Books

ABSOLUTE WILL

In April 2003, I was invited to the Edward de Vere Studies Conference, held annually at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon, to speak about the history of the coverage of the Shakespeare authorship question over a span of 150 years in the pages of the New York Times.

PRAISE THE BARD

No artist is solely responsible for a work of art. Every creative work relies on cultural history, collaboration, and the creative contribution of its audience. Harold Bloom, in declining health, is the subject of discussion these days. Not always a fond subject.

SELF POSSESSION, SELF INVENTION

The Blue Orchard, Jackson Taylor’s first novel, is the story of an indomitable  woman with a nature that seems to defy deforming pressures. If it sounds a bit like it has affinities with Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, one is not far off the mark.

SMALL WONDER

Painter, Installation Artist, Writer, Andrea Scrima has written a work of fiction. Dreamlike Marquezian sequences float and weave through the eyes of a woman in the wake of her father’s death, the shadow of her mother’s passing.

STAKES LOW, DROWNS SLOW

In his own words, Milo Burke, the quasi-anti-hero of Sam Lipsyte’s novel, The Ask, is “A man with many privileges and zero skills.” An impotent and spineless everyman, Milo is reflected time and  again in the characters he encounters throughout The Ask, widening his despair and our own.

FOE FLOW

A Jesse Ball magic mystery tour in a land of Calvino’s fables? With zany temporal shifts and winsome absurdities, Light Boxes, Shane Jones’s refractive first book, dispatches readers on just such a journey. Lyrical flights and evocative metaphors render the prose in poetic terms. In The Failure Six, Jones methodically dispenses with storytelling, surrendering the text to one strange and beautiful image after another

EVERYTHING WHERE?

The characters in Justin Taylor’s first book of fiction, a collection of 16 short stories entitled Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever, are plagued by the familiar maladies of modern America’s youth. While most of these stories don’t break new ground in terms of subject matter, they are often cringingly relatable and, in a few instances, shine with tenderness, humor, and genuine insight.

THE KINDNESS OF NEIGHBORS

Several months ago, Robin Black was featured in the New York Times Magazine’s “Lives” column, relating her brush with reality TV. The extremely disheveled outward appearance of her house made it a candidate for a show she jokingly calls Your Neighbors Must Really Hate You.

RAPID TRANSIT

There’s nary a word wasted in these mini tours-de-force by Kay Ryan, our current national Poet Laureate. Beginning with poems from 1965, this book presents a lifetime’s work and it is an unqualified success.

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APR 2010

All Issues