What Comes from a Thing by Phillip Barron

What Comes from a Thing by Phillip Barron

In What Comes from a Thing, Phillip Barron reveals the essence that seeps from the mundane just beneath our attention. He dwells within the blurred borders between nature and the hollow shells of artifice that seem to develop not on the geographical edges of civilization, but on its perceptual edges. 

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Carl Schmitt: A Biography by Reinhard Mehring

Carl Schmitt: A Biography by Reinhard Mehring

Reinhard Mehring’s Carl Schmitt: A Biography, dutifully translated by Daniel Steuer, is a difficult book for two reasons. At well over 500 pages, with complex jargon and a healthy dose of German-language legalese, it is an exceptionally dense biography by necessity; to truly appreciate Schmitt, the man and one of the leading legal minds of the Third Reich, understanding his juridic and philosophical development is a prerequisite for virtually all else. While his life’s broad personal and familial outlines are thoroughly rendered in the text, it is his ideas, his arguments, his contributions to Nazism which appropriately receive primary attention. Second, and related to the focus on Schmitt’s evolving political thought, this book is difficult for the reading experience it provides—a brilliant man’s steady descent from the traditions of realist international relations theories and debates over the role of the state toward justifying and rationalizing total state capacity for domination of civic life.

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Wittgenstein Elegies by Jan Zwicky

Wittgenstein Elegies by Jan Zwicky

Jan Zwicky’s new edition of Wittgenstein Elegies is a panoplied response to this, from Wittgensein ". . . philosophy ought really to be written as a poetic composition."

In order to create a complex choral conversation between philosophy and poetry, in general, and philosopher and poet, more specifically, Zwicky employed the risky art of appropriating others’ words for the purpose of more than homage, but for the repurpose of a different understanding.

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The Boss by Victoria Chang

The Boss by Victoria Chang

Victoria Chang’s The Boss serves up poems reminiscent of repetitious schoolyard rhymes. Her collection takes on large concepts: life, capitalism, ancestral memories, death, and examines how our daily interactions become the metaphysical. With most poems only taking up one page, and a few stretching to two, Chang’s writing utilizes each empathetic word. At it’s pinnacle, The Boss throws back the curtain and places us at the epicenter of a conversation stripped of niceties or answers; instead, Chang grants the opportunity to not only survive, but thrive in the unknown.

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The Flowers Won't Die by S. j. Cruz

The Flowers Won't Die by S. j. Cruz

A poet by trade, S. j. Cruz has given us a début novel at once original and familiar: while at first glance its structure and preoccupations seem reminiscent of the hip novelties found in other alternative literature, the author's voice distinguishes The Flowers Won't Die as an earnest literary exploration of contemporary subjects. Cruz's unique hybrid of poetic grace and comedic lunacy shine through a novel that, although it may only be enjoyed by other young writers and artists, nonetheless offers a fresh perspective on youth, art, and life.

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Syria Burning: ISIS and the Death of the Arab Spring by Charles Glass

Syria Burning: ISIS and the Death of the Arab Spring by Charles Glass

While many might be familiar with the uprisings surrounding Arab Spring, it is hard  to say the same about what came before or after. Syria Burning: ISIS and the Death of Arab Spring elaborates on what we think we know and more importantly, reports on what we need to know. In the text’s foreword, Patrick Cockburn, a fellow journalist, introduces the crucial value of Charles Glass' perspective on the series of events following the rise of Arab Spring four years ago. From a realm of bias and othering, former ABC NEWS chief Middle East correspondent Glass offers insight of the war and its aftermath.

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The Waste Land: A Performance/Installation by Daniel Domig and Christopher Domig

The Waste Land: A Performance/Installation by Daniel Domig and Christopher Domig

It was in the Autumn of 1922 when a 34-year-old English poet published 434 lines of verse in the very first issue of The Criterion—his own quarterly literary magazine whose run ended in the winter of 1939, and which expressed on paper the rich cultural output of the interwar years from Europe’s “Lost Generation” of letters. Criterion’s creator, one Thomas Stearns Eliot, used his publication’s introductory 600 copies to unveil what remains one of the enduring poetic meditations on society in the wake of war: "The Waste Land." From its opening words, “April is the cruelest month,” the power of T. S. Eliot’s much-lauded poem has continued to translate across generations of new readers—taking on new dimensions when it jumps from their inner-voice, to their tongue, and out across a room full of transfixed faces.

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yes i understand and i wish to continue by James Schiller

yes i understand and i wish to continue by James Schiller

Despite the fact that this first line of the book could easily summarize, placate, defend, and define all the poems in this expository of structure-fucking, raw, and refreshingly crude social commentary, I was quite compelled to read on because I certainly understand and I wished to continue. 

yes i understand and i wish to continue takes the reader down the rabbit hole and right back up to topsoil of our gnarled existence.  

