cambridge book review

cbr 17 / spring 2010


cbr 17 / spring 2010

Cottonbound: An Audio Chapbook
Norma Gay Prewett

Reclamation: Memories of a New Orleans Girlhood
Eva Augustin Rumpf
An excerpt

From the Archives
Omens of Millennium
Harold Bloom
Reviewed by Bob Wake


March 18, 2012 Posted by | memoir, poetry, spirituality | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

cbr 11 / spring 2004


cbr 11 / spring 2004

The Blue Dress
Alison Townsend
Reviewed by Karla Huston

Joy Unspeakable
Laura Stamps
Reviewed by Karla Huston

Something Near the Dance Floor
Bruce Dethlefsen
Reviewed by Karla Huston

David Foster Wallace
Reviewed by Bob Wake

Graphic Classics: Mark Twain
Edited by Tom Pomplun
Reviewed by Bob Wake


March 18, 2012 Posted by | fiction, illustration, memoir, poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

cbr 5 / winter 2000-2001


cbr 5 / winter 2000-2001

Fear and Loathing in Seattle
(Or: How I Almost Became a Serial Killer)

Cal Godot

Chris Lanier

The Stripping of Saint Joan
Noel Vera

critic clown
An excerpt
Paul Vos Benkowski

The Glass Cocoon
An excerpt
Christopher J. Jarmick & Serena F. Holder

Long Shot Odyssey
An excerpt
Walter Bruno

Non-Committal Blurbs
for Soft-Hearted or Weak-Willed Book Reviewers

William Ham

Redshift: Greenstreem
An excerpt
Rod Clark

Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday,
Café Society, and an Early Cry for Civil Rights
David Margolick
Reviewed by Gay Davidson-Zielske

Planet Hong Kong
David Bordwell
Reviewed by Noel Vera


March 18, 2012 Posted by | biography, cinema, fiction, memoir, non-fiction, poetry, spirituality | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

cbr 4 / winter 1999-2000


cbr 4 / winter 1999-2000

Gonzago the Boy Wonder
From a work in progress
Cal Godot

For Harold Brodkey
Marcus Gray

Jan Levine Thal

Redshift: Greenstreem
An excerpt
Rod Clark

Waking from a Dream of Grief
A poem
David Steingass

Glass Cocoon
A poem
Christopher J. Jarmick

Eyes Wide Open: A Memoir of Stanley Kubrick
Frederic Raphael
Reviewed by Scott Von Doviak

Antoine de Baecque and Serge Toubiana
Translated by Catherine Temerson
Reviewed by Bob Wake

At Home in the World
Joyce Maynard
Reviewed by Gay Davidson-Zielske

Somewhere in the Night: Film Noir and the American City
Nicholas Christopher
Reviewed by John Lehman

Katharine Whitcomb
Reviewed by Matt Welter

The Pocket Poetry Parenting Guide
Edited by Jennifer Bosveld
Reviewed by Matt Welter

Nobody’s Hell
Douglas Goetsch
Reviewed by Matt Welter

Natural Superior
Vol. 1, No. 1
Reviewed by Matt Welter


March 18, 2012 Posted by | biography, cinema, fiction, memoir, non-fiction, poetry, spirituality | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

cbr 3 / spring & summer 1999


car 3 / spring & summer 1999

Daughter! I Forbid Your Recurring Dream!
An excerpt
James Chapman

Esther Clibon

Five poems
From Shrine of the Tooth Fairy
John Lehman

An Award for Elia Kazan
Jan Levine Thal

Commie Dearest
Jan Levine Thal

Glass (pray the electrons back to sand)
James Chapman
Reviewed by Bob Wake

Marcus Gray
Reviewed by Bob Wake

Words for the Taking: The Hunt for a Plagiarist
Neal Bowers
Reviewed by Gay Davidson-Zielske

I Married a Communist
Philip Roth
Reviewed by Jeremy Harrell

The House of Doctor Dee
Peter Ackroyd
Reviewed by Steven E. Alford

A Decent Reed
Bruce Dethlefsen
Reviewed by Matt Welter

The Perfect Day
Andrea Potos
Reviewed by Matt Welter


March 18, 2012 Posted by | biography, cinema, fiction, memoir, non-fiction, poetry, spirituality | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

cbr 2 / spring & summer 1998


cbr 2 / spring & summer 1998

Sugar Road
Excerpt from a work in progress
Rod Clark

On Levertov
Kevin Ducey

From The Land, Always the Land
Mel Ellis

From The Tenting Cantos
R. Virgil Ellis

The Man Who Once Played Catch with Nellie Fox
John Manderino
Reviewed by Gay Davidson-Zielske

