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JANUARY 24, 2000: 

The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry edited by Alan Kaufman (Thunder's Mouth Press), paper, $24.95

Smitten and sultry, rapturous and rebellious, masturbatory and maniacal, narrowly describes the spectrum of luster from the writers presented in The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. Not the celebrated class of writers that we usually learn about in English class, but those who spit on conventions and stood at the fringe of mainstream society. A holy document of the most provocative words ever written, this is the finest compilation of writers ever assembled. The book slates material by over 200 poets, authors, and activists from several decades including numerous beat poets of the '50s and '60s, the Unbearables in New York City, and a slew of contemporaries. Singer/Poetess Patti Smith, Hal Sirowitz, Sister Spit co-founder Sini Anderson, Jim Carroll, Maggie Estep, Allen Ginsberg, Wanda Coleman, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Eileen Myles and at one-time or another local writers Jimmy Santiago Baca, Rudolfo Anaya, and Joy Harjo are just a few of the writers that grace the pages.

A social, artistic, and cultural document of the past sixty years, The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry humorously, sorrowfully, and eloquently depicts poverty, homosexuality, racial inequality and political injustice. It captures the essence of the writers and their impact in society. In addition to the poetry, a description of the writer's work, history, and significance is provided.

This is a timeless anthology of queers, saints, devils, outcasts, villains, protesters of social, governmental, and civil injustice, and particularly the beat, street, heard and unheard poets everywhere. -- Christy Wegener


Batman: No Man's Land by Greg Rucka (Pocket Books), hardcover, $23.95  

As if Gotham City didn't have enough problems. Now we can add to a concoction of costumed criminals and nightmarish Gothic architecture an event called the Cataclysm. This enormous earthquake results in billions of dollars in infrastructural damage done to the metropolis. Congress declares Gotham a no man's land; bedlam and violence rule. And where is the Batman?

Assuming serious knowledge of Batman mythology on the audience's part (this one's only for the hardcore, it appears), Rucka does an admirable job tying in some 60 years' worth of plot elements while maintaining a coherent, fast-paced storyline -- everybody comes to play, including Robin, Nightwing, The Huntress, Harlequin, Penguin, and Poison Ivy. Most characters are above satisfactory, with Bruce Wayne/Batman and nail-hard Commissioner Gordon particularly well-sketched. Usually disrespected Two-Face is absolutely perfect for prose, his dueling inner selves laid naked on the page making for the novel's best "dialogue." The Joker also kicks ass -- but the Joker, it must be said, always kicks ass.

Then there's Gotham. Considering the oppressive importance of this burg's psycho-architecture, from the comics to Fox TV's post-noir angles to Tim Burton's twisted cinematic version, No Man's Land is appallingly lacking in description. How this oversight made it past editorial is a mystery worthy of The World's Greatest Detective and reduces a decent effort to the level of summertime time-killer for batfans. -- Os Davis


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