Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 18, Issue 5, 1 May 2017



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Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews:

A review of The Restorer by Michael Sala

Maryanne’s own sense of self in relation to her overbearing mother and Freya’s sense of self in relation to Maryanne are handled with such richness that they give the story a great deal of depth, even as it pushes towards its inevitable outcome. The Restorer is a beautifully written and very powerful fiction that not only shines a light on the deep roots of domestic violence but also plays with the line of what remains in the face of such destruction. Sala’s story that will stay with the reader long after the book is finished. Read more:

Strange Migrations: on the novel Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje

For the cast of characters the present has no meaning. They are suspended between the places they have left and a fantasy of a future home. These are the superimpositions of images that color their thoughts, their dreams, and their narratives – the binaries of home and abroad, the past and the future, the real and fantasy. Read more:

An interview with Barnaby Hazen

The author of Misfortunes of T-Funk talks about the inspiration for his story, the relationship between real-life and fiction, how he came up with incorporating music, the genres and artists that influence the music in his book, the fascinations of music, his periodical Seven Eleven Stories, what’s coming next, and more. Read more:

A review of Forgotten Women: A Tribute in Poetry

Edited by Ginny Lowe Connors, this intimate commentary of historical women of common and uncommon nobility by dozens of contemporary, mainly American poets could strike the common fancy of any adult who opens the book. Especially in the political climate too many women face today. Read more:

Corrections: An Internet Interview with Jack Hamilton, author of Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination

Sam Cooke and Bob Dylan are compared by Hamilton for their musical roots and affiliation with particular communities and subsequent independence and experimentations with genre and form, though Dylan’s work has received much more critical exploration and celebration, suggesting, among other things, a misunderstanding of the choices—aesthetic, intellectual, spiritual, and political—that are made by African-American artists, who want both creativity and commerce, glamour and grit, imagination and intellect, and whose works affirm both style and substance. Read more:

Two Tickets to Venice: The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon and The Girl From Venice by Martin Cruz Smith

Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world with architecture, canals, and history that make it a prime setting for a mystery. Two favorite authors, Donna Leon and Martin Cruz Smith, have books set in Venice that take you on two very different journeys to La Serenissima. Read more:

Interview with Allison Pitinii Davis

The author of Line Study of a Motel Clerk talks about her book, narratives and counter-narratives, the nature of poetry and confrontation, the interaction between language and the person sensing it, the relationship between the living and the dead and a lot more. Read more:

A review of Line Study of a Motel Clerk by Allison Pitinii Davis

Art, in this messy overlayering, produces “some kind of complicated, collective accuracy.” Like the best works, Line Study gives a sense of speaking to the present as if to the future. “Because the ones who wrote today’s edition,” as Davis writes in the titular and final poem, “have already written tomorrow’s.” Should we all be so lucky to actually hear Tiresias speak. Read more:

A review of Porch Light by Ivy Ireland

In the opening line, Ireland poses a question about the relationship between the individual, and a theory of everything: “If you consulted your own cipher mind (if what presents as yours could be compressed in such a lazy line), would it encircle this whole ball of string/theory/or only what lies beneath?” In the world of Porch Light, the answer is yes. Read more:

A review of The Golden Child by Wendy James

The plot moves fast, the narrative driving the reading towards its final unnerving twist. It all happens almost too quickly. James’ writing is so smooth, and the story so powerfully plotted, that its easy to miss how neatly the shifts are between the individual voices, the many delicate links between cause and effect and the parallels between adults and children as we move from one character to another, the way the reader is unwittingly drawn into the toxic culture of privilege that underpins these characters, or how subtle the thematics. For the full review visit:

