Tag Archives: book review

Online Feature-Micro Book Review of My Struggle

karl my struggleMicro Book Review of  My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard

My Struggle
Karl Ove Knausgaard
Translated by Don Bartlett
Originally Published by Forgalet Oktober (2009)
English Translation published by Archipelago Books (2012)
$14.40

As many readers have stated, Knausgaard may be the progressive Proust of our century. He weaves an intricate web of day-to-day life without batting an eyelid. From divorce and the hatred of his own children, My Struggle achieves the honesty of the human heart, the absolutism of a daily rhythm that is locked within the bodies of any modern citizen of the world. While Knausgaard’s life story may seem petty and exceedingly redundant, it provides a wide scope of relativism and subtle criticism of the travails of the first-world human condition. It is difficult to place this book on the coffee table, it will make your thoughts tick and your mind hungry for more.

REVIEW BY CAMILLE CRAIG

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ONLINE FEATURE-SOMATIC book REVIEW OF Sir

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Somatic Book Review of Sir by HR Hegnauer

Sir
HR Hegnauer
Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs (2013)
$16

Dear Mrs. Alice,

May I call you that?  Are you comfortable operating from a space of Mrs., a dear Mrs.?  In increments, I have come to the point where I must flee to your psyche.  I know this is problematic because you have not given me a map to get there, but I cannot read maps now anyhow.  I won’t miss anything.  I promise.  Yet, I am prepared for when we fail, how we fail and when we cannot be just a little more and.

While I know that with each body in this space, we lose a little air, but do not fear, I have protection. Sir left it for me in the form of a jacket or cloak, I cannot clearly remember, but it blankets us, brightens our colors, and it is precious.  With this in mind, let us go there, to this pivot of mirage.  First, know the difference between grief and lamentation or don’t.  Next, give up on the notion that you can emit time.  Learn, to spell Hannah backwards, and be prepared for the sentiment that words go inside books to die.

Now that we have established some ground rules, I feel comfortable moving forward.  Do you?  “I had a flash-back to my mother leaving for work in the morning when/ I was still a little girl, and she would always say to me, kiss me like a fool.”  I know it is too depressing to put this grief on you over and over again.  I know that it gets difficult when a tear is confused and won’t exit the corner of your eye, but I want us to focus on the migration.  That migration of death; not through a grandfather clock, but rather a migration through that little whistle, that little stroke of air that sounds between the teeth and tongue.

If we are to get there, we need to be cancerous. “The cancer.  It / doesn’t care where or how it started, and it doesn’t care where or how / it’s going wherever it’s going, but it knows it will get there.”  Sir, would have wanted it this way.  This cancer does not distinguish between local and foreign bodies, so please be prepared.  Be prepared for this distinction.  Be prepared to be a little more and, and we will be better off.        

Review by: Daniel Cantrick

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ONLINE FEATURE-SOMATIC BOOK REVIEW OF THE ANTS

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Somatic Book Review of The Ants by Sawako Nakayasu

The Ants
Sawako Nakayasu
Les Figues Press (2014)
$14

To read The Ants by Sawako Nakayasu, begin by buying or making Chinese food (noodles or rice, beef, chicken, tofu, or veggies, that is your choice) and a hamburger. You will also want to acquire a timer of some sort and a metronome. Once you have both Chinese food and a hamburger, proceed to dump the purchased or made food onto the ground of your front porch, back porch, balcony, garage floor, kitchen floor, bathroom tiles, bedroom carpet, the grass of your yard, or the strip of grass implanted in the sidewalk outside your apartment. Dump the food anywhere you will walk past at least twice daily. It is preferable that this place will not be disturbed by other humans, or creatures or objects. Once you have chosen an appropriate spot and dumped the food, wait. Wait for the ants to come to you, or rather, to your humble offering.

When the ants begin their steady invasion, lay down on the ground near the food you have dumped. You can lay on your back or on your stomach or on your side, but make sure to open the pages of The Ants and extend the book towards the offering on the ground. Begin the metronome. Watch closely as the ants approach your offering. Take note of their strong legs, and swiveling antennae. Reach out and turn the pages of the book slowly and with great caution. This will allow time and space for the ants to intermingle with their literary counterpart. Make special note of if the ants are marching with or against the rhythm. Try alternating rhythms with the metronome.

