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Dispatch from the Future Paperback – 24 Jul 2012
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"Stein possesses a comic's honesty and sense of timing, simultaneously enchanting and dark, yet never cynical. She's already published a wonderful debut novel this year, but I think she's arguably an even better poet. --Publishers Weekly (Best Summer Books 2012)"These poems will charm the pants off of you with their irreverence, insight, and optimism" --Guernica "By showing us that it's possible to make something beautiful and funny out of our supposed follies, Stein rescues the present." --The Poetry Foundation "A book as deeply sad as it is perceptively playful, Stein recreates her life, one full of unbounded wisdom and imagination weaving a tapestry of myths, memory, history, and pop culture, that new sort of collective memory we all share." --Vol. 1 Brooklyn "The poems, like Stein's debut novel, The Fallback Plan ... strike a powerful balance between humor and melancholy, reference and storytelling. A startlingly developed and fearless voice." --The Rumpus "Leigh Stein's poems know how to laugh it off after a stunning tumble down a flight of stairs."
--Rob MacDonald, editor of Sixth Finch "Leigh Stein follows her lauded debut novel The Fallback Plan with an equally impressive poetry collection, Dispatch from the Future ... Guernica called the book, "poetry for poetry haters." I have to add that even admirers of verse will adore this volume." --Largehearted Boy
Praise for Leigh Stein's previous book, The Fallback Plan "Beautiful, funny, thrilling, and true."
--Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story "Stein's light, accessible, self-deprecating prose makes this coming-of-age story a pleasure."
--Publishers Weekly "Intimate, urgent, and laugh-out-loud funny. . . . Think Franny and Zooey. Think Goodbye, Columbus. Think of this book as your next great read."
--Joe Meno, author of Hairstyles of the Damned
About the Author
Leigh Stein is a former New Yorker staffer and frequent contributor to its "Book Bench" blog. Her poetry has been published in numerous journals, nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and awarded the prestigious Poets & Writers Amy Award. Her first novel, The Fallback Plan, was published by Melville House in January 2012. She lives in Brooklyn, where she works in children's publishing and teaches musical theater to elementary school students.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
She clearly is a modern writer, but will have poems seeming as if she has been on the Oregon Trail risking her livestock and getting dysentery. Of course, you shouldn't assume that the narrator and author are one, but I feel like she blatantly plays with that line, blurring it, superimposing herself into it, and then backing away. I don't agree with the negative review Stein received, so I decided I would write a review to counter it. I didn't find that these poems were only discernible to the author or that it was a closed mystery for the reader. I think there is a lot of interplay with the words and a certain subtle softness, which I appreciated. I didn't feel overwhelmed by haughty language, and I felt the specifics were merited.
This was an enjoyable read for me. Some of the funnier poetry I've read, up there with a Coen brother's poetry book I once read that was full of biting and brazen moments. I find myself wondering how she invented some of the sentences and turn of phrases, and there was a great deal of originality. I think she honed in on the type of poetry that she excels in rather than mucking it up with semi-plausible poems in other styles. Stein clearly has a strong, unique voice -- if you are a fan of the comedian Demetri Martin, I feel like Stein would be his cousin twice removed. It might not jive with you if you've never been thrown into awkward social situations, anxiety, and ridiculousness, but those seem like inevitable human situations.
I recommend absorbing the book in one sitting, even reading it out loud to really hear the nuances. I found myself never wanting to put down the book. I kept wondering what strange poem would be next. BUT the book isn't just humorous -- it is also philosophical. It takes on bigger life issues and brings them out in a bite-size form.
I don't think this book is the latter, and it seemed only in parts to be the former.
What most of Stein's poems seem to attempt is more or less the same from snippet to snippet; you're presented with disjointed, rambling voices alluding to things you maybe can't quite make out, there's some interconnected stream-of-consciousness and bizarre references, occasionally a joke or two, and then the poem ends. The actual body of the text almost seemed so meaningless to me that I'm tempted to label it word-soup; the sentences gave the idea of something, but never with enough clarity or specificity to make it seem coherent. As someone who is a huge fan of parataxis when utilized properly, I feel compelled to say, this certainly isn't it.
This is what I've always thought was terrible poetry; poems that only make sense to the writer. Poems that amble without fluidity or purpose, poems that are bogged down in their own composition. Poems that all sound the same.
I will say there were some moments I enjoyed throughout, notably those that were humourous. I particularly liked the line "I want to fake my death on Facebook. I want a pony.", if only because it was something direct and understandable—and, hey, jarring in a good way. I didn't expect to get hit with that at the end of the poem, it made me laugh, and I flipped to the next page looking for more. Instead, I found more strewn-together ramblings that painted the fuzziest outline possible of a subject or story I could theoretically piece together.
I also took issue with one particular poem, "For Those Who Have Everything, Say It With Concrete". As I was going through the poem, I realized it was a direct reference to The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (one of my favorite novels), essentially a visiting of what Katherine Clifton might have been thinking while she waited in the Cave of the Swimmers for her lover that would never return in time. Something jumped inside me that I can only describe as a minor euphoria about the realization; but after thinking about it for a while longer, I wondered, "Why did I feel that? Simply because this poem references something I know and like?"
Reading it over again, the poem doesn't /do/ anything unique. It doesn't present a novel perspective, it doesn't use ornate or interesting language, and it doesn't give me one damn thing to think about that the novel didn't do in a better way. So why is it there? Simply to provide the allusion? For someone who wasn't familiar with The English Patient, it would be almost meaningless—and that, in essence, is why I did not enjoy this book. It is obliqueness for the sake of obliqueness; haze for the love of fog.
I'm in a mental crisis because the litany of publishing locations at the back of the book suggest Stein's poetry is getting praise outside the book itself, and I'm wondering if this is a difference of opinion that can be reconciled solely as a matter of taste. I don't hold any ill will (other than the aforementioned English Patient poem), but I do wonder how something operating by all accounts against so many pillars of good poetry can be good for the craft of poetry as a whole
Buy this book. Pick a page. Let Stein lead you by the hand into this brilliant world that she's created.