Book Review: Four Reincarnations by Max Ritvo
My genes are in mice, and not in the banal way that Man’s old genes are in the Beasts.
Max Ritvo was diagnosed with terminal cancer at age sixteen. Aggressive treatment put him into remission for some years, but the Ewing’s sarcoma came back during his senior year at Yale. During this time, he became a noted poet; Tom Waits was a big fan, I am told. Mr. Ritvo lived long enough to see advance copies of this book. but passed in August of 2016.
Mr. Ritvo’s cancer and his impending death are pervasive themes in his poetry, but are not the only things he writes about. He speaks of his love for his wife (sometimes in disturbing imagery), and moments of joy he has had.
This Milkweed Editions volume is handsome; the cover takes from his poem “Holding a Freshwater Fish in a Pail Above the Sea.” It’s a fine tribute to the author, and would look good on your shelf.
However, all the poems in the book are the modern poetry I don’t “get.” I honestly can’t tell if these are good or bad, and don’t feel any emotional connection to the work. Thus I cannot recommend this book to the casual reader; you will need to consult the opinions of people who actually know what they are talking about.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in a giveaway; no other compensation was offered or requested.
Update: here’s a video of Mr. Ritvo reading his work.
Magazine Review: The Blueroad Reader: Stardust and Fate edited by John Gaterud
Yes, this is yet another literary magazine; I picked up a bunch inexpensively at the book fair. This one seems to take its title from Jack Kerouac’s writing; this first issue was published in 2007.
The index is unusual for this kind of magazine. Rather than a linear index, or arranged by subject or type of literature, it’s by author. It also doesn’t distinguish between fiction and non-fiction–while some pieces sound more fictional than others, you will need to make up your own mind.
Insert my usual comments about modern poetry here. The most interesting ones for me are “Postcards to Mike” by Ed McManis, a set of verses describing a school trip to Europe, the small disasters and odd moments of traveling with students.
A couple of the pieces are very much written in 2006, and feel dated now with their jabs at the Bush administration. Deserved jabs, but still. “Letter from Iceland” by Bill Holm and “Letter from London” by Donna R. Casella are both most interesting as time capsules, I think.
Best of the prose pieces from my point of view was “O Mary, Where Art Thou?” by Suzanne Lillian Bunkers. It’s an examination of the various appearances of Mary, mother of Jesus, with an emphasis on the sites that the author has personally visited. One of the qualifications for authenticating a visit by Mary, it turns out, is conformity with Catholic doctrine. If your vision of Mary has her advocating ordination of women, you’re out of luck officially.
Overall, the theme is of road trips and journeys. Many of the pieces are sad or bittersweet; others are nostalgic. I do not know if any further volumes were published by Blueroad Press.
As with other literary magazines I’ve reviewed, it seems decent if this kind of literature is your thing.
Comic Book Review: Uptown Girl Imitation of Life by Bob Lipski
This is another collection of the Uptown Girl comic book stories, filled in with short newer pieces. The main stories feature Rocketman’s never before mentioned career as a pinball champion (and the forgotten rival who wants revenge), and a zoo-related saga that combines an artistic monkey, a talking car, and a robotic dinosaur. Smaller pieces talk about comics and gaming fandom, and Uptown Girl’s sometimes difficult relationship with modern technology. And downer appearances by Sulky Girl.
This is very much a local product of Minneapolis and the surrounding area–see if you can spot all the references! The art is simple but effective, and most of the jokes hit. Uptown Girl tries to do her job as a reporter, Ruby Tuesday tries to do her job as an artist, and Rocketman tries very hard not to do his job as an office drone.
The last story in the volume is “Learning How to Smile” , which is a more somber piece that also provides the book title. Ruby’s uncle has had a stroke, and struggles with the smallest things. This reminds him and her of his mortality, and it’s time for Ruby Tuesday to inherit part of her legacy….
Recommended to small press comics fans, especially in Minnesota.