Jul/Aug 2009

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...

Burnt Shadows
by Kamila Shamsie

Hiroko faces the worst that can happen and, as she did at Nagasaki, she survives— because she has to, and because, as she says at the end of the book "the world goes on." And the shadows, for all of us, are always there.

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Ishiguro is equally at home with female voices and he manages, in the demanding brevity of a short story, to create people whose characters show through their speech and actions. Each, sadly, is a flawed human being. But aren't we all?

Niranjana Iyer reviews...

Life Class
by Pat Barker

I wasn't tempted to skip a single paragraph, not even the one about severed limbs and gas gangrene smells. It helps that Barker's prose never deviates from the scrupulously elegant. It's as though this author wields an emery board instead of a pen—there isn't a single rough edge to be found in her writing. Really.

A Little Stranger
by Kate Pullinger

This book should be declared mandatory reading for those planning to embark on parenthood without a regiment of babyminders. For the first-time parent, the baby often arrives with the force of a bomb, turning order into chaos overnight.

Kajsa Wiberg reviews...

The Concubine of Shanghai
by Hong Ying

For starters, Cassia is a lovely character—the kind of girl most of us would love to call a friend. I especially like the way she engages in so many activities most people would consider appalling—prostitution, for example, not to mention murder—yet comes across as a warm, sweet and overall good person.

Tanya M. Twete reviews...

OK Go and Blueberry Girl
by Carin Berger and Neil Gaiman, respectively

It balances perfectly the charm of girlishness and the "I am woman, hear me roar" attitude that we all hope our little girls grow up to have.

Colleen Mondor reviews...

Poetry Collections for Kids and Teens
by Various Authors

I was struck again and again while reading by so many ringing moments in lines like "I am history's child/ the wind over the Island of Cuba" by Dainiel Jimenez or "I am a young male red apple/ feeding humanity/ an African of Moroccan blood/ fishing for the fourth language" by Abdessalam Mansori.

Picture Book Reading for Vacation Days
by Various Authors

He is a bit of a New York Dennis the Menace—so much frenetic energy that he can not help himself. He simply and positively must have those pigeons! (And of course he never will, but you love him anyway.)

Children's Books for the Artistically Inclined
by Various Authors

He designs stained glass windows on commission and then crafts small ones for himself out of beach glass; he has spent a lifetime making art of all kinds out of junk he finds on the street—fiber and tin and even puppets—and he also landed at Normandy on D-Day. He majored in philosophy and has written and illustrated African folktales. If you're looking for a true modern day renaissance man then Ashley Bryan is your guy and this is the book to make you believe in everything. It left me with a smile on my face and a wish for a ticket to Maine. Wonderful.

Jeffrey James Keyes interviews...

William Roetzheim
author of the poetry collection Thoughts I Left Behind

I guess my favorite Navy story doesn't even involve me. It's the fact that my daughter Elizabeth set her mind on being a Naval Aviator after she saw the movie "Top Gun" and now she's a pilot flying P-3 aircraft for the Navy. As to my writing, my time in the Navy wasn't particularly fruitful as a source of inspiration. Most of what I do is character intensive, so I'm always on the lookout for interesting, weird people that I can use either directly or blend in with another character. The people I knew in the military were, well, pretty normal for my taste.

Lea Deschenes interviews...

Tony Brown
legendary performance poet and author of the chapbook Flood

Nothing drives me crazy like the poets who say, "I only write when I'm sad, or happy, or in love..." Me, I only write when I'm breathing. I work at this all the time. It's part of me that I can't shake free of... and if I waited for "inspiration" to strike, I'd be in trouble.

A conversation between...

Ellen Meister and Saralee Rosenberg
authors of the novels (respectively) The Smart One and Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead

The terrible thing about the power of the subconscious is that you can't ever count on it. But the wonderful thing is that when it kicks in, it feels like a special gift.

A conversation between...

Judith Arcana and Judith Barrington
authors of (respectively) Our Mothers' Daughters and Trying to Be an Honest Woman

Our cultural backgrounds, at first glance, look enormously different, and in many ways they are. I'm a middle-class Brit, and your roots are quite different from mine. But culture has a way of opening smaller doors off that main, broadly-defined chamber—smaller doors that lead into narrow corridors, some of which intersect with the narrow corridors of a person who may seem entirely "other."

Gilbert Wesley Purdy reviews...

Praising It New: The Best of the New Criticism
edited by Garrick Davis

Science had wounded the Fisher King and the land had been laid waste for it. As in the Grail legends, the questing knight—the poet—must first survive the great waste land before, emerging on the far side, he is fit to begin his journey to heal the king thus healing the once fruitful land over which he rules.

Inseminating the Elephant
by Lucia Perillo

It is a difficult book to read but more difficult still to put down, a consuetudinary of laboratory and field practice, in killing, interleaved with tales of inconcinnate, cacophonous living. There is an apprenticeship to killing, a striving toward the studied nonchalance of the master. Elsewhere, in the public library, the malodorous homeless snore beneath newspapers.