Jan/Feb 2021

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 Last Good Man
by Thomas McMullan

The tension McMullan builds in these opening pages is sustained throughout the book. Partly, it is fuelled by Peck's own uncertainties as a stranger in a close community with its own system of control and justice. He questions the influence of the wall, where anonymous people write their opinions and make accusations. And he is disturbed by the sort of "atonement" those deemed transgressors of the community values must make. These atonements include being exposed to public ridicule in the stocks; carrying heavy pieces of furniture roped to their backs; or having a limb deliberately broken. He and Hale also share a past trauma linked to the death of Peck's mother, and this is gradually revealed as Peck remembers their boyhood.

There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job
by Kikuko Tsumura

Kikuko Tsumura is clearly as inventive as her heroine. The five jobs this young woman takes involve surveillance; helping to write brief advertisements to be broadcast on the local bus; devising and writing slogans for small, individual packets of rice crackers; putting up posters in the local area; and perforating and separating piles of tickets for an exhibition. She is good at all these jobs, but each one turns out to have a mystery or an added task that begins to consume her attention and cause her stress. Often, since she is innovative, she is the cause of her own problems.

The Devil and the Dark Water
by Stuart Turton

It would, in any case, be almost impossible to fit the book into any genre other than that of good, fantastically unbelievable and very entertaining stories. Containing, as it does, a galleon, a murderous crew, lots of deaths and devilry, priceless treasures, and a cast of characters, all of whom have dark secrets, it is exactly the sort of gripping yarn you would tell on a ship's deck on a dark and stormy night.

Gregory Stephenson reviews...

Collected Plays
by Gregory Corso, edited by Richard Schober

In spite of poison and a plague of insects, to say nothing of the demise of three characters (and the unresolved mortal danger to another unseen, offstage character, a helpless child) the play remains light-hearted, blithely, briskly propelled by puns, jokes, preposterously extravagant conduct, comic incongruities and a succession of wildly improbable, unpredictable occurrences. Beneath the humour, though, serious questions are subtly implied: elemental issues of appearance and reality and of order and disorder.

Carole Mertz reviews...

Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick
by Wilda Morris

The full enjoyment of her poems, however, does not lie only in Morris's use of an abundant variety of poetical forms. It is the way her content brings us into the atmosphere of Melville's ocean experience and lets lovers of classical literature recall that important novel of the 19th century.

Christine Potter reviews...

In Code
by Maryann Corbett

Corbett's formal verse is almost sneaky. The last couplet of a sonnet clicks into place before you expect it to appear. Even the villanelles don't give themselves away too quickly. You're swept into a poem about the fire that destroyed thousands of classic jazz and pop recordings before you realize that what you're reading is indeed a ghazal. These poems wear their forms gracefully, a neat trick indeed.

Jarrett Kaufman interviews...

Bonnie Jo Campbell
author of Once Upon a River

After WWII, men in our part of the Midwest could join the middle class and stay there by working a factory or machine-shop job. Often these jobs were soul sucking, but they provided a good living that allowed men to feel proud of how they lived. That has fallen apart, and many men have gotten lost in the shuffle between that old system and whatever it is that we have now, where most uneducated men will be poor. For women the situation is a little different, because women have not been as identified with their employment, but they've had a similar hardship, and the problems of men become the problems of the women around them.

Peter Amos discusses...

William Carlos Williams and politics
Though our problems are older than anyone living, the way we talk about them has changed. We've surrendered the vocabulary of shared humanity; we've abandoned even the pretense of empathy. Decency is worthless for its own sake and comfort is neither end nor useful means, but columnists and anchors who lament the death of decency are infuriating not because they've misdiagnosed the problem, but because they've diagnosed it correctly and remain mystifyingly ignorant of the damage.