The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Reviewed by Zoe Stein 

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. Click for catalog link.

Location: Uni High New Books (temporarily shelved)
Call number: Fiction At96te

Location: Residence Halls Illinois Street SciFi/Fantasy
Call Number: 813 At96te

Margaret Atwood’s latest novel, The Testaments, is on hundreds of to-read lists and has been shortlisted for the 2019 Man-Booker Prize. A sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, the book is yet another foray into the horrific world of Gilead, following three all-new perspectives. Surprisingly, though, Offred barely makes an appearance. Instead, Atwood gives voice to the vicious Aunt Lydia, Agnes, a child of Gilead, and Daisy, a Canadian child who finds herself embroiled in a plot to take down Gilead.

While all three women are represented in the chapters of the novel, the most compelling ones are those of Aunt Lydia. During and after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, Aunt Lydia was seen as an agent of Gilead—a woman destined to spend the rest of her life enforcing the misogynist laws of the new country. The Testaments, though, provides depth to the previously one-dimensional character. Her past, present, and innermost thoughts are explored as the reader learns that everything is not quite as it seems. Every chapter is compelling and utterly addictive.

The Testaments is a departure from the plot structure of The Handmaid’s Tale. While the latter is an exploration of Offred’s past and the world around her, The Testaments reads more like a thriller. It is action based and plot heavy most of the time and character exploration is at a minimum, with the exception of Aunt Lydia. Though the novel is certainly entertaining, it’s undoubtedly a different reading experience than that of The Handmaid’s Tale. 

While certainly a compelling read, it is unfair to compare The Testaments to Atwood’s earlier exploration into the world. This new book is an entirely different experience, and I urge readers to go in with an open mind.

Margaret Atwood. Photo by Jean Malek. Click for author’s website.

Read other reviews:

New York Times

Kirkus Reviews 

Publisher’s Weekly 

Twitter Email

Junk by Tommy Pico

Reviewed by Sybil Mahone

Junk by Tommy Pico. Click for Catalog link.

Location: Main Stacks
Call Number: PS3616.I288 J86 2018

Location: ResHalls FloridaAvenue Circulating Coll
Call Number: 811 P588ju

Are these tweets or texts or a poem? Read this book-length gay breakup epic by Native poet Tommy “Teebs” Pico and decide for yourself. “I’m not going to just turn down a donut unless sex in the derriere is comin,” Teebs declares. Same, Teebs. Same. Imperialism is junk. Consumption is junk. Love is junk. *Junk* declares and questions and makes penis jokes about all of it. I love this book. It’s *Junk*.

Author Tommy Pico, photo from personal website.

Read other reviews:

Los Angeles Review of Books 

Kenyon Review

Publisher’s Weekly

Twitter Email

Ghost Of By Diana Khoi Nguyen

Reviewed by Corey Van Landingham

Cover art URL to catalog

Ghost Of, by Diana Khoi Nguyen. Click to view catalog entry.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3614.G85 A6 2018

Ghost Of may be one of the most successful—and surely the most intriguing—recent books of elegy. Nguyen takes on the liminal spaces of grief after a brother’ suicide and translates them not only into the linguistic field of these poems, but also the visual. Included here are family photographs with the brother cut out, and the shape of that cutting pasted onto new pages, collage-like, where that void is populated with new language. And the book is unflinching in its approach to this sudden loss: “Let’s get on with it,” Nguyen writes in “I Keep Getting Things Wrong.” “When I return to that house, I eat the food / left out for my dead brother. I don’t waste much.” This is a remarkable debut collection from a deeply wise poet.

To learn more about Corey Van Landingham, please read her collection of poetry entitled Antidote.

Author portrait with link

Photo of author Diana Khoi Nguyen. Click to visit website.

Read other reviews here:

Kenyon Review

Jet Fuel Review


Twitter Email

So Far So Good by Ursula K. Le Guin

Reviewed by Sebastián Maldonado-Vélez

Cover art

So Far So Good: Final Poems 2014-2018, by Ursula Le Guin

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3562.E42 A6 2018

Location: ResHalls FloridaAvenue Circulating Coll
Call Number: 811 L526so

You might recognize Le Guin’s name from an impressive number of science fiction and fantasy books that she wrote throughout her lifetime. A somewhat more understated aspect of her literary life includes poetry, this collection being the last that was edited shortly before her death in 2018. Le Guin’s poetry attempts and achieves a precision that comes from a respect the poet had toward all subjects: “All earth’s dust/has been life, held soul, is holy.” Her language reminds us how words and concepts we might think of as mundane just need a slight nudge to be revolutionary, revealing. I especially recommend this book to readers who feel uneasy when reading poetry, afraid that the poet is trying to deceive them in some way. Le Guin is open and honest about her intentions. In this collection she wishes us to meditate on the small to better understand the big.

