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This book is a perfect delight and a fast read. Beginning with a short, enchanting history of the universe from the Big Bang to the evolution of the aardvark, Anthony spins two narratives. The first is of a closeted, reprehensible Republican congressman who receives an enormous taxidermied aardvark from Fedex which in a fine comedy of errors begins to unravel his hopes for reelection. The second narrative, set in Victorian England, is about its gifted taxidermist, the naturalist who hunted it, and his young widow. The two narratives skillfully counterpoint each other making this a quite rewarding novel. In addition to political satire, herein can be found a ghost story, pickled human eyeballs, street urchins dressed crudely as aardvarks, Hermann Goring’s father, and an abortive auction for a vial of Ronald Reagan’s blood. ~ Reviewed by Dafydd Wood
Hill is probably the best British poet after Philip Larkin. This volume collects everything you’ll need (he started taking Prozac in later life and his output quadrupled to the detriment of his ability). His work is thorny, violent, full of gnarled syntax and rhetorical power but lyrical and rewarding. “In Memory of Jane Fraser” and “Merlin” are two perfect poems that will be remembered. “Funeral Music,” a sequence of poems about historic British beheadings he described as “a florid, grim music broken by cries and shrieks.” Mercian Hymns, probably his most famous, is a curious collection of prose poems inspired by ancient British history which collapses time, the present bleeding into the past. Sometimes even funny. ~ Reviewed by Dafydd Wood
Wilbur was a New England poet just as good as Robert Frost, if not better. His skilled work and craftsmanship is unsurpassed. Poems of deep feeling, intellectual rigor, and a glorious sensitivity to “the things of this world.” Unlike most writers I like, his work is optimistic and joyful. He finds the miraculous in the mundane—a hint of angel feathers in the throwing out of mop water, in waiting for a drawbridge to drop the perfect simile for the expectation of a smile from his wife. An American master. ~ Reviewed by Dafydd Wood
A great unsung American poet. Snodgrass helped spark the “confessional” movement in American poetry as a student in Robert Lowell’s workshop. “Heart’s Needle” is a painful, beautiful sequence about his divorce and losing custody of his daughter. He was a master craftsman who left the most a poet can really ask for, a handful of unforgettable lyric poems that will last the ages—“The pear tree lets its petals drop / Like dandruff on a tabletop.” “Sorting out letters…I happened to find / Your picture. That picture. I stopped there cold, / Like a man raking piles of dead leaves in his yard / Who has turned up a severed hand.” ~ Reviewed by Dafydd Wood
One of former President Barack Obama’s favorite books of 2018, Immigrant, Montana is a sheer pleasure—and Amitava was one of the most enchanting, inspiring events I’ve hosted. This is a novel full of life, situated beautifully in the no-man’s land between fiction and non-fiction, mixing memory and essay. A new kind of immigrant writing, that weds humor acute observation, sex and politics. ~ Reviewed by Dafydd Wood