Jan/Feb 2010

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...

The Bedside Book of Beasts: A Wildlife Miscellany
by Graeme Gibson

Gibson writes of his own experiences with wild animals—a childhood encounter with sharks, the thrill of listening to wolves, the strange experience of being unknowingly stalked by a bear. But he also writes about animal behaviour, about the encounter between the hunter and the hunted, and about our own history as both predator and prey. His accounts do not always make comfortable reading, especially as they describe the increasing alienation of human beings from the natural world.

Source: Nature's Healing Role in Art and Writing
by Janine Burke

It is interesting to compare her description of Jackson Pollock's studio at Springs on Long Island with that of art historian Robert Hughes. Burke's visitor stands, as she has done, in Pollock's paint spattered studio and "feels energy rushing up from the floor, from the web of painted lines, so fast and intense it seems she is lifted off the floor." Hughes, in his vast and impressive book American Visions, describes the "shrine" of "Jack the Dripper" (a title he borrowed from an early Time magazine feature on Pollock). He sees only the "Miraculous brushes," the "Sanctified Shoes," and the "surplus drips of the Master, the sacramental ichor," that went off the edges of his great works.

The Selected Works of T.S.Spivet: A novel
by Reif Larsen

The extent of his curiosity and the huge variety of his work is apparent in the Selected Works, where panels alongside the text show (in a random selection) detailed botanical drawings, plans for corn-shucking, stages of male pattern baldness, "My first Inertia Experiment... a disaster," his brother's rocking horse, a map of the locations of the 26 McDonalds restaurants in North Dakota, and much, much more.

Gilbert Wesley Purdy reviews...

Meet Me at the Happy Bar
by Steve Langan

It seems that writing program instructors are finally becoming aware that Confessional poetry (recently declared a subgenre of the "School of Quietude") has grown rather long in the tooth. Their students are anxious for more challenging adventures.

The Awakener
by Helen Weaver

Her friendship with Howard led to meetings with the likes of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick and some familiarity with John Hollander (who would pan Ginsberg's Howl and live to regret it). While the name dropping by no means ends here, the trait is, as always, far more welcome than readers and reviewers are generally willing to admit.

Uche Peter Umez reviews...

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
by Ishmael Beah

One unsettling currency in this brilliant account is the ubiquity of blood—graphically depicted. From the woman carrying flip-flops on her head who announced, "Too much blood has been spilled," the Volkswagen driver who vomited blood, the woman with blood coming out of her ears, the father "covered with his son's blood," the woman carrying her baby on her back with "blood running down her dress," to the part where "fresh blood leaked from the bullet holes in the bodies," the air that "smells of blood," and to the memoirist himself, whose "crapes are covered with blood."

Niranjana Iyer reviews...

Two YA Novels Set in India
by Anand Mahadevan and Arun Krishnan

These distortions, to my mind, actually detract from Krishnan's greatest strength as a writer—his ability to capture the Indian generation whose childhood was bookended by Indira Gandhi's death (1984) and the rise of cable television (around 1990). Brand names, television programs, cricket matches, school exams, pop stars—Krishnan has the preoccupations and pleasures of that time down to a nicety; I would have killed for this book when I was thirteen.

Shine, Coconut Moon
by Neesha Meminger

I can hear hundreds of Indian-American teens sighing in gratitude as they read this book. Someone out there actually understands! All adults aren't idiots!

Colleen Mondor reviews...

Biographies for the Younger Set
by Various Authors

Rodriguez makes it clear why children would find Gaudi particularly interesting when writing about his project, Vicens House: "Gaudi brings nature inside the house, too. Leaves climb up the walls. Cherries hang overhead. Birds wheel around and soar to the sky." In page after she shows his inventive designs from curving ramps to an underground chapel built based on a model "that resembles a colony of bats." Celebrated now in his city of Barcelona and around the world, Gaudi is, in fact, a perfect subject for children.

Learning Made Fun! Books of Knowledge for Kids
by Various Authors

While there are certainly expected sections on plants and animals and human history, it is the pages on topics like robotics, entertainment, sports physiology and religious ceremonies that will likely surprise and inspire. The authors discuss money, international organizations, architecture and print communication (with everything from Gutenberg to manga included) in this rapid fire collection of everything and anything that is interesting about the world.

Rediscovering the Old Stories: Mythology for Children
by Various Authors

Finally, for the granddaddy of all mythology titles, there is no reason to look one step further than Philip Wilkinson's gorgeous, thorough and enormously satisfying Myths and Legends: An Illustrated Guide to Their Origins and Meanings. This book has it all, plain and simple.

Tom Lombardo interviews...

Jessie Carty
author of Paper House

So far I haven't seen another literary magazine on YouTube. I am finding more and more people who self-publish, and I enjoy what Mel Bosworth is doing on his YouTube page, where he reads excerpts from other writers or short pieces by those writers. Does it qualify as a literary magazine? I don't know, but I love it.

Jessie Carty interviews...

Tom Lombardo
founder of WebMD and editor of After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events

I have been invited to speak at seven different Sunday school church sessions, which initially I found quite odd. I am not religious, and After Shocks is not overtly religious in its content or intent. However, the topic of recovery is quite spiritual, and Sunday school groups frankly get bored talking about the same old 153 Psalms each week, so inviting an author or editor in for some intellectually stimulating literary discussion is quite a treat for them.

Pascal-Denis Lussier interviews...

Paul A. Toth
author of Finale

I certainly enjoy the Coen brothers' best films, and I'm sure they've influenced me, particularly Fargo and Blood Simple. The latter is probably closer to my sensibility. I've always found that violence is very much like a joke: the punchline has to be placed just right.

Lydia Theys interviews...

Tom Saunders
author of Inappropriate Happiness

The relationship between parent and child is a very productive one, I think. If you wanted to be grand you could see it as an analogue of one of the dynamics of history, the younger generation in debt to what's gone before yet feeling oppressed by it, trapped by it, never quite able to escape its influence and legacy.