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Tell-All

Chuck Palahniuk

Doubleday, $24.95/hardcover

Sure, there's the sex, raunch, exaggerated detail and stylistic, repetitive employment of comic writing devices for which Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk is revered, but there's something missing in Tell-All, his 11th novel. Somehow the absurdity becomes more tedious than amusing, as the author lampoons golden-age Hollywood with a "veritable Tourette's syndrome of rat-tat-tat name-dropping, from the A-list to the Z-list." I would wager that a majority of Palahniuk's fan base is too young to recognize and appreciate references to the bygone era, and the boldfaced names throughout the text distract. Beyond that, the story arc is a little too predictable: Without entirely ruining the twist, let's just say that the climactic surprise isn't hard to guess if you've read a couple other Palahniuk works. As a fan, I'd like to see the author break out of the formula next time around. — Matthew Schniper

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Phantom Noise

Brian Turner

Alice James Books, $16.95/paperback

Brian Turner has given us the best poems imaginable out of the heart of hell. The California native served in the U.S. Army in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Iraq; drawing upon those experiences, his first collection, Here, Bullet, won the Beatrice Hawley Award in 2005. With Phantom Noise, his poems deal with the aftermath of war, and the title poem is an auditory hallucination of post-traumatic stress, a heard version of the amputee's phantom pain. In one account, a broken-open box of double-headed nails in a Lowe's elicits thoughts of firing pins and shells raining on Baghdad; in another, Turner takes a compassionate look at a female soldier most traumatized by the sexual assault committed by her own commander. Through it all, the poet continues to use language to illuminate rather than obfuscate. When it comes to war, "we, like Aphrodite, are seduced." — Kel Munger

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Sports From Hell

Rick Reilly

Doubleday/ESPN Books, $26/hardcover

I always saw the recently retired "Life of Reilly" as a sports column that would hit its mark on occasion, but more often than not would seem out-of-touch. With that in mind, I picked up Rick Reilly's latest, Sports From Hell: My Search for the World's Dumbest Competition, with some trepidation and a little schadenfreudic glee. After breaking down the ground rules for his search — i.e., the chosen sport can't be stupid for stupid's sake (see World Shin Kicking Championships) — Reilly selects the likes of nude bicycling, chess boxing, a three-mile-long golf hole and (of course, for longtime readers) baseball. From there, Reilly shines. His humor is never lowbrow, and often delights with its unexpected twists and targets. SFH is imaginative, irreverent and unexpectedly enjoyable for any sports fan ... even baseball lovers. — Bryce Crawford

  • Tell-All, Phantom Noise, Sports From Hell

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