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Patricia Vigderman's POSSIBILITY: ESSAYS AGAINST DESPAIR

Jacqueline Kolosov

Possibility: Essays Against Despair, Patricia Vigderman's second book, shares affinities with her first, The Memory Palace of Isabella Stewart Gardner. Associative in nature, the essays assembled here cross genres, encompassing biography, memoir, art history, natural history, and film studies, to name just a few of the subjects that Vigderman brings into dialogue. In the introduction “Seeing Double,” Vigderman describes the evolution of the collection as follows:

Cold Bucolic Love: A Long Letter from Iceland—Bergsveinn Birgisson's A REPLY TO A LETTER FROM HELGA

Mike Broida

In the small slice of Nordic literature that’s recently made its way to America, it’s hard to find any that’s escaped the broad, posthumous influence of Stieg Larsson. For that alone, Bergsveinn Birgisson’s A Reply to a Letter from Helga, translated by Philip Roughton (AmazonCrossing, January 2013) is a noteworthy addition to the Anglophone lexicon, bringing with it a brief and vibrant tradition few readers this side of the Atlantic have ever considered.

Birgisson’s debut translation into English takes the form of the titular letter from an elderly Icelandic farmer writing to his old flame (the Helga), and it’s a form that works well to Birgisson’s intention. During the passionate and hearty yearnings by Bijarni (the farmer), you can almost feel the pen scratching the paper:

Graham Foust's TO ANACREON IN HEAVEN AND OTHER POEMS

Sean Patrick Hill

From the outset of Graham Foust’s poetry career, his work has sought to answer the question posed in his first book, Leave the Room to Itself: “What is the poem.” Over the course of three intervening books, Foust has explored the function of language, attempting to map this faintly-Romantic notion of “the poem,” a slippery presence one finds embodied in consciousness. This consciousness—its origins, its signifiers, its longing for expression—has been explored by Foust largely within the constraints of his characteristic terse, lyric poem.

Steve Tomasula's IN & OZ

Alex Flesher

In Steve Tomasula’s geographically ambiguous locale called OZ, there are no yellow-brick roads, no munchkins, and no witches, wicked or otherwise. Perhaps more frightening than cackling hags, though, there are “connoisseurs” of elevator music. In OZ, Vanilla is called “Crema de Las Angelitas,” and all books are “devoted to the beauty of Auto.” The counterpart locale in this dystopian world is called IN, where just across the bridge myriad factories and plants plume up a thick haze of smog, where “carcinogenic” is among the most useful words, and where “The Tractor Trailer is King, and the Mobile Home Queen.” Tomasula presents twenty-seven brief scenes from this world with an alarmingly distinctive style that avoids many of the pitfalls of contemporary fiction which tend to invite the label “experimental” as a kind of bitter afterthought.

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