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THE EXPERIMENT WILL NOT BE BOUND

AN EXPERIMENTAL ANTHOLOGY

A bold, build-your-own anthology with some impressive names and inspired pieces.

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Authors break free of convention in this unbound collection of experimental writing.

Although William H. Gass’ novel The Tunnel (1995) was published as a traditionally bound book, it was first conceived as an unbound volume, presented as if it were a series of papers shuffled together at random. This concept served as the inspiration for this collection of writing, which pushes the boundaries of what types of writing a single anthology may contain. “Being unbound—physically and philosophically—allows the pieces in this anthology to live in any order, to find the fit that works best for any reader, to be read randomly, sequentially, or thematically—or in any other way,” publisher Patrick Davis writes, to which editor Campion adds, “Experiment in such a context implies urgency as well as risk.” Their anthology is a grab-bag of forms and genres, featuring such items as fake book reviews, micro-essays, flash fiction, and stories written completely in dialogue. There’s a series of poems by CA Conrad involving a “crystal grid ritual,” in which the speaker buried a container of crystals and ate dirt at various locations, and a story by Rebecca Rolland about 999 women camped out on a cliffside in an attempt to find “Absolute Music,” whose definition remains vague. There’s a poem by Maria Garcia Teutsch that defines itself as a “psychogeographic” map of Berlin and a story by Curtis VanDonkelaar about old men at the end of their lives, floating up into the clouds like balloons. There’s a poem with sheet music pasted in the middle (“Obituary” by Jay Hopler) and another shaped like a syringe (Andrew Oram’s “Punch Out”). There are also stills of slides from Gass’ lectures, a long poem from Robert Hass’ latest collection, and a soundscape activated by a QR code.

It’s hard to know the extent to which the readers of this book will try to reshuffle these unnumbered pages to create their own order. Many authors have bravely submitted multipage works, which are certain to feel more transgressive when divided and diluted among fragments of others. Not every piece is experimental on its face and, unfortunately, the frenetic nature of the anthology doesn’t necessarily lend itself to close, slow reading. Perhaps because of the experimental theme, the reader’s eye will likely be drawn to poems that are most visibly interesting, such as Kimberly Johnson’s “Ode on my Colon,” which starts off, “in-between: go-between: middleman: middleband: / seam: clothespin: safetypin: safety-zone: / highway: causeway: gutter: bridgestone:…” Another diverting piece is K. Farrell Dalrymple’s story “The Neighborhood,” which begins, “Timothy Woods shot my dog. Timothy Woods shot my dog and killed my dog. He shot my dog and killed my dog, so I shot Timothy Woods. He shot my dog and killed my dog, so I shot Timothy Woods and killed him.” At nearly 350 pages, there are certainly plenty of compelling combinations here, and their inherent randomness is part of the fun.

A bold, build-your-own anthology with some impressive names and inspired pieces.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9780991378081

Page Count: 426

Publisher: Unbound Edition Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2022

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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HAPPY PLACE

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

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Exes pretend they’re still together for the sake of their friends on their annual summer vacation.

Wyn Connor and Harriet Kilpatrick were the perfect couple—until Wyn dumped Harriet for reasons she still doesn’t fully understand. They’ve been part of the same boisterous friend group since college, and they know that their breakup will devastate the others and make things more than a little awkward. So they keep it a secret from their friends and families—in fact, Harriet barely even admits it to herself, focusing instead on her grueling hours as a surgical resident. She’s ready for a vacation at her happy place—the Maine cottage she and her friends visit every summer. But (surprise!) Wyn is there too, and he and Harriet have to share a (very romantic) room and a bed. Telling the truth about their breakup is out of the question, because the cottage is up for sale, and this is the group’s last hurrah. Determined to make sure everyone has the perfect last trip, Harriet and Wyn resolve to fake their relationship for the week. The problem with this plan, of course, is that Harriet still has major feelings for Wyn—feelings that only get stronger as they pretend to be blissfully in love. As always, Henry’s dialogue is sparkling and the banter between characters is snappy and hilarious. Wyn and Harriet’s relationship, shown both in the past and the present, feels achingly real. Their breakup, as well as their complicated relationships with their own families, adds a twinge of melancholy, as do the relatable growing pains of a group of friends whose lives are taking them in different directions.

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780593441275

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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