Book Reviews

Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Hoover
In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami in Japan created the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. A series of meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Okuma forced nearly 150,000 people to evacuate a “no-go zone” of some 600-square kilometers. The intensive cleanup effort is expected to take upwards of thirty years and around 45,000 people remain displaced. However, the... more
Reviewed by:
Toby Altman
“I welcome you / when it is me / who arrives,” writes Fred Schmalz in “Bird song trumps dumptruck,” the first poem of his debut collection, Action in the Orchards (Nightboat, 2019). It is a delicious paradox: maintaining and canceling the distinction between self and other, subject and object. And it is particularly suggestive in the context of a book where, as Schmalz writes, almost every... more
Reviewed by:
Amish Trivedi
Good cultural objects have a way of tying the present to the past while providing some celestial points for sailing into future waters. This is basically a very human thing, using our nostalgia, or at least our perception of the past, as well as engaging a sort of inherent need to contextualize the moment in which we’re living. In Ascend, Ascend, Janaka Stucky reaches back into poetry’s... more
Reviewed by:
Peter Myers
A recent study found that the global climate disruption known as the Little Ice Age—an early modern dip in temperatures that famously caused the River Thames to freeze over—had its roots in European colonialism. The genocide of the indigenous people of the Americas left vast tracts of agricultural land untended; subsequent reforestation pulled enough CO2 out of the atmosphere to cause a global... more
Reviewed by:
Jack Smith
The founder of Ploughshares, DeWitt Henry recently published Sweet Marjoram, a book of essays following a series of nonfiction books and memoirs, as well as essays. This newest work consists of twenty-two meditations with two-word titles, each prefixed by “on.” One thing we are struck by is the author’s extensive range of knowledge, evidenced at a glance by notably diverse topics: “... more

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Reviewed by:
Ian Faith
If you’ve been paying attention to video games at all over the last decade, you know that writing has become an integral part of the medium. Nearly every game from independent to big budget “triple A” studios, features some type of narrative, if only to justify its own mechanics. Although subject to skepticism by gamer culture, games within the so-called walking simulators genre like Gone... more
Reviewed by:
Jack Smith
Author of two novels and story collections, Christine Sneed is a master of short as well as long fiction. It’s the inner spaces where Sneed truly excels, with a riveting prose style that captures the depths of her characters’ thoughts, feelings, and conflicted selves. The stories that make up her most recent collection The Virginity of Famous Men reveal an extraordinary range of types.... more
Reviewed by:
Nicole Banas
In 2000, the U.S. government granted political asylum to almost 4,000 unaccompanied minors from South Sudan. These so-called “lost boys” had survived deadly fighting between the Sudanese government and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army during the country’s second civil war. Many had walked thousands of miles, seeking shelter in Ethiopia before being expelled back to Sudan or to refugee camps... more
Reviewed by:
Eric Farwell
With Jonathan Safran Foer’s gritty new novel, Here I Am, it’s hard not to read it in the context of his recent public divorce. The 571-page work deals with a nearly middle-aged Jewish couple who are drifting apart and going through the motions of separation. The book does its best to account for small moments that keep a marriage together or destroy it, articulating both how invisible... more
Reviewed by:
Kelli Ebensberger
In her debut collection The Bed Moved, Rebecca Schiff emerges with the biting tongue, warm affection, and well-advised hindsight of a rom-com best friend—in the best possible way. Some of these stories found original publication in places like n+1 and Guernica as early as 2006, and ten years later this collection unleashes its pent-up, raw energy like a box of suburban... more

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Reviewed by:
Devon Walker-Figueroa
Max and I were first introduced to each other in 2015 and immediately bonded through a series of ensuing e-mail and text correspondences—usually about poetry, but also about painting, glass blowing, and balloon races, among other things. In addition to this more casual exchange, I read and gave Max editorial feedback on early versions of Four Reincarnations. Indeed, I loved the poems I found within its pages so much that I... more
Reviewed by:
Davy Knittle
Ali Cobby Eckermann’s Ruby MoonlightAli Cobby Eckermann’s Ruby Moonlight (Flood Editions, 2015) is a verse narrative focused on Ruby, an Aboriginal teenager, whose family is killed by white settlers in a late-nineteenth-century attack. Most of the poems follow Ruby after the massacre, as she meets and falls in love with Jack, a white fur trapper, and as she negotiates the aftermath of her loss. It’s Ruby’s attunement to the... more
Reviewed by:
Carrie Chappell
Few words bewitch the senses quite like those that recall the world of food. And even fewer ignite the prosaic ear in worlds of poetry. Yet, Lilah Hegnauer did not choose to call her second collection “Snickers bar,” “bell pepper,” or even “cellar door.” Pantry—winner of the 2013 New Southern Voices Book Prize selected by D.A. Powell—arrives in humble felicity. Here, among the canned, jarred, and bagged, is where Hegnauer unleashes her... more
Reviewed by:
Ted Mathys
There is a well-worn creative writing cliché that a writer must “find” her voice. The Internet drips with advice for the aspiring writer looking to do this, some of it reading like self-help lit for those trying to professionalize. In a blog post titled “Find Your Poetic Voice” on the Writer’s Digest website, for example, Laurie Zupan writes: "I realized that what I didn’t have was a clear, working definition of poetic voice. So I set... more
Reviewed by:
Patrick Whitfill
Sean Bishop’s debut collection of poems is not, as the foreword states, for the faint of heart. These are poems of longing and loss, of wishing and wishes, of desire, and of the unequivocally true knowledge that wishes do not, and will not, come true. These poems unsettle the ground and call into question our own connections with our family and with language, as well as our religious and secular understanding of the world. Throughout The... more

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Reviewed by:
Ethan Madore
There’s a scene in Mike Scalise’s The Brand New Catastrophe where Scalise, twentysomething and struggling to find full-time work in New York City, arrives in Central Park for a job interview. In short, it’s a catastrophe. Scalise, having spent days imagining this job—and its benefits package—as his last chance, a final lifeline into honorable employment and actual health insurance,... more
Reviewed by:
Frances Cannon
John D’Agata is a champion of the essay, a crusader for lost forms, a defender of nonfiction as an art. The recent publication of The Making of the American Essay, the third volume in D’Agata’s essay-anthology trilogy, shifts his position from expert to shaper; through his curation and introductions to these essays, D’Agata proves himself to be not only a scholar and proponent... more
Reviewed by:
Kristina Marie Darling
From the very beginning, readers are conditioned to focus on the words that appear on the page, their semantic meaning and the larger architecture of plot and theme to which they give rise. It is not often that writers ask us to look away from the text proper, to consider what is possible within the margins of a literary work, or even within the small spaces between the words themselves. Yet... more
Reviewed by:
Jeremy Griffin
As a native of Louisiana, I followed closely the events surrounding the 2010 BP oil spill. I remember the grisly footage of the black oil jet spurting up from the floor of the Gulf, and I recall the succession of fruitless strategies put into effect until finally the breach was contained. But most of all, I remember the feelings of frustration this evoked in residents, who were virtually... more
Reviewed by:
Yunte Huang
“Why do I voyage so much? And write so little?” Lawrence Ferlinghetti asked himself as he sat on a bus in Mexico, traveling from Manzanillo to Guadalajara, surrounded by women with hands like hens’ feet, amused by the sound of a rooster onboard or a goat “crying in a stubble field behind some house.” As the ancient bus climbed even more ancient mountain roads, Ferlinghetti—poet, publisher,... more

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