Book Reviews

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... 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
Reviewed by:
Nick Ripatrazone
Novelist Thomas McGuane says there are cowboys who are as “deluded” about their trade as are workers in the “entrepreneurial class.” Romance about ranch work means “their hold is tenuous and they're always on the cusp of violence or rage about being in that situation, and they're naturally in conflict with their bosses.” Cowboys used to be in it for the long haul; they were “lifetime admired.”... more
Reviewed by:
Mitch Nakaue
“When but a child, I learned that our ancestors came out of the trees, stood upright on the savannahs, and became human.” So begins John Leland’s essay collection Readings in Wood. A nature writer, Leland makes his home in the southern Appalachian mountains of Rockbridge County, Virginia, a region known for its wilderness and as a repository of American history dating back to the... more
Reviewed by:
Peter LaBerge
“Standing at the water’s edge, I watch myself / loosen into a brief, exquisite blur.” Though we begin our journey through Richie Hofmann’s stunning debut poetry collection Second Empire with the freedom to move and self-express, it is a destination of sorts for Hofmann himself. The collection functions as a deeply personal glimpse into the immediate and long-term effects of the tension... more

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Reviewed by:
TaraShea Nesbit
The title of Jenny Boully’s new book—Not Merely Because of the Unknown That Was Stalking Towards Them—gets its name from a section of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan and Wendy: “Of course she should have roused the children at once; not merely because of the unknown that was stalking towards them, but because it was no longer good for them to sleep on a rock grown chilly." This new book... more
Reviewed by:
Josh Cook
Lately, when I pick up a new title, the announced motif on the jacket sleeve makes me chafe. It’s the one that precedes all else and screams “Read Me!” like a child pining for attention. “A sprawling feminist debut...” it’ll say, or “Ordinary men and women confronting loneliness...” When I encounter this, I thrust down the book, guffawing loud enough for the store clerk to hear me.Bonnie Jo... more
Reviewed by:
Stiliana Milkova
Published in Italy in 1991, Elena Ferrante’s novel Troubling Love caused a literary sensation and earned its author the Elsa Morante prize—one of Italy’s most prestigious awards for literature. Thanks to translator Ann Goldstein, the book now affords us English-speakers the guilty pleasure of delving into dark and forbidden places—the insides of the mother-daughter body, the ins and outs... more
Reviewed by:
Vanessa Blakeslee
One often hears of a certain writer’s gift for rendering poetic prose, spellbinding in its precision and rhythm, but rarely have I picked up a short story collection and found nearly every sentence living up to such claims. Not so with In This Light by Melanie Rae Thon, the recipient of a Whiting Award, two NEA fellowships, and the author of four novels in addition to two story... more
Reviewed by:
Jennifer Bowen Hicks
God Bless America could almost be read as thirteen irreverent prayers: Dear [Whomever]: save us from our smallness. But no prayer will make you laugh the way Steve Almond does with his newest collection of stories, one of which was included in America’s Best, another in the Pushcart Prize Anthology. In Almond’s America, parents and children, TSA agents and smart-mouthed... more

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Reviewed by:
Nick Ripatrazone
In Liliana, the first section of Allison Seay's debut collection To See the Queen, the word “figment” appears enough to create a recursive rhythm. Typically appended to “of the imagination,” the word feels lost without the phrase, and is thus perfect fodder for poetry. Seay’s figment is malleable. It is first Liliana, but a ghost-self, something to be seen only if “I am still enough.” That figment “vanishes, / as God does,” but “returns... more
Reviewed by:
Beth Gilstrap
Last year was a tumultuous year for poetry. Two giants published articles lamenting poetry’s demise. Contemporary poets scratched their heads, banging out fiery responses. Yes, the literary world can be insular, particularly for poets, but it is staid only to those who willfully turn their attention to tired arguments of dying forms. One need only look to poets like John Gosslee and his recent book Blitzkrieg to find evidence of life.... more
Reviewed by:
Brent House
As a child growing up in South Mississippi, I was given the chore of plucking the fascicles of pine needles that had fallen into the zigzag of the chain-link fence surrounding our family home; so, on a Saturday morning after a week of late-summer storms, I would carry a small metal bucket to the edge of our yard, I would pluck the needles fallen from forest to the wire, and, before I placed the fascicles in the bucket, I would press each sharp... more
Reviewed by:
Karen An-hwei Lee
Under the editorial vision of Jeffrey Yang at New Directions, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s newest collection in seven years, Hello, the Roses, dazzles with her signature margin-to-margin lines on the physics of light, phenomenological structures of consciousness, botany, and human physiology. As her readerly fans would expect, a Berssenbrugge rose is strikingly radiant in a phenomenological, mathematical, or physiological sense rather than a... more
Reviewed by:
Erik Martiny
As prevalent as it has been in popular culture since Babylonian times, the zodiac has inspired but a dearth of recent visual art, and even fewer texts. Lord Byron is one of the few notable poets who paid it any attention at all. The vast bulk of alluringly story-bolstered mainstream myths is probably the reason why so few writers have turned to the wheel of the zodiac as a wellspring of poetry.There is nothing derivative in John Gosslee’s style... more

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Reviewed by:
Russell Scott Valentino
One of my traveling companions on my recent Eurasia passage (see my blog posts Crossing, Crossing 2, Crossing 3, and Crossed) was Ian Frazier’s Travels in Siberia, which I read cover to cover, or rather, pixel to pixel (on a Kindle—hey, I was traveling), and as I rarely get to do such an exotic thing as read a whole book these days, here’s a review.Any book written with this much love... more
Reviewed by:
Josh Garrett-Davis
1.Somewhere outside Tucson, there’s a Laguna Pueblo/Euro-American/Mexican-American woman living in a house with space blankets tacked inside the windows, with half a dozen mastiffs, a pit bull, a pet rattlesnake, a small flock of macaws (including a twenty-two-year-old named Sandino, with one leg—owl attack), an African gray parrot singing along to Sesame Street, and tables full of... more
Reviewed by:
Clare Sullivan
Of all the attributes that set Latin America apart from its northern neighbors, perhaps none captivates quite like the regional tendency to put community before the individual. Few visitors to Latin America fail to observe the way the lives of so many Latin Americans interweave, and the way that interweaving expresses itself socially. If you’ve ever shared an afternoon meal in a Latin American... more
Reviewed by:
Colin Fleming
The art of Jackson Pollock doesn’t polarize museum-goers as it once did, given his canonization as the patron saint of Abstract Expressionism. But when Pollock was tabbed a mid-century gallery god, there were plenty of people who wondered if his art—like that of Ornette Coleman’s in the late 1950s—wasn’t an outright piss-take. A case of “this isn’t really intended seriously, is it? Surely he’s... more
Reviewed by:
Amanda Dambrink
“A quick ear and eye, an ability to discern the infinite suggestiveness of common things, a brooding meditative spirit, are all that the essayist requires.” —Alexander Smith, “On the Writing of Essays”So begins the first of eleven personal essays in Patrick Madden’s premiere collection, Quotidiana, and the truth of this statement comes to bear on the entire book. Here the author brings... more

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