Book Reviews

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
Reviewed by:
John Tamplin
Geoffrey O'Brien's poems are full of things vanishing. The first three poems in his new book, In a Mist, appear to be elegies for vanished people. "For S." concludes:A wisp is too harsh.At mere hint of sightall parts of youdrop into the glare.  "A Yard at Daybreak" ends:The shop is shutteredand the yard so quietyou can hear the noiseof shadows vanishing.The poems offer faint images in... more

Pages

Reviewed by:
Vanessa Blakeslee
In this enthralling debut collection, winner of the 2011 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, E. J. Levy delves into the well-trod territory of modern love, in all its indecisiveness and heartbreak. Levy’s fiction and essays have received numerous honors such as the Pushcart Prize and Nelson Algren Award, as well as the Lambda Literary Award for her anthology, Tasting Life Twice:... more
Reviewed by:
Erik Martiny
Louis Armand is a visual and literary artist based in the Czech Republic. He is most known for his text-and-sculpture installation The Megaphones of Prague, an ongoing project launched in 1996 that collects and modifies historical megaphones still left in the suburbs of Prague. These instruments of control are sometimes left intact as dictatorial “flowers of evil”; at other times, they... more
Reviewed by:
Siân Griffiths
“It is barely the summer—just the end of June—and already two teenaged boys have been killed.” So begins Amina Gautier’s debut collection At Risk, winner of the Flannery O’Conner Award for Short Fiction. In it, we find a dangerous world predominantly populated by vulnerable teens, preteens, and the adults whose best intentions cannot save them. In story after story in this collection,... more
Reviewed by:
Addie Leak
I am, I confess, a cat person. Cats are independent, intelligent, clean, charmingly capricious, and they don’t love lightly. I’ve always had the impression that when a cat seemed to love me, I’d done something to earn it.I admit, then, that one reason I was initially drawn to Jacques Poulin’s Mister Blue is that there was a cat on the cover. Reading the flap gave me “Puss in Boots” vibes... more
Reviewed by:
Andrew J. Khaled Madigan
The stories of Ry Cooder are a lot like his music: stately, precise, well constructed; they grab you by the throat, quietly, and never let go.Guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, and composer, Ryland Peter Cooder has been making music since the 1960s, but Los Angeles Stories is his first collection of fiction. Spanning the years 1940 to 1958, these stories are not grandiose,... more

Pages

Reviewed by:
Zach Savich
One might miss, in the exquisitely shapely poems of Brian Blanchfield’s second collection, A Several World, how frequently the poems’ brash dazzle gives way to wit. In the book’s second poem, “The City State,” for instance, one might still be reeling from the invocation of an expansive shopping list (“bone buttons, stronger cord or—what / more did you need?—hard rolls, then fish and flowers in / descending sectors”) when we get this... more
Reviewed by:
Micah Bateman
Shane McCrae’s second full-length collection of poems, Blood (Noemi Press, 2013), adapts the sliding and stuttering syntax of his first collection, Mule, to narrate and lyricize gruesome slave narratives from America’s past. Actually McCrae gives voices to the wounds themselves from such narratives, assembling an otherworldly chorus of haunting grotesqueries. Whereas nineteenth-century abolitionist novels waged their battles... more
Reviewed by:
Kristina Marie Darling
In her finely crafted debut collection, Dear Darwish, Morani Kornberg-Weiss offers readers a graceful synthesis of domestic imagery and political life. By challenging the boundaries between public and private spaces, and between public and private types of address, the poems in this deftly rendered first book show us that a morning cup of coffee, a dish, and a darkened room can serve as a point of entry to questions that are global in... more
Reviewed by:
Carlo Matos
Kathleen Rooney’s wonderful novel-in-poems, Robinson Alone, tells the story of Robinson, Weldon Kees’s quasi-persona, as he—like his progenitor—makes his way to New York City from the Midwest, travels cross country to San Francisco with a wife who is slowly falling into alcoholism, and finally disappears at the age of forty-one. Like Kees, it is unknown if Robinson makes his way to Mexico or if he plunges off the Golden Gate Bridge.... more
Reviewed by:
Julie Marie Wade
Miami is the best place to be during National Poetry Month, no question. I’ve only lived here two years, and I have already willingly consumed prodigious quantities of the local literary Kool-Aid. Thanks to P. Scott Cunningham, founder of the annual O, Miami Poetry Festival, and a diverse and committed group of south Florida poets, every day of the month of April is dedicated to multiple poetry-centered events throughout the city, from Miami-... more

Pages

Reviewed by:
Philip Kobylarz
A cornucopia of urbanity. An armoire of intellectualism. A cabinet of curiosities. A museum of the quotidian. An herbarium of the fruition of a mind. A college of what isn’t taught in the grove. A compendium of compendia.All of the above describe Howard Junker’s autobiographical-novel-slash-finished-work-in progress, An Old Junker: A Senior Represents—a collection that... more
Reviewed by:
Jericho Parms
In her 1990 A Natural History of the Senses, a grand tour through the luscious world of sight, sound, taste, and touch, Diane Ackerman wrote of the many writers “gloriously attuned” to that oddly powerful sense of smell. Among them, Proust held an affinity for lime-flower tea and madeleines, Woolf ruminated her “parade of city-smells,” Coleridge pondered the aroma of notebooks,... more
Reviewed by:
Joseph Holt
Some writers’ blurbs beg for expansion into full-length memoirs. Take, for instance, that of Deni Y. Béchard, a writer “born in British Columbia to a loving and health-conscious American mother and a French-Canadian father with a penchant for crime and storytelling.” Here is a writer born into not only a conflict of cultures, but also conflicts of care and violence, self-preservation and self-... more
Reviewed by:
Ben Mauk
Geoff Dyer draws no distinction between a work of art—a book, a film, a photograph—and his own encounter with it. He may be congenitally unable to distance the object of his critical attention from its relationship to his personal history, or else just unwilling. But to read Dyer is to have a conversation about art with a fiercely intelligent yet deeply self-involved friend.Obversely, Dyer seems... more
Reviewed by:
A. Naomi Jackson
Binyavanga Wainana’s fantastic new book, One Day I Will Write About This Place explodes the boundaries of memoir and our notions of what it means to be a contemporary African. The book is part travelogue, part coming-of-age story, part African geopolitical history, but really in the end a tale about how its author became a writer. The story is told through dispatches from a particular... more

Pages