June, 2016

Barkskins, Stephen King and Orlando

by Elizabeth Taylor | Jun-20-2016

Annie Proulx's Barkskins attracted significant attention from book reviewers. 

Jeffrey Ann Goudie reviews the novel for the Kansas City Star. 

Board member Colette Bancroft reviews Barkskins for the Tampa Bay Times.  (Bancroft also reviews Stephen King's End of Watch  for the Tampa Bay Times,)

For the Houston Chronicle, Michael Magras reviews Barkskins. (He also reviews Benjamin Rybeck's The Sadness for the Houston Chronicle.)

For the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Jim Carmin reviews Barkskins. And for Oregonlive and The Oregonian, Jim Carmin writes on Pauls Toutonghi and his new book, Dog Gone

And, finally, past NBCC President and current VP/Online Jane Ciabattari leads off her column for LitHub with Barkskins. (She also includes the fiction of Lian Hearn, Max Porter, Yaa Gyasi and Anna Noyes.) 

Robert Fay reviews Hideo Furukawa's novel Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure for The Quarterly Conversation

Hélène Cardona reviews Cast Off by Daniel Simon for Poetry International.

Past NBCC Board Member Karen Long reviews The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America's National Parks for Newsday and Jill Lepore’s Joe Gould’s Teeth for the Los Angeles Times

Michael Leong reviews Christian Bök's The Xenotext: Book 1 for American Scientist.

Joe Peschel reviews Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend in the News & Observer. 

For Harrisburg Magazine, Harvey Freedenberg reviews Jennifer Haigh’s Heat and Light and also Lucia Berlin’s Manual for Cleaning Women.

For The Washington Independent Review of Books, Joseph A. Esposito reviews 67 Shots by Howard Means and also Five Presidents by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin.  

Julia M. Klein reviews Judith Freeman's The Latter Days for the Chicago Tribune and reviews Susan Faludi's In the Darkroom for the Boston Globe. For the Forward, Julia M. Klein reviews In Those Nightmarish Days: The Ghetto Reportage of Peretz Opoczynski and Josef Zelkowicz edited and with an introduction by Samuel D. Kassow; translated and co-edited by David Suchoff. 

Michael Lindgren writes about Michael Shelden’s Melville in Love and David O. Dowling’s Surviving the Essex for the Washington Post.  

Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviews The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine, by Ben Ehrenreich for the Los Angeles Times and Their Promised Land, My Grandparents in Love and War, by Ian Buruma for Truthdig

In Dallas Morning News, Robert Hoover reviews Grunt by Mary Roach.

Past Board member Eric Liebetrau reviews Sebastian Junger’s Tribe for the Boston Globe and also reviews James McBride’s Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul for Columbia Magazine.

Poets & Writers interviews LA Times Book Editor and past Board NBCC Board member Carolyn Kellogg. Asked what she is eager to read, she said,  "My prior regular reviewing responsibilities and my recently concluded tenure on the board of the National Book Critics Circle used to dominate my reading. I have Jean Stein’s West of Eden in my to-read pile and I’ll probably blend stuff I’ve missed—Anna Karenina!— with new books, like Idra Novey’s Ways to Disappear.”

Finally, in a closing note, as mourning and outrage follow tragedy in Orlando, past NBCC Board member Rigoberto Gonzales writes a moving essay in Buzzfeed titled “I Found A Home In Clubs Like Pulse In Cities Like Orlando." 


Your reviews seed this roundup. Please send items, including news about recent publications and honors, to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. (Current members only.) Please only send links that do not require a subscription or a username and password.

Critical Notes Catch-up: Louise Erdrich, Richard Russo, David Means, and more

by Michele Filgate | Jun-09-2016

Your reviews seed this roundup. Please send items, including news about recent publications and honors, to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. (Current members only.) Please only send links that do not require a subscription or a username and password.

NBCC board member Jane Ciabattari writes about the Bay Area Book Festival for Literary Hub.  (It includes embedded video of former NBCC president John Freeman interviewing NBCC criticism winner Rebecca Solnit.)

NBCC board member Colette Bancroft reviews “Blood, Bone, and Marrow: A Biography of Harry Crews” for the Tampa Bay Times.

NBCC board member Kate Tuttle interviews Negin Farsad for The Boston Globe.

NBCC board member Ron Charles considers Justin Cronin’s “The City of Mirrors” for The Washington Post.

NBCC board member Laurie Hertzel interviews Louise Erdrich for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Hertzel also reviews “Fever at Dawn,” by Peter Gardos and writes about the worst moms in literature.

