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The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 16, Issue 5, 2nd May 2015


New Reviews at Compulsive Reader
Literary News
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Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews this month:

A review of The Age of Magic by Ben Okri

However, if you let go of preconceptions about what a novel should be and how it’s meant to function, and read the work, instead, as a literary exploration of the unseen, beyond the world of logic and progression, then the work becomes much more powerful, yielding a transcendence that moves beyond the flow of ordered progression. The work moves in pulses; in moments of magic that become “elixirs, life renewed in the laboratory of Arcadia” or humanity’s highest self. Read more:

Interview with Deborah Harkness

The author of the newly released paperback version of The Book of Life returns to The Compulsive Reader to talk about the intersection of science and magic, about the themes of her book, the value of fantasy, the story behind her book, her settings, about lost books, and lots more. For the full interview visit:

A review of Chez l’arabe by Mireille Silcoff

The eight stories in Mireille Silcoff’s collection, Chez l’arabe have a common theme, the shock and confusion we feel when faced with a nasty twist of fate. The central character of “Champ de Mars” is very human in her belief that the terrible pain she suffered over her child’s death “would absolve her from future hardship…she’d absorbed the blow, remained upright. Surely, for this, some kind of immunity?” Alas, life seldom works out that way, though some of Silcoff’s fictional characters fare better than others. Read more:

A review of Devadatta’s Poems by Judith Beveridge

Devadatta’s Poems is a delightful book of poetry full of the kind of mischievous fun that comes with exploring a fallen character: an anti-hero already relegated, historically, to obscurity. Beveridge’s Devadatta is as compelling as he is repellant and his voice is one that will amuse, enlighten, and enrich readers. For the full review visit:

Interview with Kim Korson

The author of I Don’t Have a Happy Place talks about her book and the impact of writing about such heavy topics, the things she’s learned, the structure of her book, about writing in the voice of teenaged Kim, the comedians who have inspired her, and lots more. Read more:

A review of How to be Another by Susan Lewis

The narrative in this collection exists in that there is no narrative; we find ourselves instead in the pairing of clashing words that, like a musical score, creates not an arch, but rather the opening of a flower. Each prose poem is handled with delicate care, and yet, Lewis is able to formulate each in a sense of divine carelessness. She redesigns familiar clichés into new architecture, allowing a close proximity to the reader throughout each section. For the full review visit:

A review of The Life of Houses by Lisa Gorton

Though the book reads quickly, it’s denser than it feels. As a reader, I felt it was necessary to slow down my reading so I could notice all the descriptive detail and the power in each word in The Life of Houses, allowing the story to unfold at its own rhythm and get fully under the skin. This is an utterly beautiful and somewhat sad story that grows in power with re-reading as it strikes at the heart of human relationships, families, self-perception, and how we make meaning in our lives. Read more:

A review of Nobody Move by Denis Johnson

Some of it has an edge – to be absolutely just – but I think even Johnson himself lost interest in it, characters and story, the whole shebang, way before the close. The novel sputters to an end. For the full review visit:

Interview with Tonya Barbee

The author of The Little Girl Inside: Owning My Role in My Own Pain talks about how she started writing, the inspiration for her book, her title, her themes, her work-in-progress, the hardest part of writing the book, and more. Read more:

A review of Confidentially Yours by Charles Williams

You could say, tongue in cheek, that it is the diverting story of how a man loses one wife and finds another. There are lots of twists and turns to the story, the characters are well-defined (if anything, they behave a little too straightforwardly – no melancholy moping as in some novels I’ve read recently) and Williams’s prose is plenty good enough. 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, which can be browsed from the front page of the site.


Hello readers. Before we get into the considerable literary news, I’d just like to mention that I’ll be at the Sydney Writers Festival on Sat the 23rd. If you’ll be there too and want to catch up, drop me a line! I’ll be attending Give Me Back My Mother’s Heart, Ben Okri’s The Age of Magic (and interviewing Okri afterwards for an exclusive with Compulsive Reader talks!), Everyone’s a Critic But Should They Be, and Poetry and Music Salon. Expect write-ups on everything at the blog.

In the literary news this month, the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa is crowned this year’s laureate in world’s richest children’s books prize after fending off competition from authors such as David Almond, Neil Gaiman, Morris Gleitzman and others. Based in Cape Town, PRAESA is a charity that works to promote reading for children and young people across South Africa. Since they were set up in 1992, they have produced the Little Hands books, a series of short books in different African languages to encourage children to read in their native languages, and also set up the Vulindlela Reading Club, which combines oral storytelling with reading, singing games, and dramatizations. There’s plenty of prestige attached to winning as it honours lifetime achievement, as well as a fairly enormous cheque – it’s the richest children’s literature prize in the world, with winnings of 5m kroner (nearly £400,000).

