Oct/Nov 2014

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...

Noontide Toll
by Romesh Gunesekara

I enjoyed this book but I was left thinking about the many people in many countries in the history of the world, past and present, who have had to come to terms with living with the memories and the continuing suspicions engendered by civil war. The many who have lived through devastating natural disaster, too. As Vasantha knows, the past cannot be wiped from memory, and it must not be forgotten.

My Salinger Year
by Joanna Rakoff

Curiously, she only read Catcher in the Rye and Salinger's other books for the first time towards the end of her year at the Agency. At one point, however, after reading many of the letters addressed to Salinger, letters which he required the Agency to intercept and answer, she got tired of sending out the standard form-letter and began to adapt and extend it and make it more personal. The results were unexpected.

The Incorrigible Optimists Club
by Jean-Michel Guenassia

The author, Jean-Michel Guenassia, is a well-regarded and experienced screenwriter, and he knows how to tell a good story. This, his first novel, was awarded the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens, and it attracted accolades from Le Figaro, Lire, and La Parisienne, which now decorate the book's back cover. La Parisienne called it "A debut, a doorstopper, a masterpiece." The first two, it certainly is, and some chapters are exceptionally vividly written.

In My Mother's Hands
by Biff Ward

Biff Ward writes lovingly about her father, but this memoir is as much her own story as it is that of both her parents. It becomes, too, a picture of Australian society in the 1950s and 1960s, of the effects on the family of having a father known by small-town neighbors for his Communist sympathies, and of what it was like to grow up, study, and have a social life in small, close-knit, country communities.

The Peculiar case of the Electric Constable
by Carol Baxter

Baxter describes it all in vivid detail. But be warned, the front cover of the book, which proclaims it to be "A True Tale of Passion, Poison & Pursuit," indicates the melodramatic nature of Baxter's story.

The Word Ghostand History of the Rain
by Christine Paice and Niall Williams, respectively

These two books are very different, and yet there are many similarities between them, the most important being that both are fine examples of imaginative, innovative and absorbing story-telling. The narrator of each is a young intelligent girl whose love of literature and poetry is essential to her everyday life and seeps naturally into her stories.

Maryann Corbett reviews...

by Jessica Piazza

What we can know immediately is that this book is a formal and metrical tour de force. Its cataloging information classifies it as "sonnets," but it also uses the tanka stanza, the ghazal, the sapphic stanza, rhymed dimeter and tetrameter and hexameter, and a bit of free verse. And while the meter is tight as a drumhead, it's never, ever constricted, pinched, or predictable. These poems do not lull; they poke, prod, provoke.

Gilbert Wesley Purdy reviews...

The Mountain Poems of Stonehouse
Translated by Red Pine

Not being a reader of the Chinese language, I have only been able to check the various translations of Red Pine against renderings of the same poems by others. By this measure, he seems the best of the lot. Porter's own humble descriptions of his work, together with his ability to speak fluent Chinese, make a still more compelling case.

The New Testament
by Jericho Brown

A pattern had formed from the first. This book would be about pleasure and pain, about tension, about emotional violence. The irony of the Biblical passage is as fraught as any I'd read since the young Geoffrey Hill. There was no question that I would quickly read the book through. I'd taken the hook.

and contemplates...

What [He] Did Over the Summer

The unmistakable pattern has returned. I have been queried, with a sense of perfect empowerment, as to just when I intend to pay due respect to the stockholders in the territories in which I have chosen to write.