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NewPages Book Reviews

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

Posted July 05, 2017

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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Aaron Gilbreath
  • Date Published November 2016
  • ISBN-13 ISBN: 978-1-940430-83-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 359pp
  • Price $9.95
  • Review by Valerie Wieland

Aaron Gilbreath’s book of essays, Everything We Don’t Know, posed a dilemma as I was trying to determine the audience for it. Taking the title at face value, I expected to find fresh ideas about people, places, and, of course, things. His first few essays appear as a memoirish charting of his drug addiction. Not really on my list of wanting-to-know-abouts. But before long, Gilbreath turns his focus to other subjects and fulfills my expectations.

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Sam Allingham
  • Date Published November 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0989275996
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 182pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by DM O'Connor

The nine stories in Sam Allingham’s The Great American Songbook include: an experimental modular tale describing the differences between the composers Rogers and Hart; the retelling of a quirky and complicated relationship between two baristas seeking love and finding confusion; a second-person epistle emoting on a relationship’s ending; a tragedy in which a newly widowed mother turns to hunting; an exploratory list of the characters we encounter in life; a hard-boiled parable (a lá George Saunders) about four assassins set against each other; a straight-forward first-person recounting of a childhood neighborhood friend who devoted his life to building the town in miniature; a bar joke that goes virtual and a talking duck becomes protagonist; and concludes with the lost letters of Artie Shaw to various friends before going off the deep end in a remote cabin. The Great American Songbook is a tour de force of style, theme, image, and wit.

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Rochelle Hurt
  • Date Published November 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9973184-2-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 79pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by DM O'Connor

Selected by Richard Blanco as the 2015 winner of The Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize, Rochelle Hurt’s In Which I Play the Runaway is a tightly-structured map of the human heart. Spanning the ventricles of mythical America, each section is named after a town: Last Chance, California; Hurt, Virginia; Needmore, Indiana; Accident, Maryland; and Honesty, Ohio—the author names the inner-workings of daughter, mother, wife, and poet. Almost all the sections conclude with a prose poem and contain self-portraits and dioramas. Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz provides a dramatic-persona through-line, much in the vein of Berryman’s alter-ego Huffy Henry, creating a close to perfectly-structured second collection.

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Alan Michael Parker
  • Date Published August 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-1-936797-74-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 84pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Kimberly Ann Priest

“Teach me to climb / Down from ambition. // Beyond my fingertips / rolls the moon.” –from the title poem, “The Ladder”

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Caits Meissner
  • Date Published October 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0-986-05058-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 150pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by DM O'Connor

I have never seen anything like Caits Meissner’s first solo collection: Let it Die Hungry. Brave. Eclectic. Essential. Especially in this day and age when the rats in power are filling the swamp with evil droppings. Let It Die Hungry is a manifesto, a manual, a survivor’s message-in-a-bottle and a battle-cry.

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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Karen Tei Yamashita
  • Date Published September 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-1-56689-487-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 184pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Valerie Wieland

On April 30, 1942: "my father and his family lost their freedom upon entry to Tanforan Racetrack, a designated Assembly Center in San Bruno, California, for the wartime removal of Japanese. Arriving by bus, [ . . . ] they were housed in a series of empty horse stalls named Barrack 14. This was just the first stop; from Tanforan they would be transported by train into the Utah desert to live in a concentration camp named Topaz."

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Alan Felsenthal
  • Date Published May 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-1-937027-87-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 80pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Ryo Yamaguchi

The opening poems of Alan Felsenthal’s Lowly suggest a collection that will fall squarely within a familiar subgenre of contemporary poetry: newly crafted myths, fables, and parables. Taking up classic modes of speech and story-telling, many poems of this subgenre operate according to a fairly defined mechanic, developing tight, logical sequences that utilize inversion, tautology, and other structural maneuvers to arrive at illuminating surprises—often with a bit of jesting. This mechanic perfectly describes the first poem of Lowly, “Two Martyrs."

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