Jan/Feb 2008

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...

You'll Be Okay: My Life with Jack Kerouac
by Edie Kerouac-Parker

Again, it is rare to get a plain and simple, utterly normal glimpse of a well-known author during his or her formative years: Ginsberg before he was Ginsberg, as it were. The impression he generally left on others is as important a fact of biography as most.

Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet
by Christian Wiman

Christian Wiman has been expanding the territory of poetry after an ironic fashion for some five years now. While his Savior warns him that one can not put new wine in old wineskins, he seems supremely aware that literature has historically done so time and again, often with exceptional results.

Ann Skea reviews...

Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy
by Michael Rosen, Illustrated by Quentin Blake

My six-year-old grandson dissolved in giggles on hearing the antics of an absent-minded small boy in the bathroom—"I suck the sponge. I suck the sponge"—appealed to him to no end.

Letters of Ted Hughes
by Christopher Reid

The letters span Ted's life from his teenage years to his death, and they tell us a great deal about him. Above all, as John Carey rightly says, "No other English poet's letters, not even Keats's, unparalleled as they are, take us so intimately into the wellsprings of his own art."

Thames: Sacred River
by Peter Ackroyd

Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and Kenneth Graham were, perhaps, more interested in story-telling than in the Thames itself, although it is delightful to hear of Dodgson inventing The Adventures of Alice Underground as he rowed Alice Liddell and her sisters up the river from Oxford to Godstow.

The Quiet Girl
by Peter Hoeg

One girl in particular captures Kaspar's attention, and she has a particular interest in him. At first it seems as if she has been kidnapped and is asking Kaspar for help, but several times she turns up unexpectedly to confront him; at other times she seems to be in control of everything. In trying to help her, Kaspar is constantly in danger.

A Venetian Bestiary
by Jan Morris

Morris's imaginative, vivid and humorous style is evident from the first paragraph of the book and her familiarity with Venice and her delight in its history, people, art and curiosities, is evident in the things she draws attention to in A Venetian Bestiary.

Kajsa Wiberg reviews...

The Torso and The Glass Devil
by Helen Tursten

While I can think of a million reasons to dig into Tursten's novels—characters that will give you a whole new appreciation for the people in your life, plots that'll deprive you of sleep, along with a realistic portrait of a culture unknown to most Americans—the main one is that the novels are so vivid. Two pages into either of them, you will have disappeared into Irene's world completely. The hairs in the back of your neck will rise with hers, you will cry with her, laugh with her, and your heart will race with hers when branches rustle in the adjacent trees while she's taking her dog for a late night walk.

Tom Dooley reviews...

The Outsiders of New Orleans: Loujon Press
Directed by Wayne Ewing

There is a well-trod irony here. As is often lamented about the neighborhoods that lose their Bohemian atmosphere through gentrification, the very thing that makes these neighborhoods "cool" and desirable is lost when nobody "cool" (read, creative/rebellious) can afford to live there anymore.

Niranjana Iyer reviews...

The Great Man and Living on Air
by Kate Christensen and Ann Shapiro

A dinner party, a kitchen with a meal in preparation, a trip to the grocery store are all described with such articulate panache that we are sucked right into the scene, eavesdropping on a neighbor's revelations about an old flame even as we stir our soup bowls to identify that elusive spice. Somebody buy Christensen a ticket to see the Taj Mahal.

by Valerie Martin

When the narrative is vocalized in Chloe's voice, we feel for this obviously well-meaning lady, who is, after all, motivated by her desire for son's happiness. Then a flick of the narrative switch, and behold! We see Salome, lacking both assurance and polish (those by-products of a privileged upbringing), facing open hostility from a woman with an enormous sense of entitlement.

Barbara Newton-Holmes reviews...

The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School
by Kathleen Flinn

She makes her way through the courses: "turning vegetables" into geometric footballs, chopping up whole rabbits, killing lobsters, learning to always "taste, taste, taste," making puff pastry over and over at home until it's right, dealing with competitive classmates who swipe ingredients meant for other students.

Cicily Janus reviews...

We Swallow(ed) Spiders in Our Sleep
by Zachary C. Bush

Bush somehow finds the expressions in the seemingly silent moments we all experience. His works are not those of ramblings or rants or even of self-pitying "why-me" tales of love found and love lost. These are real upheavals of emotions poured out with true poetic license.

Colleen Mondor reviews...

The Dinner Club
by Saskia Noort

Noort keeps the tension razor sharp, and like the best written mysteries, readers will be guessing until the end just who did what to whom. There is more than one victim here, more than one villain, and more than one reason to question every member of the club.

The Theory of Clouds
by Stéphane Audeguy

Audeguy includes numerous flashbacks to Richard Abercrombie's life and his attempt to predict the movement of clouds while also finding peace far from science, in other places, and other women. This provides yet another example of how hard it can be to shake an obsession, and further, how enlightening it can be to seek answers beyond the ordinary.

History's Many Dramas
by various authors

On top of struggling to work a farm in a very difficult climate, caring for her children (and having many of them), and learning how to be housewife—as opposed to pampered daughter surrounded by servants—Susanna still carved out time to write.

Searching the Hearts of Explorers
by various authors

Franklin, of course, becomes the most memorable as so many others became obsessed with him. His wife Lady Jane Franklin is also a gripping character in her own right, and one wonders in the end just how much blood (American and British) she was willing to risk to find the bodies of her husband and her crew.

Diane Lockward interviews...

Jennifer MacPherson
Author of Rosary of Bones

I have tended to use food images from my interest in things culinary more than conscious garden imagery, but, let’s face it, everything we are comes out in our poems, conscious or not. I live in an area infamous for its winter storms, so taking the weather into account is an important activity for Syracusans!

Cicily Janus interviews...

Michael Neff
Author of Year of the Rhinoceros

Like many in this country, I am tired of the purposeful revisionism on the part of some Republicans regarding the presidency of Ronald Reagan. They want to make him over into their version of Kennedy, mythologize him into something he wasn’t. Reagan's regime was one of the most corrupt in American history, especially when one takes into account the number of public officials caught exercising their right to criminal behavior.

Elizabeth P. Glixman interviews...

Pat MacEnulty
Author of From May to December

Heroin in no way fosters creativity. When I wrote, which wasn't that often now that I think about it, I wrote poetry, pretty bad poetry. And I kept some journals, but it wasn't till I got clean that I actually started writing about some of my experiences.

Richard Lewis
Author of The Killing Sea: A Novel of the Tsunami

I flew to Medan, a city close to Aceh, several days after the tsunami, with only a cell phone number given to me by a friend already on the ground in Aceh. The number turned out to be the contact for Samaritan's Purse, a Christian relief organization I'd never heard of before headed by Franklin Graham, Billy Graham's son.

Scott Malby reviews...

Five Lit Sites—Quick and Dirty

If you're in a contrary, wounded minnow, rather freaky frame of mind, this imaginative site could be for you.