The Minderbinder Review of Books
The Premiere Resource for the One-Sentence Book Review
Welcome to The Minderbinder Review of Books (TMRB), the premiere resource for the original one-sentence book review. TMRB presents concise, creative, and sharply condensed reviews of some of the most interesting and thought-provoking books that have been written, published, imagined and cooked-up at any time, anywhere, in any dimension. And always in one sentence.
Our purpose is to challenge the business of what and why books get reviewed and how often they become irrelevant to those with little time and inclination to read at all. By holding our profession up to a brighter light, TMRB plans to raise the bar while lowering it. Our reviews promote the Voltairean principle that any criticism, no matter how praiseworthy or blameworthy, should be used in the defense of the fewest possible words.
The Minderbinder Review of Books is an ever-changing, vastly confounding and constantly entertaining resource. We are committed to showcasing books by the well-known, the little known, the unknown, and those known only to us.
If you can read this sentence, you have time for TMRB.
All reviews appearing in TMRB are staff-written and identified by the reviewer initials.
Books reviewed are conveniently listed alphabetically by author.
To find a title, click and scroll to determine if a specific author's work has been reviewed.
AUTHORS AUTHORS AUTHORS AUTHORS
JENNI FAGAN / The Panopticon
JONATHAN GALASSI and ROBYN CRESWELL / The FSG Poetry Anthology
Edited by Jonathan Galassi and Robyn Creswell
2021. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Oh, goody...yet another definitive and essential poetry anthology that includes just about everybody you'd expect to see on a Big Five publishing house's masturbatory list while conspicuously leaving out pretty much everybody else who isn't clinking glasses, kissing ass, or digging up the decomposed because, well, after all, gee whiz, aw, shit and what the...only FOUR Seamus Heaney poems?! LF
DAN GERBER / The Death of Michelangelo
2022. Copper Canyon Press. coppercanyonpress.org
This is Dan Gerber at his most celebratory and most deliberate, embodying the beauty and belief of poetry’s power and purpose, particularly in desperate times; poetry that alerts us to living fully and completely as “some beacon of delight / with the sadness of things”. AT
NIKOLAI GOGOL / The Nose & Other Stories
Translated and with an introduction by Susanne Fusco
2020. Columbia University Press.
Although I do not read Russian and can barely speak English, I am pretty sure this is a splendid new translation of seminal short stories by Nikolai Gogol, bookended by the “hits” (the title piece, obviously a big influence on Kafka, and “The Overcoat”), and opening with a couple of his earlier Ukrainian folk-tale-inspired stories, before continuing with stellar tales having St. Petersburg settings, and “Rome (A Fragment),” which was a relevation to yours truly, a sad one, since it embodies the direction Gogol likely would have gone in had he not died at 42 “after a hunger strike he had undertaken to foil the Devil” (quote courtesy of wherever I found it online). k
DAWN EDEN GOLDSTEIN / Father Ed: The Story of Bill W.’s Spiritual Sponsor
2022. Orbis Books. orbisbooks.com.
In a seemingly endless news cycle of hateful words, stupid people and horrible acts perpetrated against the innocent, there is particular joy and relief in reading about a Catholic priest who, as it turns out, never molested or abused anyone and who, in fact, devoted his entire life to actually helping people in recovery—an accomplishment worthy of the treatment it receives in this thoughtfully written biography of Father Edward Dowling; an honest and meticulously researched life story that presents its subject not as an easy saint to be glorified and venerated, but as a principled man of prayer and action to be admired and emulated. LS
JORIE GRAHAM / [To] The Last [Be} Human
2022. Copper Canyon Press. coppercanyonpress.org
After considerable debate in which critics on both sides of the issue found consensus, it now appears certain that a Danish prince hitting his head on a typewriter for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type the complete works of Jorie Graham. MDA
