Five notable 2015 books by Pittsburgh-based writers, alphabetically by author or editor:
The Pittsburgh Anthology (Belt Publishing), edited by Eric Boyd. This book’s 38 contributors of nonfiction, poetry, visual art and photography range from relative unknowns to nationally known poets Robert Gibb and Terrance Hayes and 2015 MacArthur genius-grantee LaToya Ruby Frazier. Boyd excels at representing a gritty, historically grounded Pittsburgh that risks being swamped by a latter-day tsunami of hipsterism, civic boosterism and national “best city for” lists.
The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients’ Lives (Algonquin Press Chapel Hill), by Theresa Brown. Brown’s follow-up to Critical Care deepens the registered nurse and former English professor’s exploration of the health-care industry through her relationships with four very ill patients. The former New York Times columnist honors the work of nurses and the lives of patients — and arrives at some disturbing conclusions about hospitals.
the GAFFER (Arktoi Books), by Celeste Gainey. This debut poetry collection draws heavily from Gainey’s years in the film industry, when she worked on productions including Taxi Driver and was the first woman electrician admitted to the stagehands union. But whether her subject is filmmaking, fashion or sex, wrote CP critic Fred Shaw, “educational moments of experience and sharp-eyed expertise abound.”
How to Be Drawn (Penguin Poets), by Terrance Hayes. Hayes, already a National Book Award winner for 2010’s Lighthead, was a finalist for this collection, in which his experiments draw on forms ranging from séance instructions and conceptual maps to crime reports. And the volume showcases his characteristically scintillating wordplay, as in “Wigphrastic”: “The men all paws. Animals. The men all fangles, / the men all wolf-woofs and a little bit lost, lust / lustrous, trustless, restless as the rest of us.”
West of Sunset (Viking Penguin), by Stewart O’Nan. The veteran novelist (Last Night at the Lobster) drew raves coast to coast for this novel about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final, scuffling years, with its wonderfully imagined recreation of late-1930s Hollywood. West of Sunset offers an indelible portrait of a man, a time and a place: clear-eyed but still alive to the possibilities of romance and dreaming.
Also noted: Lori Jakiela’s latest memoir, Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe (Atticus Books); historian Gary Scott Smith’s Religion in the Oval Office (Oxford University Press); and Robert Yune’s debut novel, Eighty Days of Sunlight (Thought Catalog Books).