June, 2019

New from NBCC critics: Elizabeth Gilbert, Nicole Dennis-Benn and lots more

by Carolyn Kellogg | Jun-18-2019

The latest interviews, reviews and more from our members.

Kristen Evans talked to Elizabeth Gilbert about her new novel City of Girls for Buzzfeed.

Terese Svoboda reviewed Last Day by Domenica Ruta for the NY Times Book Review.

Barbara J. King reviewed Giants of the Monsoon Forest by Jacob Shell for NPR.

Lisa Russ Sparr reviewed three poetry collections at VQR: Sight Lines by Arthur Sze, Honeyfish by Lauren K. Alleyne and Anagnorisis by Kyle Dargan.

Jenny Shank reviewed Nicole Dennis-Benn's Patsy for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson reviewed Franco Moretti's Far Country for Barnes & Noble Review and Ryan Chapman's novel Riots I Have Known for Book & Film Globe.

Lanie Tankard reviewed Christian Kiefer's novel Phantoms for Woven Tale Press.

Nathan Webster reviewed Ryan Leigh Dostie's military memoir Formation for The Daily Beast.

Michelle Newby Lancaster reviewed the novel Cabañuelas by Norma Elia Cantú at Lone Star Literary Life.

Sarah McCraw Crow reviewed the novel Light from Other Stars by Erika Swyler at Bookpage.

George de Stefano reviewed Which Side Are You On? by James Sullivan for Popmatters

Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviewed Casey Cep's Furious Hours for Popmatters.

John Domini reviewed David Shields' The Trouble With Men for the Brooklyn Rail.

Chelsea Leu reviewed Elizabeth Rush's Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore for Bay Nature.

Tobias Carroll talked to Kristen Arnett about her novel Mostly Dead Things at Longreads, about translating prose to comics at LitHub and, for Tor.com, reviewed Longer by Michael Blumlein and Brian Evenson's new short story collection Song for the Unraveling World.

Zach Graham reviewed Evenson's Song for the Unraveling World for Epiphany.

Jake Klein reviewed Karen Russell's new short story collection Orange World in The Atlantic.

NBCC board member Carolyn Kellogg reviewed The Besieged City by Clarice Lispector for the Los Angeles Times.

Other news

Following a stroke four years ago that felled him for a long stretch, Steve Weinberg--three-term NBCC board member and newsletter editor--cut way back on his freelance reviewing. Currently, he reviews nonfiction books almost every week for Kirkus, edited by Eric Liebetrau, Laurie Muchnick and Tom Beer, all former NBCC board members. Because Kirkus maintains its policy of unbylined reviews, Weinberg cannot send a link to any specific review without revealing his identity.

And member Julie Wittes Shlack recieved a starred review at Kirkus for her memoir This-All-At-Onceness (not, as far as we know, from Steve).

Longtime NBCC member John Domini has just published a novel, The Color Inside a Melon, with Dzanc Books. It is reviewed this week in the Washington Post by NBCC board member Mark Athitakis. 


NBCC members: Send us your stuff! Your work may be highlighted in this roundup; please send links to new reviews, features and other literary pieces, or tell us about awards, honors or new and forthcoming books, by dropping a line to NBCCcritics@gmail.com.


Photo of Elizabeth Gilbert and her novel City of Girls via Gilbert on Twitter @GilbertLiz.

Critical Notes: Member News, Summer Books, and a Word About the Sandrof

by admin | Jun-10-2019

We Still Need Your Help Selecting the Next Sandrof Award Winner

Do you want the chance to help pick the next winner of the NBCC’s Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award? We hope so, because we need your help!

The Sandrof Award, named after the first president of the NBCC, is given annually to a person or institution — a writer, publisher, critic, or editor, among others — who has, over time, made significant contributions to book culture.

Past winners of the award have included Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, PEN American Center, Studs Terkel and Wendell Berry. Thanks to the hard work of our NBCC members, we’ve got a great slate of nominees for next year’s award — but we’d love your help adding some more names to the list!