Ursula Le Guin. Photo by Marian Wood Kolisch. Click to see website.

Read other reviews:

Portland Review

Publisher’s Weekly

Twitter Email

Magdalene by Marie Howe

Reviewed by Jessica Tanck

Cover art

Magdalene: Poems, by Marie Howe. Click to view catalog.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3558.O8925 A6 2018

Marie Howe’s Magdalene (2017) imagines the Biblical figure of Mary Magdalene as a woman in the present-day. Brilliant and sensual, yearning and thoughtful, Howe’s Magdalene is dignified, human, and cut with want. This is a book for those with a taste for the biblical and sensual, those who long for complexity, depth, and revelation, who cherish the plainspoken over the ornate. Howe’s seemingly unadorned verse presents thought, feeling, and scenes in a way that is somehow both intimate and mythical, delivering statements and descriptions that resound with both emotional truth and the lightning of revelation:

“Years holding on to a rope/ that wasn’t there, always sorry/ righteous and wrong.”

“The pills were the floorboards/ and the bright lights that made what’s what possible.”

“I liked Hell, I liked to go there alone/ relieved to lie in the wreckage, ruined, physically undone./ The worst had happened. What else could harm me then?/ I thought it was the worst, thought nothing worse could come. / Then nothing did, and no one.”

Whether you are a first-time reader of poetry or a long-time lover of it, whether you have much or little time to spend reading, you will burn through this book of poems.

Read other reviews:

The Boiler Journal

The Rumpus

Twitter Email

The Balcony by Jane Delury

Posted on behalf of Karen M. Huck, Library Specialist

The Balcony by Jane Delury

The Balcony by Jane Delury. Click the image to see it in the Library catalog.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3604.E44765 B35 2018

A dream of a novel, Delury begins her book with what appears to be an autobiographical account of being an au pair in a house in the outskirts of Paris for a family with “une jeune fille,” that simply sucks you in. The au pair is given the larger, upper room with the balcony to stay in. The double entendre of the term “between two” follows all of the accounts of the myriad people who dwelled in the house. Each story does somehow intertwine with other stories and eventually a history of a magnificent house and its inhabitants comes to the fore, but ultimately the stories illuminate what happens between couples, siblings, parents and children and all manner of relations people have. The Balcony witnesses all. The prose is elegant and smooth, enjoy this story as you would a meal, slowly yet with gusto.

Read reviews from:

Kirkus Reviews

Publisher’s Weekly

The New York Times

Twitter Email

Celebrate African American History Month with Natasha Trethewey’s Monument: Poems New and Selected

Posted on behalf of Matthew Roberts, English Librarian

The Literatures and Languages Library celebrates African American History Month with Natasha Trethewey’s retrospective volume, Monument: Poems New and Selected. The monograph, which features poems from Domestic Work (2000), Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002), and the Pulitzer Prize winning, Native Guard (2006), introduces readers to Trethewey’s unflinching ability to observe how the remnants of both personal and historical traumas live on in the American landscape and imagination.

Cover art for Monument

Cover art for Monument., by Natasha Trethewey. Links to Catalog record.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3570.R433 A6 2018

In this work, the reader will confront a complex poetic engagement with the topic of memory, as Trethewey’s poetry poignantly observes how the past and future survive contemporaneously in the present. This feature of Trethewey’s work appears explicitly throughout Native Guard, a collection that, among other things, examines the legacy of the all black Louisiana Native Guard, which protected the Union fort on Ship Island during the American Civil War. For instance, the poem “Theories of Time and Space,” informally addresses the reader, and offers some direction as to the roads that one might take while reading the collection:

You can get there from here, though
there’s no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you’ve never been. Try this:

head south on Mississippi 49, one—
by—one mile markers ticking off

another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion—dead end

at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches

in a sky threatening rain. Cross over
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand

dumped on a mangrove swamp—buried
terrain of the past. Bring only

what you must carry—tome of memory
its random blank pages. On the dock

where you board the boat for Ship Island,
someone will take your picture:

the photograph—who you were—
will be waiting when you return

This photograph of who you were will be waiting for you, waiting for you in some future time and some future place. And yet, the past always waits, waits for one to return to it. But insofar as it waits, the past is not solidified, not set in stone like a monument. In this regard, the subjects of Trethewey’s poetry—for instance slavery, miscegenation, the Civil War, or socio-economic disparity—do not capture who ‘we’ as a nation were, but rather portray who ‘we’ as a nation are. Rather than a reference to the past and a symbol of completion, Monument waits for its readers, sending them on a journey from which there is no return.

Twitter Email

New Arrivals – Books to Break the Ice

Posted on behalf of Karen Huck

Hope this chilly season is treating you well! Here are some books on our new arrivals shelf that you might enjoy.