NBCC board member Greg Barrios review’s HBO’s film based on Robert Schenkkan’s Tony award-winning play on Lyndon Baines Johnson for the Texas Observer.

NBCC board member and 2013 Balakian winner Katherine A. Powers reviews Simon Sebag Montefiore's "The Romanovs: 1613 – 1918” and C.E. Morgan’s “The Sport of Kings” for the Barnes & Noble Review. 

Former NBCC board member Rigoberto González writes about NBCC board member Greg Barrios for  NBC News.

Former NBCC board member Carolyn Kellogg, book editor at the Los Angeles Times, interviews Lisa Lucas, new head of the National Book Foundation.

Paul Devlin reviews "Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem" for Bomb Magazine.

Anjali Enjeti reviews Laurence Leamer’s “The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan” for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and writes about literary translations for Literary Hub.

Rebecca Donner reviews “Hystopia” by David Means for Bookforum.

David Cooper reviews “The Extra” by A.B. Yehoshua for the New York Journal of Books.

C.M. Mayo reviews Whitley Strieber and Jeffrey J. Kripal's “The Super Natural: A New Vision of the Unexplained” for Literal Magazine.

Bob Hoover reviews Nathaniel Philbrick’s “Valiant Ambition” for the Dallas Morning News and Richard Russo’s “Everybody’s Fool” for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Michael Sandlin reviews Jeremy Geltzer’s “Dirty Words and Filthy Pictures” for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

John Domini reviews Natashia Deón’s “Grace” and Allison Amend’s “Enchanted Islands” for the Brooklyn Rail, and Maurizio de Giovanni’s “The Bastards of Pizzofalcone” for Bookforum.

Michael Leong reviews Dorothy J. Wang’s Thinking Its Presence: Form, Race, and Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry for Contemporary Literature.

Dominic Green assesses the novels of Patrick Modiano in an essay for The New Criterion.

Ellen Akins reviews Jean Thomspon’s “She Poured Out Her Heart” and Louise Erdrich’s “LaRose” for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Diane Scharper reviews “The Berrigan Letters: Personal Correspondence between Daniel and Philip Berrigan” for Crux.

Jeffrey Ann Goudie reviews Louise Erdrich’s “LaRose” for the Kansas City Star.

Bradley Sides reviews Lee Clay Johnson’s “Nitro Mountain” for Electric Literature.

Paul Wilner reviews Richard Russo’s “Everybody’s Fool” for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Lisa Russ Spaar takes a look at second books of poetry by James Tate and Sam Taylor for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

George de Stefano reviews “Homintern: How Gay Culture Liberated the Modern World” by Gregory Woods for  PopMatters.

Lori Feathers reviews Peter Stamm’s “All Days Are Night” (translated by Michael Hoffman) for Three Percent.

Joe Peschel reviews “Hystopia” by David Means in the News & Observer.

Michael Magras reviews Louise Erdrich’s “LaRose” for the Houston Chronicle and Julian Barnes’s “The Noise of Time” for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Joan Silverman reviews Jill Lepore’s “Joe Gould’s Teeth” for the Portland Press Herald.

May, 2016

Critical Notes: Edna O’Brien, Don DeLillo, Helen Oyeyemi, Richard Russo, Adam Haslett, and more…

by Carmela Ciuraru | May-14-2016

Your reviews seed this roundup. Please send items, including news about recent publications and honors, to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. (Current members only.) Please only send links that do not require a subscription or a username and password.

Kevin O'Kelly reviews "American Rhapsody" by Claudia Roth Pierpont for the Christian Science Monitor.

NBCC president and Newsday books editor Tom Beer reviews Adam Haslett’s new novel, “Imagine me Gone."

Anita Felicelli reviews Shobha Rao's "An Unrestored Woman" for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Julia M. Klein reviews Andrew Nagorski's "The Nazi Hunters" for the Forward.

Heather Scott Partington reviews "Hystopia" by David Means for the Northwest Review of Books.

NBCC Board Member Mark Rotella writes about George Plimpton for Vanity Fair.

Michael Leong's reviews "Antithetical Poetics: Recent Books by Joseph Donahue" for Hyperallergic.

Jim Ruland reviews "Cities I've Never Lived In" by Sara Majka and "Making Nice" by Matt Sumell for San Diego CityBeat.

Kerri Arsenault interviews Declan Spring of New Directions Publishing for Lit Hub.

Fred Volkmer writes about Mark Ciabattari's "Preludes to History" and Louis Begley's "Kill and Be Killed" for 27East.com.

NBCC Board Member Kate Tuttle reviews recent nonfiction titles for the Boston Globe.