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Garments Against Women by Anne Boyer

Garments Against Women by Anne Boyer

Anne Boyer’s new book of poems, Garments Against Women, is a subtle feat of poetic mise en abyme. She conceptualizes the daily into the philosophical and, thankfully, collapses the philosophical into the quotidian. With her lyric prose, she does not spare words—there is no fear of that sort of economy here; and her language patterning is reflective of the template one might use for sewing: This is two-dimensional so that you may make of it something three-dimensional, something to walk away with, to cover you. These poems collapse her world perfectly onto the page, and in reading them, they become again the uncollapsed world—like a three-dimensional rendering of a mise en abyme painting, each frame falling into the next like an accordion: in and out, in and out (until it slips, beautifully); the music produced may not be perfectly in tune, but it is amazingly attuned.  

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The Invention of Monsters/Plays for the Theater by C. Dylan Bassett

The Invention of Monsters/Plays for the Theater by C. Dylan Bassett

C. Dylan Bassett, a teaching fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and published poet, produces striking phantasmagoria in his work, The Invention of Monsters/Plays for the Theatre. The compilation openly invites the audience—performers, directors, and theatergoers alike—to interpret its performative texts. His bold wit structures his prose into four separate acts: The Invention of the Monster, Fantasies About Cowboys, Scenes of Heroism, and A Tent for the Night. The work conquers themes of gender and (at times, graphic) sexuality, written in first-person narrative.

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A Narco History by Carmen Boullosa and Mike Wallace

A Narco History by Carmen Boullosa and Mike Wallace

"This," writes historian James Loewen in his classic deprogramming text Lies My Teacher Told Me, referring to the murky use of "chaos" to describe complicated conflicts in foreign lands, "is standard textbook rhetoric: Chaos seems always to be breaking out or about to break out, and Americans intervene only 'reluctantly.'" "Chaos breaking out," as Loewen points out, is typically a means of exonerating the United States of its role in bringing about the very violence it then "reluctantly" decides to alleviate through military intervention.

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House of Coates by Brad Zellar (with Photographs by Alec Soth)

House of Coates by Brad Zellar (with Photographs by Alec Soth)

I can't say exactly what House of Coates is good at, but it’s very good at something. Part of it, to be a bit evasive, is simply the feeling that it’s stirring up some very specific emotion deep inside me, but I can never quite put my finger on it. That, by itself, keeps me thinking. It’s not the kind of book that stirs up a bunch of different thoughts and emotions, letting them collide and splash out, luminous on the surface of the page. This book is more cavernous, subterranean, and it harps on pretty much that one feeling, albeit in many subtly shifting shades. This isn’t quite right, but it’s something like loneliness. But with a seedy flavor, a weatherworn feel, both angrier and more subdued, totally frank and intimate, but also silent and empty. What’s truly amazing about this book, having just described it in such terms, is that it strikes some very familiar chord without seeming cliché or archetypal or borrowed. It’s not noir, for example. It’s not Dostoevsky, either. Sure, it’s about a broken man, Lester, a loner, a depressive misanthrope, but, despite all this, the book avoids categorization very well. Perhaps this isn’t necessarily a virtue in itself, but I think it’s symptomatic of a certain virtue—perhaps the virtue: that it makes the familiar seem like it’s never been said before.

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Is the American Century Over? by Joseph S. Nye, Jr.

Is the American Century Over? by Joseph S. Nye, Jr.

In his book Is the American Century Over?, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., a renowned political scientist and professor, attempts to answer that very question to understand why America has been in an economic and political decline. If nothing else, his brief thesis gives both educated citizens and ignorant ones (like me) an intelligent, unbiased evaluation of one of the most powerful nations in recorded history. 

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Method and Madness by Norman G. Finkelstein

Method and Madness by Norman G. Finkelstein

Norman G. Finkelstein’s latest volume chronicling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Method and Madness, immediately outlines the scope of the book in the preface. Unlike his earlier books, such as 1995’s seminal Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, here Finkelstein focuses on a narrow temporal and substantive series of events: the evolution and escalation of Israeli military operations in Gaza between 2006 and late 2014. Rather than developing a broad explanation of the socioeconomic and geopolitical forces which have long prevented a resolution of the decades-long conflict, Method and Madness seeks to explain three major Israeli operations in Gaza: Operation Cast Lead (2008-9), Operation Pillar of Defense (2012), and Operation Protective Edge (2014). Finkelstein provides a contrarian account of “the accepted interpretation” and the “key triggers, features, and consequences” of each new operation by  chronologically tracing Israel’s strategic and domestic political developments across successive assaults (xi). Throughout this concise book, ancillary issues are brought into focus, including Israel’s relations with key Western allies—such as the United States, notably—as well as the domestic Israeli political actors’ motives for rhetorical and military escalation of strategies against the Gazan population. Overall Method and Madness remains a primarily descriptive account, albeit one which will resonate with longtime critics of Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories, and one which explores primary source accounts of the three operations in extraordinary detail.