Any institution or living person can be nominated for the award, and a list of previous winners is available on the NBCC website. If you know of a person or group who you think is deserving of the award, please send their name and a 1-3 paragraph nominating statement to Sandrof Award Committee Chair Michael Schaub at mschaubtx@gmail.com. Nominations are open until Dec. 1, 2019. We’d love to hear from you!

And Now for Some Member Reviews and News...

Star Tribune senior editor for books (and NBCC board president) Laurie Hertzel devoted much of her May to producing a four-page wrap-around summer books section, which includes recommendations of 45 books. She also reviewed 10 picture books by Minnesota authors and illustrators.

Also in the Strib, Hamilton Cain reviews Chia-Chia Lin’s The Unpassing, calling it “an eloquent, unsparing testament to the vicissitudes of our lives.”

NBCC board member Gregg Barrios did not throw away his shot to review a performance of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster musical Hamilton at the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio.

NBCC board member Anjali Enjeti reviewed De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s debut novel, In West Mills, for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, calling it “surprising and irresistible at every turn.”

NBCC board member Michael Schaub reviewed Nicole Dennis-Benn’s “brave, brilliant” Patsy for NPR.

Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous earned two reviews at NPR, from Heller McAlpin and Maureen Corrigan.

David Canfield and Leah Greenblatt celebrated Pride Month at Entertainment Weekly, reviewing two books by LGBTQ authors: Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and Nicole Dennis-Benn’s Patsy.

Joseph Peschel reviewed Oscar Cásares’s Where We Come From for the Brooklyn Rail, calling the Texas author’s novel “a story that transcends politics — a fiction to tell a truer truth.”

In this corner, we have Barbara J. King coming out swinging with a one-two punch, reviewing Lewis Dartnell's Origins: How Earth's History Shaped Human History for the Washington Post and Robert Macfarlane's Underland: A Deep Time Journey for NPR.

Michael J. McCann also had a pair of reviews published recently, both in the New York Journal of Books: read his takes on James Ellroy’s The Storm and David Ricciardi’s Rogue Strike.

Paul W. Gleason reviewed John Barton’s A History of the Bible for Newsday.

Binnie Kirshenbaum’s Rabbits for Food, ten years in the making, has been getting rave reviews, most recently from Robert Allen Papinchak, who called it “astounding” and “an impressive achievement” at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Speaking of Binnie Kirshenbaum, Kimberly King Parsons interviewed the author about literature, comedy, and cats for Bomb magazine. (Be sure to check out Kimberly’s short story collection, Black Light, which will be published by Vintage in August.)

New NBCC member Jake Cline (welcome to the party, Jake!) reviews Florida author Kristen Arnett’s Mostly Dead Things for the Washington Post.

Also at the Post, Michael Lindgren celebrates the spring by reviewing two books about baseball.

Over at Splice Today, Paul Wilner reviewed Stanley Booth's entertainingly titled Red Hot and Blue: Fifty Years of Writing About Memphis, Music and Motherf**kers. Kick out the jams!

Christoph Irmscher reviewed James Poskett's Materials of the Mind and penned a tribute to Walt Whitman, both for the Wall Street Journal.

Julia M. Klein reviewed David Maraniss's A Good American Family for the Forward.

Jean Huets reviewed Kathryn Scanlan’s Aug 9—Fog at Ron Slate’s On the Seawall.

Former NBCC president Kate Tuttle wrote a dispatch from BookExpo for the Los Angeles Times, in which she stans a furry legend known as Grumpy Cat.

Nicole Rudick profiled Tin House on the occasion of its 20th anniversary and final issue for the New York Times.

And finally, some great news from one of our board members: Our man in San Antonio, Gregg Barrios, has received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and will be spending his summer in Key West and Tampa to complete work on his upcoming theater projects. Congratulations, Gregg!

