July, 2014

Roundup: David Mitchell’s Twitter story, Roxana Robinson, Maureen McLane, Patricia Lockwood, & More

by Jane Ciabattari | Jul-21-2014

Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.

Balakian award winner Parul Sehgal, NBCC fiction award winner Colson Whitehead, NBCC finalists Zadie Smith, Elif Batuman and Teju Cole,  NBCC pro bono angel Lauren Cerand, Rachel Fershleiser,  Maud Newton, Bethanne Patrick, among Flavorpill's 35 Writers Who Run the Literary Internet.

The NBCC Reads new series, "What's Your Favorite First Book Ever?" continues, with NBCC autobiography award winner Darin Strauss on James Joyce, and poet Grace Schulman on a dozen firsts, including Marianne Moore, Amy Clampitt, Phil Schulz, and Hortense Calisher. Not too late to send your choice.

NBCC fiction finalist David Mitchell tweets a new story, #TheRightSort.

NBCC Balakian award winner Katherine A. Powers reviews Kevin Birmingham's "The Most Dangerous Book" for the Barnes and Noble Review."...miraculously and happily," she writes, "'The Most Dangerous Book' is the farthest thing from redundant. Detailed, lucid, and attentive to character, it is a fast-paced, thoroughly absorbing history of Ulysses' coming-to-be, a tale of mishap as much as of triumph."

Authors Guild president Roxana Robinson says the indispensibility of writers is forgotten in the Amazon-Hachette battle.

Former NBCC board member Jessa Crispin reviews "Fifty Shades of Feminism" and "Hard-Core Romance" in her juxtaposition of the 50 Shades phenomonon with modern feminism in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

NBCC board member Rigoberto González on Michael Nava, Ramón Novarro, and a literary breakdown of ethnic and sexual barriers.

NBCC board member Eric Liebetrau reviews Elizabeth Mitchell's "Liberty's Torch" for the Boston Globe: "...she does readers a service by sifting fact from fiction in the creation of one our most beloved monuments, which would continue to “inspire the same sort of emotion and vision that led to her creation in the first place, the potent whimsy that made a young man from a picturesque village . . . [in] France dream that he, too, could achieve immortality.”

NBCC board member Colette Bancroft on James Lee Burke's "Wayfaring Stranger:" "Burke addresses many of the same themes he grapples with in his crime novels: power and corruption, integrity and depravity, America's indelible heritage of violence and oppression and the valor of those who have stood against it."

NBCC board member David Biespiel's new Rumpus poetry column begins, "The wisdom of poetry is a ladder to the underground. The wisdom of poetry is a rope dropped out of the skies. The wisdom of poetry is a passage past the rocks of doubt. The wisdom of poetry is the full receipt of both ancient and contemporary poetic forms."

Mark Rotella reviews Joseph Lucci's "My Two Italies" for NPR.org, concluding, "As for his own sense of being an Italian American, he strikes a bittersweet chord: 'We commemorate our past only to remind ourselves how far we have traveled from it.'"

Former NBCC board member David L. Ulin on Germaine Greer's "White Beech": "gorgeous writing, personal and heartfelt."

Jeff Gordonier's NYTBR review of ‘This Blue,’ by NBCC finalist and former board member Maureen N. McLane: "poems that keep you on your toes."

'Strange and riveting," is Edward Hirsch's response to "Falling Out of Time," the new novel by NBCC fiction finalist David Grossman in the NYTBR.

NBCC finalist Anne Carson's "The Albertine Workout" reviewed by Peter Freeman in Full Stop.

Former NBCC board member Lev Grossman's best-selling The Magicians trilogy coming to Syfy, pilot in the works.

Reader's Digest Books Editor Dawn Raffel's 23 contemporary writers to read.

Ron Charles, NBCC board member and Washington Post Book editor, tweets, "We're using the new Books page in Sunday Arts & Style to cover nonfiction & fiction related to A&E. New column for quirky book news too."

