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Book Reviews by Title - C (91)

  • Subtitle The Odyssey of Indenture
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Gaiutra Bahadur
  • Date Published October 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0226034423
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 312pp
  • Price $35.00
  • Review by Lydia Pyne
Writing history is hard. Writing good history? Even harder.

Writing good history implies a fair treatment of one’s source materials, a readability of the narrative, and a clear voice. Juggling these three demands is difficult, to say the least. Writing history involves understanding the trade-offs between these three components. Different types of histories show different balances, and when one component is weighed over another, a different type a history emerges. Academic histories tend to favor attention to source material and detailed footnotes. Popular histories rely on readability. Memoir-infused histories blend present and past as the author’s own connections frame how stories are told. Even when given the same set of events, there are many ways to write about those events and many ways to write it well. Refusing to pick a specific frame, however, leaves loose threads in the historical narrative—threads that snarl and knot, distracting the reader from the author’s purpose.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Alex Grant
  • Date Published September 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9826171-3-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 53pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Renee Emerson
The Circus Poems by Alex Grant defied my expectations, becoming more than “just” a book about circus performers through contextualizing the circus in history and myth and leading the reader toward the idea of the circus as metaphor.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Joshua Isard
  • Date Published March 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-935955-54-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 240pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Michael Caylo-Baradi
Even if you were only half-awake in the late ’80s and early ’90s and only occasionally watched prime-time shows on ABC, you may remember the nostalgic narrator of The Wonder Years and the young urban professionals in thirtysomething, which sparked the now-commonplace term and later earned a place in the Oxford English Dictionary. Both shows were framed in the imagination of baby boomers, the Clinton-Gore age group back in 1992 whose childhood memories of Sixties counterculture now feels muted, ironed out into designer suits and body language that secure career paths and retirement plans. You might get a whiff of those two shows in Joshua Isard’s Conquistador of the Useless, through the tone of nostalgia for one’s teenage years that, to some extent, acts as an element of restraint and caution about being pulled too fast into an upwardly mobile career in information technology. The narratives of urban alienation in Pearl Jam, Kurt Cobain, MTV’s Daria, and Kurt Vonnegut are not mere artifacts in Nathan Wavelsky’s suburban world, but serve as imaginary sticky notes for a life filled with statistical reports, deadlines, and board meetings. Thus, Nathan accepts a big job promotion with trepidation and, knowing the ball is in his court, requests a few months off for something unrelated to his career: his condition for accepting the offer is that he starts working in his new job after climbing Mt. Everest.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Lisa Gill
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-98226968-5-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 144pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Richard Oyama
If a writer addresses conditions of extremity, does that exempt the work from critique, putting it somehow beyond the pale? Objectivist poet Charles Reznikoff wrote Holocaust, a volume based on testimony from the Nuremberg Trials. There were times when it seemed to me that collection lacked what Gabriel Garcia Marquez considered a first condition for literature: “poetic transfiguration of reality.”
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Scott Wrobel
  • Date Published April 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0983879015
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 232pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Mark Danowsky
Research cul de sacs and again and again you will be told that their purpose is to reduce traffic. Sure, I’ll buy that as a contributing factor. Dig a little deeper and you come across a buzzword, “perceived risk.” But we all know the real reason: privacy. Anyone who’s ever looked into buying a house has discovered that you pay extra to live on a No Outlet street. We pine for a space of our own away from the bustle of the modern world, but as Scott Wrobel reveals in cul de sac, here lies danger.
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  • Book Type Collection
  • by Juan Ramón Jiménez
  • Translated From Spanish
  • by Christopher Maurer
  • Date Published February 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-983-32200-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 161pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez is generally not well known to most contemporary English readers. If there’s any familiarity with his name—let alone his work—it most likely comes in some foggy concept of his relation to his compatriot Federico García Lorca. It’s unfortunate that this Nobel Prize-winning writer has been so outshined by his disciple’s notoriety. With The Complete Perfectionist, editor and translator Christopher Maurer raids Jiménez’s books, papers, and biographical record to assemble various fragments (poems and aphorisms; sometimes Maurer includes titles, sometimes not), under headings such as “Dream,” “Instinct,” “Rhythm,” and “Perfection,” with his own ambivalently short and jumpy introductions to each. As Maurer says, “the title, theme, selection, translation, and arrangement” are all his own. While Jiménez’s work receives fresh exposure to new readers, it does so only insofar as its end goals may have been re-aligned under Maurer’s conceptive framework.
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  • Book Type Graphic Novel
  • by Martin Vaughn-James
  • Date Published October 2013
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 192pp
  • Price $22.95
  • Review by Elizabeth O'Brien
Martin Vaughn-James’ The Cage, a graphic novel originally published in 1975, was re-released by Coach House Books at the end of last year in a new edition which includes introductions from the author and Canadian cartoonist Seth. Interestingly, both artists try to explain what The Cage is ultimately about in their introductions.
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  • Book Type Edited by
  • by Michael Beeman, Sean Clark, Eric Markowsky, et al
  • Date Published 2010
  • Format Electronic PDF
  • Pages 312pp
  • Price Free
  • Review by Henry F. Tonn
Chamber Four is a fledgling operation which has burst onto the scene with all guns blazing. A visit to their site reveals book reviews plus their reviews of other people’s book reviews. There is a section entitled “Great Reads” which includes, among others, a review of the wonderful 1972 novel Watership Down by Richard Adams. There is a section called “The Best Places to Read Online,” and there is the announcement that the magazine is now accepting submissions to publish their own fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art. But, most interestingly, they have recently published their anthology of the best short stories published on the web in 2009 and 2010. And it is a good one.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Fanny Howe
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1555975869
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 104pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Fanny Howe’s latest work, Come and See, explores themes of spirituality and war with a concern for children growing up in the midst of war-torn countries. Spirituality, a theme that can be seen in Howe’s work as a whole, rises more in the form of a seeker, one questioning religion, rather than an adherent.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Bogdan Suceavă
  • Translated From Romanian
  • by Alastair Ian Blyth
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8101-2684-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 212pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Patricia Contino
Fallout from a real revolution can be worse than its cause. Mass murder, reckless replacement of proven agrarian practices, and imprisoning the educated are just a few documented aftershocks. Fictional revolutions and their resulting chaos can be equally atrocious, as it is in Bogdan Suceav?‘s Coming from an Off-Key Time.
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