Tagged Review

Review: Ben Lerner’s The Hatred of Poetry

by Bess Cooley, Managing Editor It makes sense to begin where Ben Lerner begins The Hatred of Poetry—with an excerpt from Marianne Moore’s poem “Poetry.” She writes, “One discovers in / it, after all, a place for the genuine.” Lerner writes that there’s “no such thing” as a genuine poem. Poetry only offers a place for it, and maybe that’s at the root of hatred for it—a hatred this book understands and tries to permeate rather than diffuse. It’s Moore’s “a place for the genuine” [emphasis added] that Lerner lights on as a fairer expectation to put on poetry. He…

So Much for That Winter

A Review of Dorthe Nors’ So Much for That Winter by Hannah Rahimi Cynicism and hope jostle for position in Dorthe Nors’ new pair of novellas, as Nors addresses crucial questions of contemporary existence with great humor and humanity. In “Minna Needs Rehearsal Space,” an avant-garde musician is torn between a need for creative solitude and a desire to connect, easily menaced by the brash reality of adult life—a smug mothers’ group, a narcissistic ex-lover, an overbearing sister, and acquaintances whose attachments and demands take on parasitic proportions. Her artistic temperament renders her particularly vulnerable to the callousness of contemporary…

Jamaal May’s The Big Book of Exit Strategies

Review By: Bess Cooley, Managing Editor Birds searching for bread. A fist fight. Fences. Lampposts. All these in the first two poems, immediately setting up Jamaal May’s second poetry collection, The Big Book of Exit Strategies. This is an urban book, a book of city landscapes—particularly Detroit, the author’s hometown. The second poem in this collection, “There Are Birds Here,” immediately subverts expectations of what Detroit will look like in this book. After May writes that bread is torn for the birds “like confetti,” he clarifies:   I don’t mean the bread is torn like cotton, I said confetti, and…

Review: Sjohnna McCray’s Rapture

The collection is a glimpse into one person’s life thus far—and it’s a stunning glimpse, like living through somebody else, sifting through family history documents and discovering what lies behind them.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

By Katie McClendon In The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters continues her tradition of weaving a story filled with tension. Waters is known for novels that combine historical elements with plot-driven storylines often fueled by romance. Her first book, Tipping the Velvet, became a BBC miniseries and won the Betty Trask Award. Affinity, her second novel, won the Somerset Maugham Award and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. Her third novel, Fingersmith, won the South Bank Show Award for Literature. Other novels she has written have been shortlisted for the Mail on Sunday / John Llewellyn Rhys Prize,…

After the Fire: Bill Morris’ Motor City Burning

Bill Morris’ new novel, Motor City Burning (Pegasus Books), begins on Opening Day at Tiger Stadium.  It’s 1968, nearly a year since the race riots ravaged Detroit, and five days since the death of Martin Luther King Jr. This immediate submersion into baseball-and-hot-dog Americana and fraught historical context establish the duality of Morris’s novel: Motor City Burning is a summer whodunit, a crime novel complete with sexy broads and hard-drinking cops sparring in one-liners, but it’s also one grappling with a sense of civic responsibility. At Opening Day is Willie Bledsoe, literary aspirant, Tuskegee drop-out, disillusioned veteran of the Student…

Michael Mlekoday: The Dead Eat Everything, Including this Review

First course: some “bathtub gin,” Baba’s dice left on the kitchen table, all the malt liquor poured out for loved ones. Second course: the roughage of “every page of the bible” to cleanse the pallet. The main course, the whole enchilada: “a city so ruined, it is perfect” with julienned pit bull—a mornay of “gunmetal and mulch” on the side. And for dessert: something that melts in your mouth, “a four-fingered ring that says DOPE”. By the end of the meal that Mlekoday serves you in his first collection, The Dead Eat Everything, winner of the Stan and Tom Wick…

Brass City: Xhenet Aliu’s Domesticated Wild Things

When I was growing up in my own beleaguered industrial hometown, there was a kid in the neighborhood so famous for his grossness we didn’t accuse each other of having cooties, but The Gordie Touch. Gordie was a chubby special ed kid with cracked thick-lensed glasses and a shabby buzz cut. He wore stained hand-me-down overalls and was forever riding his too-small bike through the halls of the school, or chasing us down the sidewalk swinging a bicycle chain, the madness and delight in his eyes magnified by those glasses. If you, too, have just read Xhenet Aliu’s Domesticated Wild…

If Noelle Kocot Were Looking For A Noelle Kocot, She Would First Have To Fly To Noelle Kocot.

If New Jersey were the universe, Noelle Kocot would be its soul. No, wait. If Noelle Kocot were the universe, her soul would be in New Jersey and her toes in the sea, settling down a hurricane. Better yet, if Noelle Kocot controlled the galaxy, Soul in Space (Wave Books), her latest poetry collection, would be a satellite beaming down pictures of earth to earth. If human experience is at times suffocating, Soul in Space certainly is not. The book travels along a wide spectrum of forms. Kocot has one hand in the sonnet jar, another in the one marked…

Snow & Guavas: NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names

What first struck me about NoViolet Bulawayo’s novel of coming of age in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, We Need New Names, were the brilliant insults. Ten year old Darling, and her gang of friends – Bastard, Stino, Sbho, and Godknows (not Chipo, though—she hasn’t said a word since she got pregnant)—run through the shanties and guava orchards relentlessly haranguing each other. Cabbage head, they sneer. Chapped buttocks. Goat teeth. Dumb donkey. Darling and her friends have plenty reason to be brutal with each other. Life in their slum, Paradise, is unrelenting. In the first of the novel’s episodic chapters, the children steal…