Literature

This land was your land

The American West at Risk confronts mine-all-mine mentality
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Anyone paying any kind of attention has a deep-gut feeling that things aren't going well for Earth. No matter how fancy or technologically advanced we get, everything humans make and break is fashioned from the resources at hand — water, air, petroleum, minerals, soil and its nutrients, and plants and trees and their fruit. Your MacBook may look space age, but it didn't fall from the sky. "Nearly everything you use every day is based on minerals mined somewhere, often leaving behind disfigured land and a toxic mess," Howard G. Wilshire, Jane E. Nielson, and Richard W. Read more »

Speed Reading

83 Days of Radiation Sickness, The Photographs of Stanley Marcus, essays by LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), and stories by Ed Bullins
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A SLOW DEATH: 83 DAYS OF RADIATION SICKNESS

By NHK-TV "Tokaimura Criticality Accident Crew"

Vertical

160 pages

$19.95

It's tacky to begin a review of a book about death by radiation poisoning by praising the design of its jacket. But I'm afraid I have to — John Gall's art for A Slow Death: 83 Days of Radiation Sickness is unique in a gaze-snatching fashion. Read more »

Herself redefined

The word is the thing in The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest
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although I don't enjoy real lakes

Barbara Guest, Biography

Barbara Guest (1920-2006) once told me she shared a taxi in Manhattan with Marianne Moore. Seeing Guest unsuccessfully hail a cab, Moore impulsively instructed the driver of the one she was in to pull over and pick up the young poet. Moore didn't know Guest was a poet, and Guest was too intimidated to confess it, though they had a pleasant chat before Moore dropped her off at her destination.

There's something fitting about this encounter. Read more »

Vive l'amour

Stephanie Young remakes icons and images in Picture Palace
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REVIEW Stephanie Young edited the anthology Bay Poetics (Faux Press, 432 pages, $29), which attempted to take a snapshot of the Bay Area's poetry scene while acknowledging the failure built into such a task. Her second book of poetry, Picture Palace (in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni, 120 pages, $15), is not particularly concerned with choosing between various poetic modes and traditions. Read more »

Blessed be

The Necronomicon has an expensive 31st birthday party
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What the hell is the Necronomicon? A figment of H.P. Lovecraft's imagination? A demon-awakening tool foolishly deployed in the Evil Dead movies? A manifestation of Aleister Crowley's magical powers? Or simply a good old-fashioned hoax?

For purposes of this review, Necronomicon (Ibis, 220 pages, $125) is none of the above. Assume, if you will, that it's a tome based on Sumerian mythology, filled with line drawings and incantations. Read more »

Reel time travel

A book-length encounter with the criminally obscure Ulrike Ottinger
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How often do you encounter a living artist whose radical and prolific body of work is criminally obscure? I can't evangelize enough about the German filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger, whose work is the subject of Laurence A. Read more »

He's not Michael Cera

And George Watsky doesn't need a fucking MC name
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PROFILE George Watsky was 15 the first time I saw him perform one of his poems. The venue was an afternoon open mic at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, a one-week program that immerses teens in the art of jazz. I was 14, and was impressed and charmed by Watsky's fast-talking savvy. That the last line included the word "fuck" made the poem a crowd-pleaser to the teenage audience.

The following year, Watsky the San Francisco lyrical prodigy was back with another captivating poem. Read more »

Along the y-axis

Scoping out Lily Hoang's Parabola
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PARABOLA

By Lily Hoang

Chiasmus

336 pages

$14.95

Lily Hoang's Parabola is the kind of text that solicits a rereading, but you aren't dutifully bound to return to its beginning. Read more »

Speed Reading

Waiter Rant: thanks for the tip, cynical
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By Steve Dublanica

Ecco

320 pages

$24.97


Lately publishers seem to be following two rough guidelines: first, anyone can write a memoir; second, if it's a blog, it might as well also be a book.

Waiter Rant, based on (you guessed it) a blog of the same name, does plenty to refute both unspoken rules. Author Steve Dublanica may have some pithy anecdotes, but he fails to compile them in any cohesive or thoughtful way. At best, his book is a series of blog posts stretched out to chapter length. At worst, it's plain dull. Read more »

Better the devil you know

A look at The Complete Kylie
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Kylie Minogue (born 1968) isn't the world's greatest star, but she is for me and for Simon Sheridan, the Bristol-based pop culture journalist best known for his biographical work on Britain's sauciest birds of the 1970s — including its porn actresses. Oh my, that's a far cry from Kylie's innocent sexiness! But what Sheridan's The Complete Kylie (Reynolds & Hearn, 272 pages, $29.95) suggests is that Kylie would not have attained her present fame had she maintained the innocent, Dakota Fanning-like presence of a child star. Read more »