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  • Book Recommendations from Our Advisory Editors

Robert Boswell recommends Pym by Mat Johnson: “The writing is strong, the satire is sharp, and I laughed out loud nineteen times.” (Spiegel & Grau, March 2011)

Tess Gallagher recommends Beast and Violins by Caleb Barber: “Lorca wrote of the sphinx, ‘a stone roof on the lyrical butterflies.’ Barber’s uncompromising dialogues with the animal side of being human similarly crush our illusions, our too pretty notions of ourselves. What I greatly admire is that he is writer enough to leave us with an uneasy feeling of having been demolished and perhaps not exactly rebuilt—or not anyhow in a lyrical, transformative way, but rather in the solid and fecund way of mushrooms gathered as bounty from sites of decay.” (Red Hen Press, April 2010)

David Gullette recommends Young of the Year by Sydney Lea: “This collection shows Lea intensely aware of aging, but still at the top of his game. In one of the most successful longish poems I’ve read in recent years, ‘Birds—A Farrago,’ the poet declares at one turn that ‘All the old poems had failed him,’ and yet on the very next page tells us that ‘he’d been so sore so long / and would keep on being sore / without the daily dose of small bitter tablets, / one on rising and one at evening, / that no matter his night thoughts: just being / alive again like this seemed superabundance.’” (Four Way Books, March 2011)

DeWitt Henry recommends Faith by Jennifer Haigh: “The accused priest’s sister, Sheila, writes a ‘memoir/confession’ meant to help family members (and us) ‘to know certain truths about themselves and each other.’ Struggling with her brother’s scandal, she comes to display Haigh’s own distinctive gifts of imagining voices and points of view beyond the self; and rises to Haigh’s vision of the erring that is human.” (Harper, May 2011)

Jane Hirshfield recommends Beso the Donkey: Poems by Richard Jarrette: “This profound, grave, glinting collection investigates all being, and all [End Page 234] attention, through one scarred, silent, four-footed master of the pasture. Simply and without reservation, first page to last, I was entirely taken and altered by these spare, wise, hauntingly conceived, brilliantly crafted poems. Individually, they dazzle—taken as a whole, I found this modest book a total knockout. (Nor is it without humor, of the kind a human will inevitably feel in the presence of a good donkey.)” (Michigan State University Press, November 2010)

Maxine Kumin recommends One Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman: “A remarkable story about her husband Paul West’s catastrophic stroke and his five-year-long recovery, utilizing all the creative inventiveness of two writers in love with words and each other.” (W. W. Norton, April 2011)

Margot Livesey recommends The Late Interiors by Marjorie Sandor: “In this beautiful and intimate book, Sandor braids together essays and journal entries to explore that age-old tension between our longing for permanence and our need for change. Her lovely prose and her far-ranging intelligence make for a deeply satisfying and surprising narrative.” (Arcade, May 2011)

Jayne Anne Phillips recommends All the Time in the World: New and Selected Stories by E. L. Doctorow: “For their hurtling-past-us, postmodern worlds presented as perversely shadowed, sensually layered, traditional stories.” (Random House, March 2011)

Jim Shepherd recommends How to Sell by Clancy Martin: “A ferocious novel with a rich philosophical underpinning about a scummy underside of capitalism: the lower-end jewelry business in Dallas.” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 2009)

Jim Shepherd also recommends American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell: “A wonderful story collection mostly about the underclass in rural Michigan.” (Wayne State University Press, December 2009)

Gerald Stern recommends My Sister’s Hand in Mine: The Collected Works of Jane Bowles: “I have, at this late date, just truly realized what a revolutionary [End Page 235] writer Jane Bowles is. In my view, her novel [Two Serious Ladies] can stand alongside the writings of Joyce and Faulkner.” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, August 2005)

Gerald Stern also recommends Radical Judaism: Rethinking God and Tradition by Arthur Green: “Green traces the evolution of Judaism from its more traditional...


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