Mixed Media Books Roundup

Walking It Off: A Veteran’s Chronicle of War and
Wilderness

By Doug Peacock (Eastern Washington University Press)
Among western environmentalists, Doug Peacock is an iconic figure,
a larger than life man of the wild. He has been immortalized in
books by Jim Harrison and Rick Bass and, most importantly, in
Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang. His rocky
friendship with Abbey serves as a touchstone in this memoir, which
recounts a series of ‘great walks’ in uninhabited country. For
Peacock, Abbey’s 1989 death triggered a period of self-examination,
using the tools he and Abbey both believed in: ‘walking, solitude,
wildness.’ In Nepal, Arizona’s Cabeza Prieta, Mexico’s Sierra
Madre, and other wild places, Peacock ‘walks off’ his wounds, in
particular the debilitating legacy of his Vietnam service. —
Capper Nichols

Listen to the Mockingbird: American Folksongs and
Popular Music Lyrics of the 19th Century

By Douglas Messerli, editor (Green Integer)
It’s odd to find ‘Red River Valley’ and ‘Oh Susannah’ in a volume
bound for libraries, bookstores, and literary analysis.
Nevertheless, archiving American cultural history is important in
its own right, and this book offers some unusual glimpses into our
country’s playful — and often sordid — collective imagination.
From the infrequently sung mocking verses of ‘Jingle Bells’ to the
hilarious ‘Jeff in Petticoats’ (Confederate president Jefferson
Davis escaped soldiers in his wife’s coat) to the disturbing
‘minstrel tunes’ sung by whites in blackface, these folk tunes,
many of which are now treated as children’s songs, are anything but
innocent. Tales of abuse, alcoholism, prisoners, war, starvation,
and incest provide some context to reality TV and America’s
enduring profane/sacred split personality. — Sarah
Wash

Doctor Weep and Other Strange Teeth
By Gary Barwin (The Mercury Press)
Between the freaky, funny filmmaker Guy Maddin and author Gary
Barwin, Canada is producing some of the most innovative creative
works of our time. Barwin, like Maddin, immerses his audience in a
dislocating world where, for instance, children are bread dough and
Franz Kafka gets washed in the laundry. His voice, unlike that of
many experimentalists, is more childlike and curious than morose
and alienated. Like Alice, Barwin’s characters frequently enjoy
interchangeable sizes and seemingly impossible adventures, like a
journey through Grandmother’s freezer. Subtler, though, are the
repetitions of words and themes that give the collection aesthetic
cohesion. The stories range in tone from fairy tale to frightening,
but what makes them so compelling is Barwin’s balance of melancholy
with wide-eyed wonder. — SW

A Tiny Home to Call Your Own: Living Well in Just Right
Houses

By Patricia Foreman & Andy Lee (Good Earth Publications)
This self-published book about small houses functions in part as an
ad for the authors’ prefab houses and house plans. That said, it
might also be read with a mind toward doing it yourself, turning a
garage into a living space, building a house on wheels, using
alternative (and hypoallergenic) housing materials, and harvesting
rainwater, for example. The houses described range from really tiny
to relatively large. (One has a porch with a bigger footprint than
the cabin Anne LaBastille writes about in her book Beyond Black
Bear Lake
.) Foreman and Lee also touch upon such issues as
clutter, landscape blight, and homelessness, and they include a
useful bibliography and resource listings. The Virginia-based
authors have also written and published books on permaculture and
backyard market gardening. — Chris Dodge

The Hounds of No
By Lara Glenum (ActionBooks)
On their Web site, the editors of the brand-new ActionBooks
declare: ‘We want poetry that goes too far.’ In Lara Glenum,
they’ve snagged a poet who’s slipped the leashes of the dominant
modes in American poetry: quiet, reflective realism and left-brain
language play. Glenum digs in the red dirt of the surrealist
tradition of imaginative turbulence and bizarre surprise, throwing
a fierce female body awareness into a series of strange dramas with
Gothic titles like ‘The Tale of the Wicked Lotuses’ and ‘The Name
of the Ghoul.’ These poems are red-blooded challenges to the
prudishness of our national poetic imagination. You will never hear
them on The Writer’s Almanac. — Jon Spayde

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