[REVIEW] Communion, by Curtis Smith

comm
Dock Street Press
153 pages, $14.00

 

Review by Cate Hennessey

 

In her marvelous book, I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory, Patricia Hampl ponders some of Rilke’s advice from Letters to a Young Poet. She comes to rest on this:

[Rilke] was not a sentimentalist of childhood. He is directing the young poet, rather, to the old religions of commemoration in whose rituals the glory of consciousness presides. He believes, as I cannot help believing as well, in the communion of perception where experience does not fade to a deathly pale, but lives evergreen …

This ‘communion of perception’ characterizes Curtis Smith’s new collection of twenty-one essays, aptly titled Communion. And while the book’s cover bears three holy wafers, perception here is driven not by a devotion to God or church, but by an ordinary father’s love for his son. Continue reading

[REVIEW] Doll Palace by Sara Lippman

Doll Palace

 

 

Dock Street Press

 

Review by Jody Hobbs Hesler

 

 

Every story in Sara Lippmann’s debut collection, Doll Palace, is a finely crafted, stark distillation of a different kind of loss, loneliness, or alienation. A motley of bleak quests for happiness in a world of irony, desolation, and shabbiness, the collection features the seedy-carney side of beach towns, broken relationships, families reckoning with their babies’ complicated and heartbreaking illnesses, a father-daughter knife throwing team, and more.

With such weighty and often off-beat topics, it’s no surprise that the tone of the collection swerves toward the melancholic at times. The story that left me with the most cheer was “Houseboy,” narrated by an immigrant working for a ridiculously wealthy man. The “rock-n-roll hootchie koo summer” he yearns to experience in the U.S. contrasts with the bitterness of what he’s left behind, leaving the character to conclude in his broken English, “The whole world is cry.” Still, the character’s humor and sweetness left me with humble hopes of better things for him. Continue reading

[REVIEW] The Lucky Body, by Kyle Coma-Thompson

Lucky body

Dock Street Press

158 pages, $16

 

Review by Sara Lippmann

 

The human body is a mysterious, contradictory bully of a beast. Capable of extreme cruelty, of exercising raging pain, humiliation, and destruction upon others, it also is an emotional vessel of hope and love, the tender home of the brain, the spine, the heart. Is the body ever knowable? And what’s inside – can all that ever be understood? In his brilliant and remarkably strange debut collection, Coma-Thompson explores these questions, examining the complicated and conflicting impulses of the human body, and the human collective through divergent lenses. The result is a daring, beguiling body of work unlike any other that demands your attention. Read The Lucky Body slowly, then reread it again and again.

The opening and title story sets the tone of the book. “The Lucky Body” has been brutally murdered and mutilated. Who was the body? Conjecture follows, accruing like an incantation, an ode to the body, what it might have been, who it was, the life it might have once contained.  “It might have attended one of the better boarding schools in the upper Northeast.”  Also possible: “A series of women had loved the body for its many perfections, but also for the gentleness with which it inhabited: the warmth coming off its naked length.” Coma-Thompson is also a poet, and his stunning lyricism is evident throughout, such as in this passage that describes the motivation for the hunt and capture, the subsequent killing:

 The body had walked this earth as one of the lucky, and because of that an ineffable glow radiated from every part of it, and it was this they spotted one day and followed for three blocks and admiring it made plans to eventually snatch it off the streets and mine it for what they imagined was its hidden gold. Continue reading