Jan/Feb 2009

e c l e c t i c a   r e v i e w s  & 
i n t e r v i e w s

Reviews & Interviews

(These are excerpts—click on the title to view the whole piece!)

Ann Skea reviews...

The Freedom Paradox: Towards a Post-Secular Ethics
by Clive Hamilton

There is nothing new here. This is the condition which has been labeled "Affluenza." What is new is the solution Clive Hamilton offers us for our malaise. What we need, he says, is "inner freedom": the reasoned ability and the courage to evaluate the commonly accepted route to happiness and to stand aside from it, the freedom to set our own goals, and the will to achieve them.

Corvus: A Life with Birds
by Esther Woolfson

Corvus is funny, fascinating, informative, loving and, just occasionally, a lesson in corvid science; and it is beautifully written by a woman whose own curiosity, intelligence and strength of character clearly draw her to birds which share these characteristics.

The Wisdom of Birds: An Illustrated History of Ornithology
by Tim Birkhead

Everywhere in The Wisdom of Birds facts are presented clearly and in easily digestible fashion, together with history, myth, folklore and anecdote. Just to read the table of Contents is tantalizing: Chapter 2, for example, is entitled "Seeing and Not Believing: From Egg to Chick," Chapter 9, "Darwin in Denial: Infidelity" and Chapter 10, "A Degenerate Life Corrupts: Reproduction and Longevity."

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein
by Peter Ackroyd

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is sparing in his descriptions of what he actually does in his experiments and he passes swiftly over the moment when his creature comes horrifyingly to life. Ackroyd's man, however, tells us all in gory and terrible detail.

The Uncommon Reader
by Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett tells this story with his tongue firmly in his cheek. He has great fun with the Queen's reactions to various authors ("Oh do get on!" she exclaims when reading Henry James for the first time) and her sharp, intelligent wit in the midst of all the formal duties and the stuffy meetings that she has to suffer is a delight. Prince Philip adds his dry comments and the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury are each confounded by literary questions. Altogether, this is a little gem of a book: short, funny, subversive and most enjoyable.

Gilbert Wesley Purdy reviews...

Howl on Trial
edited by Bill Morgan and Nancy J. Peters

Howl on Trial as a whole is something of a documentary history, including letters between Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg (the latter remaining in Europe beyond the reach of law), photocopies of various contemporary newspaper and magazine articles written about the trial, excerpts from the trial transcript and the text of the Judge Clayton W. Horn's decision. These are rounded out with brief commemorative essays. The combination is highly informative and eminently readable.

Reinventing the Soul
by Mari Ruti

Suffice it to say that Nietzsche himself would surely have been amused to learn with what his aphorism had come to be freighted. It likely never occurred to him that a sanitation engineer, by his reasoning, would not exist as anything more than the acts associated with waste handling, or, to return to the politics underlying all of this, that a heterosexual is only a heterosexual while engaging in sexual acts that fall under that descriptive term and not by the existence of any essent called "heterosexuality."

Dennis Kaplan reviews...

The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder
by Vincent Bugliosi

If we follow the thread of that opening—a concocted war that has killed over a hundred thousand would certainly constitute a crime of historic proportions. The suspect is the President of the United States. In all likelihood, no one will ever be held to account. The whole of American discourse seems to have missed the magnitude of all this, save one crazy old coot. Wow.

Kajsa Wiberg reviews...

All Over
by Roy Kesey

The span of themes, settings and situations captured between the covers blew me away. It is clear that Mr. Kesey has been around the world, seen it all, had experiences that far surpass those of the average person, and met a wide variety of people. His wisdom slips through on every page and it is obvious that he is open-minded, likeable, and most of all very intelligent. Yet he doesn't write down to his readers. He just shows us places we've never been and situations we've never experienced—and hopefully never will.

Uche Peter Umez reviews...

The Phoenix
by Chika Unigwe

It's paradoxical that people who would let their dogs lick their cheeks could deprive themselves of the sheer sunshine of community, cocoon themselves in the "aura of stillness." To the African, this comes as culture shock; a variant every diasporic person, not only Oge, must face.

Colleen Mondor reviews...

Stories for Winter Reading
by Various Authors

In a lot of ways, Lehman's book are "wishing" books. They show readers how things might happen if they are open to the possibilities around them. These are books that engender awareness as they are enjoyed, and even though words are not present, they still tell powerful stories. Don't look for Lehman for the wee little ones; she is an excellent choice for elementary school age children with big imaginations who want a story that lets them add their own ideas.

Wendy Vardaman interviews...

Farideh Hassanzadeh-Mostafavi
author of Remorseful Poems

Regarding the differences between Iranian and American women poets, I find a main difference: Iranian women write to make the bonds stronger, while American women write to reach more independence. Both of them dream of freedom: Iranian women in the cage of love and American women in the cage of feminism.

Kimberly L. Becker interviews...

Susan Settlemyre Williams
author of Ashes in Midair

I don't know if loss is truly redeemable, but it becomes at least a bit more bearable when it gets onto the page. The difficulty is in trying to get beyond personal therapy or catharsis (useful as that is). Going further than that seems to call for detachment, which seldom comes in the moment of loss. Maybe working toward that detachment is a form of redemption.

Barbara Crooker interviews...

Christine Pacosz, Shayla Mollohan and Charlotte Mandel
on caregiving, disability, and writing

I joined workshops and discussion groups and Wom-Po was one of those. These connections have meant the difference between feeling present or absent in the world.

Scott Malby reviews...

Five Lit Sites—Quick and Dirty

With the exception of Shakespeare who transcends his medium, everything after the brilliant literary contributions of Greece and Rome can be said to represent a paraphrase.