An important, hopeful conversation about insidious and dangerous behaviors.

UNTRANSLATABLE

A debut author shares her journey from despair to optimism through a series of essays and poetry that explore her experience with mental illness.

In Walsh’s first essay, she tells of sitting alone at home after a stay in a Tennessee hospital’s psychiatric ward. “The last day I was alone,” she recalls, “I was sitting on the living room floor with a knife to my arm trying to etch out my exit strategy.” Over the course of the book, she refers to several other stays in hospitals and rehabilitation programs after self-destructive behavior, including suicide attempts, cutting, and an eating disorder. With one exception (“4.15.15”), the essays are undated and don’t appear in a clear chronological sequence, which readers may find confusing. They focus on specific moments, during which Walsh came to understand some aspect of her mental illness. In “The Victories,” for instance, she offers a glimpse of the exhausting, all-consuming nature of bulimia: “Every single day was dedicated to numbers (weights, scales, calories consumed and burned), writing those numbers down, adding and subtracting.” Other numbers included the hours she spent exercising and the quantity of diet pills that she consumed. Recovery from bulimia, she writes, is a process of learning how to appreciate one’s own value, step by step, day by day: “It is about finding a new purpose in life away from the eating disorder, it is about learning to love your new body.” In “The Miracle,” she writes poignantly of another progress point: “Tonight instead of picking up the razor to cut, I picked up lotion to put on my body. Instead of heading to the bathroom to purge, I lit a candle.” Overall, this is a journal of affirmation, and a passionate call to others who are battling similar mental illnesses, to whom she offers encouragement and understanding. Her eloquent prose is sometimes heartbreaking, but at other times, it’s joyous in tone. At the close of the book, for instance, she tells of how she’s looking forward to the future: “I deserve to be happy. I deserve all the things everyone else does. I am not too much work.”

An important, hopeful conversation about insidious and dangerous behaviors.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-949351-23-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Eliezer Tristan Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2020

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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