Photo of Nicole Dennis-Benn by Wikipedia user Kiwi876, used under Creative Commons license.

Reviews and more to kick off June from the National Book Critics Circle

by Carolyn Kellogg | Jun-03-2019

From the NBCC's Emerging Critics:

Just in time for June’s Pride celebrations, Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers reviewed Bruce Cinnamon’s The Melting Queen and Michael Carroll’s short story collection, Stella Maris and Other Key West Stories, both for Foreword Reviews’ LGBTQ+ Spotlight edition.

J. Howard Rosier reviewed Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family by Mitchell S. Jackson for Bookforum.

The Best Translated Book Awards were announced this week, with the fiction award going to Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau, translated from French and Creole by Linda Cloverdale and poetry going to Of Death. Minimal Odes by Hilda Hilst translated from Portuguese by Laura Cesarco Elgin. Here are some reviews from our members of new translated works:

Benjamin Woodard reviewed Duanwad Pimwana's Bright and Arid Dreams, originally pubslihed in Thai, for Words Without Borders. 

Brian Haman reviewed Marion Poschmann's The Pine Islands and Christine Wunnicke's The Fox and Dr Shimamura, both originally published in German, at the Asian Review of Books.

Rod Davis reviewed the new translation of German author Uwe Johnson’s classic Anniversaries in The Baffler's May-June issue.

Ron Slate reviewed Migrant Brothers: A Poet’s Declaration of Human Dignity by Patrick Chamoiseau at On the Seawall.

More reviews and features: 

Christoph Irmscher reviewed James Poskett's Materials of the Mind in the Wall Street Journal.

Jenny Shank reviewed Naamah by Sarah Blake for America, the Jesuit Review.

Hamilton Cain wrote about David Epstein and his book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World at LitHub.

At Kirkus reviews, Richard Z. Santos profiled Cherríe Moraga and her new memoir Native Country of the Heart and Fernando Flores and his debut novel Tears of the Truffle Pig. And Jean Huets reviewed Tears of the Truffle Pig at Ploughshares.

Danielle Trussoni highlights great new horror reads in the New York Times; if you can, dive into this summer books preview on your phone.

Janet Sternburg reviewed Maria Popova's Figuring at the LA Review of Books.

Barbara J. King reviewed Lewis Dartnell's Origins: How Earth's History Shaped Human History, for the Washington Post.

Jane Ciabattari recommends 10 books to read in June at the BBC, including The Summer Demands by Deborah Shapiro, Lauren Acampora's Paper Wasp, Liza Wieland's Paris, 7 a.m. and My Parents/This Does Not Belong to You by Aleksandar Hemon.

Wayne Catan reviewed Ernesto: The Untold Story of Hemingway in Revolutionary Cuba by Andrew Feldman in the Idaho Statesman.

Katherine A. Powers highlighted 3 summer audiobooks -- The Lost Man by Jane Harper, Good Riddance by Elinor Lipman and How to Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr -- for the Chicago Daily Herald.

Heller McAlpin reviewed The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion for NPR Books.

Martha Anne Toll reviewed Gregory Spatz's What Could Be Saved for NPR Books.

Reviews and news from members of the NBCC board:

Mark Athitakis reviewed Dorian Lynskey's The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's '1984' for Newsday.

Carolyn Kellogg reviewed Roxana Robinson's novel Dawson's Fall for the Washington Post (Robinson is also a member of the National Book Critics Circle). 

Marion Winik reviewed Dawson's Fall and The Peacock Feast by Lisa Gornick on her podcast The Weekly Reader, as well as That Good Night by Sunita Puri and Women's Work by Megan Shack. She also was awarded the Towson Prize for Literature for her book The Baltimore Book of the Dead.

Keri Arsenault remembers biographer Edmund Morris at LitHub.

Other news from our members:

Grace Schulman has edited a poetry collection, Mourning Songs: Poems of Sorrow and Beauty, out this month from New Directions. In May she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Congratulations!

