RaveChapter 16Calhoun engages complex, fascinating dynamics of familial angst and artistic ambition ... If this premise sounds like it risks becoming publishing-world inside baseball, the actual result here is a moving, funny, and insightful page-turner that refuses all simple conclusions. Calhoun deftly maneuvers her narrative through her upbringing amid this bohemian environment, bringing both the gifts and the dangers of that world to bear on the story of O’Hara’s legacy. Alongside passages about her household’s love of poetry, for example, sit references to her parents’ fondness for amphetamines ... This double edge gives invaluable context to the taped interviews, which include the perspectives of much-lauded poets and painters like Kenneth Koch and Willem de Kooning. Calhoun also includes the crucial recollections of a man who bonded with O’Hara while he was a young child surrounded by the chaos of bohemian grownups — a subject Calhoun knows inside and out ... is a series of reflections on what the pursuit of creative ambition actually does to human beings over time. Calhoun shows respect and wonder for the dedication such work requires, but she does not flinch from the messiness and the dangers posed by the accompanying single-mindedness ... By exposing the prickly, sometimes maddening relationship between her father and herself, she makes a thoughtful narrative space for the messiness of creative lives — and for the irresolvable impasses that sometimes form within family dynamics ... a memorable work.
RaveThe Nashville Scene... builds on the themes of the previous books, displaying a new degree of precision and elegant power in Vuong’s use of form. But that growth extends beyond technical matters. In this book, Vuong gives greater voice to reckoning with loss by embracing survival. Hope exists, yes, but grasped from harrowing circumstances at great cost.
Ed. by Sheree Renée Thomas, Troy L. Wiggins and Pan Morigan
RaveChapter16\"Any anthology taking on a subject so vast and varied would require a nimble, thoughtful approach, clear about what mythologies and histories it evokes. This book communicates that rich, assured perspective from the start ... Hybridity, multivalence and shapeshifting of all kinds permeate Trouble the Waters from start to finish. This emphasis not only helps bring cohesion to this wide-ranging collection, but also underscores a powerful argument for our fundamental interconnectivity—with one another, with our nonhuman neighbors and with the environments that surround us. But Trouble the Waters also recognizes that currents of peril run through this storytelling lineage. The myths of changeable creatures that recur around our stories about our waterways can upend our sense of knowing who and where we are ... Thomas and her co-editors have imbued Trouble the Waters with an abundant, generous vision. That spirit yields a wealth of imaginative, entertaining storytelling that will please a wide variety of speculative-fiction readers. It may also provide a pleasing invitation to readers who are uninitiated in the genre but ready to get their feet wet.
PositiveChapter16The friendship depicted in Astrid Sees All may be fraught and inconstant, but the novel itself provides amenable companionship. Astrid is Standiford’s first novel for adults, after numerous books for children and teen readers. Perhaps that background may explain how Astrid manages to maintain a tone of goodhearted openness, even as the events in Phoebe’s world turn darker and more dangerous. Regardless, Standiford creates an unusually hopeful path through this kind of grim subject matter. Readers who are drawn to Astrid Sees All because they enjoy reveling in the bygone drama and squalor of this storied era in New York’s history will likely find both familiarity and gentle surprise.
RaveChapter 16Propelled by a vast but assured narrative sweep ... Shipstead’s last novel, 2014’s Astonish Me, displayed her gift for fine details and her strong grasp of emotional intelligence. But Great Circle requires a far grander, deeper vision. Here, Shipstead has strengthened and expanded her insight into her characters’ interior worlds alongside the widening scope of her subject matter. Her achievement lies in what her own character, Jamie, strives to capture as he paints portraits: \'the tidal zone where a person’s inner and outer selves wash together\' ... seems to take on the curvature of the world, which shapes the contours of Shipstead’s complex and richly expansive story. The act of reading of this novel creates the cumulative effect of an endless unfolding, a single life’s possibilities never exhausted. Like Marian’s eye on that relentlessly chased horizon, Great Circle voyages onward, yielding indelible scenes of adventure, intimate heartbreak, and transcendent longing.
RaveChapter 16Together in a Sudden Strangeness gathers more than 100 poets, whose consummate skill and invaluable insight shed light on the unprecedented experiences of this year’s global pandemic. As COVID-19 case numbers now spike across the country, this collection appears at the exact moment when the nuanced and profound nourishment it offers may be needed most ... Through a wide range of forms, these poems find ways to honor experiences of deep suffering and sacrifice, while also resisting the easy dismissal of small, everyday struggles. They confront the injustices that make some communities especially vulnerable now, while also valuing the intimate observations brought on by the relative peace of domestic lockdown ... Given its subject matter, Together suggests a collective experience of staggering complexity. But out of its many perspectives rises a cumulative impression more focused than that complexity suggests. From these poets’ voices emerges a powerful drive toward fuller, humbler understanding of the role we each play, individually, in a much grander picture ... Both cathartic and challenging, Together in a Sudden Strangeness provides an early glimpse into how literary writers will discover new form and language to convey the unfolding perils of this unprecedented time. In these poems, we experience the enduring capacity of the human imagination to locate meaning, beauty, and witness — even in the direst circumstances.
