““The communal voice is not intended to presume upon the memories and experiences of others,” reads the disclaimer on Cinderland’s copyright page, “but to reflect the shared nature of the event itself, as the author remembers it.” Thus begins Amy Jo Burns’ memoir. It is a harrowing sketch of growing up in the overwhelming agony and infrequent ecstasy of Mercury, Pennsylvania—the pseudonym for a small, rustbelt town, which Burns describes as “an Appalachian Miss Havisham, tattered and waiting for someone who would never show.” The monotony of Mercury’s decline is shattered, though, when seven girls accuse a middle school teacher—Mr. Lotte—of molesting them during piano lessons in his home.”
“Désirée Zamorano’s third novel, The Amado Women, is an unflinchingly honest look at family relationships and the joys, sorrows, and ultimately unshakable love in these ties that bind. Like A Day Late and A Dollar Short and other work by the late Bebe Moore Campbell, The Amado Women fills a need for female-driven novels of substance, humor, and well-drawn family relationships. The novel opens with the 60th birthday of matriarch Mercedes Amado, known as Mercy. In attendance are her eldest daughter Celeste, who has flown into Los Angeles from her hideaway in San Jose, Mercy’s middle and only married daughter Sylvia, and Mercy’s youngest daughter Nataly. Nataly and Celeste are not speaking because of a grudge Nataly holds against Celeste, but the three daughters manage to enjoy a wonderful celebration with their mother.”
“I want to say that I don’t want anything
but the whisper of yr scarf as you do
the Dance of the Seven Veils
soft sound of yr satin slippers on the carpet and the raw, still bloody meat you toss my way
that I chew all night long.”
— From “The Poetry Deal,” the title poem of Diane Di Prima’s new book, reviewed at The Rumpus by Barbara Berman.
“To call a story set in an enormous castle “claustrophobic” feels odd, but that’s the first adjective that comes to mind when you read Black Lake, Johanna Lane’s hypnotic debut novel. Part of the claustrophobia is due to the plot: the Campbell family has lived in a castle called Dulough (Irish for “black lake”) for centuries, and can no longer afford to maintain it. Patriarch John will be forced to give the family home to the government, whereupon it will be turned into a museum. Philip, the Campbell family’s young son, is worried, and has every right to be. “He told himself that if he wanted to come back… he could. It was still his room. Dulough was still their house. Their father had told them so…” Later, Philip sees a KEEP OFF THE GRASS sign on his own (former) front lawn, and it feels so foreign that he leans back to the gravel, like a reflex.”
“Antrim’s stories center around white men in their thirties and forties, mostly in New York and often with Southern roots. These men are uneasy inheritors of Prufrock. They ask not “Dare I to eat a peach?” but “Ought I to light a joint?,” as one character queries in a fun, raucous party scene that becomes a frantic search for a former lover. They are adrift, mourning losses. Artists and intellectuals and lawyers who possess cultural capital and enough money to be middle class or upper-middle class (though typically not enough, by their lights, to feel secure), they struggle with anxiety and depression and grandiose flights of mania. They go on Madison Avenue shopping trips, buy—well, steal—outrageously expensive bouquets of flowers for their wives, mount ill-advised productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream featuring undergraduate nudity, pretend to be doctors while hauling ex-girlfriends’ paintings to the dump. They occupy friends’ apartments. They attend book launch parties. They smoke; they drink bourbon and Scotch. They fret.”
“Dyer paints himself as the always-astonished traveler. He is delighted and horrified by the whistle and destructive awe of jet planes and the carrier’s suctioning (often non-suctioning) toilet system. Dyer’s is surely an exaggerated persona. But the mask is also humbling. However much we may envy Dyer’s globetrotting, we would never trade our peccadilloes for his. Witness his self-conscious discomfort when meeting the crew: “I actually found I’d adopted the physical stance of the monarch-in-the-age-of-democracy (standing with my hands behind my back) and the corresponding mental infirmity: nodding my head as though this brief exchange of pleasantries was just about the most demanding form of communication imaginable.””
“Collectively, the poems of Copia ask: is plenty enough? This question resonates with conversations about commercialism and consumption. Meitner frames these dialogues in the first poem, a litany, where she tells us, “Objects around us are emitting light, transgressing,” and “Objects around us are blank and seamless[;]” they are also “durable” and “not strangers.” They “shimmer.” Objects both “wrap us in compassion” and “are no substitute for anything” (11-12). From this poem, “Litany of Our Radical Engagement with the Material World,” Meitner’s Copia may seem an anti-capitalist jeremiad; and, for some readers, it may be. Yet, here is Meitner at Wal-Mart, driving her “enormous cart / through the aisles and fill[ing] it with Pampers, tube socks, juice boxes, fruit.” Here Meitner finds gratitude for “small mercies.” She moves, like most of us, through these commercialized spaces, touching polyester, appreciating how it can be “used over and over again” (13). Meitner finds in the world of Wal-Mart and Niagara words of love “written with the motel pen” (24-5). This gift of Copia: its plenitude and the space and time Meitner takes exploring it.”
“Comprised of thirteen spastic, horrific, heartbreaking, and humorous chapters weaved into one narrative, Fourteen Stories gives us the deepest thoughts of Goebel’s alter ego, H. Roc, on an RV journey across America. While the themes of Americana, exploration, spirituality, and psychedelics are a hat-tip to Kerouac, the prose (and often long-winded rants) reads more like Burroughs. It’s energetic, fragmented, and rhythmic in a way that’s almost dangerously tempting to read quickly. Each sentence is loaded with complex ideas that need to be slowed down and analyzed, about identity, life after death, and the real and the imagined.”
“Corrigan…is on a mission to set straight the pervasive “misreading of Gatsby, now amplified a million-fold” by the recent Baz Luhrmann film, “that the novel is the literary equivalent of a luxury spending spree.” At its core is not excess but longing, she argues, that fundamentally American state of desiring what is just beyond reach. “It’s not the green light, stupid; it’s Gatsby’s reaching for it that’s the crucial all-American symbol of the novel””
— Anne Boyd Rioux reviews So We Read On by Maureen Corrigan
“Because I’d seen part of a documentary on gurus who slept on beds of nails, and because I’d tried to quit smoking before my wife came back home after leaving for nine months in order to birth our first child–though she would come back childless and say it was all a lie she made up in order to check into some kind of speech clinic up in Minnesota to lose her bilateral lisp–I had a dream of chairs and beds adorned entirely with ancient car cigarette lighters.”
— From Between Wrecks by George Singleton, reviewed for The Rumpus by Gabino Iglesias