And congratulations to Tom Beer, who will become the new editor in chief of Kirkus Reviews. He makes the move after 11 years leading the books coverage at Newsday.

NBCC members: Send us your stuff! Your work may be highlighted in this roundup; please send links to new reviews, features and other literary pieces, or tell us about awards, honors or new and forthcoming books, by dropping a line to NBCCcritics@gmail.com.

Photo: Gay Pride by Dave Pitt via Flickr/Creative Commons non-commercial license.

May, 2019

Critical Notes: Audiobooks, new books, book reviews, forthcoming books. Or, we might just say, BOOKS

by Laurie Hertzel | May-27-2019

NBCC board member Katherine A. Powers reviewed the audiobook versions of The Lost Man by Jane Harper, Good Riddance by Elinor Lipman and How to Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr in her monthly column for the Washington Post. She also reviewed five books about travel for the Post's annual summer books guide.

"There is always one book that I use when I write, something I flip open every morning before I start, reading from any page," NBCC member Roxana Robinson tells former NBCC president Jane Ciabattari for her Lit Hub/Book Marks column. "For Dawson’s Fall, this book was Wolf Hall, in which Hilary Mantel shows that the phrase 'historical novel' needn’t mean stiff, romantic or stereotyped." (And more good news: Mantel, who won the NBCC's fiction award in 2010 for Wolf Hall, has announced that The Mirror and the Light, the third novel in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, is coming in March 2020.)

Ellen Akins reviewed Lanny by Max Porter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Tobias Carroll has been super-busy, reviewing Julián Herbert's The House of the Pain of Others for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Masande Ntshanga's Triangulum for Tor.com, and writing his Watchlist column for Words Without Borders.

That said, was he as busy as NBCC Emerging Critic Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers, who had six reviews published? (Not that this is a competition. We are all busy. But still. Six!) Here they are: Kimi Eisele’s The Lightest Object in the UniverseErica Boyce's The Fifteen Wonders of Daniel Green, Carrie Laben’s A Hawk in the Woods, West Camel’s Attend, and Michael Croley’s short story collection, Any Other Place, all for a special debut fiction feature in Foreword ReviewsAnd, for a different edition of Foreword, she reviewed Carolyn Kirby’s The Conviction of Cora Burns, a new historical fiction set in Victorian Britain whose social issues are eerily reminscient of our own.  

David Galef reviewed Kaddish.com by Nathan Englander for the Yale Review.

Diane Scharper reviewed three books for the National Catholic ReporterWomen Rowing North by Mary Pipher, Mother Winter by Sophia Shalmiyev, and Maid by Stephanie Land. 

Michele Ross reviewed John Sandford's Neon Prey, Anne Perry's (editor) anthology Odd Partners and Jeffery Deaver's The Never Game for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which is still not posting book reviews online. Better buy a print subscription, folks.

Former NBCC board member Dan Cryer reviewed Furious Hours by Casey Cep for the Boston Globe.

George de Stefano reviewed Which Side Are You On? by James Sullivan for Pop Matters.

Former board member Ron Charles posted a "Totally Hip Book Review" of Cari Mora, a thriller by Thomas Harris, the creator of Hannibel Lector. (Watch it and scream.) (With fright? With laughter? At the adorableness of the stuffed lamb?)

Julia M. Klein reviews Daniel Okrent's The Guarded Gate for the Boston Globe and Julia M. Klein reviews Justice John Paul Stevens' The Making of a Justice for the Chicago Tribune.

And some splended news... 

Mary Mackey's most recent collection of poetry The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams: New and Selected Poems 1974 to 2018 (Marsh Hawk Press)  has won the 2019 Eric Hoffer Award for the Best Book Published by a Small Press. The Hoffer Award highlights salient writing, as well as the independent spirit of small publishers. Since its inception, the Hoffer has become one of the most important international book awards for small, academic, and independent presses and a platform for and the champion of the independent voice.