RaveNashville SceneIn the chapter \'Dolly Parton Masters the Art of Leaving,\' Smarsh offers some of her most insightful thoughts on Parton’s songwriting. Tracing in detail Parton’s complex relationship with her boss/mentor/collaborator/antagonist Porter Wagoner, Smarsh discusses the tangled binds that sometimes push women to leave painful relationships that have gone on far too long ... Smarsh writes with conviction about the particular struggles of living in poverty. Wisely, she grounds these discussions in a recognition of white privilege, but her primary focus is on the nature of economic hardship and its impact on women’s decisions ... Smarsh weaves together an integrated picture of what the Parton podcast calls \'the Dollyverse\' ... The material in She Come by It Natural first appeared in the music magazine No Depression, unfolding quarterly in four longform pieces throughout 2017. Smarsh made the conscious decision not to update the original perspective, and one result is that this short book becomes an intriguing snapshot of one writer’s engagement with a fraught year of rapidly shifting cultural turmoil ... Smarsh finds a sweet spot between biography and memoir that lets her move nimbly between her personal affection for Parton’s impact on women’s lives and her journalistic analysis of Parton’s artistry, business acumen and iconic role in our quick-changing zeitgeist.
RaveChapter16Erdrich imbues The Night Watchman with her signature style: a sweeping vision of spiritual and historical resonance, animated by the rich depth of feeling within her characters and a wry current of humor. Amid its many strengths and pleasures, this novel creates a graceful meditation on the power—and the steep cost—of holding vigil for the things of our world that we love and that we know we may lose.
Katy Simpson Smith
RaveChapter 16... ambitious ... Readers who are drawn to history for its grand, sweeping scale will find Smith’s premise irresistible: a quartet of characters whose stories span almost 2,000 years and whose experiences delve into the chaotic, multilayered, enduring heart of Rome ... In Smith’s novel, Shelley’s four ways of characterizing Rome act as more than a colorful swirl of imagery. They provide a structural conceit that allows Smith to organize two millennia’s worth of material about Rome’s history and people ... Whether the novel is enhanced by Satan’s commentary is open to debate. Some readers may find the bracketed asides an unnecessary device, while others will likely delight in Satan’s wit and insight into the novel’s protagonists. Still others may argue that Satan becomes a protagonist. But there’s no denying that the substance of his commentary sparks and surprises ... After a languid start, The Everlasting builds cohesion and momentum through small but surprising moments of linkage among the characters’ stories and the eras in which they live. A gifted stylist, Smith crafts the novel with a greater emphasis on lyricism than on any particular plotline, spinning a complex, memorable tale of the vast universe contained in the life of a single city.
PositiveNashville SceneAs the book’s title suggests, McInerny rejects the cliché of a \'Hollywood happy ending\': \'This is life after life after life, in all of the chaos and contradiction of feelings and doings and beings involved,\' she writes. \'There will be unimaginable joy and incomprehensible tragedy.\' With great wit and empathy, she admits that allowing tragic events to open us up to further vulnerability may not feel right, or possible. But taking that risk can restore our trust that the light of goodness can still reach us, even in our darkest nights.
RaveNashville Scene...a haunting, lyrical meditation ... These events dovetail, merge and then remake themselves, all through Shalmiyev’s elusive, powerful prose style. Her point of view proceeds from the center of her trauma, conjuring experiences in the fragmented, nonlinear ways in which memories recur ... Shalmiyev re-experiences these early memories with immediacy and candor ... Despite the book’s nonlinear lyricism, Mother Winter achieves \'structure and order within the chaos,\' a state that Shalmiyev calls \'the first rule of proper mothering.\' From the harrowing childhood scenes that exposed her to great harm to the poignant moments of vulnerability she shares with her own young children, Shalmiyev finds a graceful structure for the chaos in her world, and she communicates her story with shattering clarity.
RaveNashville Scene\"Clark’s poems operate at a high pitch. They startle. They challenge. They demand full attention. They invoke a glorious pantheon of muses, companions and ghosts. Through her own inventive use of form and voice, Clark shapes an original path through the works of other artists — from Toni Morrison and Carrie Mae Weems to Balanchine and Stravinsky, Kanye and Rihanna ... With I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood, Clark emerges as a necessary voice from the contemporary South.\
RaveThe Nashville Scene\"Chee offers a hybrid vision, one that surpasses simple personal revelation or practical instruction. Illuminating the winding path through a writer’s inner world, he never hides his own setbacks and self-sabotaging meanders. The wisdom that emerges from these essays always feels grounded by rigorous introspection and purposeful self-exposure, and this perspective eradicates any trace of the self-aggrandizement that can easily infect personal writing.\
PositiveThe Nashville SceneThough the mystery surrounding Joan's walkabouts may be easy for readers to guess early on, Cece stays in the dark for years. At times the wealth and advantage of this world can make The After Party's social tangles seem like less-than-dire stakes. But the satisfying parts of this story ultimately lie elsewhere: in the tender unfolding of Cece's empathy and gratitude for the relationships in her life. As those relationships are stretched to their limits, they confront Cece with a question that haunts every part of this novel: How well can we really know other people — even those we love most dearly?