Michael Upchurch reviews “Our Young Man” by Edmund White for the New York Times Book Review, “The Road Taken: The History and Future of America’s Infrastructure” by Henry Petroski for the Washington Post, “Apostle” by Tom Bissell for the Seattle Times, and "Black Deutschland" by Darryl Pinckney for the Chicago Tribune.

Benjamin Woodard reviews "A Well-Made Bed" by Laurie Alberts and Abby Frucht for the Northwest Review of Books.

John Domini reviews "Zero K" by Don DeLillo for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and on Lit Hub, offers a reading list guide to Naples, the city of Elena Ferrante. For American Book Review, he writes about John Keene's "Counternarratives."

NBCC Board Member Colette Bancroft, recent winner of a first-place National Headliner Award, reviews Richard Russo for the Tampa Bay Times.

Diane Scharper reviews Helen Oyeyemi's stories, "What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours," for America Magazine.

Judy Krueger reviews Edna O'Brien's "The Little Red Chairs" at Litbreak.

Michael Magras reviews Adam Haslett's "Imagine Me Gone" for the Miami Herald.

NBCC Board Member Marion Winik interviews Richard Russo about "Everybody's Fool" in Newsday, and Ron Tanner about "Missile Paradise" in the Baltimore Fishbowl. Her column in the Fishbowl is a Hunter S. Thompson tribute.

Bob Hoover reviews Jennifer Haigh's "Heat and Light" for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

David Cooper reviews "Max's Diamonds" by Jay Greenfield for the New York Journal of Books.

Elizabeth Rosner reviews Viet Thanh Nguyen's "Nothing Ever Dies" for the San Francisco Chronicle.

NBCC Board Member Walton Muyumba reviews Don DeLillo's "Zero K" for Newsday.

Joseph Peschel interviews Allison Amend for the L.A. Review of Books.

Lori Feathers reviews "The Investigator" by Margarita Khemlin for World Literature Today.

Michael Lindgren reviews Moby’s memoir, "Porcelain" in the Washington Post.

NBCC Board Member Jane Ciabattari's "BBC Culture Books to Read in May" includes
new novels by NBCC award winner Louise Erdrich, C. E. Morgan, and more. For Lit Hub, she recently wrote about Maggie Nelson, C. D. Wright, and others.

Alexis Burling reviews "Imagine Me Gone" by Adam Haslett for the San Francisco Chronicle.

April, 2016

NBCC General Membership Meeting May 12 in Chicago

by Tom Beer | Apr-28-2016










The NBCC's 2016 membership meeting is scheduled during BookExpo America in Chicago next month, at the offices of the NBCC's pro bono law firm. Here are the details:

WHEN Thursday, May 12 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.
WHERE Quarles & Brady, 300 N. LaSalle St., Suite 4000, Chicago.
RSVP by May 10 to Tom Beer, tomnbeer@aol.com with subject line NBCC MEETING

The meeting is open to all members in good standing, but please do RSVP; your name must be on the list with security at the front desk. We plan to go to lunch at a nearby restaurant after the meeting; details to follow.

As a BEA special for lapsed freelance members, you may rejoin the NBCC for just $40 at the meeting on May 12. Pay by credit card or personal check at the meeting.

Please come and hear what the NBCC has been doing, and let us know what we can do better. We hope to see you there!

Best wishes,
Tom Beer

Critical Notes: Rob Spillman, Edna O’Brien, Hope Jahren, and more

by Michele Filgate | Apr-25-2016

Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including news about recent publications and honors, to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. (Current members only.) Please send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson interviewed Rob Spillman for the Los Angeles Times, and reviewed Hope Jahren's "Lab Girl" for the New York Times Book Review.

Hilton Als considers NBCC Criticism award winner Maggie Nelson, ending with her acceptance speech at the March 17 awards ceremony.

NBCC board member Greg Barrios has an essay called “Confession of a Counterculture Past” in a new anthology called “The Beatest State in The Union: An Anthology of Beat Texas Writing.”

NBCC board member Michele Filgate writes about Elizabeth Crane and her new book, “The History of Great Things,” for the Los Angeles Times.

NBCC board member Laurie Hertzel interviews Kao Kalia Yang about her memoir, “The Song Poet,” and reviews Curtis Sittenfeld’s “Eligible” for The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

NBCC winner Claudia Rankine is joining the Yale faculty.

Former NBCC board member Katharine Weber reviews “The Stopped Heart” by Julie Myerson for The New York Times Book Review.

