Apr/May 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!)

Gilbert Wesley Purdy reviews...

So What: New & Selected Poems, 1971-2005
by Taha Muhammad Ali, Translated by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi and Gabriel Levin

What is not unobtrusive, however, is the harsh life of the Palestinian. Ali's home village, Saffuriyya, was obliterated by Israeli forces in 1948 and part of him—a central part—lives there still. The fate of him and his people is the subtext of all the deep humanity displayed in these poems.

The Armillary Sphere
by Ann Hudson

The "Ode to Julia Child" may be an ode in small but its success is the result of balancing at the edge of satire where the meticulous rarely finds a place. "The Daughters of Chemical Engineers Understand Chaos" is an unabashed lyric a la mode. These poems try to do less and fully succeed.

Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life
A documentary film by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack

Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life is a classic of the documentary film genre. The silent format is no disadvantage especially given the fact that the dialogue in the various scenes would have been spoken in Arabic and Luri.

Pamela Mackey discusses...

Finding What is Truly Great in Bed

Perky little tomes about the purposes of commas and the art of sentence diagramming sprint from bookshops like greyhounds at a dog track. But only the desperately sleepless would actually read them. Then there are self-help books and political autobiographies, all of which ought to bear the "Do not drive or operate machinery" warning.

Maryanne Snell reviews...

Graphic Classics Vol. 4: H.P. Lovecraft
Edited by Tom Pomplun

Lovecraft's works, while effective singly, have a cumulative effect when read in succession; the sense of dread and awakening realization of vast unknown horrors builds as the reader becomes fluent in the language and themes that course through the tales. With those qualities, how do you go about trying to adapt a selection of his writings into comic form? Comic adaptations try to make the original work more accessible but is it possible to capture the mood and style of Lovecraft without relying on his own tools?

Kajsa Wiberg reviews...

The Horrific Sufferings of the Mind-Reading Monster Hercules Barefoot: His Wonderful Love and His Terrible Hatred
by Carl-Johan Vallgren

Mr. Vallgren breaks numerous Fiction 101 rules between the covers of his book: there are shifting point of views, very little dialogue, long sentences and an ever-changing cast of characters, but it's OK because he does all of it with style. The story is as gripping, sad, and infuriating as it is beautiful, not least because of his vibrant and colorful descriptions.

Niranjana Iyer reviews...

Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors
by Lizzie Collingham

Few dishes from the Indian kitchen seem to have emerged unscathed from the wave of invaders and colonizers—Persians, Central Asians, Portuguese, Dutch, and British, to name a few—who washed upon on India's shores; authenticity, Collingham reveals, is as much a part of Indian cuisine as, say, beef drippings.

Colleen Mondor reviews...

Mysteries from other places
by Various Authors

Cathi Unsworth's classic look at why there is no honor among thieves, "Trouble is a Lonesome Town," is a grand read—even though I just knew how that one was going to end as soon as she introduced Lola. (Lola!!!) It's such a fun story to read though, so perfectly dead on for every Barbara Stanwyck noir film ever made, that I could not resist it. I also have to say that Unsworth's description of a busy mealtime at a fast food restaurant is pretty much pure poetry, and dreadfully, desperately, funny to read.

Adventures saving time, the world, and curious little old ladies
by Various Authors

I kept thinking of Carole Lombard screwball comedies as I read this or The Thin Man series with William Powell and Myrna Loy. Even though the action is of a young adult sort in The Neddiad there is still the rapid fire dialogue, casual acceptance of craziness and swinging sense of style those movies celebrated. It's simply a hip book.

Picture books out this Spring
by Various Authors

Written in English with the Japanese translation below, Sunflowers is like a book out of time; something from a time capsule that has been kept safe and precious for decades while waiting for a new generation to enjoy. It is about the importance of making art, growing beauty and holding onto hope, even when hope seems to have abandoned you.

Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime
by Patricia Hempl

"Isn't that why I became an English-major to begin with, without knowing it?" she writes. "Not to teach, not to be a librarian, not for a job. To be left alone to read an endless novel, looking up from time to time for whole minutes out the window, letting the story impress itself not only on my mind, but on the world out there, letting the words and world get all mixed up together."

Ashton Kutcher interviews...

Sir John Hargrave
Author of Prank the Monkey: The ZUG Book of Pranks

My motto is, "The bigger the buffoon, the funnier the fall." I tried to think of the biggest, most deserving targets: Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Michael Jackson...

Jim Younger interviews...

R.N. Morris
Author of The Gentle Axe

It's a little like the classical writers taking their characters from the mythological canon. Agamemnon, Oedipus, Orestes—each playwright would treat these received characters in a different way. I feel that we have a modern mythology available to us and the figure of the detective has a place in that.

Matthew Cheney interviews...

Nick Mamatas
Author of Move Under Ground

But the subplot today, in contemporary commercial novels, has a lot more to do with the price of paper and the cost breaks at certain tonnages, plus shipping costs per case and the number of units that can fit in an airport bookstore spinner rack. It's not even an attempt to pander to this or that demographic with a love story or with a talking animal, it's just the production process of commodities warping the texts.

Scott Malby reviews...

Five Lit Sites—Quick and Dirty

You can bet that the Poetry Foundation Board will wine and dine itself into a brilliant set of beliefs, among them that it is the institution of choice to lead us into a new American poetic renaissance.

Dan Schneider reviews...

Smiles of a Summer Night
Directed by Ingmar Bergman

After much subterfuge, some good one-liners, and a few mild chuckles, Anne runs off with Henrik, the Count and Charlotte reconcile, Fredrik ends up with Desirée, and even Petra ends up forcing a proposal from Frid the Horse Groom (Åke Fridell).

Good Morning
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu

Despite all that good technical and artsy stuff, the truth is that this film is simple because it's told from a child's perspective, and utterly dominated by the wonderful performances of Koji Shidara, as the older Minoru, and Masahiko Shimazu, as the younger Isamu.