And Cliff Garstang's new novel, The Shaman of Turtle Valley, has been published by Braddock Avenue Books.

NBCC members within driving distance of San Francisco are invited to the 9th annual NBCC/Zyzzyva cockatil party celebrating criticism and literature in the Bay Area. It's Sunday June 3 at the McEvoy Center for the Arts; for details and to RSVP, email co-host Jane Ciabattari, janeciab@gmail.com

Painting 'Old Woman Reading' by Hungarian artist Sandor Galimberti, 1907. In the public domain.

Send us your stuff! Your work may be highlighted in this roundup; please send links to new reviews, features and other literary pieces, or tell us about awards, honors or new and forthcoming books, by dropping a line to NBCCcritics@gmail.com.

Laurie Hertzel is the senior editor for books at the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the president of the NBCC board.

Critical Notes: Wordplay, Amy Hempel, and Fernando A. Flores

by admin | May-20-2019

NBCC board president Laurie Hertzel reviewed Mary Miller's novel Biloxi for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where she is senior editor for books. (It's about a dog. And redemption. And middle age. How could she not review it?) She also wrote a recap of the inaugural Wordplay book festival for her weekly column.

Former NBCC president Tom Beer interviewed John Glynn about Out East: Memoir of a Montauk Summer for Newsday, where he is books editor.

Former NBCC president Jane Ciabattari shares her latest Lit Hub/Book Marks column, in which she discusses five books about trees with Max Porter, including Calvino's The Baron in the Trees and Laura Beatty's Pollard.

And here's Jane’s report from the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley, which includes a panel with two John Leonard award finalists (Jamel Brinkley and R.O. Kwon), a courage in publishing panel with newly minted Pulitzer winner Carlos Lozada (also winner of the NBCC's Balakian award), former NBCC president John Freeman, Paris Review editor Emily Nemens and New York Times ethics columnist Kwame Anthony Appiah.

NBCC board member Madeleine Schwartz wrote about the criminally neglected novelist Lore Segal for Harper’s.

Katherine Hill reviewed Amy Hempel’s short story collection Sing to It for the New Republic, making note of the author’s brevity, which is to say, the fact that she doesn’t use too many words to make a point, which is a special talent, and an enviable one, because reading something where the author just keeps going on and on can be quite tedious, which is to say, tiresome, monotonous, wearying and soporific, and we strongly encourage all writers to take special care not to do this, because, honestly, just get to the point already.

NBCC board member Michael Schaub reviewed Karen Russell’s new Orange World for NPR, and interviewed Where We Come From author Oscar Cásares for the Los Angeles Times.

At NPR, Martha Anne Toll reviewed Lorene Cary’s “thoroughly engaging” Ladysitting: My Year With Nana At The End Of Her Century.

Kamil Ahsan reviewed Chia-Chia Lin’s “brutal, but marvelous” The Unpassing for the A.V. Club.

Michelle Newby Lancaster reviewed Spying on the South by Tony Horwitz for Lone Star Literary Life, as did Mary Ann Gwinn for Newsday.

In Newsday, Gerald Bartell wrote about three novels that take place in the Hamptons (hey, just in time for summer!).

Heller McAlpin wrote a tribute to baking maven Maida Heatter and to her late, lamented Christian Science Monitor editor and fellow baking aficionado, Marjorie Kehe, on the occasion of the publication of Heatter’s greatest hits, Happiness is Baking, for the Monitor. She also reviewed Max Porter's Lanny for NPR, and Jayson Greene’s Once More We Saw Stars for Washington Post.

Robert Allen Papinchak's essay review of Sarah Weinman's The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World appeared in The Millions.

Oline Cogdill reviewed Michael Koryta’s If She Wakes for the Associated Press.

Mike Lindgren contributed a one-two punch to the Washington Post: a review of David Rowell’s Wherever the Sound Takes You, and a consideration of shock jock Howard Stern’s latest book.

