Book Reviews

Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Hoover
In his 1987 painting “While There Is Still Time Let’s Go Out and Feel Everything,” Paul Thek scrawls those words in looping light blue script over a darker blue punctuated by wavy lines. Because the words and the marks share an improvisational, finger-painted quality, they blend together and into the only slightly darker background. From a distance, the work looks like an abstract color-field of... more
Reviewed by:
Neil Roberts
Toward the end of Erik Martiny's The Pleasures of Queuing its narrator writes, “There should really be a literary prize for the best novel ever written by a writer afflicted with ADD who has radios broadcasting from every room in the house, every area of the brain, an exponential, incremental number of siblings, a hawk-watchful mother, and an increasingly eccentric and money-stinting... more
Reviewed by:
Ralph Pennel
The essential idea behind string theory is this: all fundamental particles of the Standard Model (which describes both the building blocks out of which the world is made and the forces through which these blocks interact) are really just different vibrating, oscillating strings. And, in many ways, this is also the shape that any work of art’s meaning takes inside us. This meaning vibrates within... more
Reviewed by:
Jess Smith
A futon, a house, a lover, a dog, a child, a country. These are all things Sarah Viren has, or has had, and lost. It is the exploration of that possession and subsequent absence that she explores in her essay collection Mine, winner of the 2016 River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize. Each essay is titled with the possessive my—”My Catch,” “My Choice,” “My Ballad for You”—but... more
Reviewed by:
Brittany Borghi
Recently, I fell asleep in bed reading Porochista Khakpour’s new memoir Sick, the story of her lifetime of physical and mental health crises that eventually leads to a diagnosis of late-stage Lyme disease. In that sleep, I had a terrifying dream that my skin suddenly ripped open between my second and third ribs, and while the air leaked out of my body, I wasted time panicking about which... more

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Reviewed by:
Michael Magras
If you’re familiar with the lyrics of Jimmy Cliff’s 1972 reggae classic “The Harder They Come,” then you won’t be surprised to learn that T.C. Boyle’s new novel of the same name includes protagonists who, like the tune’s singer, would “rather be a free man in my grave / than living as a puppet or a slave.” And if you’ve ever seen the film The Harder They Come, in which the song appears,... more
Reviewed by:
Jeremy Griffin
I confess that when I sat down to read Christopher Linforth’s debut story collection When You Find Us We Will Be Gone (Lamar UP, 2014), my expectations were low. This was no fault of the author’s; rather, I had recently been through a spate of bad story collections that had left me jaded. This isn’t uncommon, as any reviewer will tell you, though he will also tell you that it’s... more
Reviewed by:
Russell Scott Valentino
Under the influence of having just completed this book—and let me note at the outset that the influence is hard to resist—I feel like I could start just about anywhere in reviewing it, so why not a footnote. There is just one in the book, but what a footnote, extending over two pages, explicative, digressive, apt, entertaining, and, best of all, delivered in the voice of the translator, Alyson... more
Reviewed by:
Philip Kobylarz
Diane Frank’s new novel is not a probable thing. Yoga of the Impossible expands narrative form into other selves of memoir, autobiography, vignette, day journal, and philosophical discourse centering on life, its meanings, and the crafting of one’s being. As readers may revisit Basho’s Narrow Road to the Deep North longing for the illusive concept of home, this something-beyond-... more
Reviewed by:
Aviya Kushner
For the sixty-six years of its existence, Israel has been a hotbed of political strife and economic struggle, and the subject of passionate discussion about what the country should and should not be. The difference between the grand dream of Israel and the often problematic contemporary reality is a main subject of Who Will Die Last, a collection of short stories by David Ehrlich, who... more

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Reviewed by:
Davy Knittle
If Jennifer Moxley is the speaker of the poems in her new collection The Open Secret (Flood Editions, 2014), she is a number of people. If she is “the poet” and also the “I” of the poems, and I, as the reader, am the “you,” because the “I” is also sometimes the “you,” we might be each other. Personhood is fluid, as she writes in “Evacuations”:                                              …The poet startscounting in order to show the “... more
Reviewed by:
Phoebe Reeves
Best Bones, Sarah Rose Nordgren’s first book of poems, won the 2013 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize and was released from the University of Pittsburgh Press Pitt Poetry Series last year. Nordgren’s debut collection displays a Greek chorus of voices, ranging from the quiet tones of small children and ghosts to the sly or bitter tales of adults: wives, mistresses, slaves, and shepherds. “Stillbirth,” the poem that opens the first section of... more
Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
Richard Siken's second collection, coming a decade after his Yale Younger Poets prize-winning debut Crush, finds the poet a subdued man with more mature preoccupations. The erotic energy and dazzling infatuation that drove Crush are replaced in War of the Foxes with frustrations about the impossibility of creating pure and true artistic representations. Siken sets this conversation in motion from the book's opening... more
Reviewed by:
Alana Folsom
Dorothea Lasky's Rome begins with lines not from Ovid or Horace, but with Yeats: “Consume my heart away; sick with desire / and fastened to a dying animal…”; and Lasky’s poems adhere, on a subject level, to this epigraph. But Rome is a book about language and voice more than its subject matter: the carnality of humanity when we’re reduced to raw emotion—especially love and loss, which burn hot at the core of the book. Rome... more
Reviewed by:
Ben Jackson
In David Roderick’s second book, The Americans, a complicated national citizenry emerges, stirred by dreams and privileges, violence and regret, utterly insistent on borders, however blurred they may be, and intent on home as a pastoral heartland. The book is split in near-even halves: Section 1—18 poems, 31 pages; Section 2—19 poems, 34 pages. Both sections contain three “Dear Suburb” poems, each of the poems an intimate letter to... more

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Reviewed by:
Janis Butler Holm
An entire book composed solely of lists on Facebook? Please—spare me. Or so one might think before reading Matias Viegener's 2500 Random Things about Me Too, a memoir-like experiment in nonfiction constraint writing. In this tour de force, Viegener—artist, writer, critic, and teacher at the California Institute of the Arts—has taken postmodern fragmentation to its successful extreme,... more
Reviewed by:
Rachel Z. Arndt
“Did we feel then, or do we feel now?” is the first question in No Regrets—n+1's new book of discussions with twelve female writers, editors, academics, and artists—that comes from a participant, not the moderator. There are two important words in that question, both of them said twice. “We” establishes a unity among the participants, and “feel” establishes that that unity comes from... more
Reviewed by:
Caitlin Keefe Moran
In “Shifting Shadows,” one of the many standout essays in Julian Hoffman’s slim The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World, Hoffman explains the subtitle of his collection succinctly: “To be at home means finding a way of sustaining a keen and watchful engagement as both the place and I change, altering and shifting with the seasons, the light, and passing time.”... more
Reviewed by:
Addie Leak
My first thought as I read Stefan Tobler’s translation of Água Viva for the first time was that I wanted to memorize it. All of it. A few moments later, I came to a passage in which Lispector acknowledges the mosaic quality of the work: “I know that after you read me it's hard to reproduce my song by ear, it's not possible to sing it without having learned it by heart. And how can you... more
Reviewed by:
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... more

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