Book Reviews Archive

From the Observatory

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From the Observatory Julio Cortázar Trans. Anne McLean Archipelago Books, August 2011 130 pages $18.00 The first time I read Julio Cortázar’s From the Observatory, I thought I’d succumbed to a fever-dream. Eels slip, muscularly, into Möbius strips; the night is red-haired and the marble cold. I had no
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The Vices

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The Vices Lawrence Douglas Other Press, August 2011 352 pages $15.95 This post was written by Walt McGough. The title family of Lawrence Douglas’ The Vices is a slowly decaying assortment of upper-crust oddballs, whose creatively rendered foibles sometimes resemble an alternate version of The Royal Tenenbaums. Older brother
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You Deserve Nothing

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You Deserve Nothing Alexander Maksik Europa Editions, August 2011 336 pages $15.00 Stop me if you’ve heard this story before: a handsome young teacher inspires great passion in the classroom; the guys want to be him, and the girls want to be with him. There’s an affair, scandal, loss
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This Is Not Your City

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This Is Not Your City Caitlin Horrocks Sarabande Books, June 2011 224 pages $15.95 This post was written by Hannah Gersen. There are no small epiphanies in Caitlin Horrocks’s short stories, only huge, life-changing decisions. In her debut collection, This Is Not Your City, her protagonists commit crimes, seduce
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The Language of Flowers

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The Language of Flowers Vanessa Diffenbaugh Ballantine Books, August 2011 336 pages (includes appended floriographic dictionary) $25.00 Victoria Jones, the troubled heroine of Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s debut novel, has just been emancipated from California’s foster care system, after a childhood surrounded by “too many children and too many bottles of
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Book Review Editor Speaks: Literature of Place

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In this week’s reviews on the blog, Claire Blechman calls Ned Zeman’s new book, Rules of the Tunnel, “a very L.A. memoir.” (“In the Manhattan version,” she adds, “we’d be spending lots of quality time in the patient-writer’s head.”) Julia Lichtblau seems to be getting at the same issue,
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Literary Brooklyn

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Literary Brooklyn, The Writers of Brooklyn and the Story of American City Life Evan Hughes Henry Holt and Company, August 2011 352 pages $17.00 This post was written by Julia Lichtblau. Pick a published writer these days, and odds are strong their bio mentions Brooklyn. Historically, too, there’s a
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The Rules of the Tunnel

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The Rules of the Tunnel: A Brief Period of Madness Ned Zeman Gotham Books, August 2011 320 pages $26.00 You’re Vanity Fair Senior Editor Ned Zeman. And you’ve been very depressed. You’ve gone through six therapists, done a stint at Maclean, and finally ended up taking the treatment of
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A Note from the Blog Book Reviews Editor

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It’s been almost six months now since we started reviewing books here on the Ploughshares blog, and having wobbled down the path this long we’re finally feeling ready to throw off our training wheels. That means over the next six months you can expect to see some changes in
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Favorite Scary Stories (and Other Frightful Literature)

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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
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