Paul Wilner reviewed Joel Mowdy’s “indelible” short story collection Floyd Harbor for Zyzzyva.

NBCC Emerging Critic Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers reviewed Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights and Rebecca Solnit’s Cinderella Liberator for the spring issue of Orion Magazine.

Lanie Tankard reviewed Duanwad Pimwana's novel Bright for The Woven Tale Press.

Barbara Spindel has been busy diving into nonfiction, reviewing George Packer's Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century for the Christian Science Monitor and the anthology What My Mother and I Don't Talk About (edited by former NBCC board member Michele Filgate) for the Barnes & Noble Review.

Tobias Carroll wrote about Hwang Jungeun’s I’ll Go On for Review31, and discussed Oakley Hall’s fiction at CrimeReads.

Jessica Smith reviewed Cynthia Arrieu-King's Futureless Languages for Fence Digital.

Kathleen Rooney wrote about Lara Prior-Palmer’s new memoir, Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race, for the Star Tribune.

Ellen Wayland-Smith reviewed Briallen Hopper’s Hard to Love for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

When did you first see yourself in a book? That’s the question Anita Felicelli asked 13 Asian American and Pacific Islander authors for this fascinating piece in Bustle. Anita also reviewed Fernando A. Flores’ Tears of the Trufflepig for On the Seawall; NBCC board member Michael Schaub wrote about the novel as well, for the Texas Observer.

Dana Wilde has had a busy month, reviewing Balancing Act 2: A Book of Poems by Fifty Maine Women for The Cafe Review, Adam Tavel's Richard Wilbur Award-winning collection of poems Catafalque for Rain Taxi, and Ghosts, poems by Mark Melnicove and paintings by Abby Shahn, in his Central Maine Newspapers Off Radar column.

Over at On the Seawall, Rochelle Spencer wrote about the return of The Langston Hughes Review.

Some cool member news: Meg Waite Clayton's forthcoming The Last Train to London, a novel based on the true story of the Kindertransport rescue of ten thousand children from Nazi-occupied Europe and one brave woman who helped them escape, sold at auction here and in Israel, and is now also going to be translated into a dozen languages.

Jessica Smith’s new book of poetry, How to Know the Flowers, is now available from Veliz Books.

NBCC members: Send us your stuff! Your work may be highlighted in this roundup; please send links to new reviews, features and other literary pieces, or tell us about awards, honors or new and forthcoming books, by dropping a line to NBCCcritics@gmail.com.

Photo of Ross Gay by Slowking, used under Creative Commons license.

Send us your stuff! Your work may be highlighted in this roundup; please send links to new reviews, features and other literary pieces, or tell us about awards, honors or new and forthcoming books, by dropping a line to NBCCcritics@gmail.com.

Critical Notes: David Sedaris, Julie Orringer, and Two Upcoming NBCC Events!

by Mark Athitakis | May-13-2019

A Quick Reminder About Sustainers

If you or someone you know wants to support the NBCC’s efforts but isn't a member, we’ve recently launched the Sustainer category. Sustainers are nonmembers who support the next generation of literary writers through our Emerging Critics program and keep our awards, events, and this website humming. More information about becoming a Sustainer is at our membership page.

On to the Links...

So, how’s the book review going? We don’t mean the one you’re working on---we’re sure that one is going just great. We mean the book review as a general endeavor. In response to a recent Harper’s cover story on the alleged death of the book review, Lit Hub invited 14 book critics to weigh in. Among the respondents are NBCC President Laurie Hertzel, VP of Communications Kerri Arsenault, and Emerging Critic Leena Soman.

Speaking of LitHub, we neglected to include a link to board member Lori Feathers’ review of Ali Smith’s Spring---an essay that launches her new column for the site, “In Context.” Ellen Akins also reviewed Spring for the Washington Post.

