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The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 16, Issue 7, 1st July 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 Guardians by Lucy Dougan

Despite its seeming simplicity, the poetry in The Guardians is condensed tightly, and though the work remains rooted in the domestic, there is a universe pulsing in each observation. Time is stretched between present and an infinite regression of past, and all that we inherit, all that is wild lurking below the surface of our lives. This is poetry that can be read again and again, each time yielding something new and powerful in its minute and expansive observations. Read more:

An interview with Phil Harvey

Phil Harvey is an award-winning author, philanthropist and libertarian whose stories won a prize from Antietam Review and were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His dark fiction and controversial ideas have broadened debate on violent entertainment, relationships and sexuality. At the core of his fiction stand the motives, methods and goals of the characters. Here he talks about his latest novel Show Time and the release of three new collections: Wisdom of Fools: Stories of Extraordinary Lives, Devotional: Erotic Stories for the Sensual Mind, and Across the Water: Tales of the Human Heart. For the full interview visit:

A review of A Girl and her Greens By April Bloomfield

Let me begin this review by saying how beautiful this book is. If you’re not keen on cooking, you could just put it on the coffee table, and gawk from time to time at the exquisite photos by award-winning photographer David Loftus, the sweet, clever cartoons by Sun Young Park, or just enjoy Bloomfield’s prose, which will take you to farmer’ markets, through the philosophy of simple pleasures and enjoying the cooking process for its own sake (the journey rather than the destination), insider knowledge on particular ingredients like garlic, herbs, fennel and tomatoes, or the little blurbs of history and context above each recipe. Read more:

A conversation with Nuala O’Connor

The author of Miss Emily talks about her new novel and how it came about, the research she did into Emily Dickinson’s life and work, some of the relationships in the book (and in Dickinson’s real life), her characters, the relationship between the novel’s style and Dickinson’s poetry, on being a multi-genre author, 3 questions for Emily, and more. For the full interview visit:

A review of Music for Wartime by Rebecca Makkai

The theme of Makkai’s collection seems to be the surprising, unusual, surrealistic, and supernatural. It is probably no accident that she starts the collection with a fable, since fables are by definition about the unusual and supernatural. The pogrom/war/ethnic cleansing stories involve startling occurrences, and so do the stories set in contemporary America. Read more:

An interview with Judy Reeves, author of Wild Women, Wild Voices — Writing from Your Authentic Wildness

The author of Wild Women, Wild Voices — Writing from Your Authentic Wildness talks about her latest book, the “wild” in Wild Women, about “wild voice”, how wild writing is different from other forms of writing, the nature of ‘authentic’, writing explorations, the nature of story, the importance of stories, journaling, creating writing spaces, and lots more. For the full interview visit:

A review of Flash Fiction International edited by James Thomas, Robert Shapard and Christopher Merrill

“Night Drive” by Rubem Fonseca of Brazil is a Stephen Kingish story that shows the Mr. Hyde side of a seemingly benign Dr. Jekyll. Another story that I admire, “The Snake” by Eric Rugara of Kenya, is, on the surface, a picture of family cooperation to band together promptly to rid their home of a snake. It may also be a metaphor for the power of united action against any creeping threat. With eighty-six stories to choose from it is easy for a reader to find something s/he likes in this collection. Read more:

A review of Vagabondage by Beth Spencer

Though the poetry is easy to read and instantly accessible, the work operates on several levels. There is the political: the woman dispossessed, unable to afford rising Melbourne property prices (and a later nod to the global financial crisis; there is the spiritual: the idea of letting go of attachments and expectations: “I am a whisper/of butterflies”; and there is the tangible: the poet’s attempts to make a coherent life and create meaning during this period of intransience. For the full review visit:

A review of The Hydra by Graham Stull

Stull creates a character memorable and believable enough to draw the reader in as the complex web surrounding Matterosi’s backstory, narrated as a confessional tape, mingles with the unfolding events through the trial. The plot is super fast paced, with enough cliffhangers, a touch of romance, and plenty of excellent and very well informed science (think Atwood in Oryx and Crake) to keep the pages turning faster than you can say “overpopulation.” Read more:

