 224pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Kelly Sauvage Angel

Forever keen on unearthing the wisdom within a tale, I embarked upon the reading of Whiskey, Etc. with the intention of gleaning some unmitigated truth, some absolutist’s insight into the complexity of the human condition. I even hoped to contain the elements of Sherrie Flick’s style within a box that was compact enough to easily carry. Yet, whatever it was that I deemed certain within one story dissolved the moment I turned the page to begin the next. The tangible was superseded by the ethereal; literality became symbolism. Just when I determined that Flick had set out to present snapshots of a single moment in time, unencumbered by the weight of meaning, I’d encounter a piece laden with melancholy or reminiscence. Plot was usurped by character, then character by plot.

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Molly Peacock
  • Date Published January 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-393-25471-6
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 128pp
  • Price $25.95
  • Review by Valerie Wieland

The person referenced in the title and pages of Molly Peacock’s book of poetry The Analyst is Joan Workman Stein, a New York practitioner who had a stroke in 2012 and later was able to resume her love of painting. Over a span of close to 40 years, the initial therapist-patient relationship between Peacock and Stein became a close and enduring friendship.

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