“When Notre Dame burned, I felt nothing. There’s no shortage of 12th century churches around Europe.” At the Tampa Bay Times, Collette Bancroft interviewed David Sedaris about his latest book, Calypso.

Ru Freeman reviewed Laila Lalami’s novel The Other Americans for the Boston Globe.

Robert Allen Papinchak reviewed Ian McEwan’s speculative tale of sex and robots, Machines Like Me, for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Alexander Kafka reviewed Lynne Olson's Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against Hitler. “Olson’s research is comprehensive, her writing crackling, and her story astonishing,” he writes. Kafka also reviewed Bee Wilson’s The Way We Eat Now for the Washington Post.

Tara Cheesman reviewed Virginie Despentes’ novel Pretty Things for Barrelhouse.

Former NBCC president Jane Ciabattari's May BBC Culture column includes new novels from Julie Orringer, Sarah Blake, an exhilarating debut memoir about a horse race across Mongolia. and a new story collection from Karen Russell, who " spins intricate sentences and pulls off head-spinning shifts, pushing language to its limits." Her recent Lit Hub/Book Marks columns feature exchanges with Leah Hager Cohen about novels with sprawling families and with Binnie Kirshenbaum about unforgettable novels about mental distress, including Rebecca West's Return of the Soldier, which explores post-World War I PTSD.

At the New York Journal of Books, Karl Wolff reviews Deborah Sengl’s visual adaptation of Karl Kraus’ play The Last Days of Mankind.

Balakian finalist Julia M. Klein reviewed two books on Emmett Till, Dave Tell’s Remembering Emmett Till and Elliott J. Gorn’s Let the People See, for the Chicago Tribune. She also interviewed Emily Jungmin Yoon about her poetry collection, A Cruelty Special to Our Species, for the Pennsylvania Gazette.

Eric Nguyen reviewed Richard Chiem's novel of “troubled, lonely humanity in the internet age,” King of Joy, for LARB’s diaCRITICS channel.

Michelle Newby Lancaster reviewed Oscar Cásares’ novel Where We Come From for Lone Star Literary Life.

Wayne Catan reviewed three new books about Ernest Hemingway in the Idaho Statesman.

Speaking of Papa: The busy Steve Paul reviewed Andrew Feldman’s Ernesto: The Untold Story of Hemingway in Revolutionary Cuba for Booklist. Paul also interviewed Tommy Orange (There There), winner of the NBCC's John Leonard Prize and the PEN/Hemingway Award, for a forthcoming issue of the Ernest Hemingway Society newsletter. And he writes about his current book project, a projected biography of Evan S. Connell, in a "Work in Progress" essay for New Letters magazine.

Paul Wilner reviewed Christian Kiefer’s novel Phantoms for Alta, calling Kiefer “an important literary voice coming into his own,” and reviewed Joshua Furst’s novel Revolutionaries, about the 60s US counterculture, for the website Splice Today.

Back in the present and one continent over, Brian Haman reviewed Charmaine Leung’s memoir of her roots in Singapore, 17A Keong Saik Road, for Singapore Unbound. He also reviewed Jun Yang’s exhibition The Artist, the Work and the Exhibition at Kunsthaus Graz for ArtAsiaPacific, and reviewed Chia-Chia Lin’s debut novel, The Unpassing, for the New York Times.

And speaking of international literature, Tobias Carroll contributed a few recommendations to Vulture’s list of 15 must-read translated books from the past five years. He also reviewed Paul Kerschen’s novel The Warm South for Tor.com.

Laverne Frith reviewed Ann Townsend’s “deeply engrossing” poetry collection Dear Delinquent at the New York Journal of Books.

The National Book Review ran a humorous piece by Rayyan Al-Shawaf about his novel's bumpy path to publication.

John Glassie reviewed Casey Cep's Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee for the Washington Post, calling it a “rich, ambitious, beautifully written book.” In the Star Tribune, Claude Peck concurs, calling it “carefully researched and lyrically composed.”