Omens of Millennium
Harold Bloom
Reviewed by Bob Wake

Tabloid Dreams
Robert Olen Butler
Reviewed by John Lehman

Just Above Water
Louis Jenkins
Reviewed by John Lehman

Handwriting in America: A Cultural History
Tamara Plakins Thornton
Reviewed by B.C. Brown

In the Deserts of This Earth
Uwe George
Translated from the German by Richard & Clara Winston
Reviewed by David Steingass


March 18, 2012 Posted by | biography, fiction, memoir, non-fiction, poetry, spirituality | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Norma Gay Prewett

This memoir is dedicated to not only Bonnie, my mother, but to many, mostly and always my sisters, in descending order, Pat, Jeanett, Sue, Donna, and Angie, and to our late brother Marx, the light of Mama’s days. And of course to Daddy, “Shorty” Prewett, without whom Mama would not have been my mom.

My mother wrote letters in pencil in an erratic scrawl on Big Chief tablets (I gave her stationary over the years, and she did me the favor of writing her poetry, late in her life, on these sheets). If Mama made a joke in her letters and thought us too dull to catch it, she drew in large letters the word HO, followed by three exclamation points and heavy black underlining. Today it might have been a smiley face or LOL, but her mark was HO! Today, my sisters and I, who also invented the phrase going all Bonnie on it to mean throwing oneself into Spring cleaning with a vengeance, crack each other up by signing off the same way. So, in remembrance of Ma, HO!!!

And thanks most of all for the gift of Bob Wake who called me up and nudged this work into being on a warm Spring day near April.

In love and laughter, Norma Gay.

< | home | >


April 1, 2010 Posted by | memoir, poetry | , , | Leave a comment

Calling You Back

Norma Gay Prewett

for my son, Alex

You flop on the sled, luge-style
feet candy canes ahead, prone
as if you are home, lounging in your bed.
Instead of plummeting to a distant fate.

And I start to raise my hand,
to step into your path,
pull you up and call you to come back
as if you had slipped in the bath.

There’s already so much space between
five years old and six, such difference.
Your daddy shakes his head at me and gives
a bonus shove, to your delighted shout.

All I can see of you retreating
toward the sulfurous sunset
is your red left glove
and the Day-Glo pink of sled.
I knew you would be sliding from me soon
There were signs that the kernel, the meat
of you would crack that babyhood I loved
in a blizzard of sharp-boned shell.

Your shape is soon lost in the covey
of other people’s chicks scattered at the bottom
I hug myself and huddle with the other mothers
Each hoping, against reason, to call you back.

Later, as you crawl in with us, claiming illness,
I am shocked and comforted by
the still littleness of your body,
the lightness of your bones seem hollow
as those of birds.

The dark disguises and shrinks the boy
who seemed so solid on the sled.
I fall asleep breathing your essence
and blowing it back upon your purpling lids,
sealing our compact. I will let
you grow—if you will
always let me mother.

< | home | >


April 1, 2010 Posted by | memoir, poetry | , , | 1 Comment

Wheel of Fortune

Norma Gay Prewett

Day I—Thursday, April 20

When 6:30 came
On that cruelly blue,
Spring-saturated day,
Mother roused enough
From her grey slumber
To watch Pat Sajak
And Vanna turn the wheel.

How “Wheel of Fortune,”
A medieval concept, fits.
In her version, there is no
Computerized touching
Of cards, but the slow,
Physical turning of Fate.
Laid up or laid down
With the bad back or
With birthing. Seven
Times seven her pain
And her joy kept turning up.

Seven times in childbed
And now we return, we
Seven, watching, hovering
Even, to deliver her.
Six identical-bellied
Daughters and one son
So like his dad we blink
And rub our eyes when
He walks in.
We watch
Her grow large again
In extremis, but with
Something else, this time,
Swelling her belly.

With fluids and the blip
And bleat of consciousness
Pumped in and out.
These contractions help
Her labor to get breath,
Not give it.

