Apr/May 2020

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Reviews & Interviews

(These are excerpts—click on the title to view the whole piece!)

Ann Skea reviews...

A Murder at Malabar Hill
by Sujata Massey

Perveen is Parsi (a member of a group of Indian born Zoroastrians whose ancestors came to India from Persia), but she has studied Mohammedan law and understands the customary Muslim dower practices. Her concern about the proposed changes, outlined in documents presented by Farid's estate trustee, is that Farid's widows appear to be signing away their dower rights. "Isn't it strange," she asks her father when they discuss these changes, "that all three women wish to make a change against their own interests—and two of the signatures are almost identical?"

A Dictionary of Interesting and Important Dogs
by Peter J. Conradi

Not all of the dog stories here are comfortable reading. Especially the one about the two Swedish women who, after seeing caged research animals in the Pasteur Institute in Paris, enrolled as medical students in London and witnessed medical demonstration-experiments on dogs. In 1903, "against legal advice—they published their anti-vivisection diary." Legal proceeding for slander ensued, but the case was widely publicized and there was widespread protest.

Below Deck
by Sophie Hardcastle

This is the start of Oli's close friendship with Mac and, especially, with Maggie, who shares Oli's way of experiencing the world through sound and color. A later, longer trip with Mac and Maggie to Hamilton Island in the Coral Sea not only cements that friendship but awakens Oli to the beauty, the magic, and the terrors of sailing.

by Romesh Gunesekera

Romesh Gunesekera beautifully captures Kairo's imaginative responses to life, his fascination with books of every kind, his adolescent confusions, his teenage insecurities, and his desire for Jay's friendship. And although Kairo is still politically unaware, he sees and hears and reports things that suggest some of the underlying tensions which inevitably exist in a society where Sinhalese, Tamil, and Muslim people live together.

Elephants with Headlights
by Bem Le Hunte

She makes a bargain with her father: "If you go and see Guruji and learn to meditate, then I'll go on a date with Mohan." Savitri, so far, has absolutely refused to get married and has rejected every suitable young man Siddharth and her mother Tota have arranged for her to meet. It certainly doesn't help that she was born under "a tainted star" and is a Manglik, which predicts she will kill her spouse.

The Lost Jewels
by Kirsty Manning

The Lost Jewels is a richly imagined family saga. It has history, love, adventure, priceless jewels, colorful and unusual locations, and a smattering of social comment. It is Kate's story of adventure, loss, and love. It is Essie's story of hardship, deaths, emigration and the founding of a shipping line. And it is the story of Essie's beloved sister, Gertrude, who gains an education and "dedicates her legal career to the support of women and children."

House on Endless Waters
by Emuna Elon

On his second visit to Amsterdam, Yoel spends hours at the Jewish History Museum trying to learn as much as he can about the sort of world in which is family once lived. And he learns much about the way the Dutch reacted to the German occupation of the city. One old woman, in a filmed interview, says that people knew what was happening in Germany, had heard about arrests and persecution of Jews, and guessed that Holland would be invaded, but... "We didn't believe it. We didn't believe it. We didn't believe such things could happen in Holland."

Gregory Stephenson reviews...

Poems from the Greenberg Manuscripts
by Samuel Greenberg, edited by James Laughlin and Garrett Caples

Greenberg's poetry is cast in various forms, including end-rhymed quatrains and unrhymed quatrains, blank verse sonnets and free verse. His poems not infrequently contain misspellings and erratic punctuation, as well as grammatical, syntactical and lexical errors; they mix archaisms and poeticisms with mysterious word coinages. They tend toward the effusive and rhapsodic, are marked by ellipsis and incongruity, by shifts and juxtapositions, and by rolling metrical phrases and amazing sweeps and leaps of language. They are, as Hart Crane wrote to a friend, the poems of "a Rimbaud in embryo."

Gilbert Wesley Purdy reviews...

Written in Exile
by Liu Tsung-yüan, translation by Red Pine

Actually, Liu is known foremost as a writer of innovative prose. It is the prose that has been brought before the public. Limited samples are included among the poems here, in Written in Exile. While I cannot speak for the details of the translation (not knowing Chinese), the clear impression is that these are much more natural than other T'ang poems. Among their attractions, they are rhythmically looser then T'ang poems are as the rule.

and discusses...

Just Another Crisis in the Life of the Freelance Writer
Pandemics also release in-progress autocrats to further curtail opposition. Hungary's Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, had already been playing every side against the others while he took control of the legislature and judiciary in the country. Now, the legislature has given him emergency powers to rule by personal decree until he feels that the power is no longer necessary. Regarding the present pandemic, he has taken the opportunity of making "fake news" about his handling of the crisis punishable by five years in prison. His government gets to decide what "fake" is.


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