Book Reviews Archive
To celebrate Halloween, the Ploughshares staff gathers together some favorite reading that gave us the willies. Scary (Short) Stories “The Withered Arm,” by Thomas Hardy: Deeply unsettling, especially in its suggestion that casually fantasizing about bad things happening to other people (in this case, a fairly nice person) can
Clean Kate Northrop Persea Books, August 2011 64 pages $15.00 With intense clarity of image and spare language, Kate Northrop’s poems immediately lure you into intimacy; placed in a present, visual moment, and often addressed in second person, you are the one who is seeing.
The Seamstress and the Wind César Aira New Directions, June 2011 144 pages $12.95 César Aira is a deconstructed Kafka; a compact, comprehensible Roberto Bolaño obsessed with the frightening nonsense of civilization. The latter comparison terrifies academic readers, because if Bolano is made compact and comprehensible, how can they pretend
Power Ballads Will Boast University of Iowa Press, October 2011 160 pages $16.00 This post was written by Lynne Weiss. A lot of writers are drawn to music. There is nothing scientific about this impression, but I think there are more novels, poems, and stories about music and musicians
Wunderkind Nikolai Grozni Free Press, September 2011 289 pages $24.00 Anger, sarcasm, and longing fuel Nikolai Grozni’s autobiographical novel Wunderkind, set in the late 1980s in a communist Sofia that is stony, backlit red. Crows and ravens populate a landscape overwhelmed with death; necrologies are tacked to trees and
Rust Fish Maya Jewell Zeller Lost Horse Press, April 2011 77 pages $15.00 Maya Jewell Zeller’s bio tells us that she was “Born at home in the upstairs apartment of her parents’ gas station on the Oregon coast,” and this half-sentence provides exactly enough information to authenticate the stories
Silver Sparrow Tayari Jones Algonquin Books, May 2011 $19.95 352 pages This post was written by Margaret LaFleur. Reading Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones’s latest novel, is much like playing a child’s memory card game. The cards are placed face down in front of you, and each turn you flip
Zazen Vanessa Veselka Red Lemonade, May 2011 $15.95 257 pages This post was written by Caitlin O’Neil. With the anniversary of the September 11 attacks just a few days past, Zazen isn’t the comforting book you might be seeking. But it is a book that could not have been
Coeur de Lion Ariana Reines Fence Books, September 2011 $15.95 128 pages Coeur de lion (“lion-heart”) is the brand of cheese pictured in the frontispiece to Ariana Reines’s second book of poetry. More famously, it’s the cognomen of Richard I of England, who also turns up, on page 65.
Collected Poems A.S.J. Tessimond Bloodaxe Books, November 2010 256 pages $24.95 Wallace Stevens wrote that “The poem must resist the intelligence / Almost successfully.” That mischievous “almost,” of course, can be interpreted in many ways, and poets have always had different attitudes about how much of a fight verses