Look, her mouth opens
To nurse life from the oxygen
Bubble. Her kind, sleepy eyes,
Always the pretty hazel-bush blue,
Alight on first one birthday balloon
Of pastel face, then the other.
Perhaps our heads
Seem untethered to her, like wash
On the line that has lost a pin.
Perhaps she worries that she
Should gather us in before the storm.
We loom, perhaps, like the
Thunderheads themselves, we,
Our husbands and children.
It is just past Easter and we
Are colored eggs hidden in her room.

Day II—Friday, April 21

Her hands, square and serious,
Grasp for us—padding for milk
Of kindness the way we must have.
She feels the need to rise
And tries to say so—there
Are things to do, always early
In the morning and with all this
Company! She worries up and down—
Is the coffee pot cleaned and set on?
Further down and back, where are
The chickens? “Those raggedy
Clouds,” she’d say, “hold a lot
Of wind. There might be a twister
In them.”

I want to let her rise,
Pull her from this too-white
Bed that is not a bed—that

Needs chenille and real wood.
But we obediently tuck her hands
Beneath the sheets and so-called
Blanket. She needs quilts! Her
Mother’s quilts specifically.
We think she needs booties
Like the dozens she crocheted over
The years, enough for Afghanistan.

She works at it, would be biting
Her tongue in concentration like
Kids do if she were able, finally
Frees her leg from the strangling
Cover. Her leg, still shapely
And white, reminding me of
The stout shoes she favored.

I want to press any thing that
Has touched her to my body.
I want to be my eldest sister,
Her firstborn upon whose chest
She is finally allowed to rest.
Her fine silver head of hair
Stirring in the artificial breeze.

She does not seem lost,
But I ask her, like a schoolmarm,
If she has any questions—
And she says “no” to my relief—
What could I possibly know
That she does not now besides

Day III—Saturday, April 22

In the waiting room for the ICU
Suffering family sifts memories.
Jokes are tried, fail, fall to the
Cluttered floor.
We continue to make our human sounds.
And the crazy-quilt of jagged
Lines in the other room
Rides up (good fortune)
And flings itself down.

(The Wheel on which we are
All broken, swinging us
From the indignity of birth
To the dignity of passing.)

Day IV—Sunday, April 24

Like an awful circle of malicious
Intent, I felt, my fifty-something
Birthday I circled back to you
In bed again, finding your hand
In that way that babies follow their fists
I swung round the Earth of you,
Your moon, with your eyes, your
Smile, all the things I can’t see now.
My breathing took on your cadence
As I used to try to do when you let
Us all pile into bed with you
To protect us from thunderstorms—
I tried to match your slow inspiration,
Expiration, feeling I could will you
Back if I breathed with you.

A Ferris wheel at a strip mall
On the edge of town
Lets down a gondola seat
And two giddy teenagers
Fling themselves heedlessly,
Breathlessly, into the flickering
Night, their bodies prime—
It could be mother and father
Boots and Pancho, setting out.
Unaware that in sight from
The highest seat—
In the small, clean hospital
Someone’s mother is dying.
As the wheel spins again,
They might feel her spirit rising.

< | home | >


April 1, 2010 Posted by | memoir, poetry | , , | Leave a comment


Norma Gay Prewett

With some of August
caught in batting,
the pilled lump of pallet
smells the way she did.

Tobacco, woodsmoke, slippery shale
Each layer a generation, another summer.
Hot, hootowl, heartripping cry,
and then the whippoorwill.

Cottonbound, snapping beans on porch-swings
cracking rocks out of pockets in the hills
to show me “pretties.”
Cottonbound, you glittered one night
across snowfields in Wisconsin
Snow and cotton bound me up with you.

Next day they called to say
you had passed while padding
a quilt, “jist as natchrul …”
“Fluid about the heart or gout,” they said,
But I felt you had not passed from that,
but from yearning to catch Old Time
on a line and sinker, draw him by a pincer,
match his eye.

You cached these crazy notions in the quilt.
Sunbonnet … flour sack … Sunday silk,
though your berry mind was not in it, but

Out uprooting hens and finding speckled eggs,
fretting barefoot where the milksnakes
crawl as thick as mud and big around as your ankle.

About if the booger man was real, then
what—and if Jesus hung that long, or if
tickfever would bring you down this year.

You “probly” knew, six hundred miles away,
I grew to you like a snail to its shell, or a
chameleon lizard to your well bucket, or
bachelor buttons to the clay.
You most likely knew my fear.

< | home | >


April 1, 2010 Posted by | memoir, poetry | , , | 1 Comment