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Book Reviews by Title - M (107)

  • Subtitle and Other Tales
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  • Book Type Stories
  • by Alex Rose
  • Date Published October 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0978910310Paperb
  • Review by Matt Bell
Alex Rose’s The Musical Illusionist is a work of ambitious fantasy, written not as a novel or a collection of stories but as a guide to the myth-like Library of Tangents, “an archive not of history but of possibility.” These fictions (which are not properly stories, with the possible exception of the excellent title piece) take the form of articles describing the Library’s many exhibitions, including fantastical cultures, books, paintings, numerous foreign lands, even psychological disorders and microorganisms. Each entry is written so credibly that disorientation and disbelief go hand in hand, as the convincing prose and accompanying diagrams, photos, and maps seek to stun the reader into believing in even the most outlandish of exhibits.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Mariah K. Young
  • Date Published November 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59714-203-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 216pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Trena Machado
Masha’allah and Other Stories by Mariah K. Young, recipient of the James D. Houston Award, is a book of nine short stories that take place in the Bay Area of California. Young, enlivened by the energy and spirit of the streets, uses an empathic voice to imagine the lives of those around her living in financial insecurity as they cobble together a living with various gigs, pot drop-offs, random parties to bartend, limo drivers with pick-ups, men meeting in clusters to be day laborers. She writes about those trapped and pushing against economic restraints: people induced to come to America under false promises by their own countrymen, minorities finding ways to use their talents to catch the rung up out of what they were born into, immigrants constructing a forged identity to become citizens, a teenage girl who escapes the life of her parents’ illegal operation to breed dogs for dog fighting. Young’s empathic voice lets us feel the humanity of the characters beyond class and ethnicity . . . “they are us.” Even though it may not be their voice and the way they would express their experiences, or even their ethos, we are given a path to cross over to them.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Carissa Halston
  • Date Published June 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0984739950
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 122pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Karen Seehaus Papson
Carissa Halston was born in the wrong time. Her careful, precise use of language and acute awareness of the nuances in each painstakingly chosen word seem like attributes more suited to a woman from Emily Dickinson’s era. Yet, Halston’s novella The Mere Weight of Words, first and foremost a tale of language, is rooted in today’s world through her examination of how casually words can be used. Indeed, words are tossed, sometimes thrown, by those closest to Meredith, the book’s protagonist. In response, Meredith is something of a solitary person. In fact, she works to maintain this self-imposed isolation as she regularly uses her own deep knowledge of language to expand the chasm between herself and the people in her life. Readers will spend much of their time alone with Meredith as she grapples with her numerous demons.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Michael Pritchett
  • Date Published November 2007
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 416pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Cyan James
Meriwether Lewis can’t achieve death, much less the Northwest Passage. And his modern counterpart, Bill Lewis, can’t connect with himself, let alone the students he’s trying to instruct. Bill is simply stymied by his own life, and the suicidal end of Meriwether’s.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Matthea Harvey
  • Date Published October 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-1555974800
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 80pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Roy Wang
Like the mysterious dominoes that grace the cover suggest, Matthea Harvey’s poetry collection Modern Life deals surprise and gambles sentiment, tossing out disjointed associations with such daring that only the most careful reading will unravel the whole chain of implication. Harvey puts her strongest, most readable poems in the center, creating a core of potential energy to propel the reader through the peculiar, disorienting landscapes still to come. The strategy pays off, giving the book both symmetry and a needed respite from her more difficult works.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by John Darnielle
  • Date Published April 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0826428998
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 144pp
  • Price $10.95
  • Review by Matt Bell
As the singer and songwriter of the indie rock band The Mountain Goats, John Darnielle has often been called a “literary” rocker, thanks to the great lyrics contained in the approximately four hundred songs produced by that band. Whether listening to lo-fi productions of his earlier career or the more musically complex John Vanderslice-produced records he’s done with 4AD, the focus of Darnielle’s fans has always been on his lyrics and the stories contained within. Now he’s stepped off the stage and sat down at the typewriter to deliver Master of Reality, his first novel and a stunning piece of rock criticism and appreciation.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Megan Roberts
  • Date Published July 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1622290789
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 28pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Elizabeth O'Brien
The nineteen poems that make up Megan Roberts’s chapbook, Matters of Record, combine to offer readers a compelling narrative portrait of the lives of women and girls executed in the United States across a wide span of time (the earliest execution takes place in 1860, while the most recent is dated 2005). The book opens with an epigraph taken from Jean-Paul Sartre: “I say a murder is abstract. You pull the trigger and after that you do not understand anything that happens.” And in most of these poems, the murder itself does indeed remain abstract. Even the more graphically violent pieces, such as the eponymous “Matters of Record,” which describes how a young girl was “seven when whipped / to death and the scars / was tortured with a red hot poker,” does so with a curious sense of remove. The violence occurs in the passive voice, and the poem focuses on the young victim rather than on the perpetrator of the violence.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction edited
  • by Paul Herron
  • Date Published November 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0804011464
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 440pp
  • Price $34.95
  • Review by Trena Machado
Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1939-1947 begins with Anaïs Nin and her husband, Hugo Guiler, escaping the war in Europe to relocate to New York City. On the first page, she is also concerned about whether her two lovers, Henry Miller and Gonzalo Moré, would come to New York with her. They did. Also on the first page, she writes: “I am still baffled by the mystery of how man has an independent life from woman, whereas I die when separated from my love.” Four hundred and forty pages and a dozen or more lovers later, she is still in the realm of needing love, experiencing loss, and longing for the one love that will make her whole. Her lovers are the content the narrative is hung upon, but not the most interesting. There is very little written outside her desire for love, finding love, being in love, leaving the lover, very little written about the art of the day or even about the city of New York or the world that was at war. The drama here is within the psyche of Anaïs Nin.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction edited
  • by Sanford E. Marovitz
  • Date Published November 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60635-172-7
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 256pp
  • Price $60.00
  • Review by Lydia Pyne
Call me inspired. Most audiences come to know Herman Melville through Moby-Dick and Billy Budd, Sailor—deep, complex narratives that swell with metaphor and allegory. Both have entered the classical Americanist canon of literature thanks in large part to the early twentieth-century “Melville revival” within academia. Melville’s writing, however, extends well past the White Whale, and for the latter half of his literary career, his publication efforts and creative energy focused on his poetry. In recent decades, scholarly interest has turned to Melville’s canon of poetry as a window into American history and the understood role of a poet. (“[Melville’s] pained ironic view of his position as poetry weighed upon him.”) Melville as Poet: The Art of “Pulsed Life” (a bit of an odd title, but better than Melville: More than Moby) explores the breadth and depth of Melville’s poetry through its emphasis on the history, narrative, and imagery of a unique, careful, and lyrical American poet.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Mary Molinary
  • Date Published August 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-936797-23-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 80pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Andrea Dulberger
One challenge with reading poetry that seems to be creating its own forms for what it is seeing and expressing is the tension between the urge to absorb the work as it is presented and an urge to search for clues—to go digging in, and perhaps between, the lines. On my first read through Mary Molinary’s Mary & the Giant Mechanism, I jotted little notes to myself and often thought, “hmmm . . .” On my second read-through, I mostly flipped through the pages at random, sometimes reading sections out of order, and thought “Ohh!” I think one of the successes of this poet’s first book of poetry is that it did compel me to go searching for larger “mechanisms” (to echo the title) that link the images and themes presented here.
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