New England Literary News

Interior of Newtonville Books in 2018.
Interior of Newtonville Books in 2018.File

Bookstore at risk

The proposed building of a senior center on the site of a parking lot in Newton Center poses a threat to local businesses and would mean the closing of Newtonville Books, according to the store’s owners. The Newton Senior Center has been scouting for locations to build an expanded facility, and one of those sites is the lot that many small businesses in Newton Center rely on for their customers to park. If the city decides to let the Senior Center build there, “the bookstore will close,” says co-owner Jaime Clarke. “It’s not a question of might.” At a recent meeting, business owners were told that construction would take eight to 10 years. “Everybody’s heart stopped,” said Mary Cotton, co-owner of the store. That construction disruption, as well as eradicating places for people to park, would mean Newtonville Books wouldn’t survive. “We saved the book store in 2007, and moved in 2012, and the loss of parking would be too much,” said Cotton. They’re not against the Senior Center, but are concerned that that the mayor and the city haven’t taken into account the impact it would have on local businesses. They invite concerned citizens to get in touch with Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller at rfuller@newtonm.gov or on twitter @ruthannefuller.


Grief songs

Cori Winrock’s second collection of poetry, out early this year from the Maine-based poetry press Alice James Books, launches us into the outer space of grief. In “Little Envelope of Earth Conditions” Winrock writes of light and resuscitation, of the alien worlds of hospitals and ambulances, of being joined and being separated. Her poems are delicate and bodily both — ripped seams, cells collecting and dying, stitches sewn, cupped hands, blood: “Today your skeleton begins / its marrowing somewhere: balled up / as an owl pellet” and “The sonographer’s doppler: a canary — / the bloodhush warbling its own obituary.” And they are punctuated by evocative silences: “Some nights this / is all I can do to keep from—.” The grief in this collection is dense enough to enact its own gravity, enough to pull a person off the surface of the earth into the cold, white distance of space, or more specifically, to render a person encased in a spacesuit, each its own cut-off world for the individual inside it.


An artistic celebration

The Museum of Fine Arts celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, and the museum has published a book in honor of the milestone. The handsome “A Guide to the Collections” (MFA Publications) walks through the galleries displaying highlights from all corners of the collection, from a Syrian vessel in the shape of a hare from 6400-5900 BCE, to a quilt by a woman named Harriet Powers who was born into slavery, to work by Goya, Picasso, Alice Neel, Frida Kahlo, Kiki Smith, and Kara Walker. Divided by region and time period — Egyptian; the Classical World; Asia, Oceania, and Africa; the Americas; Europe; and “Art of Our Times” — the volume is an art history lesson, a tasting menu of what the MFA has to offer, and a meditation on what it is to collect. The reader is invited to compare and contrast, to soak in the differences and similarities, across time and culture. And besides the artwork, it also offers a history of the MFA itself, up through February 2020, as the institution looks forward with a commitment to “collaborate generously, invite boldly, welcome warmly, engage deeply, and collect purposefully.”


Coming Out

“My Meteorite: Or, Without the Random There Can Be No New Thing” by Harry Dodge (Penguin)

“A Certain Clarity: Selected Poems” by Lawrence Joseph (FSG)

“The Everlasting” by Katy Simpson Smith (Harper)

Pick of the Week

Rachael Conrad at Wellesley Books recommends “Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race” by Lara Prior-Palmer (Catapult): “Every year, in the grasslands of Mongolia, a competition takes place that has been dubbed the ‘longest and toughest horse race.’ It’s a brutal test of endurance, and Lara Prior-Palmer’s stunning debut will leave you feeling every bruise, callus, and heartache she experienced during the race.”

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Wake, Siren” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.