Book Reviews

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:
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
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,... 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... more

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Reviewed by:
Zach Savich
Near the end of Alex Kovacs’s charming and eclectic first novel, The Currency of Paper, hero Maximilian Sacheverell Hollingsworth converts a warehouse in East London into the Museum of Contemporary Life. Like many of Maximilian’s public artworks, the Museum attempts to inspire cultural insight through its presentation of ephemera: here you will finds objects ordinary (“umbrella racks,... more
Reviewed by:
Anika Gupta
In this engaging debut collection of short stories, L. Annette Binder probes the psyches not of heroes, but of monsters, turning the lens of the fairy tale on itself. When I first read the list of story titles, heavy with allusions—Galatea, Nod—I was afraid of finding myself in the well-trod territory of the reinvented Grimm tale. But Binder’s collection is unusual in the way it straddles the... more
Reviewed by:
Mike Broida
In the small slice of Nordic literature that’s recently made its way to America, it’s hard to find any that’s escaped the broad, posthumous influence of Stieg Larsson. For that alone, Bergsveinn Birgisson’s A Reply to a Letter from Helga, translated by Philip Roughton (AmazonCrossing, January 2013) is a noteworthy addition to the Anglophone lexicon, bringing with it a brief and vibrant... more
Reviewed by:
Alex Flesher
In Steve Tomasula’s geographically ambiguous locale called OZ, there are no yellow-brick roads, no munchkins, and no witches, wicked or otherwise. Perhaps more frightening than cackling hags, though, there are “connoisseurs” of elevator music. In OZ, Vanilla is called “Crema de Las Angelitas,” and all books are “devoted to the beauty of Auto.” The counterpart locale in this dystopian world is... more
Reviewed by:
Jack Smith
Robert Garner McBrearty has authored two previous collections, A Night at the Y and Episode, winner of the Sherwood Anderson Foundation Fiction Award. In this third collection, published by Conundrum Press, McBrearty continues to prove himself a master storyteller.His stories tend to be about isolated people hacking it out, doing their best to feel upbeat about things,... more

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Reviewed by:
Laura Madeline Wiseman
Kristina Marie Darling’s new book The Sun & The Moon takes up the metaphor of celestial bodies to contemplate the movement of the bodies of two lovers as they move through the space of their lives. To illustrate the astronomical importance of her undertaking, Darling’s Appendix A offers three illustrations of two famous astronomical clocks. These clocks “show the relative location of the sun and the moon,” as well as planets and... more
Reviewed by:
Nick Ripatrazone
“Listen, then.” Our House Was on Fire, the second collection of poems by Laura Van Prooyen, begins with a calm but firm declaration. I can appreciate the sentiment. Our days are outlined in prose, so the experience of poetry requires a revision of pacing and an increase in patience. Van Prooyen is able to maintain this duality of softness and confidence in an impressive manner. Her poems occupy sharp, absolute moments.Our House Was... more
Reviewed by:
Mary Buchinger
How does one begin to review an anthology of a century of poetry by over a hundred Armenian poets? Perhaps first by considering the translator—the one who selects the particular poems for translation from the pool of possibilities—which, in this case, is especially vast and deep given the richness of the Armenian poetry tradition. In a recent interview with Artsvi Bakhchinyan of the Armenian Weekly, Diana Der-Hovanessian, author of... more
Reviewed by:
Kristina Marie Darling
Helene Cardona's beautifully crafted collection, Dreaming My Animal Selves, drifts in and out of languages, presenting poems in both English and French translations. By doing so, the book raises several compelling questions about the relationship between language and human consciousness: Does language, with its complex grammatical rules, limit what is possible within conscious experience? When one inhabits more than one language, what... more
Reviewed by:
Karen An-hwei Lee
The latest collection by Brenda Hillman, an exploration of living phenomena and their mysteries, ignites a fiery post-lyric grammar of existence. Hillman’s devotion to social justice—her unwavering belief in poetry’s capacity to address root causes of our political strife—ultimately purifies our fallen world in the languages of elemental fire.Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire is organized in two parts, “I. On the Miracle of Nameless... more

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Reviewed by:
Kevin Haworth
Why isn’t Brian Doyle famous? After all, these are boom times for essayists, relatively speaking. Nonfiction abounds on publishers’ lists, everything from traditional memoirs to lyric essay collections to ruminations on place to chronicles of living for a year on home-raised mushrooms or with a biblical beard.  And creative nonfiction features in almost every literary journal now, expanding the... more
Reviewed by:
Nathan Huffstutter
In his 2000 debut, Mountain City, author Gregory Martin surveys his mother’s deeply-rooted family tree, reticulating the fates of aging relatives and a faded frontier town to assay “how a thing can persist against a seemingly irrevocable will for it to die.” Martin’s follow-up, Stories for Boys, springs from a frantic 2007 phone call: the writer’s 66-year-old father has just... more
Reviewed by:
Lori A. May
Danielle Cadena Deulen has hit her stride and shows no signs of slowing. In a one-two punch, she has demonstrated her strength in prose and verse with recent successes in the awards circle. Her debut poetry collection, Lovely Asunder, was named The University of Arkansas Press 2011 Miller Williams Poetry Prize winner. This is on the heels of her 2010 AWP Prize in Creative Nonfiction win... more
Reviewed by:
Ross Barkan
When Paul McCartney sang “Hey Jude” at the opening of the 2012 summer Olympics, he unintentionally displayed the profound and humbling power of the human voice. As McCartney and his backing band fought their way through an admirable performance of a song that once set international airwaves on fire, true music aficionados, not blinded by McCartney’s legend, could not help but shake their heads... more
Reviewed by:
Brian Libgober
Except When I Write: Reflections of a Recovering Critic is a collection of literary essays by New York-based writer Arthur Krystal, a well-regarded book reviewer, who, over the course of his long freelance career, placed reviews with Harper’s, the New Yorker, and the New York Review of Books. However, fifteen years ago, while still at the height of his powers,... more

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