A Haunting, Layered Thriller: A Review of David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s “Winter Counts”

"Winter Counts"

Writing an entertaining novel is no easy task. Writing a novel that contains enough pulp to be entertaining but also has rhyzomatic tendrils that reach deep into the realm of cultural significance, history, and justice is even harder. David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s Winter Counts does exactly that. At once a violent, touching story about the effects of the opioid pandemic in a Native American reservation and a celebration of the strength and resilience of the Sicangu Lakota Nation, Winter Counts is book that demands to be read not just because it’s engaging, but because it matters. 

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Sunday Stories: “The Sunburned Cowboy”


The Sunburned Cowboy
by David Byron Queen

When I met the cowboy on the bus to Palm Desert, I had a few months sober still and life was open and full of possibility. This was 1995. Everything I owned was in a suitcase in the compartment above me—toothbrush, socks, underwear, jeans, t-shirts, a box of nicotine patches, my father’s meditation tape, a tambourine, and a 1971 Selmer Mark IV saxophone that had once belonged to my father in a plastic music case. I looked good. I’d shaved my beard, gotten myself a haircut, and wore a neat dark suit my father had given me around the time he left, told me to wear it one day at the start of my career. And well, it had taken longer than some but there I was.

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Poetry Against Authoritarianism: A Review of Randall Gavin Horton’s “{#289-128}: Poems”

Randall Horton coverThough I’m not typically one to write reviews for works of poetry, I was happy to take on {#289-128} by Randall Gavin Horton — a collection of poems that examines mass incarceration in the United States. 

Horton divides his book into three sections: Property of the State, Poet-in Residence, and Poet New York. Each section follows the trajectory of the speaker ([#289-128]) from when he is turned over to the state to when he manages to reclaim his identity after his time is served, illustrating the ways in which a prisoner remains imprisoned beyond their time on the inside.

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A Singular Take on Cultural History: On Luc Sante’s “Maybe the People Would Be the Times”

Luc Sante

If Luc Sante wrote the phone book I’d read it. Twice. Happily, Sante’s new book Maybe the People Would Be the Times gathers pieces about music, art, and city life from the last twenty-plus years, so what he writes about is as compelling as the style with which he does it. Sante stubbornly refuses to write a stale line. Whether paying tribute to the young Patti Smith or imagining the subsequent lives of the original owners of 45s in his collection or recalling the long-gone businesses and denizens of the Lower East Side, he puts the reader right there, seeing what he saw, thinking what he thought.

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Six Ridiculous Questions: Aatif Rashid

Aatif Rashid

The guiding principle of Six Ridiculous Questions is that life is filled with ridiculousness. And questions. That only by giving in to these truths may we hope to slip the surly bonds of reality and attain the higher consciousness we all crave. (Eh, not really, but it sounded good there for a minute.) It’s just. Who knows? The ridiculousness and question bits, I guess. Why six? Assonance, baby, assonance.

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Haunted People in a Shifting Landscape: A Review of David Joy’s “When These Mountains Burn”

David Joy cover

Imagine a tree in an old growth forest. The core is ancient. Its roots have been in the earth for centuries, drawing substance from it while helping shape the ecosystem around it and even becoming an ecosystem itself. However, at the tip of its branches burgeons new life, infant shoots that are new to the world. This tree is just like David Joy’s latest novel, When These Mountains Burn; something both old and new that embodies change and permanence while also reminding us that things we imagine monolithic, like places and cultures, are malleable, changing, ephemeral. 

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“The Wanting Was a Wilderness”: A Trail Guide For the Memoirist

Alden Jones cover

From the moment Cheryl Strayed picks up her only remaining hiking boot, chucks it off the side of a ridge and continues her trek up the 2,653-mile-long Pacific Crest Trail, Strayed has any reader with a sense of adventure hooked into her best-selling memoir, Wild.

(Am I doing this whole book review thing right by first talking about a completely different book than the one I’m reviewing? Yes, in this case:) 

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