Former NBCC board member Karen Long reviews “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren for The Seattle Times.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviews “Guapa” by Saleem Haddad for The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Alexis Burling reviews “The Nest” by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney and “Alice & Oliver” by Charles Bock for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Julia M. Klein reviews Chanan Tigay's "The Lost Book of Moses" for the Forward.

Jim Carmin writes about Diana Abu-Jaber and her new memoir, “Life Without a Recipe,” for The Oregonian.

Michelle Lancaster reviews “Sunset City” by Melissa Ginsburg for Lone Star Literary Life.

Jennifer Bort Yacovissi reviews “The Human Cost of Welfare: How the System Hurts the People It’s Supposed to Help” by Phil Harvey and Lisa Conyers for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Susan Balée reviews Edna O’Brien’s “The Little Red Chairs” for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Nathaniel Popkin reviews “Broken Mirrors” by Elias Khoury (translated by Humphrey Davies) for Public Books, and “Distant Light” by Antonio Moresco (translated by Richard Dixon), “Hill” by Jean Giono (translated by Paul Eprile), “Everything I Learned at the Beach” by Cynan Jones, “Half-Earth” by E.O. Wilson for Cleaver Magazine.

Carla Main reviews “Detroit Resurrected: To Bankruptcy and Back” by Nathan Bomey for City Journal.

Joan Silverman interviews Elizabeth Hand, the author of “Hard Light,” for the Portland Press Herald.

Morris Dickstein reviews three books on Jewish American writing in The Times Literary Supplement.

Harvey Freedenberg reviews Roger Angell’s “This Old Man” for Harrisburg Magazine and Rob Spillman’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties” for Bookreporter.

For Hyperallergic, Michael Leong wrote a piece called “Antiethical Poetics: Recent Books by Joseph Donahue.” 

Gina Webb reviews “Dimestore” by Lee Smith and “Hide” by Matthew Griffin for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Judy Krueger reviews “Innocents and Others” by Dana Spiotta at Litbreak.

Ellen Akins reviews “Margaret the First” by Danielle Dutton for The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

George de Stefano reviews “Fire and Blood: The European Civil War, 1914-1945” by Enzo Traverso (translated by David Fernbach) for PopMatters.

Diane Scharper reviews “The Giveness of Things” by Marilynne Robinson and “Girl in Glass” by Deanna Fei for the National Catholic Reporter.

Carl Rollyson reviews “A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century” by Jerome Charyn for the University Bookman.

NBCC member Michael Orthofer’s new book, “The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary Fiction,” is now available.

Julia M. Klein reviews “Rise of the Rocket Girls” by Nathalia Holt for The Boston Globe.

Joe Peschel reviews “Little Red Chairs” by Edna O’Brien for the News & Observer.

Steven G. Kellman reviews “Kill and Be Killed” by Louis Begley for the San Francisco Chronicle.

John Domini reviews “XX: Poems for the Twentieth Century” by Campbell McGrath for The Brooklyn Rail.

Kevin Zambrano reviews “Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine” by Diane Williams for Electric Literature.

Michael Magras reviews “Orson Welles: Volume 3” by Simon Callow for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Marion Winik in Newsday on Brenda JanowitzMaggie Nelson and Joanna Connors, and Charles Bock, and in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, by Laura Tillman.

NBCC Balakian winner Carlos Lozada on Winning the Balakian Award

by Carlos Lozada | Apr-21-2016

Good evening, and thank you for that generous introduction. I’d like to thank the National Book Critics Circle for seeing fit to hand its reviewing award this year to a rookie book critic, which means that right now my elation is lathered in insecurity.

I’m supposed to say something about my approach to criticism. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure it out. I’d been at The Washington Post for about ten years – overseeing coverage of economics, national security, and our Sunday opinion section Outlook – when I learned that Jonathan Yardley was going to retire, and I thought, “now that could be an interesting job for me.” So it was opportunism more than anything else.

But when you’re looking to succeed someone who has been in a job for more than thirty years, and to much acclaim, you need to say how you’re going to do it your own way. So my pitch was to try to bring book criticism to the center of the mission of The Washington Post – because nonfiction books are not just great literature, or big ideas, or feats of writing and reporting. They are, overwhelmingly, news.

Sometimes it’s easy to see them that way. Last summer, I wrote about the memoirs of Donald J. Trump, in which he writes, quite forthrightly, about his capacity for deception, or what he calls “truthful hyperbole.” And last month, I wrote about Hillary Clinton’s “It Takes a Village,” which, twenty years after its publication, is still the best distillation of her political project.

