Book Reviews

  • Sept. 2007 WLT Samih al-Qasim. Sadder than Water. Nazih Kassis, tr. Adina Hoffman, intro. Jerusalem. Ibis. 2006. xxxi + 179 pages. $15.95. ISBN 965-90125-5-1 Although he is one of the best Palestinian poets living in Israel, Samih al-Qasim (b. 1939) is hardly known in English. This beautifully produced book makes some of his finest poems available to English rea...
  • Nov. 2008 WLT Julia Hartwig. In Praise of the Unfinished. John & Bogdana Carpenter, trs. New York. Knopf. 2008. ix + 143 pages. $25. ISBN 978-0-307-26720-7 The poems of the Polish poets Zbigniew Herbert, Czes_aw Mi_osz, Wis_awa Symborska, and Adam Zagajewski are by now familiar to English readers, but the work of Julia Hartwig is less widely known, although...
  • March 2008 WLT Pierre Bayard. How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read. Jeffrey Mehlman, tr. New York. Bloomsbury. 2007. xix + 185 pages. $19.95. isbn 978-1-59691-469-8 “Because I teach literature at the university level,” remarks Pierre Bayard as he launches the argument in his most recent book, superbly translated by Jeffrey Mehlman, “there is, in fact, no way...
  • Sept. 2011 WLT Murakami Ryu. Popular Hits of the Showa Era. Ralph McCarthy, tr. New York. W. W. Norton. 2011. 192 pages. $13.95. ISBN 978-0-393-33842-3 At night, in an apartment in Chofu city, Tokyo, six dissolute young men gather regularly for no reason at all. They eat, drink, talk but never listen, erupt randomly in spasmodic laughter, and eventually perform...
  • March 2012 WLT Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá. Daytripper. New York. Vertigo. 2011. ISBN 9781401229696 Daytripper is the rarest of graphic novels—a work meeting all the expectations of great literature that somehow emerged from the grinding gears of the American mainstream comics industry. Written and drawn by Brazilian twins Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá (see...
  •    July 2013
    Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris Little, Brown, 2013   In David Sedaris’s new collection, the essays begin with a visit to his Parisian dentist and end with his first colonoscopy. In between, Sedaris takes us on an international tour of his experiences, dipping back into the past to explore his early years—particularly his relationship with his father. At times funny, at...
  •    March 2013
    Angela Rodel, tr. Open Letter Books, 2013 “I believe that the longer I keep the shutter open the more life gets captured on the negative.” Bulgarian-born novelist and playwright Zachary Karabashliev entertains and surprises in his debut novel, 18% Gray, with a protagonist of his own namesake—Zack—whose heedless personality is comically blunt, often...
  • The Bridge of Beyond Simone Schwarz-Bart, Barbara Bray, tr. New York Review Books Classics, 2013 Born in 1938 on the southwest coast of France, Caribbean writer Simone Schwarz-Bart spent her childhood in Guadeloupe, an island in the Lesser Antilles. She later studied in Paris, where she met and would marry the French writer André Schwarz-Bart, with whom she has co-authored a number of works. She...
  • The Dailiness
    While working on the “Classics Rekindled” section that appears in this issue (page 35), I was struck by the following words from Anne Carson: “Every time a poet writes a poem he is asking the question, Do words hold good? And the answer has to be yes: it is the contrafactual condition upon which a poet’s life depends” (Economy of the Unlost: Rea...
  •    July 2012
    Krys Lee’s new collection of short stories, Drifting House, is a stirring debut that propels Korean literature further into a modern era of postnational themes. Lee’s characters are not heroes for their country but saviors for themselves—bold, brash, and fighting for their own redemptions. Her collection of stories is a comprehensive glimpse into a contemporary Korea whose natives are d...
  •    May 2013
    The Sarabande of Sara’s Band by Larysa Denysenko Michael M. Naydan & Svitlana Bednazh, tr. Glagoslav Publications, 2013 The familiar quotation from Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” reflects a certain truth. However, “happy” or “unhappy” does not even begin to describe the condition of any particular family, c...
  • In Beauty Bright, Gerald Stern, W. W. Norton, 2012 In “Four Crises,” an essay in his 2012 collection Stealing History, Gerald Stern writes: “Humans, because of their minds, because of their social organization and their knowledge of their own futures (and their thumbs and voice boxes), have one crisis after another. . . . One of the famous ones is the crisis of forty, the cr...
  • The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals
       March 2014
    Wilfred Price has established himself as a respectable, reliable member of his small and tightly woven rural community of Narberth, Wales. He performs his duties impeccably as the town’s undertaker, conveying a sense of calm and propriety. A momentary lapse of judgment, just a few unguarded words, manages to propel Wilfred into a life he doesn’t want and can’t quite manage to get back under contr...
  • If poets as far-flung as France, Cuba, India, and Nicaragua comprised the avant-garde of literary modernism, a lookout in a turret in Chicago, Illinois, saw the invasion coming to America and, instead of pulling up the drawbridge, simply removed the hinges. In The Open Door: One Hundred Poems, One Hundred Years of Poetry Magazine (due out October 4), the evidence of Harriet Mon...
  • Budenz set of books
    A review of The Gardens of Flora Baum, by Julia Budenz, 5 vols. (Chelmsford, Massachusetts: Carpathia Press, 2011) It is, perhaps, asking too much to expect a reader, who has not lived in the inner world of a major poet’s imagination, to recognize its flavor and trust a nascent feeling from just a few lines of poetry. Try these:  Love of a Lover  Was it a week ago the lilacs gleamedMadd...
  • For a Song and a Hundred Songs  Liao Yiwu New Harvest, 2013 Though Liao Yiwu is yet another name in a long line of censored Chinese literary and artistic critics like Liu Xiaobo, Ai Weiwei, and Hu Jia, Liao’s personal memoir reaches beyond his own story to capture a small sense of the collective suffering of thousands of prisoners during China’s rise to global power in the early 1990s. Arrested f...