Book Review: Laurent Binet’s “The Seventh Function of Language”

By: John Flynn-York

Laurent Binet’s first novel, HHhH (short for “Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich,” which, translated, means “Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich”), was a fictional reconstruction of the assassination of the Nazi Reinhard Heydrich. The novel’s narrative fluctuated between past and present, history and story. In the past, Heydrich rises to power in the Third Reich, committing unspeakable atrocities along the way, while two operatives—the Czech Jan Kubiš and the Slovak Jozef Gabčík—plan to kill him. In the present, the narrator grapples with this story and how best to write it, drawing on books, museums, and other references to recreate it in detail. The brilliance of the book came from the tension between these perspectives. What does it mean to recreate history? Can we understand the way historical figures understood things—that is, can we get inside their heads? Can we ever know the truth? In other words, HHhH was as concerned with what it means to tell a story about history as it was with the historical events themselves.

Binet’s new book, The Seventh Function of Language, similarly takes its inspiration from a real event: the accident that claimed the life of the semiologist Roland Barthes. Out of this incident, Binet spins a madcap tale of intellectuals run amok that is by turns wildly entertaining, mildly frustrating, and intellectually captivating—and only sometimes faithful to the historical record.

Book Review: Kendra Tanacea’s “A Filament Burns in Blue Degrees”


BY: Catherine M. Darby

A Filament Burns in Blue Degrees by Kendra Tanacea is a haunting first collection of poems released this year by Lost Horse Press. Tanacea is a master of the moment—not straight-on moments, but rather, ones full of visuals and emotions that transport the reader into Tanacea’s world. In this world, the reader becomes a lover, beloved, betrayed, friend, child, and want-to-be-mother, all while ruminating about life and the fullness it can offer.

Her poems intelligently meander on corners of braided rugs and peep through keyholes to see what life is beyond that usual existence of life, her words intoning the mysteries and science of the universe.

In “Keyhole,” the narrator looks through the keyhole of a locked door, straining to see “what is out of sight.” The words deliver full sensory experiences of an ever-widening life:

There is the scent of man, of woman, of cedar.
The eye shifts, straining in its socket.
French doors open onto a veranda
overlooking an ivy-walled garden.
The round moon is rising, giant and yellow.
Star jasmine, star jasmine!
An eye can see far beyond
its scope: solar systems, galaxies,
the Milky Way’s skid of stars.
All atoms, revolving around one another.

Book Review: Alice Anderson’s “Some Bright Morning I’ll Fly Away”

By: Kaia Gallagher

In Some Bright Morning I’ll Fly Away, Alice Anderson proves she is a survivor no matter what life throws at her. Her memoir recounts a decade-long battle to protect her three children from a vengeful, violence-prone ex-husband. The courts provide little help, encouraging family reunification rather than assuring the safety of an abused spouse.

Anderson is no stranger to hardship. Early in her writing career, she recounted her determination to overcome her father’s sexual abuse in an award-winning book of poetry. Human Nature is a harrowing description of a young girl’s fight for a future despite a childhood filled with incest and violence. It won the 1994 Elmer Holmes Bobst Award for Emerging Writers.

Despite her early success as a poet and international fashion model, Anderson is haunted by her past: “Something about [being a model] made me feel used up, consumed, like I was the little girl my father gobbled up all over again, his sexual abuse consuming in a drunken, hungry rage all the best parts of me until I was nothing, but a pretty, performing doll.” She becomes ripe for a relationship with Liam, her ex-husband whom she sees as someone trying equally hard to escape his family demons. Her spiral down into acquiescence is gradual, with an ever-tightening noose that threatens to erase not only Anderson’s very identity but also her life.

Book Review: Jeremy Robert Johnson’s “Entropy In Bloom”

BY ELI RYDER If this were a typical review of a typical book, it’d start with a few catchy lines, maybe a summary of the text, providing skim-reading literati enough information to decide whether the review, and by extension, the text being reviewed, is their cuppa or not. Genre words like horror, bizarro, surreal, and suspense would attempt to box this book into some convenient framework by which it might be pre-judged. Jeremy Robert Johnson’s Entropy In Bloom isn’t a typical book, so it won’t be getting a typical review. Sure, there’s a summary that can be expressed. The underlying…

Book Review: Nick Cutter’s “Little Heaven”

