Subways, Songs, and Shattered Families: On Martha Cooley’s Novel “Buy Me Love”

"Buy Me Love" cover

Martha Cooley’s title for her latest novel is a predicate. A main verb and direct object, to be precise, its three words at once call to mind the subject and more, at least for the many millions with a fondness for the Beatles. The missing words “Money Can’t” function like a ghost limb for Buy Me Love and I mean for the entire narrative: haunted and hurting, yet also playful and illuminating. <

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An Infernal Revision: On Dinty W. Moore’s “To Hell With It”

"To Hell With It"

In Italy they’re celebrating seven centuries of Dante The Divine Comedy was finished in 1321, also the year Dante died but I doubt anyone there has whipped up a carnival so wild as Dinty Moore’s. Long a champion of creative non-fiction, in this text he delivers what might be called “multi-media creative.” To Hell With It tosses together Moore’s hand-drawn cartoons and his old family photos, it toys with his Catholic-school catechism and meanders with him through the Midwestern flea markets, and the whole way, whatever the ostensible subject, it works canto by canto through Dante’s formidable opener to the Comedy, the Inferno. 

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Lance Olsen and John Domini Talk About Cities as Fictions, Political Daymares, and Never Being at Home

Domini and Olsen covers

Lance Olsen and John Domini have followed each other’s work for years, sharing an attraction to the edges of the fictional enterprise, to experiment and risk. Olsen has many works of fiction and non-fiction, and his awards include the Guggenheim. Domini too has published widely, in all genres, and won an NEA Fellowship. Both have spent extended time abroad, Olsen in Germany, Domini in Italy. Not till now, however, did they share new titles with similar core concern— namely, a European city going through a radical change.  In Domini’s case, in his novel The Color Inside a Melon, this was contemporary Naples, over a single hectic week. Olsen’s latest, My Red Heaven, considers a June day in Berlin, in 1927. 

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Dreams Upended, With Horror: A Review of Peter Stenson’s “Thirty Seven”

“I know all this,” claims the narrator of Peter Stenson’s scarring and hard-to-shake second novel, “because humans are all fundamentally the same. We are a desk of control switches in a recording studio. Our only differences are the… levels and mixing.” This bleak notion proves a navigational star for the narrative, one that draws us on even as it makes our skin crawl.

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Uncanny Americana: A Review of David S. Atkinson’s “Roses are Red, Violets are Stealing Loose Change from my Pockets While I Sleep”

Though awfully brief, the hundred-plus fictions in this collection all have be considered tall, as in “tall tales.” All of them stretch plausibility till it snaps, sketching quandaries of a surreal bumptiousness far beyond what we read in most flash fiction. The short-short form tends towards quieter epiphanies, the hurts and discoveries of the ordinary, but David Atkinson is having none of that. In one story a bizarre super-creature, more or less immortal, “replaced the bricks of the Pyramids with […]

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Pop Culture Tropes and Chilling Satire: A Review of Kurt Baumeister’s “Pax Americana”

  These are dark times for black comedy, especially if a humorist takes on American politics. A mere novel, it would seem, can never match the Real World. The problem clearly occurred to Kurt Baumeister, because he took his nasty jibes to another world. The title of his bleak yet bubbly Pax Americana smacks of satire, but also sketches a power structure that doesn’t quite match up with our own. Obama never happened, in Americana; rather, 2009 saw the Third […]

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