Review: Plastic: An Autobiography by Allison Cobb

cobbepcoverPlastic: An Autobiography by Allison Cobb (Essay Press, 2015)

Reviewed by Thomas Chisholm

Allison Cobb isn’t interested in delivering epiphanies to readers. She’s interested in literature that opens a mystery and a sense of wonder, and offers a container for others to experience that opening. Plastic: An Autobiography, embodies that mysterious and wonderful opening. It was published as a free digital download by Essay Press in September 2015. The book is a part of their “EP Series,” (as in extended play) where authors are given extended space and time to develop book-length projects. At the time of publication, Plastic: An Autobiography comprised of half the material Allison Cobb had written at that point. Continue reading

STICKS: An Interview with Catie Rosemurgy

For our second special issue on writing from rural America, I talked with Catie Rosemurgy, a poet who understands and writes intimately about the realities of small-town American life. I fell in love with Rosemurgy’s winding narrative collections and shape-shifting characters nearly ten years ago now, and in our conversation I asked her some difficult questions about writing rural in this political climate, the stories behind her characters, and how she constructs the cozy, strange worlds that shape her collections. 

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STICKS: Sunshine State by Sarah Gerard

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Reviewed by Brenna McPeek

Sarah Gerard’s collection of essays Sunshine State reads as an ode to the living, breathing juxtaposition that is the state of Florida.  In her essays (some personal, some journalistic, some a hybrid of the two) she has her authorial finger on the pulse of the people who live there.  She manages to trace the dreams the state breeds, but also pokes holes in these dreams effortlessly and gorgeously, revealing in the process imperfect portraits of humanity trying its best to grapple with The American Dream. Continue reading

STICKS: Maximum Sunlight by Meagan Day

indexMaximum Sunlight by Meagan Day, with photographs by Hannah Klein (Wolfman Books, 2016)

“When Tonopah’s lights appear, I rejoice. I feel I’m alighting on Paris – the streetlamps and the Clown Motel’s flashing marquee bulbs seem astonishingly cosmopolitan. Tonopah is a shaggy little town, but coming in from the desert it looms large, an electric miracle in the annihilating dark.”

In college, I remember an afternoon when a professor of mine, an elegant retired ballerina with a degree in philosophy and a dancer’s walk, turned off all the lights and projected photos of cacti in Death Valley on all four walls of our conical lecture hall. The desert, she said, is a nowhere place. An in-between. It is defined not but what it contains but by what it does not. Continue reading

STICKS: The Body Toxic by Susanne Antonetta

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Body Toxic by Susanne Antonetta (Counterpoint Press, 2002)

Reviewed by Rebecca Valley

This review is part of our special issue on books from and of rural America. For more on this theme, check out the issue here.

“We are the Roof Dwellers, the People Who Speak in Darkness; we’re also the DDT People, the Drink-Cadmium People, the Breathing Isotope People.” (137)

How do we think about our bodies? As moving systems of bone and muscle? As vessels to hold our brains in, or a shell to decorate and present to the world? In an article about politics and our fears about the fragile positioning of our own bodies, philosopher and bioethicist Joel Michael Reynolds writes: “… here’s the catch. We aren’t trapped in our bodies. We are our bodies, as philosophers from Frantz Fanon to Simone Beauvoir have argued. These changing, leaky bodies afford us opportunity and choice. If static or permanent, they’d be less bodies and more stones or gods. To be sure, bodies marked by racism, sexism, cisgenderism, classism, and ableism get trapped.” Continue reading

Review: They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib

They-Can_t-Kill-Us-Until-They-Kill-Us_2048x2048They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib (Two Dollar Radio, 2017)

Reviewed by Carl Lavigne

I have heard it said that the best writers are the best listeners, and I believe it because of Hanif Abdurraqib. They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us is a collection of essays ostensibly about music, but Abdurraqib hears what lies beneath the singing and instrumentation. He writes lyrically, elegiacally, about Prince, My Chemical Romance, Migos, and many more, revealing truths no run-of-the-mill magazine music-critic could conjure up in an album review. The essays unearth deep personal connections and experiences that are intertwined with the music they analyze. There’s a soundtrack to every essay in this collection that often takes center stage, trading places at times with recurring themes of growing up, racism, and grief. Continue reading

Review: Whereas by Layli Long Soldier

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Review: Whereas by Layli Long Solider (Gray Wolf Press, 2017)

Reviewed by Michelle Mitchell-Foust

I was lost, looking for a wedding in the Valley of Fire, Red Rock, Nevada.  At every curve in the road, I thought the towering stone formations might reveal my friend’s white dress. When it was clear I wouldn’t find the party, I parked the car and wandered into the crevices between the rocks. I waded through the fine, pink sand to the place where I could see the petroglyphs carved into their faces. Around me were creatures who looked rabbit-human, goat-human, and spirals, and horned insecta. I walked deeper into the rock, looking for more of the 3000-year-old language, the setting sun making the world more red. Continue reading

Review: Autumn by Ali Smith

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Autumn by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton, 2016)

Reviewed by Brenna McPeek

Ali Smith’s multi-faceted novel Autumn tries to do many things—things that, when listed out, seemingly couldn’t (and maybe shouldn’t) all fit into one novel. The novel, the first in a seasonally inspired series of four, takes on the perplexity of post-Brexit England, constructs a refreshing intellectual relationship between a young girl and her elderly neighbor, and poetically ponders the complexities of death, nature and memory. And those are just the major plot players. In Autumn, Smith embarks on a path that proves challenging—as paths dealing with today’s muddled political landscape unequivocally are—and her results are often staggering. But some choices she makes fall short, or maybe don’t go as far as they need to –they result in the reader wondering, for example, why we just spent fifteen or so pages on an infuriating trip to the Post Office for a passport. Smith gives us a lot to chew on, but while many aspects of the novel go down smoothly, others get stuck in your mental molars only to be found weeks later, just as bothersome as they were when you first tried to digest them. Continue reading