REVIEWS OF NAVA'S BOOKS
Where the Survivors Are Buried
"Beautiful and heartbreaking, Where the Survivors are Buried, by Nava Renek, is a poignant exploration of everlasting love."
"Finally polished gems told in a believable, convincing way."
Through the Body of the Storm
by Joyelle McSweeney
Wreckage of Reason II: Back to the Drawing Board
edited by Nava Renek & Natalie Nuzzo
The Brooklyn Rail, June 2014
Reading through Wreckage of Reason II, this convivial selection of women’s prose writing in a spectrum of non-realist forms, I found myself thinking of Guillermo del Toro’s dark, femme parable, Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). This film is set during the early years of the Franco regime, in which a smug, militarist masculinism violently clenches its leather-gloved fist. Our heroine, the 10-year-old Ofelia, is made vulnerable by her age, the death of her father, as well as by her gender, as her name indicates. Through fairy tales, she is summoned to a double world of grotesque flora and fauna, a risky yet luxurious Catholic domain. In the ambiguous final moments, we learn with both exaltation and grief that the heroine will transcend Fascist oppression not by revolutionary means but by crossing permanently into this Underworld of Baroque immanence.
To read more: http://www.brooklynrail.org/2014/06/books/through-the-body-of-the-storm
Wreckage of Reason II: Back To The Drawing Board
Readysteadybook.com June 2014
Wreckage of Reason II: Back to the Drawing Board, edited by Nava Renek and Natalie Nuzzo and recently published by Spuyten Duyvil Publishing, is a collection of thirty-three experimental pieces written by women. It stands on its literary merits alone, but it also elicits questions that point far beyond its own physical presence in the publishing arena—questions primarily to do with the threatened future of experimental and literary writing itself, with the questionable health and well-being of our current literary culture and its openness or lack thereof to work that isn’t consumerist in intent. As if the standing of experimental writing in our literary culture weren’t enough of a problem, the troubling statistics testifying to the glaring inequality in attention given to women writers in comparison to their male counterparts present a serious crisis in writing, as both problems conflate to confront us with several critical questions we seem unable to table away: for instance, how does our current literary culture make room or recognize experimental writers, not as marginal guests at the buffet but as essential contributors? How do experimental literary writers continue to foster their literary legacy, to offer up profound depths, language, and soul, to grow as writers willing to risk and to toss up, around, and about meanings and connections in ways that rise above entertainment? In other words: to do this thing we still call “prose” and “story” as it evolved during the decades before it was oppressed by the omnipresent forces now censoring writing and writers? To read more: http://www.readysteadybook.com/BookReview.aspx?isbn=9780923389956
Mating in Captivity Publisher's Weekly March 2012
The cynical sides of love and lust run through this collection of sexually-charged short stories about the perils of modern couplings. The characters—husbands, wives, lovers, friends, and co-workers—wallow in the misery of self-absorption, and the pairings are layered in disappointments. Tensions explode from familiar sources of frustration: in an attempt to have a child, a husband and wife's sex life becomes routine and voided of passion; a middle-aged woman misguidedly pursues an extramarital fling with an old flame from her university days in Paris; and a fisherman who can't resist the dubious charms of the local siren capsizes his marriage in the process. Renek (Spiritland) crafts elegant prose and deftly maps these complex emotional landscapes. Although fans of relationship angst will find much to dwell on, causal readers may find these relentlessly self-absorbed Northeasterners less appealing. Surprisingly, the best of these stories, "Bring it On," has little to do with the dynamics of sex and attraction. Here Renek deftly captures the monotony of three young people working in a copy shop and how one unbalanced customer and her manuscript briefly upends their habits and forces them to ponder the gulf between authors and their audiences. "A writer never knows if the reader truly understands," one of the employees concludes, "and the reader can only guess at what the writer intended." (Mar.)
Mating in Captivity Reviewed in JMWW
Perfection is often two-dimensional. It relies on harmony, balance, pattern. This is why I prefer imperfection. Not Mona Lisa's smile, rather, the soft downy fuzz that darkens below her ear, under her cheek line and back to her nape. And nicks on knees. And hair styled by weather: high winds, curling mists, burning suns. The characters in Nava Renek's new collection of short stories, Mating in Captivity, are all rebelling and running from perfect lives. They relish disappointments and bad love. It's as if derailing were the only way to know that we were once on a train. Life's ride is that smooth and predictable and its stops more like commas than wayside stations.
To read more go to http://jmww.150m.com/Renekrev.html
Robin Martin Discusses Wreckage of Reason
Beyond any marketable definition
July 6, 2013 from queenofbirdpress
When small press publisher Spuyten Duyvil released the anthology Wreckage of Reason in 2008, Ted Pelton, of The Brooklyn Rail wrote: “Were this book published by St. Martin’s or Norton, they would have slapped its contents on wider margins and packaged it for the college market at twice the cost. Except Norton or St. Martin’s would never publish this book—it’s too dangerous, wild, and singular. Wreckage of Reason gives us three dozen women authors beyond any easily marketable definition; by any description, it’s an anthology worthy of an audience and acclaim.”
