really short reviews 2015

Welcome to Rain Taxi’s Really Short Reviews! Here we present short pieces by staff members past and present. RSRs will post occasionally on this page throughout the year. For eclectic assortments from the previous years, visit these links:

2013 Really Short Reviews
2014 Really Short Reviews
2015 Really Short Reviews

Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz Gotham Books ($27.50) Although Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter (1811-1859) was a pioneer of plastic surgery for accident victims, general readers will probably be more familiar with his Philadelphian museum of medical oddities. The mention of “marvels” in the title implies a focus on this famous collection, but this biography of Mütter only […]

Nicola, Milan

Lodovico Pignatti Morano Semiotext(e) ($14.95) Beginning writers are often told to “show, not tell,” but author Lodovico Pignatti Morano does neither. The narrator of Nicola, Milan posits that the title character, a kind of tour guide/hype-man/cultural pimp, has a fascinating inner life motivating his public image of magnetic self-assurance and “defeated all-knowingness,” but the reader […]

Showmanship: The Cinema of William Castle

Joe Jordan BearManor Media ($26.95) Although William Castle (1914-1977) essentially defined filmic schlock—he has been cited as an influence by John Waters and Joe Dante—his films are little known today. There is correspondingly sparse critique of his work, and that which does exist focuses mainly on the colorful gimmicks Castle used to promote his movies […]

Definitely Maybe

Arkady and Boris Strugatsky Translated by Antonina W. Bouis Melville House ($15) Available in English for the first time in its uncensored entirety, Definitely Maybe tells the story of a group of Russian scientists. These thinkers are subtly but menacingly intimidated by an unknown, possibly supernatural force into halting their work and therefore maintaining the […]

I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel

David Shields and Caleb Powell Knopf ($25.95) In 2011 David Shields and his former student Caleb Powell drove out of Seattle to spend four days together in a cabin arguing Life vs. Art. The loose premise is that Shields has sacrificed something of the former for the latter, and Powell vice versa. The exchange moves […]

Spider in a Tree

Susan Stinson Small Beer Press ($16) Based on the life of Protestant theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), Spider in a Tree is a novel firmly grounded in fact: the author has “infused the text” with material drawn from the writing of the preacher and his contemporaries. However, the story is not bogged down with historical detail […]

American Cocktail: A “Colored Girl” in the World

Anita Reynolds With Howard Miller Edited by George Hutchinson Harvard University Press ($29.95) Anita Thompson Dickinson Reynolds (1901-1980) was a multiracial expatriate with a Cocteauesque talent for being present at opportune historical moments and befriending people who would later become famous. This memoir begins in Reynolds’ hometown of Los Angeles (where she was a minor […]

A Visit to Priapus and Other Stories

Glenway Wescott Edited by Jerry Rosco University of Wisconsin Press ($26.95) Author Glenway Wescott (1901-1987) saw most of the major events of the twentieth century, and this collection of autobiographical stories and essays serves as “a truthful, chronological portrait” of the man and his time. The diverse topics range from stoic, stifled families in the […]

The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood)

Tony Trigilio BlazeVOX Books ($16) This is the first book in a projected multi-volume poem about the eponymous gothic soap opera, which author Tony Trigilio watched as a young child. The show “nurtured and sustained” the poet’s inner life before he could speak, and the “primal sensations” associated with these pre-lingual experiences make them ripe […]