Oct/Nov 2013

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...

In 100 Words or Less...
by James Wood

In 100 Words or Less... presents each poem as if it were a homework topic, yet, the poems reflect an adult view of the world. They are perceptive, often wry, and sometimes thought-provoking. Wood is good at seeing the commonplace from a new perspective. Blake's Jerusalem and Capability Brown's carefully created landscapes, scarred by a major road; the juxtaposition of graves and a compost heap; dying flowers by the roadside where a fatal accident happened: "a strange mausoleum/....Death on Display to celebrate life."

by Margaret Atwood

"There's a story, then there's the real story, then there's the story of how the story came to be told," says Toby, who is the writer-protagonist of this book. And this is the way the book unfolds, with the back-story of several of the characters and events from the earlier books being told, as well as a more detailed account of Toby's own story.

Snake Bite
by Christie Thompson

In the foreword to the reprinted edition of Puberty Blues in 2003, Germaine Greer notes that teenage boredom and experimentation have not changed since the 1970s but that the drugs and the venues are different. And they are: very different. Marihuana appears only in the final pages of Puberty Blues, and heroin is hardly mentioned, but in Snake Bite, although sex and the loss of virginity are still rites of passage for teenagers, so, too, are piercings, tattoos, "joints," ecstasy, and "poppers."

by Jeet Thayil

Zeenat, or Dimple as she is usually called, is a eunuch. Castrated as a child, she lives as a hijra, travelling between genders and working first in a brothel, then as a pipe-maker, preparing opium pipes for addicts in a slum where the poor, the deranged, and the addicted lead sordid and violent lives.

On the Trail of Genghis Khan
by Tim Cope

Cope's journey began badly when two of his three horses were stolen from outside his tent on his sixth night. By luck, he managed to get them back, but he quickly understood the nomads' custom of accepting passing horsemen into their gers (family tents) and sharing shelter and fodder, the common "door-knock" being a loud throat-clearing and spit. As the herder who stole (and returned) his horses told him: "A man without friends is as small as a palm. A man with friends is as big as the steppe."

The Lowland
by Jhumpa Lahiri

Maybe I expected too much. Literary prizes, as Julian Barnes has famously said, are "posh bingo"—a lottery which says more about the judges than about the quality of the listed books, and clearly very many equally deserving books remain unlisted.

The Signature of All Things
by Elizabeth Gilbert

Over many years, Alma's continuing interest in mosses leads her to develop an almost unique theory about the evolutionary development of plants, based on their struggle for survival—almost unique, because she learns of similar theories developed by Alfred Russel Wallace (whom she meets) and by Charles Darwin (who publishes his as On the Origin of Species). Alma, although having written up her theory before either of these men, never publishes it, because it raises a question about the evolutionary value of altruism that she cannot explain.

Gilbert Wesley Purdy reviews...

Elegy Owed
by Bob Hicok

While Hicok is now an MFA graduate and an Associate Professor, at Virginia Tech, his first several books were published while he worked as an automotive die designer and eventually started his own die design business. He wrote when he could find the time and became involved in Ann Arbor, Michigan's, open-mic and slam scene. Eventually, he sent a poem to a well-known Detroit poet, M. L. Liebler, asking for his guidance. Liebler's Ridgeway Press published his first chapbook soon after.

America's Romance with the English Garden
by Thomas J. Mickey

Prior to Henry, most gardens were within the walls of castles or monasteries. There were medicinal gardens, kitchen gardens and pleasure gardens. The pleasure gardens were the forerunners of the flower beds around our homes, or would have been if non-medicinal flowers had played more than a tiny role. They were more turfed orchards, actually, almost certainly featuring a central fountain or statue. Shrubs along the walls were generally used to soften the effect of being within an enclosure.