NBCC finalist and former board member Stephen Burt likes the new Patricia Lockwood collection:"It’s always wrong to judge a poem by its retweets, but when a literary work, by a poet not world famous for something else, gets hundreds of thousands of “shares,” “likes” and other such notices online, within weeks of publication, it’s time to ask why."

Clea Simon, reviewing in the Boston Globe, was "not that impressed by Eden Lepucki's "California" "However, I adored Lydia Netzer's "How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky" And here's her take on Emma Straub's "The Vacationers" for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Denise Low’s book "Mélange Block" reviewed in Brian Burnes’ “Readorama” section of the Kansas City Star. She reviews William Trowbridge, Patricia Lockwood, Kevin Young and Alarie Tennille in her latest Kansas City Star "On Poetry" column.  

Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviews Charles Seife's "Virtual Unreality: Just Because the Internet Told You, How Do You Know It's True?" in the Christian Science Monitor.  Here's his short review of Marja Mills's "The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee," for the Chicago Reader. 

Maureen Corrigan's take on "The Mockingbird Next Door": "Rather than warmed-over gossip, what "The Mockingbird Next Door" does offer is a rich sense of the daily texture of the Lee sisters' lives."

And NBCC board member Carolyn Kellogg writes about Harper Lee's puzzling reaction to Marja Mills' book in a letter to the press: " 'Rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood,' it reads. Lee, the 88-year old author of "To Kill a Mockingbird," signed the typed letter."

Grace Bello recommends Tiphanie Yanique's first novel, "Land of Love and Drowning" --"a family saga told with sensual prose"--as a summer read in Guernica.


NBCC Reads: What’s Your Favorite First Book Ever? Grace Schulman’s Dozen

by Grace Schulman | Jul-17-2014

"What's your favorite first book by an author ever?" That's the question that launches the seventh year of the NBCC Reads series, which draws upon the bookish passions of our members and honorees. Here's the fourth in this new series. It's not too late to send your critical essay on your own favorite to janeciab@gmail.com.

Wallace Stevens' Harmonium; Hart Crane's The White Buildings. Prose: Richard Hughes' High Wind in Jamaica; Hortense Calisher's In the Absence of Angels; Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man; Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road; Styron's The Long March.  Later poets: Philip Schultz, Like Wings--"a new music, fresh and yet with an ancient resonance, plaintive and yet brightly lit;" Amy Clampitt, The Kingfisher; Alfred Corn, All Roads at Once; Yerra Sugarman's Forms of Gone.  Marianne Moore's Observations (1924) was not her very first, but might count as that -- her first, Poems, was gotten together by Bryher and H.D. and published in London in 1921, to her surprise.

I can't say why I've picked these books. I don't know if I could live without them, but I wouldn't want to try.

Grace Schulman's seventh collection of poems, Without a Claim, appeared on September 10, 2013, from Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin. She is the author of The Broken String (Houghton, 2007), Days of Wonder: New and Selected Poems (Houghton, 2002), which was selected by Library Journal as one of the “best poetry books” of 2002, and was a finalist for the Phi Beta Kappa Award of that year; and The Paintings of Our Lives (Houghton, 2001), a selection of the Academy of American Poets’ Book Club. Among her honors are the Aiken Taylor Award for poetry, the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, New York University's Distinguished Alumni Award, and a Fellowship from the New York Council on the Arts. Her poems have received three Pushcart prizes. Editor of The Poems of Marianne Moore (Viking, 2003), the authorized edition, she is Distinguished Professor of English at Baruch College, CUNY. Her poems, essays, and translations have appeared widely in journals, here and abroad. Schulman is former director of the Poetry Center, 92nd Street Y, 1974-84, and former poetry editor of The Nation, 1971-2006. She lives in New York City and East Hampton, N. Y. with her husband, Jerome.

Roundup: Karl Ove Knausgaard, Susan Mizruchi, and remembering Nadine Gordimer

by Eric Liebetrau | Jul-15-2014

Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.