All of the reviews listed above available at The Compulsive Reader on the front page. Older reviews are kept indefinitely in our extensive (and growing) categorized archives (currently at 2,090 reviews!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, The Library of Congress will present the biennial $10,000 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry to Claudia Rankine for her book Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press) and to Nathaniel Mackey for lifetime achievement. Mackey is the author of six poetry collections, most recently Blue Fasa (New Directions). The winners will receive their awards and read selections from their work on April 20 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist has immediately elevated six authors and titles from four nations and five publishers: Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ, from Nigeria: Stay With Me (Canongate, a debut novel); Naomi Alderman, from the UK: The Power (Viking, Alderman’s fourth novel—she won the Orange Prize for New Writers in 2006); Linda Grant, from the UK: The Dark Circle (Virago, Grant’s sixth novel)—she won the prize in 2000 and was longlisted in 2008); C.E. Morgan, from the United States: The Sport of Kings (4th Estate, Morgan’s second novel); Gwendoline Riley, from the UK: First Love (Granta, Riley’s sixth novel); and Madeleine Thein, from Canada: Do Not Say We Have Nothing (Granta, Thien’s third novel). The winner is to be announced June 7 at Royal Festival Hall, and will receive a check for £30,000 (US$37,400) and a limited edition copy of the bronze “Bessie” created by Grizel Niven, both anonymously endowed.

Imbolo Mbue won the $15,000 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for Behold the Dreamers (Random House). Speaking on behalf of the judging panel, Chris Abani said the book “displays a remarkable confidence impressive for a debut novel. Imbolo Mbue has a fine ear for dialogue and the nuance of language. Without ever leaning into sentimentality and yet managing to steer clear of cruelty, she pushes her characters through true difficulties into a believable and redemptive transformation. Behold the Dreamers reveals a writer with a capacious imagination, and the warmth and compassion to craft a career of beautiful and important novels.”

German illustrator and picture book author Wolf Erlbruch won the five million Swedish kronor (about $554,380) Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, which is given annually to authors, illustrators, oral storytellers and reading promoters “to promote interest in children’s and young adult literature.” Erlbruch has written 10 books of his own and illustrated nearly 50 titles by other authors. He is best known for his illustrations of The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business (1994).

This year’s international and Canadian shortlists have been announced for the Griffin Poetry Prize. The seven finalists are invited to read in Toronto on June 7 and will each be awarded C$10,000 (about US$7,495) for their participation in the Shortlist Readings. The two winners, who will be named June 8, each receive C$65,000 (about US$48,730). The shortlisted Griffin titles are: World of Made and Unmade by Jane Mead, In Praise of Defeat by Abdellatif Laâbi, translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith, Falling Awake by Alice Oswald and Say Something Back by Denise Riley. For the Canadian shortlist, it’s Injun by Jordan Abel, Violet Energy Ingots by Hoa Nguyen, and Silvija by Sandra Ridley.

Finalists have been unveiled for this year’s €100,000 (about $113,920) International Dublin Literary Award, which “aims to promote excellence in world literature” by honoring a novel written in English or translated into English. The winner will be named June 21. The shortlisted titles are: A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa (Angolan), translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hah, Confession of the Lioness by Mia Couto (Mozambican), translated from the Portuguese by David Brookshaw, The Green Road by Anne Enright (Irish) , The Prophets of Eternal Fjord by Kim Leine (Danish/Norwegian), translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken, The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli (Mexican), translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney, The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Vietnamese/American), Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta (Nigerian-American), A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk (Turkish), translated from the Turkish by Ekin Oklap, A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler (Austrian), translated from the German by Charlotte Collins, and A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (American).

Patricia Spears Jones has been named the eleventh winner of the $50,000 Jackson Poetry Prize. Poets & Writers, the New York­­-based service organization for creative writers, annually awards the Jackson Poetry Prize to “an American poet of exceptional talent who deserves wider recognition.” In their citation, the judges described Jones’s poems as “made of fever, bones, and breath.”

