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

STICKS: St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

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St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell (Alfred A. Knopff, 2006)

Reviewed by Leonora Simonovis

In an interview for The Missouri Review (2013), fiction author Karen Russell was asked about her life in Florida and how it has influenced several of her works. She replied by referring to a “matter –of– fact strangeness” that her native state seems to possess. Continue reading

Review: There Will Be No More Good Nights Without Good Nights by Laura van den Berg

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Review: There Will Be No More Good Nights Without Good Nights by Laura van den Berg (Bull City Press, 2017)

Reviewed by Rebecca Valley

I am a haphazard collector of fortunes. They live in my wallet and the corners of my coat pockets. Because I know that before long they’ll be lost to the washing machine or a damp grocery store aisle, I sometimes take their pictures. The other day I found one that had floated from a box in the closet and landed on the floor by my desk; it said “Within the month, as you tidy your room, you will find your lost item.” 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

Review: Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

51CKN9MHYFL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (Graywolf Press, 2017)

Reviewed by Rebecca Valley

I’ll begin by saying what I want: a world where we can all recognize that women are the true and most honorable proprietors of horror writing.

I’ll begin this way because I think Carmen Maria Machado proves it. In order for horror to be truly horrifying, it has to be earned. It has to dig into the sensitive skin under our fingernails, on our bellies, the places where we store our most reasonable and our most plausible fears. The ones that, when touched, send out a sharp alarm in our brains, and we realize we’ve been waiting for this moment to come. Continue reading