Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Amy Bloom's New Novel

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I read Amy Bloom's new novel, Away.

There are times when the reviews or blurbs for a novel can be more elegantly written than the text of the book itself. In this case, Away was described as a "beautiful, effulgent book" (Ron Carlson), "amazingly dense" (Kirkus Reviews), "raunchy, funny, and touching" (Caryl Phillips), "urgent, riveting, fabulously entertaining" (Emma Donoghue), and a "book full of tender wisdom, brawling insight, sharp-edged humor, and--if it's possible--a lovely, wayward precision" (Colum McCann). Christopher Tilghman said that "Amy Bloom's work has always revolved around what love and desire can make us do. In Away, she paints filial love on an immense geographic and historical canvas. The result, a story of loss and survival, is gripping."

I've been a fan of Amy Bloom's work since I read her first short story collection, Come to Me, and I'd been anxiously awaiting the release of Away. Even so, the blurbs were so effusive that I actually felt skeptical before I'd even turned to page 1.

Now, though, I think this is one of those rare instances where the praise seems, if anything, inadequate. The book isn't for everyone--it's rife with coarse language, very dark themes, etc.--but she handles the material deftly.

Anyway, I'm not even going to attempt to spin a poetic web of praise for the novel. Here's what I have to say: I read it feverishly within a span of 24 hours, and now it's several days later, and I'm still thinking about the book. That's about the highest praise I can give.

It may not mean as much out of context, but this quote--about a woman who is physically alive yet emotionally dead, and haunted by memories and thoughts of loved ones who are physically dead--was my favorite from the book:

"But here, in the basement of the Goldfadn [Theatre], among the dead, it doesn't seem to be a question. She can feel them underneath her, pushing at her, pressing at the backs of her knees, lifting her up and out of the grave. Yaakov, closest to the top, straightens her skirt and brushes a last crumbled leaf from her cheek, so she can join the living, not just to do what they do, which even the dead can manage, but to feel what they feel and keep on, which even the living find hard." (quoted from Away by Amy Bloom, page 82 in hardcover)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Two New(ish) Novels

I've been reading novels again, an almost forgotten pleasure. Supposedly you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but two of my recent favorites were beautifully designed:

Digging to America by Anne Tyler

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

This didn't even make a dent in the piles on my nightstand, of course, but I'll just have to keep on going. . . .

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Fall 2007 issue of the Apple Valley Review

The Fall 2007 issue of the journal features fiction by Miriam Sagan, Barry Jay Kaplan, Fraser Sutherland, and Robert Miltner; essays, memoir, and creative nonfiction by Jo Barney, Chantel Acevedo, John Taylor, and Cathy Warner; an author interview with Sue William Silverman conducted by Angela M. Graziano; poetry by Kenneth Pobo, Rob Hardy, David Cazden, Kevin McLellan, Martha Christina, Bonnie Bolling, Bob Bradshaw, Francine M. Tolf, Rodger LeGrand, Maureen Tolman Flannery, Michael Trammell, Jennifer Armentrout, Richard Stolorow, Kendra Aber-Ferri, Deja Earley, Perry Higman, Christine Vovakes, Shoshauna Shy, Kyle Hemmings, Christopher Kelen, William Reichard, Kimberly L. Becker, Janice D. Soderling, Chris Anderson, Matthew Schoesler, Thomas D. Reynolds, Randall Horton, Daniel Sumrall, M.L. Liebler, C. Delia Scarpitti, Gloria J. Bennett, Karen Schubert, Katie Fesuk, and Tom Harmon; and artwork by Michael Abraham.