Heather Rose won the AU$50,000 (about US$37,750) Stella Prize, which celebrates Australian women’s contribution to literature, for The Museum of Modern Love. The judges said the winning work “is an exceptional novel that re-imagines Marina Abramovic’s 2010 performance of ‘The Artist is Present,’ in which she silently encountered individual members of a larger audience of viewers while seated in the atrium of the Museum of Modern Art in New York…. “

Caitlin Bailey won the Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry for her manuscript Solve for Desire, which was chosen from more than 200 submissions from poets across the Upper Midwest. Bailey, who receives $10,000 as well as a contract for publication by Milkweed Editions, is the sixth recipient of the annual prize. Poet and prize judge Srikanth Reddy said Solve for Desire “is the work of a poet who sings, boldly, across the distances between us. ‘I am not afraid of any edge.’ ”

The winners of the 2016 Los Angeles Times Book Awards, announced during the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books include Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction: Nathan Hill for The Nix (Knopf), Fiction: Adam Haslett for Imagine Me Gone (Little, Brown), Poetry: Rosmarie Waldrop for Gap Gardening: Selected Poems (New Directions). For the full list of winners and finalists visit:

Saudi author Mohammed Hasan Alwan won the $50,000 (£39,000) International prize for Arabic fiction for A Small Death, his fictional account of the life of Sunni scholar Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi. The novel follows him from his birth in Muslim Spain in 1165 to his death in Damascus in 1240, taking in journeys from Andalusia to Azerbaijan, and his reflections on the violence witnesses in Morocco, Egypt, the Hejaz (now part of Saudi Arabia), Syria, Iraq and Turkey. A contentious figure in history, Ibn ‘Arabi has been declared the foremost spiritual leader in Sufism by some, but condemned as an apostate by others. A Small Death was picked from a six-book shortlist whittled down from 186 novels from 19 countries. The other shortlisted writers – Najwa Binshatwan (Libya), Ismail Fahd Ismail (Kuwait), Elias Khoury (Lebanon), Mohammed Abdel Nabi (Egypt) and Saad Mohammed Raheem (Iraq) – receive $10,000.

Finally, finalists have been announced for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize, which “celebrates the finest works of translated fiction from around the world.” Each shortlisted author and translator receives £1,000 (about $1,280), while the £50,000 (about $64,070) prize is divided equally between author and translator of the winning entry. This year’s winner will be named June 14 in London. The shortlisted titles are: Compass by Mathias Enard (France), translated by Charlotte Mandell (U.S.), A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman (Israel), translated by Jessica Cohen (U.S.), The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen (Norway), translated by Don Bartlett (U.K.) and Don Shaw (U.K.), Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors (Denmark), translated by Misha Hoekstra (U.S.), Judas by Amos Oz (Israel), translated by Nicholas de Lange (U.K.), and Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (Argentina), translated by Megan McDowell (U.S.)

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Nadia Ghent, who won a copy of The Book of Air by Joe Treasure.

Congratulations also to Jean Patton, who won a copy of Still Black Remains by Kevin Michael.

Our new site giveaway is for a full set of the three books in Tricia Stringer’s Flinder’s Range Series including Jewel in the North, Hearth of the Country and Dust on the Horizon. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Flinder’s Range” and your postal address.

We’ve also got a copy of Misfortunes of T-Funk by Barnaby Hazan. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “T-Funk” and your postal address.

Good luck everybody!



Sentinels; a Florida mythos, by Rich McKee

Environmental politics, old time religion, Bigfootery, and novel writing itself suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune in this satiric tale.



We will shortly be featuring reviews of The Loyalty of Chickens by Jenny Blackford, Dream Catcher by Margie Shaheed, Kafka’s Shadow by Judith Skillman, In Hubble’s Shadow by Carol Smallwood, The Pigeon Tunnel by John le Carré, an interview with Tricia Stringer, and lots more reviews, news, interviews, and giveaways.

Don’t forget to drop by The Compulsive Reader talks (see widget on right hand side of the site) or at to listen to the latest interview with Jennifer Maiden, who reads from and talks about her Playing With Knives trilogy. To listen, visit the show page or you can listen directly from the site widget (right hand side of the site).

You can also subscribe to the show via iTunes and get updates automatically. Just find us under podcasts by searching for Compulsive Reader. Then just click subscribe.


(c) 2017 Magdalena Ball. Nothing in this newsletter may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher, however reprint rights are readily available. Please feel free to forward this newsletter in its entirety.

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