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FICTION: Enlightened Partisans

It’s interesting to pick up two books, both on the same topic, both fighting on the same side, that come from different powers in the publishing world—one a mainstream work, Roland Merullo’s novel American Savior, published by the mighty Algonquin; the other an avant-garde production, Tom Savage’s Brainlifts, released by the tiny, yet noble Straw Gate Books.

FICTION: Opiates and Omnivores

The best novelists are generalists and omnivores, whose books consume lives, histories, worlds by the sphereful. Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies (recently longlisted for the Booker Prize) casts a wide enough shadow across the colonial world and its people to genuinely impress.

In Conversation

Marie Ponsot with Sally Dawidoff and Jean Gallagher

Poets Sally Dawidoff and Jean Gallagher visited Marie Ponsot’s Upper East Side apartment just before she handed in her sixth collection—a yet-untitled manuscript—to Knopf. After a tour of her flowering terrace garden, Ponsot talked about truth, basketball, and the new book.

FICTION: Three Chords and the Truth

Much has been written about Peter Markus’s limited vocabulary. Nearly every review of his previous three books offers a list of his words, often draped in quotation marks and given in no particular order: “moon,” “mud,” “river,” “rust,” “fish,” “star,” “brother.”

FICTION: When You Can't Cut Fog

Saša Stanišić’s premiere novel, How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone, begins in a kind of mythologized Bosnian world, a place of magical-like tales—many of them emanating from the young hero’s recently dead grandfather Slavko—mixed with a humorous presentation of the collapse of Tito’s Communist rule of Yugoslavia.

ANTHOLOGY: The Task of the Translator-Poet

To get some idea of the size and scope of David Hinton’s Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology, imagine you are Donald Allen, editor of the seminal New American Poetry 1945-1960. Next, imagine the era of “New American Poetry” begins somewhere around 1500 BCE and finishes around 1200 CE, and is going to include all the major poets from that time span.

ANTHOLOGY: Tongue Out of Cheek

While riding on the subway to Brooklyn, I spotted a muscular hipster decorated in colorful, decadent tattoos. Although a giant frankfurter was printed across his bicep, it was the image on the side of his arm that really caught my attention: an anthropomorphized slice of pizza, and a beer-can, raising their human arms into a united high-five.

FICTION: Oh What a Paradise It Seems

There’s something disturbing about the suburbs. In his tragicomic stories on the status quo, John Cheever, the so-called “Checkhov of the suburbs,” probed postwar America for its undercurrents of stifled discontent. Lust, envy, and general malaise pervade Shady Hill, the upstate setting of his 1958 collection of tales.

FICTION: Better Off Without a Wife

According to a recent interview with Jim Harrison published in the New York Times, the author writes more novels than his current publisher knows what to do with. The latest, The English Major, was penned while his last book was under editing.

Prose Roundup

A.B. Yehoshua’s Friendly Fire is a story of a long married couple. Amotz (Ya’ari) is an engineer tending to the needs of his children, grandchildren, and elderly father, while his wife, Daniella, is in East Africa mourning the death of her older sister.

Poetry Roundup

A princess in a fairy tale… a victim of war… a sleepwalker navigating the fog… these are the faces Albanian poet Valentina Saracini puts forth. A pilgrim, she leads us through loneliness, fear, and sudden illumination. She paints each page black with her words, inviting lightning. “Bring me my love to the shore/ Get me a crystal boat.”


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2008

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