Jan/Feb 2007

e c l e c t i c a   r e v i e w s  & 
i n t e r v i e w s

Reviews & Interviews

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

Ann Skea reviews...

by Jeanette Winterson

The children are thoroughly modern and they live in a recognizably modern world of fast food and technological gadgetry. There are elements of magic, too, which is fashionably modern in children's books, but it is magic with a strongly scientific twist. Time travel and Space travel, as well as being an imaginative dream, are seen as real possibilities based on quantum physics.

Ted Hughes: A Literary Life
by Neil Roberts

Mostly, this book is an attempt to show how Ted Hughes's work was shaped by his experiences, especially those of his earliest years, and how a core of deeply held beliefs was consistently expressed by and in his poetry.

The Laughter of Foxes
by Keith Sagar

Here, Sagar challenges the way in which poetry is usually taught, suggesting that the common practice of "artificially detaching the poem from the poet, and from the creative process encourages the belief that, as milk comes from bottles, so poems come from books," and it completely ignores "the complex and fascinating process by which they came into being and got into books."

The Human Touch
by Michael Frayn

So, philosophers talk about the behaviour of billiard balls; or the existence of their left sock (as Tom Stoppard demonstrated in Jumpers); or, as Frayn does, about their choice of marmalade on their breakfast toast and the seemingly automatic rising of a man's cock.

Moral Disorder
by Margaret Atwood

These stories are all pure Atwood; and they are all Atwood in her very best word-weaving, story-telling form. Her wit and humanity make each of them a perceptive, vivid glimpse of its narrator's life.

Gilbert Wesley Purdy reviews...

D.C. Poets Against the War: an Anthology
Edited by Sarah Browning, Michele Elliot, and Danny Rose

Once the bombs are falling they will continue to fall until we have taken whatever we deem worth taking or until the cost threatens to outweigh our collective desire to choose the easy way out of the enormous dilemmas we face.

Black Box
by Erin Belieu

Clearly, the Brave New World offers some remarkable and expansive opportunities to its poets. The bus tour may be right out of the 60s—the Stones on tour with all the period touches except the Stones—but that, too, is part of the 21st century experience. And we all can follow it from the comfort of our own living rooms, replete with the most sincere poet-next-door text a blogger can muster and (at the Poetry Bus.com blog) MP3 audio and QuickTime video clips into the bargain.

Maryanne Snell reviews...

First Second Comics
An Emerging Force in the Comic Industry

In their respective books, both Myrick and LAT simply and beautifully illustrate the life of a young boy growing into a man without thesis or judgment. Both function as true slice-of-life books, laying out one person’s experience through childhood and into early adulthood.

Pamela Mackey discusses...

Moby Dick's Ishmael

Whose story is Moby Dick, anyway? Names, jobs, churches, affinities—separately and together—form a chart that can guide us, if we choose to sail, into some of the deepest, most dangerous currents of our collective past.

Kajsa Wiberg reviews...

Flashes of the Other World
by Julie Ann Shapiro

Though Julie Ann Shapiro does a great job of adding new touches to popular themes, she also doesn't hesitate to throw herself into the unknown. Don't be surprised if you encounter creatures of the forest, sandmen, talking whipped cream, and insane obsessions between the covers of her book.

Colleen Mondor reviews...

A Second Collection of Polar Literature
by Various Authors

So the appeal now, as it was then, is to see the heroes tested and even if they fail, their willingness to try makes them eternally worthy of our attention. Even if they starve to death in the middle of nowhere after one too many wrong turns, Moss knows what matters is that they tried, thus they are heroic.

Books Providing Perspective on Afghanistan and Iraq
by Various Authors

Ditmars is not sure why she is so captivated by Iraq and its people but is clearly in awe of the long cultural history it holds. "Cradle of civilization, birthplace of Abraham, capital of the Islamic world under the great caliph Haroun al-Rashid, and more recently a center of pan-Arabism and artistic and intellectual life, Iraq is not a place to be considered lightly. It is a place to read poetry, a place to study holy books, to ponder the meaning of civilization."

Books about Quirky Families
by Various Authors

On the one hand in this title, the question is whether or not Caddy will marry another young man—the decidedly wrong young man—but really there is ever so much more to be found in Caddy Ever After as well as the other Casson family books. The young people are smart and deep and inquisitive, the adults equal parts responsible and daffy and the action remarkably ordinary, although the circumstances always seem a bit unique. I am hard pressed to see just how, exactly, my own childhood differed so much from Saffy’s or Rose’s, and yet clearly it did. In some fundamental and remarkable fashion, I was missing something, and in the Cassons, even at the much older age of 38, finally I have found it.

Young Adult Historical Fiction
by Various Authors

In every way that matters, the author has crafted a modern female version of Gary Paulsen’s classic survival tale, Hatchet. Marguerite is the antithesis of marathon shopping, cell phone addicted, gossip obsessed girls who have no vision for surviving a bad hair day let alone complete abandonment in the wilderness. It’s a wondrous look at how North America was really settled—and the impressive and brave souls who wagered everything on their wish for Eden.

Colette Dunne interviews...

Christopher Wakling
Author of The Undertow

"I'm interested in what makes people do the safe thing, in normality, and what happens when it's pricked... Starting writing and leaving the Law sounds like a braver move than it really was. I was far more passionate about writing. It's a sketchier way to exist, but I quite like that."

Shabnam Nadiya interviews...

Shaheen Akhtar
Author of Talaash

Heroes are self-absorbed. They're busy with themselves. Where do they have the time to do anything for women? On top of that, they expect things like inspiration and sacrifice from women. To men like this, a pregnant woman during wartime is simply a burden.

Sam Adams interviews...

Bob Sloan
Author of Bearskin to Holly Fork

The writers I most admire, no matter what century they lived in, weren't career academics. Larry Brown was a fireman. Jim Harrison was a day laborer. Mark Twain piloted steamboats. Jack London prospected and fished and any number of other things. I know some people who once upon a time had all it took to be good, maybe even great writers. Then they went to college and basically never left.

Shin Yu Pai interviews...

Evelina Galang
Author of One Tribe

In terms of the process, I have six very different drafts of One Tribe. My readers have been many and have given different sorts of responses. The older the draft, the tougher the critics. I actually have all my journals and versions—including a photograph of all the scenes broken down into a storyboard—that would have been the second draft—and once a year I haul the three cartons on a hand dolly into my grad seminar and I talk about process, and passion, and commitment.

Susan O'Neill interviews...

Jasmina Dervisevic-Cesic
Author of The River Runs Salt, Runs Sweet

All my rejection letters basically told the same thing: The book was very well-written and it was a true testament to the strength of the human spirit, but after Zlata's Diary and other books on Bosnia, they didn't think it would be easy to sell a book such as mine. My agent advised me to change my story and to leave Bosnia out of my book.

Scott Malby reviews...

Five Lit Sites—Quick and Dirty

I've never encountered anything like Web Del Sol. It irritates and pleases at the same time.

Andy Catlett, Early Travels
by Wendel Berry

Had this been a first or second effort by an artist, I would be heralding the arrival of a writer whose unique gifts might someday place him in the company of Steinbeck and Faulkner. Howeveor, this is not an early book; it is a creative summation. Berry is now over 70 years old, and Andy Catlett, Early Travels represents all the experience, artistry and considerable skill that he commands.