A well-organized and impressive celebratory compilation.

ED CODISH

SELECTED POEMS

An expansive collection of work from poet Codish’s career of nearly four decades.

This selection of works, edited by composer, retired professor, and debut editor Horenstein, opens with “Voyage to Gaza,” a lengthy, semiautobiographical, and wide-ranging sonnet sequence that runs the gamut from referencing Noah in the Old Testament to providing humorous, off-color plays on words: “when Haephestus bangs his forge or wife / so sparks or spasms flare and thunder quakes.” Later love poems, often directly addressed to the poet’s wife, Susann, are deeply personal but written with an eye toward more universal, endearing aspects of love: “We are grown-ups now / not adults, never that; / we play in grown-up clothes / and play gets real, but skin / stays soft.” While describing his “Pigeon Poems” in an introduction, Codish remarks that they were written at a time when “My only contact with the natural world was what I could see out the window.” And indeed, in these poems, the lowly pigeon is a constant reminder of beauty and fragility in the world; sometimes the works have a haikulike precision, and other times the works ruminate more loosely and broadly on nature. Elsewhere, of the influence of Chinese verse on his own work, Codish writes that “enlightenment occurs suddenly rather than after decades of concentration.” His own poems playfully use the concept of dragons to explore not only Chinese mythology, but also such matters as NASA’s ongoing explorations and discovery of a “dragon aurora,” effectively highlighting the playful sense of curiosity that permeates the collection as a whole. An editor’s note provides a succinct overview of Codish’s career and legacy as a major poet, noting, in particular, the poet’s serious works on the subjects of Israel and Judaism and the fact that he “never loses sight of life’s amusing absurdities.”

A well-organized and impressive celebratory compilation.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-948403-28-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Kasva Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2022

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Strong storytelling in service of a stinging moral message.

HORSE

A long-lost painting sets in motion a plot intertwining the odyssey of a famed 19th-century thoroughbred and his trainer with the 21st-century rediscovery of the horse’s portrait.

In 2019, Nigerian American Georgetown graduate student Theo plucks a dingy canvas from a neighbor’s trash and gets an assignment from Smithsonian magazine to write about it. That puts him in touch with Jess, the Smithsonian’s “expert in skulls and bones,” who happens to be examining the same horse's skeleton, which is in the museum's collection. (Theo and Jess first meet when she sees him unlocking an expensive bike identical to hers and implies he’s trying to steal it—before he points hers out further down the same rack.) The horse is Lexington, “the greatest racing stallion in American turf history,” nurtured and trained from birth by Jarret, an enslaved man who negotiates with this extraordinary horse the treacherous political and racial landscape of Kentucky before and during the Civil War. Brooks, a White writer, risks criticism for appropriation by telling portions of these alternating storylines from Jarret’s and Theo’s points of view in addition to those of Jess and several other White characters. She demonstrates imaginative empathy with both men and provides some sardonic correctives to White cluelessness, as when Theo takes Jess’ clumsy apology—“I was traumatized by my appalling behavior”—and thinks, “Typical….He’d been accused, yet she was traumatized.” Jarret is similarly but much more covertly irked by well-meaning White people patronizing him; Brooks skillfully uses their paired stories to demonstrate how the poison of racism lingers. Contemporary parallels are unmistakable when a Union officer angrily describes his Confederate prisoners as “lost to a narrative untethered to anything he recognized as true.…Their fabulous notions of what evils the Federal government intended for them should their cause fail…was ingrained so deep, beyond the reach of reasonable dialogue or evidence.” The 21st-century chapters’ shocking denouement drives home Brooks’ point that too much remains the same for Black people in America, a grim conclusion only slightly mitigated by a happier ending for Jarret.

Strong storytelling in service of a stinging moral message.

Pub Date: June 14, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-39-956296-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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