Recalling Joni Mitchell’s famous lyric “They paved paradise, put up a parking lot,” Solastalgia is a heart-wrenching and harrowing overview of environmental destruction. Though it is an ominous exploration of the Anthropocene era and the ways humans have contributed to the changing climate and landscape, it spends much of its time honoring all the strange and wondrous creatures—“may you outlast us”— that humans, both intentionally and unwittingly, are shoving toward extinction’s cliff. Solastalgia is an eloquent tribute to all the awe-inspiring flora and fauna that we have failed as a species. I love this book not only for its incisive eco-eye but also for its dazzling language terrains. Using language as the tool to effect change, these poems make you want to be better, do better.
Yours Creature is composed of epistolary poems in the voice of Mary Shelley. Often written as missives to her famous literary mother, Wollstonecraft, the poems address months, years, and her own monstrous creation as they contend with exile, transience, and desire. These poems ask us to imagine the physical elements of Shelley's existence in language that is both luminous and visceral. This is not a book that simply recreates a past, but one that transcends time as it threads together the loss and violence that history has asked women to suppress. The poems recognize the unspoken pairing of scarcity and creation; they explore how the monstrous is born out of rejection. Yours, Creatureresponds to a literary and historical narrative, but the poems exist as lyric, singing of the pleasure of creation and its transformative power.
The opening poem, "Cuban Polymita," from which the title Fixed Star arises, serves as the scaffolding device for Frischkorn's manuscript. Like the beautiful painted snails it references, the book, too, is a series of spirals: mainly, a pair of sonnet coronas whose recursive lines twine through the manuscript, both framing and bracing it. Navigating splits in language, geography, government, culture, and family—Frischkorn guides us through poems that are, contrapuntally, both luxuriant and lean. Swirling through this compact, honed manuscript is a series of citations (Shakespeare, John Cage, Muriel Rukeyser, John Keats, Normando Hernández González), and geographies (Cuba, Spain, Florida, Pennsylvania) that create transit across decades and differing terrains. Constellated with Latin jazz, jasper, sea glass, bougainvillea, contradanza, and coral reefs, Fixed Star is a brilliant treatise on violence, division, loss, longing, and the search for song. ―Simone Muench
Memory, grief, and self-reflection mingle in debut author Garza’s account of the death of her sibling. The 52-year-old author recounts her experience with survivor’s guilt, dissociation, and spirituality, as she undertook a long journey to reconstruct her identity. Throughout, the author illustrates, in observant, poetic prose, the reverberating effects that grief can have on a life and the many ways that her family has coped with it. Garza links her childhood trauma to other moments of profound loss, such as the dissolution of a toxic relationship and the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks. She draws on multiple outside sources, including the work of Rebecca Solnit, the words of Saint Teresa of Ávila, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, to explore how people understand and interact with death and how they ultimately learn to accept it as a constant companion. An achingly vulnerable, elegantly worded meditation on grief and recovery.
Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award
“Reginald Gibbons’s first novel takes place in east Texas in 1910 during the time of white rule―not by law but by lynch mob. Amid the suffocating racism and fear, half-Choctaw, half-white Reuben Sweetbitter and Martha Clarke, a white woman, fall in love. . . . Reuben and Martha’s love is strong, but, dishearteningly, racism is stronger. Timely in the subject of interracial love, this authentic, richly -detailed novel plumbs sacrifice, fear, and the loss of one’s identity, bringing the -anguish of the two young lovers to life. Highly recommended.”
Blue Boy tells the story of an art historian with gargantuan ambition and hubris. A greedy tyrant, Gabriel Rhab regards most of the people around him, family and colleagues included, as existing to serve him, though, unfortunately, they have their own ambitions and appetites, which sometimes get in the way. Though a satire, the story offers both fun and empathy, as the intensely inward-gazing world of academic rivalry, the sadness of art history, the futility of theory, and the ludic aspects of domestic life are explored from various points of view with hard intelligence and psychological depth.
Missing centers on the author’s connection to William Maxwell, legendary fiction editor at The New Yorker and old friend of Cornelia Maude Spelman’s parents. Maxwell and Spelman become acquainted in his later years; through him, she is able to see her parents as young people with potential, when previously she’d been saddened by what seemed like their mediocre, unsuccessful lives....Maxwell’s presence dominates the first chapter with warmth, affection, and charm; later, his appearance in the book is sporadic, and just right: otherwise, readers might miss out on Spelman’s fine narrative voice and rich nonfiction storytelling skills.
―Lisa Romeo, Forward Reviews
In eleven fearless, wide-ranging stories, The Sexual Lives of Suburbanites offers us a sometimes absurdist, sometimes satirical but always fresh glimpse into the things that trouble us most. From materialism to regrets and everything in-between, Stenson dissects suburban milieu. Whether narrated by e-trading infants or drug addicts, the characters' worlds unfold with energy and surprise. Variously whimsical, obsessive, charming, and dark, the stories also break your heart.
Framed as a job application, and bounding with associative leaps and surrealist underpinnings, Dear Selection Committee is a subversive, sexy love song to an endlessly messy self and the burning world it inhabits. Full of apostrophic power, these poems shift among registers of loss, desire, and joy as they wrestle with issues such as climate change, addiction, modern distractions, gender presentation, religious questioning, and the nature of pain. Dear Selection Committee attests that although life can feel like a bumpy cab ride to interview for a job you feel uniquely unqualified for, if you lay aside the anxieties of self just long enough to peer out the window, you’ll see great beauty amidst the chaos.
Christine arrives at her family’s farmhouse near Florence, in need of respite from personal sorrow and the quiet to work, only to find the cistern dry. Without water, she will be unable to stay. Determined, she embarks upon a search that will lead to a town's deep-held secrets. Her search draws her into the patchwork community of locals and foreigners, who know more than they admit. Human dramas emerge from the seemingly tranquil landscape—the journey to find water reveals the connectivity of lives and entanglements as complex as the water system. With a sleuth’s eye for details, sometimes poignant, sometimes funny, the novel offers an almost anthropologically precise portrait of a time and place that makes for addictive reading.
The rain-sodden, southern world of David Wesley Williams’ Everybody Knows overflows with satiric fun as it churns up a rich detritus of Biblical allusions, political backstory, musical opinions, literary puns, and local anecdote. The story, set a decade hence, introduces a raft of characters, too, including musicians, an escaped felon, a tyrannical governor atop his state’s old electric chair, various and likable sidekicks and mistresses, and even a writer, the ironic double of the work’s author, whose enthusiasm for his subject matter spills over into strongly opinionated footnotes. And that’s all before the pirates arrive. Original, energetic, and obsessive, Everybody Knows recalls the worlds of Faulkner, Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Kurt Vonnegut, and John Kennedy Toole in its broad wit and sorrowful joy.
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