A review of Sweetwater Blues by Raymond L. Atkins

Atkins builds Cray as a complex young man capable of intense loyalty, instinctive physical responses that surprise, and deep thought. Cray’s father plays an important role in the novel, as his presence offers the reason we don’t follow the usual path of prison life. 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. In the literary news this month, Sofie Laguna has taken out Australia’s top fiction prize, the $60,000 Miles Franklin Literary Award, for the novel, The Eye Of The Sheep. Laguna’s novel was chosen from a shortlist which also included works by Sonya Hartnett, Joan London, Christine Piper and Craig Sherborne. Details about the book, which I have on my shelf (will have to get onto it), can be found here:

Rivka Galchen won the $10,000 (about $7,980) Danuta Gleed Literary Award–given annually by the Writers’ Union of Canada for a “best first English-language collection of short fiction by a Canadian author”–for American Innovations. The jury said Galchen’s stories “are studded with kernels of simple brilliance about our roundabout ways of thinking and acting. They begin rather dryly, as if you, the reader, in a contemporary Hemingway-like strategy, had always been a partner in their telling. Suddenly, we are swept along by the writer’s delightful breadth of knowledge and intellect. Cracks in our everyday logic, the slipperiness of our regular life, are revealed. These innovative stories are, ultimately, meditations on the ordinariness, and the bizarreness, of life.”

Spanish writer Eduardo Mendoza Garriga, 72, will be presented with the 2015 Franz Kafka Prize for his literary work in Prague in October, Daniela Uherková, from the organizing Franz Kafka Society, told the Czech News Agency today.

Weaving together the stories of a teenage girl in modern-day Cambridge and a 15th-century Italian artist, Ali Smith’s How to Be Both has won the Baileys women’s prize for fiction, with chair of judges Shami Chakrabarti describing it as a work that will still be read in 100 years. Already the winner of prizes including the Costa novel award and the Goldsmiths, and shortlisted for the Man Booker, Smith’s novel beat a strong shortlist to win the £30,000 award on Wednesday evening. Intended to celebrate “excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world”, the Baileys prize, formerly known as the Orange, has been won in the past by Lionel Shriver for We Need to Talk About Kevin, and Zadie Smith for On Beauty.

The Stairwell by Michael Longley and Blue Sonoma by Jane Munro were the international and Canadian category winners respectively for this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize, which honors “first edition books of poetry written in, or translated into, English and submitted from anywhere in the world.” They each receive $65,000 (about US$52,230).

PEN American Center announced several more awards during its prize ceremony in New York the month: The Dog by Jack Livings (FSG), a short story collection, won the $25,000 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf Press) won the $5,000 PEN Open Book Award. Theater of Cruelty: Art, Film, and the Shadows of War by Ian Buruma (New York Review Books) won the $10,000 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. Dead Boys, a manuscript by Adriana E. Ramírez won the new $10,000 PEN/Fusion Emerging Writers Prize.

A shortlist has been announced for the €25,000 (about $28,190) Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. The winner will be honored during the Cork International Short Story Festival this September in Ireland. This year’s shortlisted O’Connor titles are: Refund by Karen E. Bender (U.S.), The Redemption of Galen Pike by Carys Davies (U.K.), Mr. Tall by Tony Earley (U.S.), Infidelities by Kirsty Gunn (U.K.), Crow Fair by Thomas McGuane (U.S.), and My Documents by Alejandro Zambra (Chile).

Finalists have been named for the £10,000 (about $15,335) Forward Prize for Poetry and the £5,000 (about $7,665) Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection, which were founded “to celebrate excellence in poetry and widen its audience.” Winners will be announced September 28. This year’s best collection shortlisted books are: From Elsewhere by Ciaran Carson, The Boys of Bluehill by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, One Thousand Things Worth Knowing by Paul Muldoon, Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, and Due North by Peter Riley

World Literature Today announced the shortlist for the $50,000 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, which recognizes living authors in any genre for “distinguished and continuing literary achievement.” This year’s finalists are: Can Xue (China), Caryl Churchill (England), Carolyn Forché (U.S.), Aminatta Forna (Scotland/Sierra Leone), Ann-Marie MacDonald (Canada), Guadalupe Nettel (Mexico), Don Paterson (Scotland), Dubravka Ugresic (Croatia/the Netherlands), and Ghassan Zaqtan (Palestine)