DAN GROSSMAN / Mindfucking Roundabouts of Carmel, Indiana: Poems and Short Prose
2022. Lulu Press.
Dan Grossman navigates this highly recommended book like an 'uber' uber driver, picking up passengers who are Old Testament Prophets, ancient mystics, Americans with bad directions, French surrealists, and 21st century high school students, dizzying them and us along the way, as he takes his readers round and around and round again. JW
GEORGE GUIDA / Posts from Suburbia
2022. Encircle Publications. encirclepub.com
Posts from Suburbia is a raucous, lens-flipping romp into neighborhoods of absurd thought and far from the ordinary backyards of intellectual barbecues. SW
JONATHAN HAYES, Ed., / Over The Transom #30 / A Literary Journal / Don Skiles Memorial Issue
2022. Over The Transom.
For those unfamiliar with writer Don Skiles who died in 2021 at age 81, this beautiful tribute issue from Over the Transom, a venerable literary magazine from Santa Cruz that editor / publisher Jonathan Hayes has been producing since 1997, is an excellent introduction to Skiles’ remarkable gift for storytelling—and for those who knew Don personally and were privileged to be part of his life, it’s a bittersweet reminder that a beloved friend is missed. SD
BOHUMIL HRABAL / Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age
2011. NYRB Classics.
Translated by Michael Henry Heim, with an Introduction by Adam Thirwell
The Czech author of this sleek piece of modernist fiction spooled out in one, count ’em one, rambling run-on sentence was born into the dying Austro-Hungarian Empire (the successor to the Hapsburg Monarchy) and had fallen under the spell of James Joyce when in 1964 he deployed collage-slash-cut&paste techniques to leave posterity a sui generis Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride of endless ribald-cum-eccentric anecdotes featuring peasants, farmers, farmer’s daughters, wives, and sisters, shepherds, shoemakers, brewers, regents and their retinues, regimental officers and the men under their collective thumb, hot and cold-blooded women of all ages, dispositions, and propensity for drink who know what they want and don’t hesitate to take it by both hands, plus the pleasure to be gleaned from priceless free advice courtesy of a dream
interpretation booklet that would have given Sigmund Freud the laughing trots. k
MICHELE HYATT-BLANKMAN / Pumpkinhead: Poems
2019. Independently Published.
I laughed and cried when I read these poems—and not because I’m a sentimentalist (which I am, okay?), but because the genuineness of Michelle Hyatt-Blankman is so clearly and abundantly evident in the way she knows precisely when and how to move mountains with words. CH
RICHARD JARRETTE / Strange Antlers
2022. Parlor Press.
Exquisite in its singularity, Jarrette’s poetry creates a movable paradox in which each poem is an ancient tale untold, luminous, transparent, and “hanging on to the reins of a cabbage butterfly.” RB
JANIS H. JENKINS and THOMAS J. CSORDAS / Troubled in the Land of Enchantment: Adolescent Experience of Psychiatric Treatment
2020. University of California Press. www.ucpress.edu
The restorative power of this extraordinary book is evident in the moving, personal narratives that link readers to the suffering, torment and heartbreak of adolescents undergoing psychiatric care; a book that is a clear road map to compassionate clinical treatment. LB
GERALD W. JOHNSON / Andrew Jackson, An Epic in Homespun
1927. Minton, Balch & Co.
In 1829, no man had ever entered the White House under the burden of a more inconvenient past than Andrew Jackson; and no President was ever denounced with greater ferocity [until 2017 -Ed.]. HLM
GREGORY WAYNE KELLY / Defibrillator Blues
2015. Poor Souls Press. www.poorsoulspress.com
Sprung from the rich and fertile soil of activist storytelling, Defibrillator Blues does its part to green the landscape of a lost world devastated by flash fictions and narco narratives. LS
