Elevate Difference

Reviews of Coffee House Press

Horse, Flower, Bird: Stories

Full of self-pity and self-loathing, Kate Bernheimer’s stories in Horse, Flower, Bird are not all of what being a girl is about. This is essential to remember, because fairytales, for all their unnecessarily flowery language and lurid fantasy, taught us all who to be. Fairytales, like the more adult fables, are instructional devices; stay away from the woods, do not talk to strangers, truth and love will prevail… As corny as they always are, they imbue us with an elementary moral compass. It was their function and their rationale, it is why parents allow their children to watch Sleeping Beauty a million times into the wee hours of the night. However Bertheimer's fairytales, while unconventional and enticing, do not convey any distinct moral messages. They are enchanting stories, but not fairytales; there is nothing to be learned from them. They are simply fantastical.

Dear Sandy, Hello: Letters from Ted to Sandy Berrigan

With the post office on the verge of collapse and Facebook statuses eclipsing emails (which not so long ago eclipsed snail mail), I fret for the future of love letters. Decades from now, letters that would have been discovered in a forgotten old box will instead wither away into password-protected oblivion. We will no longer indulge our imagination in the real-life lust and longing of by-gone days, at least not in their raw, unadulterated letter form.

Shoulder Season

I’ve often wondered how much it really matters if the reader “gets” what the poet means in some of the more cryptic or shall we say intricately wrought poetry out there, or can a poem itself act as an agent of transformation, imparting unique meaning to both the poet and the reader? This question popped its head up as I read Shoulder Season by poet Ange Mlinko.

Find the Girl: Poems

Lightsey Darst’s first book of poetry, Find the Girl, offers a haunting look into the world of womanhood. She explores the missing and the murdered, the tragic (Helen of Troy, Atlantis), and the everyday girl who is discovering herself. A number of Darst’s poems contain a true-crime slant, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Catch Light

When I flipped over to the back cover of Sarah O’Brien’s recent collection of poetry, Catch Light, it was both startling and encouraging to see the resemblance.

German for Travelers : A Novel in 95 Lessons

Norah Labiner's third novel German for Travelers reads a lot more like poetry than prose. Each chapter, which is framed as a lesson, begins with a seemingly disconnected sentence translated into English from German, before jumping to a different time period, country, character, or all three.

All Fall Down

The topical variety of the stories contained in Mary Caponegro’s All Fall Down is close to astounding. Her protagonists are women, men, and children. Her stories consider poesy, abortion, marriage, chronic illness, terrorism, pregnancy, lesbianism, and international travel—all with grace and interest and without a hitch.

Fugue State

The Library of Congress’ perfunctory “Cataloging-in-Publication Data” (printed on the verso of the title page) rarely has anything novel or even in the least bit helpful to contribute to the discussion. However, in the case of Fugue State, a collection of stories by Brian Evenson, the dissembled “data” contains a single bit of notable information.

The Hebrew Tutor of Bel-Air

The back copy for The Hebrew Tutor paints a picture that is enticing: Under threat of nuclear war and the gorgeous California sun, the two [Norman and Bayla] forge a tentative truce. They may not be learning Hebrew, but through the miracle of motorcycles and the epiphanies of the road, Bayla and Norman just might learn to shape their own destinies.

A Toast in the House of Friends

Oliver’s collection of poetry is a haunting tribute to her son’s death. However, the collection itself has a universal theme, relatable to readers who haven’t experienced the same loss. Oliver creatively uses words and structure to create her own expression. The book is a collection of poetry in varying lengths and poetic pattern, thus keeping a good flow, as well as engaging.

Broken World

Don’t be fooled by the title of Joseph Lease’s collection of poems, though the world may be “broken,” the collection spends its time rebuilding, rationalizing and living despite it. Repetition fuels the elegy, “Broken World (for James Assatly),” a poem built in sections, a poem that works to remember a friend and writer who died of AIDS.