Patrick McGuiness won the main English-language prize at the Wales Book of the Year awards for Other People’s Countries, the Bookseller reported. Judge Paul Henry commented: “It’s a poet’s prose at its best–perfectly paced, effortless in its devices. Tender, humorous, moving and, in places, profound, Other People’s Countries reminds us how great writing approaches the essence of memory.” McGuiness’s novel took the creative nonfiction category prize before being named book of the year. Other prize-winning English-language books included Tiffany Atkinson, who received the Roland Mathias Poetry Award for So Many Moving Parts, and Cynan Jones, who won the fiction category for The Dig. The Wales Arts Review people’s choice prize went to Jonathan Edwards for his poetry collection My Family and Other Superheroes. Among the Welsh-language winners, Awstyn Anogia by Gareth F. Williams took the fiction category and was named book of the year. Category winners were awarded £2,000 (about $3,065) and a trophy, while the main award winner in each language received an additional £6,000 (about $9,200).

Poet, journalist and literary critic James Fenton has been awarded the 2015 PEN Pinter Prize, recognizing “a British writer of outstanding literary merit,” the Bookseller wrote. Chair of judges Maureen Freely, who is president of English PEN, said, “Throughout his long and distinguished career, James Fenton has spoken truth to power–forcefully, fearlessly, and beautifully. In this age of privatised art, it is increasingly rare for writers to retain this degree of public commitment, and that is one reason why we so pleased to be awarding him this prize. But the main reason, of course, is that James Fenton is one of the finest poets of his generation.”

Harvest by British author Jim Crace has won the 2015 International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award. The award, which comes with €100,000, is the world’s largest prize for a single novel published in English. Jim Crace is the fourth British author to win the prize in its 20 year history. Set in an unspecified time in the past, Harvest is the story of the last days of a village and the death of an age-old way of life.

Philip Larkin is to be honoured with a memorial in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. A floor stone dedicated to Larkin – who died in 1985 – will join the names of the country’s best-loved poets including WH Auden, TS Eliot and William Wordsworth. It will be unveiled on 2 December 2016, the 31st anniversary of Larkin’s death. The last poet to be honoured was Ted Hughes in 2011.

Finally, Andrew Marr, Dominic West and Fiona Shaw will mark National Poetry Day by telling the story of Britain through its poetry on BBC Radio 4. We British: An Epic In Poetry will run throughout the day on 8 October. Marr will oversee a series of readings illustrating how poetry of the past reflects the issues of today. “Ripping up Radio 4’s schedules for National Poetry Day seemed a rather bold and brilliant thing to do,” said the broadcaster in a statement.

Have a great month.


NO MAN’S LAND: The Crime Edition – Call for submissions

Altaire Productions and Publications, publisher of the critically acclaimed The Antigone Poems and co-producer of such films as Raymond Carver’s Whoever Was Using This Bed and New Orleans documentary Bury the Hatchet, is open for submissions to a forthcoming anthology titled “No Man’s Land: The Crime Edition”. Open to all writers writing in English, we’re interested in stories of traditional and non-traditional crime. Think Jim Thompson, Patricia Highsmith, William Gay; think moral, physical, legal and psychological crime; think hardboiled, noir, procedural. Send us your best. The anthology will also feature the inaugural Altaire Short Fiction Award, with $1000.00 going to what Altaire Productions deems the best story of the collection. Visit: is the place to go for all your reading needs. We have book reviews, book giveaways, and many other interesting places to visit. Visit:



Congratulations to Linda Jo Block, who won a copy of Love and Miss Communications by Elyssa Friedland.

Congratulations to Brandi Griffin, who won a copy of Beachtown by Mary Kay Andrews

Congratulations to Barbara Facci, who won a copy of Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen.

We’ve got lots of giveaways this month! I love giving books away. Here goes:

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of The Accidental Art Thief by Joan Schweighardt. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Art Thief.”

We’ve also got a copy of Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Miss Emily”.

And…I’ve also got a limited edition set of Ana of California by Andi Teran and this beautiful edition of Anne of Green Gables. To win, send me an email (usual address) with your postal address and the subject line: “Ana and Anne”.

Finally, I’ve got a copy of Milan Kundera’s just released The Festival of Insignificance to giveaway. I know you want it! To win, send me an email with your postal address and the subject line “Festival of Insignificance”.

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of To Banquet with the Ethiopians by Philip Bradey, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (new edition), The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna, The Constant Tower by Carole McDonnell, an interview with J. Ryan Stradal, 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 Beth Spencer, author of Vagabondage. To listen, visit the showpage or you can listen directly from the site widget (middle of the right hand side).

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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