David Cooper reviews In the Illuminated Dark: Selected Poems of Tuvia Ruebner.

Meredith Sue Willis' latest novel is Love Palace from Irene Weinberger Books.

Clea Simon reviews A.X. Ahmad's The Last Taxi Ride. She also reviews Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

In the Chicago TribuneLisa Guidarini reviews Michael Cunningham's latest novel.

Heller McAlpin reviews The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills.

NBCC board member Tom Beer also reviews Mills' book.

Marion Winik interviews Francisco Goldman for The Nervous Breakdown and reviews Jojo Moyes and John Waters for Newsday.

NBCC board member Steven G. Kellman reviews The Zhivago Affair.

Julia M. Klein reviews Susan Mizruchi's Brando's Smile for the Boston Globe. Klein also reviews Jean Kwok's Mambo in Chinatown.

NBCC board member Walton Muyumba reviews Tiphanie Yanique's debut novel.

Julie Hakim Azzam reviews late reporter Michael Hastings' novel about the Iraq War media coverage, The Last Magazine.

NBCC board member Carolyn Kellogg remembers Nadine Gordimer.

For the Christian MonitorGrace Bello reviews Emily Gould's Friendship.

Morris Dickstein reviews My Cousin Harry: A Jewish Story of the Greatest Generation.

NBCC board member Gregg Barrios reviews The Book of Unknown Americans.

Jim Ruland reviews Brandon Hobson's Deep Ellum.

"The Thrill Is Gone," by Robert Birnbaum. And just in time for the All-Star break, Birnbaum takes a look at a few baseball books.

"The Poetry of Non-Poetry," by Michael Leong.

In her BBC column, NBCC board member Jane Ciabattari examines "F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton, Somerset Maugham, authors who created the shady side of the French Riviera."

LISTEN: Dan Kois, David Haglund, and New York Times Book Review editor Parul Sehgal discuss My Struggle: Book One, the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard’s autobiographical epic.

Linda Wolfe's latest Fab Over Fifty column.

"Stuart Dybek’s stories occupy a territory somewhere between Vladimir Nabokov and Nelson Algren." NBCC board member David Ulin reviews Dybek's stories.

This Week’s Roundup

by Jane Ciabattari | Jul-14-2014

This week's roundup of reviews and interviews by National Book Critics Circle members will be posted in the morning, Tuesday, July 15.

NBCC Reads: What’s Your Favorite First Book Ever? James Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’

by Darin Strauss | Jul-09-2014

"What's your favorite first book by an author ever?" That's the question that launches the seventh year of the NBCC Reads series, which draws upon the bookish passions of our members and honorees. Here's the third in this new series. It's not too late to send your critical essay on your own favorite to janeciab@gmail.com.

This is a hard one.  The Book of John? The Iliad?
Of books that have a known provenance (Sorry, whoever wrote The Two Gentlemen of Verona), it'd be difficult to top Dubliners.
Containing the consensus "Greatest Short Story in English" ("The Dead"); laying down the epiphanic model that has given workshop-know-it-alls workshop ammunition for generations; written when Joyce was 23 years old, this book is probably J.J.'s most beloved (if not best). If he never wrote another book, he'd be considered the greatest Irish fiction writer and the greatest practitioner of the English-language short story. Not bad for a kid out of school (with no MFA).  


A recipient of a National Book Critics Circle Award, the Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Library Association Award, and numerous other prizes, the internationally bestselling writer Darin Strauss is the author of the novels Chang & Eng, The Real McCoy, and More Than It Hurts You, and the NBCC-winning memoir Half a Life. In addition, Strauss has recently been named an opinion columnist at Al-Jazeera America, has written screenplays for Disney, Gary Oldman, and Julie Taylor, and is the Clinical Associate Professor of Fiction at NYU's creative writing program.

Roundup: J.K. Rowling, Lily King, Dave Eggers and the summer’s best debut novels

by Eric Liebetrau | Jul-07-2014

Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.