By eli ryder

New Mexico, 1965. Three seasoned killers converge on each other, then on a cult leader and a consuming force of darkness that threatens to overtake the world. Fresh, unflinching horror ensues. This is Nick Cutter’s Little Heaven. New Mexico is the perfect sparse setting for this modern take on classic westerns; outlaws, revenge, a maiden in distress, and a reverend that makes the most unhinged Pentecostal tongue-speaker feel perfectly sane all combine in a series of story beats Louis L’Amour would have found comfortably familiar, if he could stomach the visceral punches Cutter weaves throughout, a la Cormac McCarthy. Little Heaven’s New Mexico has “scratch-ass” towns with “straggle-ass” streets in which hired guns ask their targets, “Are you square with your creator?” before dispatching them to what lies beyond.

Book Review: C. W. Cannon’s “French Quarter Beautification Project”

By John Flynn-York

Wild, beautiful, bawdy, and vivid, C. W. Cannon’s new novel, French Quarter Beautification Project, is the song of one night on the streets and in the bars of New Orleans’ French Quarter, circa 1986. Waveland Rogers, known as “Buck” by all—“they call him Buck Rogers because of his repute for epic spaciness, a grand, sweeping, tremendous, but detailed spaciness”—is an aspiring composer who frequently drifts off into music-inspired reverie. He’s a server at Everybody’s Happy, a restaurant with themed tables and a costumed waitstaff, who jocularly call it “Nobody’s Here” due its lack of clientele. Buck wears a fedora and carries a whip, earning him another nickname, Louisiana Jones; his fellow servers include the buxom, randy Glory Ann, who dresses as Tinkerbell; a young guy known as Scrunge, who parades around as a lion; and Marciss, the manager, who takes his responsibilities lightly and is the occasional object of Buck’s skittering lust.

Book Review: Roxane Gay’s “Difficult Women”

By Jenny Hayes

difficult-womenRoxane Gay’s Difficult Women is a relentless and thrilling read. As in much of Gay’s other work, particularly her novel An Untamed State, there is no looking away from brutality, yet moments of grace, beauty, and humor serve as striking counterparts to the more unsettling passages.

In these twenty-one stories, women negotiate problematic relationships, search for love and comfort, and try to cope with pain.

Book Review: Rich Ferguson’s “New Jersey Me”

By Jenny Hayesnew-jersey-me-cover

Rich Ferguson’s debut novel New Jersey Me is a coming-of-age tale set in an intriguingly dysfunctional ‘80s South Jersey town. The narrator, Mark, has a chaotic home life. His mother moved out of the house when he was fifteen, leaving him alone with his dad, a tough-talking, somewhat shady police chief, and the good things in his life are few and far between. He and his best friend Jimmy are even convinced they’re cursed by a “pet jinx” that causes all animals in their care to meet a premature demise. The two teens spend most of their time listening to music, getting wasted, and trying to have as good of a time as they can in Blackwater, a town Mark describes as “just strip malls, gun shops, radiation, and funeral homes.”

Book Review: Paul Kalanithi’s “When Breath Becomes Air”

By Joelyn Suarez

whenbreathbecomesairHope is not the typical remedy that doctors prescribe for medical illnesses, yet it is exactly what neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi turns to when he is confronted with stage IV lung cancer. But what good is hope when all other scientific evidence points to an imminent end? Kalanithi’s memoir When Breath Becomes Air is about learning how to face death head on, while examining what it means to be alive. His definition of hope is not one that is unrealistic, or based on some miraculous intervention, but the very real possibility of leading a fulfilled life despite the amount of time one has left.

Book Review: Zoe Zolbrod’s “The Telling”

By J.Z. Manley
the telling

“I am a girl, a female, always in danger of assault,” writes Zoe Zolbrod, quoting Sylvia Plath in her memoir, The Telling, a raw examination of the author’s emotional ambiguity in the aftermath of her sexual abuse. Zoe is four when her cousin, Toshi, first enters her room in the middle of the night and presses his fingers against her crotch. The abuse continues over the next year, but Zoe doesn’t tell anyone until she’s twelve, and even then, she’s not sure whether she’s been traumatized by it or not, whether she’s a victim or not. She uses the word molested, “Because it’s a big deal, right? The happening of it? The naming it? Or is it not?” Can trauma affect her life without completely defining it? Is she strange for thinking this way?