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Saint Friend by Carl Adamshick

Saint Friend by Carl Adamshick

Without a wasted syllable, the poems in Carl Adamshick’s sophomore effort Saint Friend address death, life, and the meaning of both with a lean, angular prose. This collection is many things: heartbreaking, funny, strange, heavy. It is a collection reflective of the varied nature of our own existence, a lifetime of minor tragedies, quiet triumphs, and the biting fear of irrelevance.

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The Jihadi's Return by Patrick Cockburn

The Jihadi's Return by Patrick Cockburn

According to his acknowledgments page, Patrick Cockburn originally conceived The Jihadis Return as a kind of clarion call to the West, sounding the alarm about the growing power and influence of ISIS and other al-Qa’ida-style jihadi movements in Syria and Iraq. Given the current state of our media’s coverage of the Middle East, with near daily updates about the newest grisly execution video or the latest teenaged recruit to pack off to Syria to fight the bad fight, all underlined by an incessant B-roll of Kalashnikov-toting ISIS militiamen waving the ominous black flag, it can be difficult to recall that a year ago, few in the West had even heard of ISIS, and the War on Terror was thought by many to be all but won.

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Think Tank by Julie Carr

Think Tank by Julie Carr

“What black butterfly, voiceless with its fourth-person narration / is the real world?” Julie Carr’s poem asks, in Think Tank, just out by Solid Objects. This is poetry of the temporal, witnessed through the spatiality offered by the window of the quotidian and domestic (“… Morning’s not / measured nor meant / just assured and rude in its lack of regard …” (10)), of parenthood and chairs, and “all, all” (“Windows blaze, all, all—the train jumps its tracks” (1)). Carr brings “all, all” by way of fragmentation, because there is no other way, and she knows this; poetry is this. As Phillipe Lacoue-Labarthe writes, “Poetry occurs where language, contrary to all expectations, gives way.” By way of amazing observation and diction of capture and release, along with her use of the empty space of the page, Carr’s poems, allow for what Jean-Luc Nancy calls the “syncope of language.” Caesurae reign supreme—at least as supreme as her words.

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White Magic by Lothar Müller

White Magic by Lothar Müller

As digital media increasingly impinge on the status, and even the very existence, of paper-based communications, one could easily expect a story about the history of paper to take on a somber, almost elegiac tone. But the tale that Lothar Müller spins in White Magic: The Age of Paper is one that brings paper—as both physical material and a playing field on which the human imagination can run wild—to vivid life. Incorporating a wealth of historical detail, technical information and critical analysis, Müller makes his account lively and compelling, giving paper a personality and substance that is on par with any words that may appear on it. In his book, paper is not just the silent partner of the printing press. Instead, it is an extremely versatile substance—one whose uses and forms shape human thought and behavior in many ways.

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Do Everything in the Dark by Gary Indiana

Do Everything in the Dark by Gary Indiana

It is not just that Gary Indiana’s novel, Do Everything in the Dark, is about, or fictively triggered by, old photos (and letters), but that the form the book takes captures this random recall in its ability to fit its pieces together, almost. Is a roman à clef a story told on its head? Or is it merely standing upright, a little off center from the “real” story it simultaneously cloaks and exposes? Indiana ends this novel with an epigraph (with this placement, is it an epitaph for a generation or epoch?) by Guy Debord: “In a world that really has been turned on its head, truth is a moment of falsehood” (from Society of the Spectacle). To this end, Indiana has posited that the former question I pose is true, perhaps; and so, false, as well. The sidestepping question, however, is also one that must be answered in the affirmative, as any retelling, of story or character, in these pages, offers a recognizability of the real world’s textual twins, and in that Indiana has created a story that works almost all the way around, literally, and even moves these characters (for which there are real-life (and deceased) referents) forward a little bit, into the now, not unlike ghosts for which substance has never been an issue.

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Short Talks by Anne Carson

Short Talks by Anne Carson

Almost everything about Anne Carson’s collection of prose poems, Short Talks (originally published in 1992), is, as its title suggests, short: the poems themselves, the length of the collection, the new afterword by the author (with textual brevity to rival that of her beautiful book-object Nox (New Directions, 2010). This book is even short on illustrations, of which there is only one. Thankfully, however, the gorgeously written and elucidating introduction by poet Margaret Christakos takes almost ten pages—it deserves all ten; and the poetry itself is long on knowledge, art, history, mastery, and is pregnant with crystal-clear insight (along with its refractions). As an homage to these small, brick-shaped poems, I will keep these words to a minimum: a short talk on Short Talks.

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