Once the ants are comfortable inside The Ants, turn off the metronome (this step is optional, you can also read to its beat, pounding out a syncopation with the book’s spine each time you turn a page) and begin the timer. You will want to record, as you go along, how long it takes each ant to eventually exit the pages of the book. Do not put the book down at any point until all the ants have clamored out of and off of The Ants. Keep reading while the ants crawl over your fingers and palms and forearms, even after they’ve traversed up to your elbows and shoulders. When you do put the book down, be warned. (There are side-effects. You may find yourself wanting to cover yourself in oil paint, stomp in a freshly calmed puddle, bake a carrot cake, buy an analogue wrist-watch, measure time in apple-speed, walk the Great Wall of China, or super-glue this book to one of your palms.) It is likely that Nakayasu’s rhythmic little soldier words will keep marching through your head for at least as long as it takes to stop feeling the ghost steps of the ants on your skin.

Review by: Kat Fossell

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ONLINE FEATURE-MICRO BOOK REVIEW OF HAUTE SURVEILLANCE

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Micro Review of Haute Surveillance by Johannes Göransson

Haute Surveillance
Johannes Göransson
Tarpaulin Sky Press (2013)
$14

Johannes Göransson’s Haute Surveillance is a textual representation of the horrific and luminous spectacle of a post-modern condition defined by unavoidable participation in (and often a voluntary surrender to) a global war economy. The multi-genre work (a novel in dialogue with prose poetry and punctuated by epistolary and dramatic interludes) embodies a term coined in its own narrative, “atrocity kitsch,” inhabiting bathtubs, war prisons, and a Shining Mansion on the Hill (a dream-like conflation of the White House and the hotel from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining). What makes Haute Surveillance disturbing while ultimately familiar is that such conflations don’t necessarily come across as products of the author’s, or even the narrator’s, twisted imagination, but as products of culture. Doesn’t the office of the Presidency occupy a space in our cultural imagination somewhere between an ideologically and physically oppressive brute force and an institution of ineffectual celebrity perpetuated by its own mythos? This is an American and post-modern novel because American post-modernity is the only existing site where a female soldier, stationed at a war prison, who gleefully photographs horrific, torturous acts and brutalized bodies, can occupy the same imaginary and publicized space as a Hollywood “starlet.” And Haute characterizes her as such. Unspeakable acts are glamourized in Haute because such acts are so unspeakable in our culture that the cloaks we use to cover them have become both specialized and bedazzled; our ability to look away has developed its own technology. We are constantly threatened with and by surveillance and yet are unwilling to turn our gaze onto and against the looming, big bad spectator. Haute Surveillance, like us, is much more willing to costume horror in a thick, nihilistic sheen.

Review by: Ella Longpre

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Online Feature: Book Review – Then Go On

Mary Burger
Mary Burger Then Go On
Litmus Press
ISBN-10: 1933959142
ISBN-13: 978-1933959146
93 Pages

Micro Review of Mary Burger’s Then Go On

The avant-garde style of Mary Burger’s writing arrives as a contemplation of the space between sending and receiving. The prose poems, or essay-like poetic explorations demonstrate a close attention to reality. The voice that guides the text is one of ebb and flow towards the cultural, philosophical, and social realities of modernity. In the poem “Orbital,” “A certain comfort with motion, at any scale, lets you shift between here, in this kitchen, and here, in this coastal weather pattern, and here, in this planetary orbital path, and here, in this unfurling galaxy.” The poem unfolds upon itself in moments like these, as if to illustrate that multiplicity is indicative of the human condition. To exist one must occupy numerous places all within the confines of the present moment. Writing towards the continuous epiphany of what it means to be fully alive, “The Current” shows Burger writing of that liveliness as “And our existence here due to the act that there are those willing to work for the only-imaginable.” The implication is that the dreamy state of one human being’s imagination leads to a sense of progress for society. Of the hope for humanity, the prose poem continues with “This paradigm shifts so that words are as nimble as neurotransmitters. Like a small chemical messenger, a word can do anything you can think of. A word can move muscles. A word can hold eyes.” Just like speech, the poetic prose located on the space of white pages bound in book form help to awaken the reader. Returning to that sense of ebb and flow, the reader is asked to think towards “A risk. To risk a little every day. To make sure you want it still. Invite opponents to attack. Risk gravity, velocity, impact, mass. Some can’t live without challenge. Some can’t ask.” As if to pull on the glorious idea of what it means to be fully able to create a once wild and precious life, the intention seems to be one of igniting a passion for luminous elements: speech, movement, art, nature, and even the seemingly ordinary right to dream.