Sjohnna McCray won the 2015 Walt Whitman Award, sponsored by the Academy of American Poets and designed to encourage the work of emerging poets. His manuscript, Rapture, will be published by Graywolf Press in 2016, and the Academy of American Poets will purchase and distribute thousands of copies of the book to its members. As winner, McCray receives $5,000, a six-week residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Umbria, Italy, and will be featured on and in American Poets magazine.

Eight women and three debut novelists have made the longlist for the Miles Franklin award for Australian literature, The longlist of 10 authors competing for the $60,000 prize is: Elizabeth Harrower, In Certain Circles
Sonya Hartnett, Golden Boys, Sofie Laguna, The Eye of the Sheep, Joan London, The Golden Age, Suzanne McCourt, The Lost Child, Omar Musa, Here Come the Dogs, Favel Parrett, When the Night Comes, Christine Piper, After Darkness, Craig Sherborne, Tree Palace, and Inga Simpson, Nest. The Miles Franklin was first awarded in 1957 for a novel that is “of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases”. The shortlist will be released on Monday May 18 and the winner will be announced on June 23.

The winners of its 80th Annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation and honoring “literature that confronts racism and examines diversity,” are: Fiction: A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, Nonfiction: A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia by Richard S. Dunn, Poetry: The New Testament by Jericho Brown and Hard Love Province by Marilyn Chin, and for Lifetime Achievement: David Brion Davis.

Former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion has the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry for Coming Home. Andrew Motion’s radio performance, a reimagining of shared conversations centred on the effect of conflict, is chosen for its “innovative and deeply moving” poetry. Ted Hughes Award judges Grayson Perry, Kei Miller and Julia Copus have chosen Andrew Motion’s Coming Home – a moving poetic reimagining of shared conversations centred on the effect of conflict – as the winner of the 2014 prize. The radio piece won the former Poet Laureate the £5,000 prize which is awarded using the annual honorarium from current Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. The following poets were shortlisted for the award, for new poetry presented in the UK during 2014: Patience Agbabi, Imtiaz Dharker, Carrie Etter, Andrew Motion and Alice Oswald.

Atticus Lish won the $15,000 PEN/Faulkner Award on Tuesday for his first novel, “Preparation for the Next Life.” In a statement released Tuesday morning, the judges praised Lish’s novel as a work of fiction that “scours and illuminates the vast, traumatized America that lives, works and loves outside the castle gates. The result is an incantation, a song of ourselves, a shout.”

This year’s international and Canadian shortlists have been announced for the $65,000 Griffin Poetry Prize. The seven finalists are invited to read in Toronto on June 3 and will each be awarded $10,000 for their participation in the Shortlist Readings. The winners will be named June 4. The shortlisted Griffin titles are: Something Crosses My Mind by Wang Xiaoni, translated from the Chinese by Eleanor Goodman, Finite Formulae & Theories of Chance by Wioletta Greg, translated from the Polish by Marek Kazmierski, The Stairwell by Michael Longley, The Road to Emmaus by Spencer Reece, and for the Canadian prize: Congotronic by Shane Book, Blue Sonoma by Jane Munro, and The Hundred Lives by Russell Thornton.

The Bees, by Laline Paull, joins titles by Rachel Cusk, Kamila Shamsie and Sarah Waters on this year’s Bailey’s Woman’s Prize for Fiction shortlist. Ali Smith’s Booker-nominated How to be Both and A Spool of Blue Thread, the 20th novel by American author Anne Tyler, complete this year’s nominees. Formerly known as the Orange Prize for Fiction, the £30,000 prize is open to any woman writing in English. The winner of this year’s prize will be announced at the Royal Festival Hall in London, on 3 June. Last year’s prize went to another debut novel, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Ireland’s Eimear McBride.

Finalists for this year’s €100,000 (about $105,850) International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, presented annually for a novel written in English or translated into English, have been announced. The winner will be named June 17. The shortlisted IMPAC titles are: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria), Horses of God by Mahi Binebine (Morocco), translated from French by Lulu Norman, Harvest by Jim Crace (Britain), The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Australia), Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Australia), K by Bernardo Kucinski (Brazil), translated from Portuguese by Sue Branford, Brief Loves that Live Forever by Andreï Makine (France, Russian-born), translated from French by Geoffrey Strachan, TransAtlantic by Colum McCann (Ireland), Someone by Alice McDermott (U.S.), and Sparta by Roxana Robinson (U.S.)