1. The Winter Solder – Daniel Mason

Winter Soldier Cover art

The Winter Soldier cover. Links to Catalog record.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3613.A816 W56 2018

When WWI breaks out in Austria, 3rd-year medical research student, Lucius, is sent to the front to treat wounded soldiers, not knowing anything practical about how to care for them.  Under the tutelage of a young nun who has no medical training, but who has gleaned necessary procedures on the fly from Lucius’ predecessor, Lucius slowly learns the intricacies of casualty care.  Shell shock, however, a new phenomenon to this medical team, remains a mystery that the two struggle to relieve.  The ramifications of war and medicine clash in ways never imagined in this atmospheric novel that will draw you in and keep you rooting for young Lucius and his nun.

Headshot of Daniel Mason

Author Daniel Mason, Photo Credit Sara Houghteling

You don’t have to take our word for it. Here are reviews in:

The Washington Post

The New York Times

Publisher’s Weekly

2. America for Beginners by Leah Franqui

Cover art for America for Beginners

America For Beginners cover. Links to Library Catalog entry.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3606.R422578 A78 2018

Planning a reconciliatory trip to America to see her son, Pival Sengupta, a newly widowed Bengali from Kolkata embarks on her first foray into the world against the unwanted advice from her servants. Her journey is guided by a Bangladeshi twenty year old and an American “companion” who take her to sights she has only heard of and ultimately to the home of her son’s lover, Jake. All parties learn about the intricacies of human interaction and relating in ways none of them would have imagined. A darkly humorous story of love. You will not be disappointed.

Photo of author Leah Franqui

Photo by Priyam Dhar.

Read more reviews here:

USA Today

Broad Street Review

The Washington Times

3. Stella: A Play for Lovers by Goethe

Cover art for Stella

Stella, a Play for Lovers cover. Links to Catalog record.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PT2026 .S813 2018

A shocking new translation of a love triangle in 1776, the year The United States of America was born! When a young woman and her mother travel to escape from poverty and enter the service of a young woman who’s been left by her husband three years prior, the three bond quickly over lost love stories and the plight of women in that age. The story remains suspenseful throughout, and the denouement surprises with all of the force no doubt originally intended.

More reviews:



Twitter Email

New Journal: Révue des Études Proustiennes

The Classiques Garnier Publishing House announced the first issue of Révue des Études Proustiennes, a new bi-annual journal devoted to themes and special issues on all aspects of the work of the French author, Marcel Proust. The inaugural issue includes articles by top scholars including Geneviève Henrot Sostero and Florence Lautel-Ribstein. Opening with a chapter on methods, the volume examines titles, semiotics, semantics, orality, lexical challenges in various languages, and intertextuality, and ends with the most complete and up-to-date bibliography of translations of Proust’s works. Current issues can be found in the Literatures and Languages Library’s serial collection in room 200.

The Literatures and Languages Library subscribes to a number of journals on Proust:

The Bulletin Marcel Proust, published by the Society of Marcel Proust’s Friends and Friends from Cambray, whose own review was the predecessor of the Bulletin, may be consulted both in print and online.

From Cambray, let’s move to the Netherlands where the well-known publisher Brill issues Marcel Proust Aujourd’hui, an international bilingual review whose goal is to interest scholars and ordinary readers through thematic and regular issues of the journal. Our library holds all the annual issues since it first appeared in 2003.

The Cahier Marcel Proust is another periodical of importance available in our library. Issued by the famous Gallimard Publisher of Paris, this journal covers the personality and work of Proust for the reader of his novels, the scholar, and the student. The Revue des Lettres Modernes. Marcel Proust was ordered by our librarians for the past decade, and is a useful resource for readers interested in criticism and interpretation.

These journals can either be found in the Literatures and Languages Library’s serial collection in room 200 or in the Proustiana Collection, now located in the center of room 225.

Twitter Email

Fear and Loathing of the English Passive

A new study on the English passive has been published. The author is Geoffrey K. Pullum, who has been Professor of General Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh since 2009. He has written:

“Writing advisers have been condemning the English passive since the early 20th century. I provide an informal but comprehensive syntactic description of passive clauses in English, and then exhibit numerous published examples of incompetent criticism in which critics reveal that they cannot tell passives from actives. Some seem to confuse the grammatical concept with a rhetorical one involving inadequate attribution of agency or responsibility, but not all examples are thus explained. The specific stylistic charges leveled against the passive are entirely baseless. The evidence demonstrates an extraordinary level of grammatical ignorance among educated English language critics.”

The article has been made available online here: “Fear and Loathing of the English Passive,” Geoffrey K. Pullum, epub January 10, 2014, to appear in Language and Communication, 2014.

Twitter Email