Mary Burger is a writer, editor, and publisher. Her books include the following: Sonny (Leon Works, 2005), The Boy Who Could Fly (Second Story Books, 2002), Thin Straw That I Suck Life Through (Melodeon, 2000), and Then Go On (Litmus Press, 2012) amongst others. She is co-editor of the anthology Biting the Error: Writers Explore Narrative, and of Narrativity. She also edits Second Story Books.  She lives in Oakland, California. Her work may be found at http://www.maryburger.com

Reviewer: Melissa Barrett-Traister is one of  Bombay Gin’s Audio Archive Editors. She is a second year MFA candidate at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.

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First Micro-Review of the Season: Continuous Frieze Bordering Red

In our continuing attempt to bring you a glimpse of some of the great content that will appear in our next issue, I’m delighted to present our first micro-review of the Fall blogging season:  an excerpt from Ashely Waterford’s review of Michelle Naka Pierce’s latest work, Continuous Frieze Bordering Red.  You can catch Ashley’s review in its entirety in our upcoming issue.  Enjoy, dear reader, and stay tuned for other exciting content.

-Chris

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Michelle Naka Pierce

Continuous Frieze Bordering Red

Fordham, 2012

Reviewed by Ashley Waterman

Continuous Frieze Bordering Red by Michelle Naka Pierce first catches the reader’s eye with its cover art. Mark Rothko’s Black on Maroon, 1959 sets the tone for the book, representing a feeling of dislocation between Naka Pierce, her surroundings, her heritage, and being “boxed in” by all of these factors. She also uses Rothko to demonstrate her experiences in a painterly way.  The form requires the text to be read line by line, across each page, creating a flow similar to painting a picture.

Naka Pierce’s knowledge of Rothko is evident from the start.  The phrase “frieze bordering” in the title comments on the framing of Rothko’s Seagram Murals. Naka Pierce says, “The frame turns and paint drips in multiple directions.  This is how one navigates new geographical locations.”  An image of people dripping through the London Tube in different directions adds a layer to her experience as “Other.”  It also describes how Rothko painted the Seagram mural. Naka Pierce’s metaphors (such as this one) describe both Rothko’s art and her sense of “[dis]location” providing a strong connection to the inspiration for this book.

As a tourist, Naka Pierce applies Rothko-esque analogies to her situation.  “…The wall of red, the lack of breathing room when you stand inside searching for exits, which are painted over [they do not open]” is a comparison Naka Pierce makes to the crowding and alienation felt when in a foreign country.

Despite the art references, one does not need to be familiar with Rothko to enjoy Continuous.  The reader is presented with the knowledge they need to read the text the way it was intended through the title as well as the synopsis.

Clearly influenced by art, the words and structure become paintings themselves.  Naka Pierce’s identity as an Asian American is embodied with the use of brackets throughout the text, creating its own [dis]location to the surrounding text.

Naka Pierce also comments on lack of hyphens: “Fucking hyphen. Can you translate authority?  You do not identify as combined words, lined grammar, division of recognized sloth.”  Naka Pierce chooses not to use hyphens to recognize that she has and embraces multiple identities.  She challenges the reader to classify her in one category.

If you are looking for a text that is an innovative project in collaboration with artwork, challenges the confines of the page, and questions identity, Continuous is the book for you.  With this work, Naka Pierce has created a text that borders the reader as much as Rothko borders a canvas.

 

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