To read more:http://www.twosongbirdspress.com/tag/nava-renek/
Wreckage of Reason
Reviewed by Ted Pelton in the Brooklyn Rail
I haven’t inquired recently into whether there have been new developments in the court masque, but a case can be made that no art form today is more conservative in its general formal tendencies than fiction writing. More demanding to consume than more passively experienced visual or aural art forms, and for the most part mass-produced by subsidiaries of entertainment conglomerates who more and more insist on bottom-line profits, so much fiction today is so plainly moribund that the “truth is more interesting” camp now has adherents even among creative writers themselves.
To read more...
No Perfect Words
Reviewed in Publisher's Weekly
Stories spiral within stories in this meandering, loose-ended tale of lost love by Renek (Spiritland ). Carolyn, the 42-year-old narrator, addresses in second-person her longtime lover, a cultural critic of some renown who has recently left her and their seven-year-old daughter, Jenna. Memory and longing mingle as Carolyn unravels her grief: a woman the couple once spotted in Paris becomes, in Carolyn's imagination, a model named Annabella; a young Swiss woman they encountered in Thailand fends off the advances of a pair of Israeli brothers, then gives in to one, then the other and ends up hating herself. Other stories involve memories of old boyfriends, revealing hidden bits of Carolyn's past; in between she allows glimpses into the couple's unhappiness: her lover's dissatisfaction with the constraints of fatherhood, routine and boredom, and the sense that he has simply fallen out of love. Finally, he is allowed to tell his own story, though there's no real suspense or denouement to this brief work that's defined mostly by an inchoate anticipation. (Dec.)
BOOKS NAVA REVIEWED
Who Killed Le Roman? A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma: Norah Labiner's Let the Dark Flower Blossom
Coffee House Press, 2013
Is the novel dead, or just the people who read them?
Ask any Barnes and Noble sales clerk and s/he will tell you that the novel lives as it always has—in genre: mysteries, romances, fantasies; “chick lit,” which in comparison to literary fiction titles, are flying off the shelves. In Norah Labiner’s forth novel, Let the Dark Flower Blossom, (Coffee House Press, 2013), we have a mash up of many of these genres as well as Gothic noir, Greek classics, post-modern disjunction, add a pinch of snails and puppy dog’s tails and you have the page turning quality of a who-done-it.
But who done what, and why do we care?
To read more go to:
The Unbearables Big Book of Sex
Ron Kolm, Carol Wierzbicki, Jim Feast, Steve Dalachinsky, Yuko Otomo, and Shalom Neuman, eds. (Autonomedia, 2011)
The Brooklyn Rail April 2012
If you’re opening up this page turner to get turned on, be warned: Most of the subject matter in the 140-plus stories, poems, essays, and artwork that make up the 640-page anthology, The Unbearables Big Book of Sex, is closer to Camus than cunnilingus. Although there are some erotic and graphic passages, these gritty, compassionate, and sexy pieces prove that you can take sex out of writing but you can’t keep a writer from writing about sex. What makes sex so interesting to write and read about is not the two or three lines, paragraphs, or pages of coitus, but what comes directly before, after, and in between them. To read more www.brooklynrail.org/2012/04/books/size-matters
No one told me I was going to disappear
J.A. Tyler and John Dermot Woods (Jaded Ibis)
American Book Review Vol. 33 April 2012
Are all love stories sad stories? When put under a microscope, can we see the osmosis and diffusion of a closeness we both crave and grow weary of. The cleaving: to cling and to separate.
These questions and so many others are mulled over, tossed around, dissected and inspected by J. A. Tyler and John Dermot Woods in their short poetic novel No one told me I was going to disappear. Tyler's relentless bearing down on metaphors and raw emotion, accompanied by Woods's vivid and sometimes grotesque coloring book-like illustrations of boys, girls, men, and women, holding bleeding hearts, entering scarlet wombs, sporting bloody mouths and blindfolded eyes, mull over the dynamic of love and the question of why we hold fast to an ideal that when achieved, often destroys us by inherently diluting our individuality and rocking our emotional core.
To read more go to http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&&url=/journals/american_book_review/v033/33.3.renek.html
What We Write About When We Write About What We Think About or The Bird Is Not a Metaphor
Spectacle by Susan Steinberg (Coffeehouse Press)
Drunken Boat #17
Start out with a baseline narrative: an individual’s life. There is a woman; she has a brother; she has a father; she has a mother. Bad things happen that she remembers. Good things happen that she can hardly recall. Events are dissected, redacted, ruminated upon and conflated, leaving narrative scraps of truths, lies, and distortions: things we tell ourselves, our friends, our parents, our shrinks in hopes of explaining the pain and absurdity contained in our relatively inconsequential lives.
To read more: http://www.drunkenboat.com/db17/spectacle
Dollhouse by the Kardashian Sisters
The Nervous Breakdown
Just when you thought there was nothing more the Kardashians could do to keep themselves in the media spotlight, Kourtney, Kim and Khloe have written their first novel, published this week by William Morrow. Penned, more amazingly, equally by all three sisters!
edited by Peter Conners (Starcherone)
In our age of test marketing and referential storylines, it’s sometimes hard to remember that writing is a creative act that can produce material as original and multifaceted as any other art form.PP/FF, an anthology edited by Peter Conners, serves up an exciting collection of unusual writings, not to be classified by structure or content, except that most pieces are short (one or two pages) and achieve the immediacy of storytelling.
To read more: http://www.raintaxi.com/online/2006summer/conners.shtml