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Book Reviews by Title - B (121)

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Lori Ostlund
  • Date Published October 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8203-3409-7
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 214pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Laura Pryor
It seems fitting that this debut short story collection by Lori Ostlund won the Flannery O’Connor award for short fiction, because Ostlund’s writing has a classic, timeless feel to it that would not have been out of place in O’Connor’s time. The title story, the first story in the book, could have been written last week or fifty years ago. Ostlund creates an eccentric nanny, Ilsa Maria Lumpkin, charming enough to rival Mary Poppins, though life for her two charges, Veronica and Martin, is no fairy tale. Ostlund writes with great sensitivity about children, and the inability of adults to understand their point of view. In addition to the title story, “The Day You Were Born” and “All Boy” both deal with a child’s view of their parents’ crises; in the former, a young girl copes with her father’s mental illness and the resulting disintegration of her parents’ marriage, and in the latter, an effeminate eleven year old boy copes with the stigma of being different, at the same time that his father admits that he is gay and moves out of the house.
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  • Book Type Anthology edited
  • by Katey Schultz, John Carr Walker
  • Date Published November 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-6157-2189-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 121pp
  • Price $12.95
  • Review by Kirsten McIlvenna
In the editor’s note, Katey Schultz points out that to her, the best flash fiction “mark[s] a moment in the story with such vivid texture, the reader has no choice but to feel it right between the eyes.” And that is a great description of all of the pieces included in this collection. In each one, you can pinpoint the exact moment where it twists, revealing a deeper meaning, a hidden truth, or a surprising plot change.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Larry Beckett
  • Date Published October 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0956952530
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 154pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Lydia Pyne
Any collection of poetry and prose tells a particular story. It speaks to the influences, the narrative threads, and the aesthetic focus of the collector. The collection—the set of prosaic curios—provides the reader with the story the collector (the anthologizer) has pulled together to display. Beat Poetry is a particularly interesting collection of poetry—one part encyclopedia, one part timeline, one part showcase for the poetry itself, and one part literary critique. Beat Poetry is an assortment of moments from the Beat movement, carefully arranged by poet and songwriter Larry Beckett. Beckett’s collection celebrates the classic (from “Howl” to Jack Kerouac) and then moves on to Gregory Corso’s “BOMB,” John Wieners, and others. Although it is difficult to follow a single or specific narrative thread of the anthology, what is unambiguously clear from the collection is the diversity and freedom in poetic form that Beckett highlights.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Kirsten Kaschock
  • Date Published 2011
  • ISBN-13 1-934103-17-9-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 97pp
  • Price $17.50
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
“Girl-ness” matters a lot to Kaschock. Her bio begins: “Kirsten Kaschock was the second, and then the third of five children.” And the book opens with a character who might be a girl or a woman or a woman/girl: “This is the house that Jane built. // Jane begins by standing. Once this was / Jane finding Jane.” Or Kirsten Kaschock finding Jane. Or finding Kaschock. And the relationship between girl-ness and the pain of that essential self matters a lot to Kaschock, too, and is the foundation (think house) for the book:
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Dylan Hicks
  • Date Published April 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-56689-297-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 240pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by David Breithaupt
I always judge a book by its cover, and then I check the blurbs. I know, there’s a behind-the-scenes history of blurbing books, friends helping friends, paying back owed favors, etc. But still, the marketing world seems to have zeroed in on what and whom I like. When I saw a turntable on the cover of Dylan Hick’s debut novel, Boarded Windows—well, being of the turntable generation, I was intrigued. Then I checked out the blurbs (Sam Lipsyte, Dana Spiotta, Greil Marcus), and I was hooked. I went home and digested the book.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Djelloul Marbrook
  • Date Published December 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9828100-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 83pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
A lovely gallery of a book. The poet contextualizes his museum/art-inspired poems in a note at the end of the book. His mother, Juanita Rice Guecione and aunts, Dorothy and Irene Rice (Pereira) were visual artists and they, and museums, have long fueled his imagination. In fact, he cannot imagine his life, he says, without them. Poems in the collection were informed by artworks in The Brooklyn Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Chelsea Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, The Frick, art forgeries, artwork he has encountered in journals, and his mother’s paintings, among other works.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Mary Troy
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 9781886157743
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 365pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Alex Myers
Delicate, patient, and loving, Mary Troy’s novel Beauties offers what only good novels can: a world the reader can escape into. Set in the year 2000 in a seedy neighborhood in St. Louis, Beauties tells the story of two cousins who move in together. Bev, a woman born with severe physical disabilities (she is missing a leg and all but one of her fingers), has just opened a café and, in addition to cooking, is busy fending off a lawsuit from her previous job. Her cousin, Shelly, fresh from a divorce, moves in to help run the café. Soon, both women are handling all the drama life in an urban café can provide.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Matthew Ladd
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1904130437
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 80pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Matthew Ladd’s poetry collection, The Book of Emblems, reminded me of a modern take on Larkin’s Whitsun Weddings. Larkin, perhaps an influence on Ladd’s work, is referred to in his poem “Imitation,” which begins “When I read Philip Larkin / and picture him mugging to Kingsley about WATCHING SCHOOL-GIRLS” and goes on to say, admiringly, “Larkin is such an unrepentant asshole / and for all that, still beautiful, // like an aging circus performer.” The author admires and identifies with Larkin in the difficulty of writing poetry, concluding “how impossible the accurate naming of things: / cathedrals, children, the blank self-regard of the bachelor.”
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  • Book Type Stories
  • by Mary Miller
  • Date Published February 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-0974954189
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 200pp
  • Price $9.95
  • Review by Ryan Call
Mary Miller’s Big World, the second release from the mini-books division of Hobart: Another Literary Journal, is physically reminiscent of the 1950s-era pulp paperbacks you see stacked around used book stores. If I were older, I imagine that David Kramer’s bright front and back illustrations, the colored edges of the book’s pages, and the book’s small size would remind me of the good old days when I could buy naughty books for ten cents apiece and hide them in my back pocket.
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