Reviewed Elsewhere [Vol. 2, #15]

April 10, 2009


THE NATION reviews Fanny Howe’s

At the outset of The Winter Sun, an apologia for the writing life, Fanny Howe confesses, “Since early adolescence I have wanted to live the life of a poet. What this meant to me was a life outside the law; it would include disobedience and uprootedness. I would be at liberty to observe, drift, read, travel, take notes, converse with friends, and struggle with form.” The outlaw poet has a long lineage, from the Beats and Rimbaud back to the troubadours, and it doesn’t accommodate the vulnerabilities of womankind. What it would mean for Howe, born in the United States in 1940, to pursue a life of poetry and self-definition — without sacrificing eros and motherhood — unfolds in a series of essays that might take as its motto “lower limit: memoir, upper limit: lyric.” The Winter Sun is an indispensable companion to Howe’s last book of nonfiction prose, The Wedding Dress (2003). Both collections circle around the theme of word and life, the via negativa, in an increasingly positivistic and cynical world. She subtitles The Winter Sun “Notes on a Vocation” but states at the outset that hers is “a vocation that has no name,” collapsing the mystical and the literary, Simone Weil and Samuel Beckett.

Read the full review:

The Winter Sun: Notes on a Vocation
Fanny Howe.

Paperback: Gray Wolf Press, 2009.
Buy now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $12 ]  [ Amazon ]



A Review of Paul Mariani’s DEATHS AND

Salty, briny, barnacled, and often shipwrecked, Paul Mariani’s sixth collection of poems, Deaths & Transfigurations, plumbs the depths of memory and mystery, death and life, and the steady current of illuminated ordinariness that flows throughout.


Mariani takes us from the warm, sought after “lawns & mansions of old memories [. . .]”—toy trains on Christmas Eve, wisdom passed from father to son, and magical first dates—to the coldness of unwaited loss, “a strange place, / [a] world of Mystery, where things never / seem to add up the way you think they should.” This is no pleasure cruise, no gentle rowboat shanty bellowing merrily merrily merrily merrily! This gathering of memories, sounding of dark beauty, is a haunting, humming ferry traversing the Styx, a “cross between a lullaby and blues.” In this gentle dirge, the strands of death and life are closely interwoven.

Read the full review:
Paul Mariani.

Paperback: Paraclete Press, 2005.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]



Byron Borger reviews L.L. Barkat’s
for CATAPULT magazine

Grace.  Redemption amidst struggle.  God’s presence revealed in the hard places.  Grace common and not so common.   Gracious insights are not easily wrought, at least if they are not cheap, and they come best from a life lived aware of God’s good ways.  A fabulous memoirist and blogger extraordinaire, L.L. Barkat, released last year her collection of Bible reflections, based not only on her solid and sane reading and her articulate understanding of the Bible, but on her own troubled life.  Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places (IVP, $15) is much more than a typical “basic Christian growth” book of insight into discipleship—she tells with an artist’s eye the keen memories of her difficult childhood, her coming of age, her college and young adult years.  The second half of the book unfolds insights from her marriage and relationship with her multitude of stepparents and stepsiblings, narrating in gorgeous prose snapshots from her life, memories of her past as they come into God’s healing light, and moments of her on-going steps toward a sane lifestyle and faithful discipleship.

This glorious book is thoughtful without being laborious, literate without being self-conscious.  She has a great eye for details, and a luminous style that revels in God’s presence in the day-to-day.  She is drawing lessons from life, and is candid about her ups and downs.  And, has she had some!

Read the full review:

L.L. Barkat.

Paperback: IVP, 2009.
Buy now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $12 ]  [ Amazon ]