A review of

Cocktails

by D.A. Powell

Central question: What is death but a lover held at bay?
Format: 72 pp., paperback; Size: 7” x 9”; Print run: 3,000; Price: $14; Publisher: Graywolf Press; Editor: Jeff Shotts Years spent in writing: 5; Book designer: Wendy Holdman; Cover design: Kyle G. Hunter; Text typeface: Minion; Agent: none; Product placements in Cocktails: Häagen-Dazs, Tide, Hefty, Viracept, Milton Bradley, Bounce, Safeway, Ferrari, Crixivan, Hostess, Mastercard, Levi’s 501s; Most abundant animals in book, in order of number of appearances: dogs, snakes, mollusks, swine, rabbits, deer; Representative line: “dogs and boys can treat you like trash.       and dogs do love trash”

D.A. Powell’s third book, Cocktails (think drinks, pills, cocks), does include some lines of terza rima, and its last word is stars, but I wish its promo copy didn’t announce the book “closes Powell’s contemporary Divine Comedy.” His books are anything but an update of Dante’s chaperoned trip heavenward; Powell invents and assembles from more ingredients than three familiar Italian tunes.

Cocktails resembles Tea (1998), Powell’s grieving-yet-hoping first book, more than the more playful Lunch (2000). Divided into “Mixology,” “Filmography,” and “Bibliography,” his third book’s drinks and films and biblios seep together, through each other, both in and out of their dedicated sections. The fourth line of the first Mixological poem ends with “plenty of chipped ice,” which is what Vivien Leigh, in the film version of Streetcar, tells sister Kim Hunter that her lemon Coke should contain. (Once upon a time, Tennessee Williams wrote a play that was made into a film scrubbed clean of the book’s queer subtext. And in this film there was a drink. And this drink traveled safely past the membrane separating books’ dangerous world and films’ safe one.)

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please purchase a copy of the magazine from The McSweeney’s Store.

—Sarah Manguso

Sarah Manguso is the author of The Captain Lands in Paradise. She teaches in the New School’s MFA program.

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