"Rowling spins web of mystery in hall of mirrors." NBCC board member Carolyn Kellogg on the author's latest.

Heller McAlpin reviews Joel Dicker's breakneck thriller The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair.

Julia M. Klein reviews Sue Miller's The Arsonist for the Chicago Tribune. She also reviews Michael Hastings' The Last Magazine for Columbia Journalism Review.

Novelist Mohsin Hamid selects Matthew Jakubowski's experimental review, "honest work," for the Charm Quark award in the 3QD Arts & Literature Prize 2014.

Daniel Dyer reviews Michael Blanding's The Map Thief.

Megan Labrise interviews Mira Jacob, author of The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing, for the cover of Kirkus Reviews. She also speaks with debut novelist Alyson Foster.

Barbara Hoffert explores the summer's best debut novels.

"When you do not allow yourself to follow your impulses, it’s not that you are eluding or destroying those impulses. Instead, you’re converting what was potentially necessary to your imagination into something darker, less stable, and more insidious. Avoidance destroys your creative imagination. Avoidance destroys your ability to write." NBCC board member David Biespiel's latest Poetry Wire.

Rhonda Browning White reviews Jon Sealy's debut novel, The Whiskey Baron.

Robert Birnbaum on the reissue of Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems.

NBCC board member Jane Ciabattari reviews Lily King's Euphoria.

"Friendship: A Startlingly Nice Novel By A Tough-Girl Blogger." Maureen Corrigan reviews Emily Gold's debut novel.

Benjamin Moser reviews American Crucifixion by Alex Beam.

Eggers' career travels a fascinating path. NBCC board member Mark Athitakis reviews the author's new novel.

June, 2014

Roundup: Jennifer Weiner, Tom Robbins, Ruth Reichl, and more books about futbol

by Eric Liebetrau | Jun-30-2014

Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.


Julia M. Klein reviews Max Egremont's Some Desperate Glory for the Chicago Tribune.

"In My Solitude: Esoterica & Fragments," from Robert Birnbaum. For the Daily Beast, Birnbaum provides "The Literature of Futbol: 11 Great Books About Soccer." Birnbaum also takes a look at J.D. Salinger.

Helen W. Mallon considers Jennifer Weiner’s relevance to the ongoing issue of women’s representation in book review outlets.

Susannah Nesmith reviews Michael Blanding's The Map Thief.

In the Los Angeles Review of BooksLisa R. Spaar examines the poetry of Louise Glück and Anne Shaw.

John Griswold (writing as Oronte Churm) reviews David Foster Wallace's Both Flesh and Not.

Julie Hakim Azzam reviews Katherine Faw Morris's Southern Gothic novel, Young God.

Celia McGee reviews Kathryn Ma's The Year She Left Us. She also reviews Emma Straub's The Vacationers.

Mike Berry reviews Tom Robbins' new memoir, Tibetan Peach Pie.

In the Boston Globe, John Domini reviews Further Joy by John Brandon. The Brooklyn Rail reviews Domini's new book.

Harvey Freedenberg reviews Aleksandar Hemon’s The Book of My Lives.

"When We Read Fiction, How Relevant Is the Author’s Biography?" Thomas Mallon and Adam Kirsch consider.

Joe Peschel reviews David Guterson’s story collection Problems with People.

NBCC board member Carmela Ciuraru takes a look at some newly released books.

Leora Skolkin-Smith reviews Wreckage of Reason II: Back to the Drawing Board.

Maureen Corrigan reviews Kevin Birmingham's The Most Dangerous Book.

NBCC board member Jane Ciabattari considers Frank O'Hara, poet of the Mad Men Era and prophet of the Internet.

Heller McAlpin reviews Ruth Reichl's first novel, "an enthusiastic but cloyingly sentimental story about a 21-year-old who finds happiness by making peace with her past."

Joelle Biele reviews T.J. Jarrett's Ain't No Grave for Kenyon Review. She also reviews Jamaal May's Hum for Boston Review.

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