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt (Simon & Schuster) has won the fiction category in the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. Other titles include, for Poetry: Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf Press), First Fiction: Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli (Coffee House Press), and Lifetime achievement: T.C. Boyle.

T.C. Boyle has also won the $30,000 Rea Short Story prize. Founded by Michael M. Rea in 1986, is given each year to the best short story writer in the United States or Canada. This year’s jurors were Richard Bausch, Robert Olen Butler and Elizabeth Strout. In a statement released Wednesday, they called Boyle “a genuine American original” and praised his 10 celebrated collections.

The Melbourne author Emily Bitto has won the 2015 Stella prize for women’s writing for her debut novel, The Strays, set in an 1930s Australian artists’ enclave. Awarded the $50,000 prize cheque at a ceremony in Melbourne on Tuesday night, Bitto called it “an astounding, life-changing honour”. Her book, which went through 10 full redrafts, was published by the independent press Affirm. Following the precedent of the two previous winners, Bitto donated a portion of her prize to the Wilderness Sociecy.

Anthony Doerr’s novel All the Light We Cannot See (Scribner), and Elizabeth Kolbert’s nonfiction work The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (Holt) were among the books awarded 2015 Pulitzer Prizes, April 20 at Columbia University. In addition to a being critical success, All the Light was one of 2014’s top-selling books and continues to sell well in 2015 with a total of 1.6 million print and digital copies now in circulation, Simon & Schuster reported. The company is going back to press for another 100,000 copies. The trade paperback edition is set for release in summer 2016. Gregory Pardlo’s Digest (Four Way Books), was awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, for a collection of “clear-voiced poems,” that are “rich with thought, ideas and histories public and private.”

Marion Coutts has been awarded the Wellcome Book Prize 2015 for The Iceberg her memoir on art, work, death and language, published by Atlantic Books. The announcement was made by acclaimed author and chair of judges, Bill Bryson, at a special ceremony held in Wellcome Collection’s new Reading Room. Worth £30,000, the prize celebrates the best new books that engage with some aspect of medicine, health or illness, showcasing the breadth and depth of our encounters with medicine through exceptional works of fiction and non-fiction.

Mr. Loverman, by Bernardine Evaristo (Akashic Books) was awarded the Ferro-Grumley Award for lesbian and gay fiction. The prize was established in 1988 to recognize, promote excellence in, and give greater access to fiction writing from lesbian and gay points of view. The award, which has widened to embrace bisexuals and the transgendered, honors the memory of authors Robert Ferro (The Blue Star, Second Son) and Michael Grumley (Life Drawing), life partners who died that year of AIDS, within weeks of each other.

Finally, the winner of the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize – one of the most valuable prizes in the world for a single unpublished poem –is Lisa Bickmore’s Eidolon, an extended meditation on separation and love and grief. “Reading this poem,” Symmons Roberts commented, “feels like eavesdropping on someone trying to come to terms with distance and loneliness. It’s a finely made formal poem, but the voice remains limber and feels capable of taking you anywhere.” You can read the poem in full here:

Have a great month.

SPONSORED BY: is the place to go for all your reading needs. We have book reviews, book giveaways, and many other interesting places to visit. Visit:


The Antigone Poems questions power, punishment and one of mythology’s oldest themes: rebellion. Visit:



Congratulations to Lori Keller, who has won a copy of The Poser by Jacob Rubin.

Congratulations also to Cathy Burkhead who won a copy of Girl Underwater by Claire Kells.

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of I Don’t Have a Happy Place by Kim Korsen. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Happy Place.”

We also have 2 Kindle copies of Bahama Love by Khara Campbell and Peace on Earth by Paddy Bostock. To win, send me an email with the subject line “Bahama” or “Peace” respectively.

But wait, there’s more! We’ve got a copy of Naked and Transparent by Vladimire Calixte. To win, send me an email with your postal address and the subject line “Transparent” (just so you don’t trigger the spam filters).

We’ve also got a copy of The Daddy Diaries by Joshua Braff. To win, send me an email with your postal address and the subject line “Daddy Diaries.”

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Words Without Music by Philip Glass, Finding Love by Carolyn Martinez, A Short History of Stupid by Helen Razer and Bernard Keane, The Hydra by Graham Stull, 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 Philip Salom, author of Alterworld. Later in the month, look for our interview with Ben Okri – if I can get a wifi connection, I’ll run the show live from the Sydney Writers Festival.

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

(c) 2015 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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