The Apple Valley Review is a semiannual online literary journal. The current issue, previous issues, subscription information, and complete submission guidelines are available at www.applevalleyreview.com.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Two Poems, Two Short Shorts, and an Essay

"Sometimes I still dream about their pink bodies" by Kelli Russell Agodon (a poem from Poetry Southeast, Fall 2006)

"Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden (a poem from Angle of Ascent: New and Collected Poems, copyright 1962, and reprinted for the Favorite Poem Project)

"Refreshing Like Diet Coke" by Jacinta Nandi (a short short story from Cautionary Tale, April 2007)

"One Day I Cried" by Oren Miller (a short essay from Word Riot, November 2005)

"Drowning" by Janet Thorning (a short short story from 971 MENU, May 2007)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Four Short Pieces by Kate Hall

I just discovered a cache of writing by Kate Hall. The content tends to be a little heavy; the writing is excellent. My favorites so far:

"My Mother Sees Me," "A History of Addiction," and "The Lecture on Infinity" by Tryst Emerging Writer Kate Hall (three short pieces from Tryst, Issue 17, Spring 2007)

"Girl" by Kate Hall (a piece of flash fiction from 3:AM Magazine, April 10, 2007)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Handful of Poems

"Bringing My Son to the Police Station to Be Fingerprinted" by Shoshauna Shy (a poem from from Poetry Northwest, Volume 42, Number 1, Spring 2001, and reprinted at Poetry 180, Poetry Daily, etc.)

"Commuting in Summer" by Gary Patick (a poem from anderbo.com)

"My Mother's Body Knits Itself Into a Nest of Pain" by Barbara Crooker (a poem from Triplopia, Volume 6, Issue 2, 2007)

"The Night We Decide on Divorce" by Ona Gritz (a poem from Literary Mama, July 26, 2005)

"You Should Avoid Doctors" by Diane Lockward (a poem from Stone Table Review, Volume 1, Issue 1, 2006)

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Another Five Favorites, Some Recent and Some That Have Stuck in My Mind

"The Dead Boy at Your Window" by Bruce Holland Rogers (a short story which originally appeared in The North American Review in 1998 and is reprinted online at Tales of the Decongested; there is also a short student film by Ian Schranz based on this story, and it is available on YouTube)

"Favors" by Beth Ann Fennelly (a poem from Blackbird, Volume 3, Number 1, Spring 2004)

"For a Newly Divorced Friend Whose Ex-Husband Claims She Stole His Favorite Tupperware Bowl" by Jeff Worley (a poem from Indiana Review, Volume 19, Number 2, Fall 1996, and reprinted in Proposing on the Brooklyn Bridge, ed. by Ginny Lowe Connors)

"Disconnect" by Donna Vorreyer (a prose poem from Flashquake, Volume 4, Issue 3, Spring 2005)

"Dinner Parties and Post Nuptials" by Emilia A. Phillips (a poem from The Pedestal Magazine, Issue 38, February/March 2007)

Sunday, March 4, 2007

The Spring 2007 issue of the Apple Valley Review

The Spring 2007 issue of the journal features an essay by J.W. Young; fiction by Jenny Steele, M. Thomas Gammarino, Kerri Quinn, Srdan Papic (translation by Marija Panic), Eva Eliav, Julia Curcio, Patricia Gosling, Danielle Lapidoth, Peggy Duffy, and Wayne Scheer; prose poetry by Sean Lovelace; poetry by Karen Schubert, Rosa Salazar, Ona Gritz, Brian Gilmore, Anna Evans, Adam Tavel, Mary MacGowan, James Cihlar, Simon Perchik, Raymond Wachter, Shaindel Beers, Diane Tucker, Bob Bradshaw, Gina Marie Mammano V., Sandy McIntosh, Terrance Wedin, Rachel Bunting, Anca Vlasopolos, Edward Byrne, and Christine Vovakes; and artwork by Sarah Browning.

The Apple Valley Review is a semiannual online literary journal. The current issue, previous issues, and complete submission guidelines are available at www.applevalleyreview.com.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

The First Five

"I Am Waiting for My Dogs to Die" by Davin Malasarn (a short story from Smokelong Quarterly, Issue 15, December 2006)

"Just Something You Do" by Anna Evans (a poem from the Journal of New Jersey Poets 2006)

"Picnic After the Flood" by Rachel Cantor (a short story from One Story, Issue 80, September 2006)

"Saints in Her Backyard" by Theresa Boyar (a poem from Salome Magazine, November 6, 2006)

"The Venus Game" by Patricia J. DeLois (a short story from Storyglossia, Issue 17, December 2006)