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Book Reviews by Title - C (97)

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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Julie Zauzmer with Xi Yu
  • Date Published September 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0762780020
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 240pp
  • Price $21.95
  • Review by Karen Seehaus Papson
Adam Wheeler was by all accounts a very successful 21-year-old. He entered his senior year at Harvard University with everything going for him: top marks in his courses, a large circle of friends, and a steady girlfriend, not to mention scads of prestigious academic honors and awards. Indeed, it seemed that there was nothing this affable wonder boy couldn’t do. There was just one problem. All of his success—from the impressive academic grants he received to his very admission to Harvard University—was predicated on fraudulent transcripts, fake SAT scores, phony letters of recommendation, and enough plagiarized prose to fill a library. In short, everything people thought they knew about Adam Wheeler was a lie.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Jan Kjærstad
  • Translated From Norwegian
  • by Barbara J. Haveland
  • Date Published February 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934824-03-0
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 481pp
  • Price $17.95
  • Review by Rav Grewal-Kök
I read the opening scene of The Conqueror, the second novel in a trilogy by the Norwegian writer Jan Kjærstad, with relief. The trilogy depicts the life of Jonas Wergeland, an ordinary boy from an undistinguished Oslo neighborhood, who rises to national and even international fame as a television personality. In the 600 pages of the first novel in the series, The Seducer, we read of Jonas’s travels, triumphs, and yes, seductions (there are many, from a beautiful and accomplished cast of women to, eventually, an entire nation transfixed by his documentaries). Jonas is equipped with a magic penis, a set of memorized quotations from books he hasn’t read, a silver thread in his spine, a crystal prism in his pocket, and an unerring eye for great art. He can’t go wrong. The Seducer is a vast and undeniably ambitious novel, but also, in its unremitting catalog of the successes of its hero, a little wearying.
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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 Fiction
  • by Anthony Marra
  • Date Published May 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-7704-3640-7
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 400pp
  • Price $26.00
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Against the background of bad press about Chechnya—from violent rebel attacks like that on a Moscow theater and, more recently, the Chechen connection with the Boston Marathon bombers—Anthony Marra’s novel A Constellation of Vital Phenomena manages to right the balance on Chechen/Russian violence. For those of us who know little about the Chechens’ struggle for independence, from the first page on, we see the brutality of the “Feds” (the Russians) and their continuing efforts to obliterate any chance of the country’s unification. The two main female characters, sisters Natasha and Sonja, are Russians; their family was encouraged to move to Chechnya to help keep the country Russian.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jonathan Callahan
  • Date Published April 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9837405-7-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 328pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by David Breithaupt
When I began to write this I suddenly realized that in order to review Jonathan Callahan’s debut collection of short stories, The Consummation of Dirk, I’d have to invent a whole new set of adjectives. The writing contained within these covers is imaginative, wrought, out-of-the-box, and perhaps bordering on the avant-garde, all of which have been said about many works of literature and which, in the long run, tell you little. Yet, while reading his stories, I had a sense of the traditional narrative undergoing a transformation—I pictured Bruce Banner changing into the Hulk. These are stories trying to punch their way out of the bag. They are written with some edge and share varying degrees of foreboding.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Andy Mozina
  • Date Published March 2016
  • ISBN-13 9780812998283
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 288pp
  • Price $26.00
  • Review by Benjamin Champagne

Contrapuntal motion is the general movement of two melodic lines with respect to one another. There are few variations within contrapuntal, being parallel, similar, oblique and finally, Contrary. Andy Mozina, ever the social dissident, has produced a work that moves in many different directions. It manages a solidarity that many strive to achieve. Mozina has a voice that speaks easily of the dark and laughs until it aches. It yearns towards Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift, but it is swift in the manner of an iPhone. The ease at which the language flows in Andy’s work is one of the highest selling points. The social constructions that he works are just a simple perk and by product of reading a great dark comedy.

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Alexandria Peary
  • Date Published March 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60938-245-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 98pp
  • Price $19.00
  • Review by Katie Rensch
What do a grass skirt, refrigerator, buttons, bones of a dairy cow, magnets, an old cake mix, and a spider all have in common? All, somehow impressively, appear in the first poem of Control Bird Alt Delete, a collection of poetry by Alexandria Peary. In it, Peary deconstructs our worlds and examines our environment from the perspective of deletion. If we destroy our natural resources to make products that will never deteriorate, what will exist of our world? Peary offers a world with unicorn rainbow stickers and fake lilacs.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Anne Bogart
  • Date Published April 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55936-375-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 360pp
  • Price $22.00
  • Review by Courtney McDermott
In the opening of an interview with director Elizabeth LeCompte, Anne Bogart asks where LeCompte and her company get the permission to create work so “unlike what you see in most theatre.” She responds: “it comes from having a space that’s mine, that’s ours, our very own. So when I start work, there’s not anything that’s saying to me that you have to do this for somebody else. If it doesn’t work, then I don’t owe anybody anything.” Conversations with Anne, a series of twenty-four interviews conducted by Bogart, the artistic director of the SITI Company and professor of the graduate directing program at Columbia University, could be approached with the same mindset—this is a book about having your own space to voice thoughts: thoughts on art, the theatre, human emotion, fragility, strength of character. These interviews, held within a ten-year period after the 9/11 attacks, are all connected in some way to the theatre and the world of performing arts, though this piece is not restricted to the theatre-loving reader.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Deborah Baker
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1555975821
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 256pp
  • Price $23.00
  • Review by Ann Beman
Part mystery, biography, memoir, history, narrative nonfiction escapade, Deborah Baker’s The Convert doesn’t fit in any one category. Like its subject, Margaret Marcus/Maryam Jameelah, the book is a misfit. And like creative nonfiction should, it poses questions, and in wrestling with those questions, it jigs loose more questions, bigger questions, questions that tie you in knots, give you an unscratchable itch, or maybe incite you to hurl something not unlike a hardback volume across the room. In any case, it is a book you want to discuss.
  • 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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