Forgotten poetry illuminated by Dark Horses

Dark Horses: Poets on Overlooked Poems by Joy Katz and Kevin Prufer.  University of Illinois Press, 2007. 232 pages

Dark Horses: Poets on Overlooked Poems (University of Illinois Press, 2007) might seem at first glance merely another collection in the plethora of literary anthologies that have recently become, like the locust swarms in ancient times, a plague upon the land. Closer inspection of this compilation by Joy Katz and Kevin Prufer, however, reveals that Dark Horses is truly a treasure house of neglected poems.

A Storm in the Big Easy

The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke. Simon & Schuster, 2007. 384 pages.

Fans of James Lee Burke’s bayou detective, Dave Robicheaux, have doubtless wondered not if, but how well, Burke would incorporate Hurricane Katrina into his next novel about Robicheaux and the Big Easy. The Tin Roof Blowdown (Simon & Schuster, 2007) gives these readers their answer: very well indeed.

An undefined culture gets its own guide

Emo. Emo. Emoooooo.

Occasionally the word (pronounced, I believe, I-moo) pops up on the Internet or jumps out of some conversation overheard on the street, snagging the ear and eye, but I keep ignoring it. The word and concept belong to a younger generation; wireless Internet and YouTube send me off the edge of the world, and so I was glad to give the word a pass.

Not such a safe place

The Pesthouse by Jim Crace. Nan A. Talese, 2007. 255 pages

“Let’s drop the big one and see what happens.”

This refrain from Randy Newman’s song “Political Science” could serve as the tagline for the whole realm of apocalyptic fiction.

Chick lit, chauvinism and modern Ireland

Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy. Knopf, 2007. 352 pages.

Recently my sister asked me if I had met anyone, which is a coded inquiry for “anyone of interest in terms of dating.” I told her that my schedule and my other commitments made it difficult for me to meet women.

Intersection of American minds

American Bloomsbury by Susan Cheever. Simon & Schuster, 2006. 240 pages

Susan Cheever, novelist, critic, and writer of acclaimed memoirs (Note Found in a Bottle and Home Before Dark) shifts her interests to the field of literary biography in American Bloomsbury. Subtitled “Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work,” American Bloomsbury tells of the tangled lives of these writers who exerted quite an influence on their native land.

Life in the midst of change

A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas. Harcourt, 2006. 192 pages

A blurb on the front cover of Abigail Thomas’ A Three Dog Life: A Memoir reads as follows:

“The best memoir I have ever read. This book is a punch to the heart. Read it.” — Stephen King

Though I normally don’t seek out books about dogs — yes, all you canine lovers, I realize completely that my lack of interest in man’s best friend puts me up there with Adolph Hitler (actually a bad example, as Hitler apparently loved his dog Blondi so much that the German General Staff had the impression that at times the dog and not the Fascist vegetarian was running the war) — I took King’s recommendation and opened the book.

A taste for noir

Wild to Possess and A Taste for Sin by Gil Brewer. Stark House Press, 2006.

One of the great delights of reading is to come across an exciting, new author for the first time. Even more delightful is the realization that the author has written more books for the reader to track down and enjoy.

Put your money on Saratoga Fleshpot

Murdering Americans by Ruth Dudley Edwards. Poisoned Pen Press, 2007. 236 pages.

Skewering the politically correct codes of our colleges and universities can be great fun, particularly for those writers and readers who are not yet humor-impaired. Like the Babbitts of old, the blue-blooded puritans who mouthed pious platitudes, or the starched souls who looked down long noses at what they considered their moral inferiors, the politically correct virtually demand the pin that will allow the escape of hot air from their gaseous egos.

Heading Home waffles but New Stories shines

Choosing the genre in which to write is, of course, a major factor in the success with which we communicate our message to others. Theodore Dalrymple, for example, has chosen the essay as his vehicle for addressing the violence and cultural deterioration in the West today. Yeats raises these same concerns in “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” — ”The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned” — but used poetry to bring home his point.

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