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Last year, mid-May, Cleaver Magazine launched a book review section featuring new literary works, mostly by small independent and university presses. Our first review, by Fiction Editor Michelle Fost, highlighted the novel My Beautiful Bus by French writer Jacques Jouet with a translation by Eric Lamb, published by Dalkey Archive Press.

Since then we’ve published 84 reviews of books you’ll probably want to read. Read about them here. Here’s this week’s crop:

MANTIC
by Maureen Alsop
Augury Books, 68 pages
reviewed by Matthew Girolami
This is a book of annotations, a bibliography of divination. Like any bibliography, Maureen Alsop’s Mantic is carefully researched and curated. The collection’s title, Mantic, and periodic poems within the collection, are defined by the art of divining and the many ways to do so—“Gyromancy,” “Ouranomancy,” and “Ornithomancy” to name a few—but this is not an instruction manual: Alsop lays these terms bare and explicates them through human moments in verse. As the “-mancy” titles suggest, Mantic is as a much a lexical read (or listen—read aloud) as it is an exploration of reaction;Mantic is beautiful for its teaching verse and for its honesty: with poem after poem inspired by divining, Alsop points to the many ways humanity has attempted to shape the world in its favor, whether that favor comes from desire or fear. As a result, the poems shift from their theses and speak less of divining and prediction than what innately drives these practices and, ultimately, humanity….read full text

THE GALAXY CLUB
by Brendan Connell
Chômu Press, 189 pages
reviewed by Ashlee Paxton-Turner
In his novel, The Galaxy Club, Brendan Connell, who was born and raised in New Mexico, reinterprets the landscape of a small New Mexico town, insisting that the comfortable and familiar all of a sudden feel slightly foreign. Connell has published both short fiction and several novels, notablyMetrophilias (Better Non Sequitur, 2010) and Lives of Notorious Cooks (Chomu Press, 2012), and in The Galaxy Club, he experiments with making the conventional unconventional. From the first page of The Galaxy Club, Connell plunges his reader into a world that feels like it should be familiar but is riddled with the mythical and supernatural. I kept thinking that I should know this small, dusty town Connell describes—after all, I currently live in a small, dusty town. But Connell’s small town isn’t conventional. In a sense, it can’t be: it’s the late 1960s or early 1970s and the place bristles with sex (or anticipation of it, anyway), drugs, and rock and roll. It’s also soaked in the supernatural, which seems to stem from Connell’s interpretation of the spiritual aura of New Mexico, where he still lives. In the first chapter, which is only a page, Connell tells the reader that the dead “can still smell the colors.” I knew then reading Connell would be an act of true literary disorientation…read full text

And coming tomorrow:

OUTSIDE THE BOX: INTERVIEWS WITH CONTEMPORARY CARTOONISTS
By Hillary L. Chute
University of Chicago Press, 272 Pages
reviewed by Seamus O’Malley
Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists by Hillary Chute contains interviews with Scott McCloud, Charles Burns, Lynda Barry, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Daniel Clowes, Phoebe Gloeckner, Joe Sacco, Alison Bechdel, Françoise Mouly, Adrian Tomine, Art Spiegelman and Chris Ware. If you know comics you’ll recognize this as the auteur scene, and if you don’t you’ve just been given your starter syllabus. Many of these interviews appeared before, especially in Believermagazine, but those have been expanded, and several others are appearing for the first time in print. It is a valuable record of some of the industry’s greatest talents contemplating their work, their influences, and comics culture at large. There is some precedent for such a collection, such as Todd Hignite’s In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists (2007), which interviewed many of the same artists. That work, as its title suggests, was more about the creative process, and Hignite was mostly interested in the physical details of draftsmanship. Chute, a professor of English at the University of Chicago, is possibly the world’s only graphic novel scholar, so approaches her interviewees with a wider range of subjects. The result is a less focused volume than Hignite’s but allows for, say, Tomine’s interesting accounts of dealing with race in his work, or the inclusion of Mouly, who, while not a creator of comics, has been central to the growth of comics culture over the past generation.

Thanks to our reviewers and our review editors, Nathaniel Popkin, Tahneer Oksman, and Michelle Fost!

For more information on Cleaver reviews, contact editor@cleavermagazine.com.