A thought-provoking, informative, and valuable literary analysis.

THE BOOK OF OLD LADIES

CELEBRATING WOMEN OF A CERTAIN AGE IN FICTION

A literary critique examines portrayals of older women in fiction.

Throughout her life, Saxton has known many strong older women, like her mother, aunts, and grandmothers, who—despite the physical challenges of aging—possessed a lifetime of spirit and energy. As a professor of English at Mills College in Oakland, California, the author attempted to introduce her students to fiction that celebrated the vibrancy of real-life women, but she was often disappointed. Instead of stories about positive aging, in which women over 60 years old became their “truest selves,” Saxton noted that much fiction about older women was structured like “Deathbed Bookends”—in other words, the tales opened and closed with the memory of a youthful (often romantic) past, and the protagonist’s glory days were sadly over. In this well-organized presentation, the author lays out a thoughtful analysis of works of fiction from the 20th and 21st centuries, like Tillie Olsen’s powerful short story “Tell Me a Riddle” and Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg’s comedy-of-errors novel, The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules. Thirty stories are examined in five categories—"Romancing the Past,” “Sex After Sixty,” “Altered Realities,” “It’s Never Too Late,” and “Defying Expectations”—and each segment contains illuminating critiques of six tales grouped into pairs. Saxton’s conclusions are memorable; for example, in Chapter 1, she writes that Katherine Anne Porter’s short story “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” and Susan Minot’s novel Evening both use Deathbed Bookends for their structures. The comprehensive work concludes with a compelling analysis of Margaret Drabble’s complex 2016 novel, The Dark Flood Rises. Though the chapters feel like individual essays that could be used in the classroom, Saxton’s beautifully fluid prose would be a pleasure to read while relaxing at the beach.

A thought-provoking, informative, and valuable literary analysis.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63152-797-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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A sometimes-humorous but uneven political satire.

BIDEN

YEAR ONE

A satire furnishes a day-by-day chronicle of Joe Biden’s presidency.

McConnell begins his farce by providing a dictionary definition of satire, apparently apprehensive his readership won’t figure out his purpose is absurdist humor. What follows is an ambitious commentary on Biden’s presidency, expressed through the conversations the leader conducts with an unnamed aide. Biden is depicted as a superannuated fool who often doesn’t seem to remember he is in fact the president. He forgets what social media is, repeatedly confuses Russia and Ukraine, has no idea what bills he’s signing, and seems to need a lot of naps. He mistakenly calls the nuclear football a baseball, and suggests he will signal his concern regarding White privilege by abstaining from vanilla ice cream on his pie. The constant refrain that marks Biden’s ceaseless bewilderment is: “When did that happen?” This routine continues for 339 days, an exercise that delivers some amusing and intriguing moments. But there is no comedic fruit too low-hanging for the author, who sometimes traffics in the obvious. Consider this exchange between Biden and his aide: “Aide: ‘Sir, you’re going to impose new sanctions on the Russians.’ Biden: ‘I am? Why would I do that? Have you seen Putin with his shirt off? He’s pretty ripped.’ ” In a prefatory note, McConnell claims to aim not only at humor, but also an articulation of Biden’s “basic governing philosophy.” Yet such a presentation never emerges out of the hijinks. Readers will be impressed by the author’s stamina and comprehensiveness—he manages to cover just about every topic of political note. But that scrupulousness finally becomes a vice, as many readers will begin to wish for something a bit briefer.

A sometimes-humorous but uneven political satire.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 979-8799184377

Page Count: 446

Publisher: Independently Published

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2022

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A complex and relatable set of works about the depths of loss.

VOICES OF THE GRIEVING HEART

In this new edition of a 1993 poetry collection, Bernhardt and other various poets reflect on grief.

The anthology is a meditation on bereavement, which almost everyone will experience at some point in their lives. The poems chronicle the loss of children, spouses, friends, and parents, and themes of light, ocean depths, prayer, pain, and even screams recur throughout. As John Fox, founder of the Institute for Poetic Medicine, writes in his foreword, “Contained herein are bone thoughts”—an apt description of the poems’ sparse, plain, and raw emotions. Several works effectively address how the loss of a loved one irrevocably becomes a part of those left behind: “Grief becomes your shadow, / leads you slowly,” Ivy Sandz writes in “Instructions for Letting Go,” and the speaker of Annie Brook’s “The Journey” tells a deceased person that “there is a place in me where you live.” Among the additions to this edition is a timely section that specifically addresses Covid-19 deaths. Furthermore, some of the poets who appeared in the original anthology reflect on their relationship to grief almost three decades later in a section titled “Time Passes.” These short, prose reflections help to elucidate the ways in which grieving, and its attendant struggles, intertwine with life’s everyday routines. The last 10 pages of the book are left intentionally blank, “reserved for your voice, for your own poems or writing.” Overall, the book clearly illustrates how one’s relationship with loss is circuitous and multipronged, as Mike Bernhardt’s poem “Buds at the End of Winter” makes clear: “My grief lives on in me, / an old moldy stump / rotting soft in the woods. / Or a tree in late winter, / buds appearing / red and green on bare branches.” It’s an excellent anthology for anyone in the throes of similar emotions.

A complex and relatable set of works about the depths of loss.

Pub Date: April 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-9642810-1-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Cypress Point Press

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2021

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