ANDREAS KESSARIS / The Butcher of Park Ex: And Other Semi-Truthful Tales
2020. Guernica Editions.
Here at last is a wide-shouldered, big-hearted lug of a book steeped in boisterous charm and outrageous truths whose engaging stories dare us to laugh at the fires of self-immolation and tag along with the author as he plots an obstacle course through the Greek immigrant experience, growing up in Montreal, seeking answers he doesn’t quite know the questions to, and feeling certain all will be revealed in good time as long as he remembers not to believe anything he tells himself—think Holden Caulfield meets Groucho Marx in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect when you “spend the better part of [your] working life in customer service.” WD
PHYLLIS KLEIN / The Full Moon Herald
2020. Grayson Books. www.graysonbooks.com
This exceptional first book of poems should be required reading for anyone who 1) appreciates poetry as a meaningful way to explore who we are in this beautiful and troubling world; 2) is willing to open themselves to the honesty and intimacy of our shared and connected lives; and/or 3) wishes to mine the deeper nature of the news without the noise and nonsense of talking heads. VRB
KLIPSCHUTZ / Premeditations
2019. Hoot n Waddle.
It was good enough for Walt Whitman, I thought, when I decided to review my own book, Premeditations, but then I got cold feet, before deciding, what the hell, you only live so many times, and have pressed forward by airing the fact that I remain less than sanguine with the disconnect between a certain reviewer’s personal note to me after reading my book and the review he eventually published, in which review, early on, he negated anything positive he had to say, by parading his identify politics bona fides (he’s a white dude from the Midwest, if that matters) by stating that I am a dinosaur, to wit—“there’s another point to be made, however; whether intentional or not the book reads like a valedictory for the era when white male hipsters defined the poetry culture (Ishmael Reed is the only black man, Kay Ryan one of the few women mentioned in the book). Things have changed in the last couple of decades. The White Negro (requiescat in pace) is no longer the bleeding edge of the culture…”—which ticked me off so much that I made a lengthy list of his errors and omissions (available on request) as to (a) the women written about or referenced in the book, and (b) ethnic minorities (Bob Kaufman, anyone?) Premeditations pays homage to, all of which is water under the bridge that I wanted to jump off when I first read the review that, again, followed the aforementioned personal note to me by the reviewer (transmitted before the actual review was drafted and went live), which in the main consisted of the following salivation: I love your book!—I think it should be taught in every Modern Poetry survey, bought by every aspiring MFA poet, not just for content (love the juicy anecdotes) but also the writing, the constant flirtation with irony and sarcasm, the hell-bent-for-leather swerving of register—Post-Beat, Neo-Beat, it eludes exact classification (which is good), but every page is filled with delights, what Tony H used to call “local pleasures”—I’ve got checkmarks everywhere: “the other shoehorn drops,” "we must love one another / or [work at the tool and ] die” “(he was in fact spitting)”—I also admired the use of metrical verse and the well-considered judgments, e.g. (re Frost) “his grousings on free verse are one big migraine—I’m a fan!”—all of which I, the author, naturally mistook for the responses of someone who having read Premeditations, had the courage of his convictions, when instead he was a pale-skinned poet who pivoted to curry favor with current identity politics tropes (that’s right, tropes! deal with it) by taking a jab (a poison pill of a fatal caveat!) near the beginning of his review, one that applies by orders of magnitude more to his own poems than to mine; but, as per Whitman, if you want your book reviewed by someone who says what he means rather than what he thinks is politically advantageous, why not just write it yourself? k
JARED KUSHNER / Breaking History: A White House Memoir
2022. Broadside Books. www.harpercollins.com
A brilliant example of Artificial Intelligence at its worst. ADF
GARY LASSIN / The Three Stooges Journal #184 / Winter 2022
2022. The Three Stooges Journal.
One of the longest running fanzines in America, the venerable Three Stooges Journal—the official newsletter of the Three Stooges Fan Club (founded in 1974)—is an indispensable who’s who (or woos-woo?) of all things Stooges, published four times a year, and extremely useful as a reference guide when dealing with real-life morons and knuckleheads who wouldn’t know a poke in the eye from a pie in the face. RE
ELLARAINE LOCKIE / Sex & Other Slapsticks
2019. Presa Press. www.presapress.com
After reading the alluring and playful poems in Lockie's sly little chapbook, Sex & Other Slapsticks, don't be surprised if you find yourself reaching for a cigarette—even if you don't smoke. AB
PAULA C. LOWE / moo
2014. Big Yess Press. www.bigyespress.com
Moo is one of the most powerful and inspirational series of narrative poems you will ever read. MG