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:
Theodore Wheeler
In his convincing debut collection of short fiction, Quarantine (Harper Perennial 2011), Rahul Mehta chronicles the lives of openly gay Indian-American men, their disappointments and betrayals, and the hard-earned personal connections they come to cherish. In an intimate, confessional style, Mehta’s characters dwell on botched relationships, on their romantic, familial, and cultural... more
Reviewed by:
Jack Smith
“Wisniewski shows a shrewd hand with sparkling dialogue,” said Publishers Weekly of All Weekend with the Lights On, Mark Wisniewski’s 2001 collection of short fiction, and while this assessment is certainly true, Wisniewski’s deeply engaging prose style also owes much to the author's incisive wit and subtle irony. Combining the best of literary forebears Twain and Hemingway,... more
Reviewed by:
David Frederick Thomas
Following the publication last August of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, there has been much debate concerning the merits of big, Dickensian works. The underlying question is simple: can rather traditional novels continue to do new and exciting things? Benjamin Hale’s debut, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, is just such a work; and, in short, the answer is yes. Here’s the premise... more
Reviewed by:
David Duhr
Restraint is hard to come by in Las Vegas; just go to any gate at McCarron International and people-watch. Today’s bright-eyed passengers surging from the jetway, filled with the certainty that their big score is just over the horizon, are tomorrow’s dead-eyed downtrodden, shame and humiliation blanketing their faces, some of their innocence chipped away. It’s not easy to leave Sin City with your... more
Reviewed by:
Lucy Silag
Leslie Jamison’s first novel, The Gin Closet, is told from the alternating points of view of Stella—a thin-spired, quarter-life-crisis sufferer living unhappily in New York—and her fat, alcoholic Aunt Tilly, shunned by their family and spending the last of her miserable days in the Nevada desert. The two are brought together when Lucy, Stella’s grandmother and Tilly’s mother, dies after... more

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Reviewed by:
Claudia Cortese
A child gives her doll a spirit, a personality, a story. She constructs a narrative for her doll, filling an inanimate object with life. This imaginative process is one we often associate with girlhood. A constellation of images orbits the word “doll”: wooden dollhouses and porcelain girls in lace dresses and dolls that pee and dolls that cry and dolls that girls push in strollers. However, dolls—which are believed to be the first toys—have not... more
Reviewed by:
Chris Pusateri
I often think that I would rather be a painter, but I am not. Among those poets working today, Jane Lewty is one who possesses qualities usually ascribed to visual artists. Her debut volume of poetry, Bravura Cool, imports the movements of the gestural into a textual space, and in doing so, reinvents the age-old dictum that there can be “no ideas but in things.”The things of Lewty’s poetry are things in motion, and like humans... more
Reviewed by:
Maggie Millner
Anna Journey’s second book takes its name from an exhibit at L.A.’s Museum of Jurassic Technology called “Vulgar Remedies: Belief, Knowledge and Hypersymbolic Cognition.” The exhibit comprises folk cures and rituals predating modern medicine; the poetry collection features hypnotic fabulations on memory, fauna, and the body. At times tender and anecdotal, others grotesque and nightmarish, Vulgar Remedies explores the boundaries that... more
Reviewed by:
Carolyne Wright
In this volume of thoughtful, reflective, lyric-narrative poems, David Rigsbee's deep psychic engagement with perception, memory, culture, and the politics of human interaction, in all their expansiveness and limitation, is on full display. The poet's sensibility—guided by compassionate reflection and seared by loss—discovers its way forward through the inland waterways of memory to reach for difficult epiphanies. Lyric immediacy alternates with... more
Reviewed by:
Will Vincent
Dana Ward’s The Crisis of Infinite Worlds performs the opening lines of Comte de Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror in reverse, where rather than threatening to have our souls dissolved as “water does sugar” by the text itself, Ward’s book lands like a Lautréamontian crane on our brilliantine post-modern marsh. Floating above and aware of an avant-garde still obsessed with signs signifying signs signifying signs and... more

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Reviewed by:
Matthew Clark
To gauge a writer, one might consider his or her ability to transform something ostensibly banal, like chalk, ordinary blackboard chalk, ordinary calcium carbonate, ordinary grape-growing stuff, into something interesting. Unsurprisingly, to read John McPhee’s most recent collection of essays, Silk Parachute, is to marvel at the way he elicits a temperament the opposite of boredom. “... more

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