But those are obvious – they’re politicians or public figures, so it’s easy to regard their books as news. With other works, it gets murkier. If I read Susan Southard’s “Nagasaki,” is it fair to the book, to the author, to the survivors she writes about, if I review it in the context of the Iran nuclear deal? If Monica Lewinsky happens to give a TED talk about the shaming she endured during the 1990s on the same week that I happen to be reading Jon Ronson’s “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” should that coincidence color the way I review the book? Should I let it? And if Renaissance historian Victoria Coates writes a book about the interplay of art and democracy over the centuries, should the fact that she is Ted Cruz’s top foreign policy adviser affect how I see the book or the insights I hope to tease out?

The answer for me, in all those cases, is YES! Absolutely, yes. I do feel a little guilty about it, though. After all, when I’m reviewing a book that may have been years in the making, why should I be distracted by whatever is in the news that particular week, or by whatever I see on my Twitter timeline?

But I am distracted by all that, or, as I’d rather put it, informed by all that. Rather than read a book as an entirely self-contained work, or assess it against some literary standard or canon, I’d rather measure it against the moment. And depending on the moment, books can make news again and again. Bill Cosby’s bestsellers from the 1980s, considered so funny and cute and adorable back then, are revealing today in an entirely unexpected way, a creepy way – a newsworthy way. And reading Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” like I did last December, is an entirely different experience given the state of American politics today, and different for me, in my first months as an American citizen. It is, in essence, a new book.

To say that books are news does not demean them; it exalts them. It acknowledges that in whatever age they’re read, books will always be in dialogue with the times. This just happens to be our time.

Thank you for this award. It’s an enormous honor.

Carlos Lozada is the nonfiction book critic of the Washington Post, where he has also served as economics editor, national security editor and Outlook editor. Before joining the Post in 2005, he was managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine and a Knight-Bagehot fellow in economics and business journalism at Columbia University. A native of Lima, Peru, he has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

President’s Message to Membership: Fantastic Start to 2016

by Tom Beer | Apr-12-2016

Dear NBCC members:
We've had a fantastic start to the year here at the NBCC. Our reading and awards ceremony, held March 16-17 at The New School in New York, showcased an outstanding roster of books and writers, and our choices were widely recognized in the media.
On March 18, we welcomed five new people to the board who've never served before, and one returning member. The reading and deliberation for next year's awards have already begun. As in past years, we invite your input on the John Leonard Prize for Best First Book - more details to come on that prize and how you can get more involved.
Thanks to the work of Jane Ciabattari and several other members, we had a strong presence at AWP in Los Angeles (March 30-April 2). We had a booth, hosted an NBCC reading (Phil Klay, Amy Wilentz, Hector Tobar) and co-sponsored a party with LitHub and PEN USA.
Next month we continue "Making the Case: Critics on Literature," our series of talks at the Poetry & Literature Center of the Library of Congress, when board member Elizabeth Taylor speaks on "The Ecosystem of Fiction." Liz is a past NBCC president, co-editor of The National Book Review, and literary editor at large for the Chicago Tribune. The talk will take place Monday, May 2, at 12 noon in the Whittall Pavilion of the Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave. SE, Washington D.C. For more information, call 202-707-5394.
Finally, the NBCC general membership meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 12 from 10 a.m. to noon. In recent years the meeting has coincided with BEA in New York, and this year we've decided to follow the expo to Chicago and hold our annual meeting there. If you'll be in Chicago, I encourage you to join us for a discussion about the work and the future of the NBCC. RSVP to tomnbeer@aol.com and put "NBCC Meeting" in the subject line; I'll reply with meeting details. I look forward to seeing you.
Best wishes,
Tom Beer

Page 1 of 330 pages     1 2 3 >  Last ›

About the Critical Mass Blog

Commentary on literary criticism, publishing, writing, and all things NBCC related. It's written by independent members of the NBCC Board of Directors (see list of bloggers below).



Categories & Archives

Become a Friend of the NBCC

NBCC Awards

See all award winners

Find out how to submit

Read how we select

Frequently Asked Questions

Awards news

Videos and Podcasts

NBCC 2015 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2015 Finalists Reading

NBCC 2014 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2013 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2013 Finalists Reading

Video: New Literary Journals

Video: The VIDA Count and Gender Bias in Book Reviewing

Podcast: What Is Criticism? NBCC Winners and Finalists at AWP

All videos and podcasts.

The postings on this blog represent the views and opinions of each individual poster and are not representative of views held by the National Book Critics Circle as an organization, or the NBCC board as a whole. Everything on this blog is copyright protected

Online Committee