Jul/Aug 2022

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...

Galatea: A Short Story
by Madeline Miller

Galatea describes his increasing jealousy when he sees the tutor hired for Paphos looking at her. She no longer blushes, as she did when newly awakened, so he suspects she has become "shameless" like other women. He sacks the tutor and keeps Galatea and Paphos inside, and he is annoyed by Paphos's youthful impertinence and independence: "She wasn't quite what her father wished to brood," says Galatea. He is also distressed by the after-birth stretch-marks on Galatea's stomach— she is no longer perfect: "If you were stone I would chisel them off," he says crossly.

by Robert Dessaix

Why Enid Blyton? Because she knew "the secret places children like to escape to." She knew how to take her readers on dangerous and exciting adventures, adventures in which they go to strange places, struggle with enemies, rely on the loyalty of friends, overcome all odds, then, always, return home, just as in traditional hero-stories.

Straits: Beyond the Myth of Magellan
by Felipe Fernández-Armesto

Fernández-Armesto, spends a good deal of time describing the political and business complexities of the world into which Magellan was born. He fills out details of his early life, his marriage, his mercantile ventures, and in particular, his war experiences during Portuguese colonizing expeditions along the east coast of African. Eventually, Magellan, like many other Portuguese adventurous young men at the time, abandoned Dom Manuel when he did not receive the recognition he thought he deserved and gave his allegiance, instead, to the Spanish king, Charles V.

by Isabel Allende

Violeta's account of her country life is full of fascinating detail about the native people of this area. Teresa Rivas's mother and father, Lucinda and Abel, are retired teachers who now travel the area voluntarily teaching basic skills to children in remote locations, and Violeta begins to accompany them. As they travel around, Lucinda also collects information about native plants, barks, and medicinal herbs. She is especially friendly with a tribal healer, Yamina who uses shamanic techniques, enchantments, and a drum that "belongs to the people" (meaning her people alone). Yamina eventually uses her shamanic powers on members of Violeta's own family, and Violeta records the ceremonies and drumming that helped her dying mother pass peacefully to the next world.

The Collected Writing of Assia Wevill
edited by Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick and Peter K. Steinberg

I was a friend of Ted Hughes from 1992 until his death in 1998, and of Lucas Myers, Daniel Weissbort, and Olwyn Hughes, all of whom knew and liked Assia. Olwyn, in particular, worked closely with Assia on the publication of her English translations of the Hebrew poetry of Yehuda Amichai. I have studied Ted's work for many years now and have read his published letters to and about Assia; and I have worked closely with his Capriccio poems, which are about her and his relationship with her. I have also read Sylvia's poems, letters, and journals many times, as well as the Koren and Negev biography of Assia. So, I will take Goodspeed-Chadwick's and Steinberg's editorial advice and try to remain aware of my "filters and biases" as I review Assia's writings.

The Devil's Bargain
by Stella Rimington

Peter Robinson, whose real name is Pyotr Romanov is, indeed, a Russian spy. His handler, years before, had infiltrated him into England and had funded his life and his business there. Peter had done well, gradually establishing himself as a reliable, honest Englishman, whose mixed past (invented, and documented where necessary) explained his unusual accent and his apparent lack of relatives. The break-up of the Soviet Union, however, had cut him off from Moscow.

Gregory Stephenson reviews...

Oh Excellent Air Bag
edited by Adam Green

Those who acted as experimental subjects for Davy in his nitrous oxide investigations tended afterward to concur with him in his enthusiastic endorsement of the gas. One of the most effusive in his praise of the mysterious new substance was Davy's good friend, the poet Robert Southey, who wrote of the experience, "It makes one so strong & so happy! So gloriously happy! & without any after debility but instead of it increased strength & activity of mind & body—oh excellent air bag. I am sure the air in heaven must be this wonder working gas of delight."

Nicholas Clemente reviews...

Jacket Weather
by Mike DeCapite

DeCapite is at his best when exploring the bittersweet and inevitable transformation wherein the city of youthful dreams becomes the city of experience and cynicism. "The year for me is a continual recycling of microseasons and weathers and specificities of light I experienced before I was twenty," he writes. This collision of the past and present is one of the most interesting things about getting older.

by Bud Smith

One of the best ways to grow as a writer is to either lean into or learn to work around your flaws. In Teenager, Smith goes so far beyond his usual autobiographical or semi-autobiographical work, I thought he was maybe out of his range.

Jesse Hilson reviews...

The Ketchup Factory
by JP Vallières

The Ketchup Factory handles all this furtive romantic activity with more alarming directness than it handles the incidentally crucified subjects dangling above people's yards. This directness manages to be both menacing and playful, as if acted out by creepy children playing doctor. It's as if Updike's infidelities were pursued not in a space safely clothed by his trademark belletrism, sardonic polish, and 20th century sophistication, but in a naked, wide open Eraserhead-like environment, uncomfortable to inhabit as readers.

Stuart Ross reviews...

Acts of Service
by Lillian Fishman

For the majority of the novel's remaining pages, Eve, Olivia, and Nathan throw down at one of Nathan's Upper East Side properties, which, like all such apartments, opens onto itself straight from the elevator. Our trio fuck, eat, smoke (indoors), talk, drink, fuck again, and talk some more. Sexual feats range from the rote to the ravenous, often illuminated by banker's lamps. Why is Eve, who tells us she has a "political commitment to lesbianism," sleeping with Nathan? My question is the philosophical free space in this novel of ideas, and it's one the author never tires of having her narrator ask herself, sometimes to a fault.