Lastly, at On the Seawall, this week’s Critical Notes correspondent, board member Mark Athitakis, reviewed NBCC finalist Lia Purpura’s All the Fierce Tethers, a collection of essays that “circle around themes of death, fear, and loss, and how we use words to elide or erase our anxiety and mortality.”

NBCC Events

Please mark your calendars: On May 30 at Book Expo America at New York’s Javits Center, NBCC VP of events Carlin Romano will moderate “If Everyone’s a Critic, Is Anyone a Critic?” with the Washington Post’s Carlos Lozada, NBCC Emerging Critic Jennie Hann, and Alfred A. Knopf publicity director Nicholas Latimer. Don’t have a BEA pass? All NBCC members who would like to attend NBCC’s BEA panel on May 30th  can receive a free credential to attend BEA that day. Please RSVP by May 23rd to Carlin Romano, VP for Events, at cromano@bookcritics.org.

And on June 8 at the Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago, Lozada will appear in conversation with two NBCC and Pulitzer Prize board members who awarded him this year’s Pulitzer in criticism, Walton Muyumba and past President Elizabeth Taylor. They will discuss book criticism in the age of Goodreads and Amazon, and why it matters.

Member News

Grace Talusan’s debut memoir, The Body Papers, is out now and has been well-received by the New York Times, Nylon, Booklist, and Arkansas International.

Helene Cardona’s Birnam Wood, a translation of poetry by her father, Jose Manuel Cardona, was recently reviewed at Readers’ Favorite; two poems from the book are published and recorded at Terrain.org.

NBCC members: Send us your stuff! Your work may be highlighted in this roundup; please send links to new reviews, features and other literary pieces, or tell us about awards, honors or new and forthcoming books, by dropping a line to NBCCcritics@gmail.com.

Photo of David Sedaris by WBUR, used via Creative Commons license.

Revolution, Ali Smith and Reviews and Conversations From the NBCC

by Carolyn Kellogg | May-06-2019

Why do we delight in fictions created from the French Revolution? Tobias Carroll explores the frisson of fervor or schadenfreude (is there a French word for that?), paying particular attention to Edward Carey's novel Little, at Lithub. Also at Lithub: Fran Bigman talks to poet Deborah Landau about her new collection, Soft Targets, and in her column In Context NBCC board member Lori Feathers writes about Ali Smith and her latest novel, Spring.

Meanwhile, Spring is reviewed at NPR by Heller McAlpin, who reviews Anna Quindlen's Nanaville and Ian McEwan's Machines Like Me for them as well. She's often one of the busiest reviewers in the NBCC.

But this week even Heller can't compete with NBCC board president Laurie Hertzel, who in addition to all she does for us and running the books pages for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, reviewed John Connell's memoir The Farmer's Son; interviewed a high school poetry champion; wrote her weekly column about lending and borrowing books; and previewed Word Play, the new literary festival which will debut in Minneapolis next weekend.

Geez, all I'm doing is writing this before watching Game of Thrones.

Former NBCC board president Tom Beer reviews Sally Rooney's buzzy new novel Normal People alongside her debut, Conversations with Friends, at Newsday, where he's Books editor.

Jeffrey Ann Goudie reviews What My Mother and I Don't Talk About, a new and sometimes difficult essay collection edited by former NBCC board member Michele Filgate, at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where Claude Peck reviews screenwriter Dustin Lance Black's memoir Mama's Boy and current NBCC board member David Varno reviews Another Kind of Madness, the debut novel by Ed Pavlić.

Tess Taylor, also on the NBCC board, writes about four poetry collections at the NY Times: Doomstead Days by Brian Teare; Sight Lines by Arthur Sze; Brute by Emily Skaja; and Hold Sway by Sally Ball. Also a the NY Times, Brian Blanchfield reviews artist Chris Rush's Light Years, noting that the memoir "is less a queering of the wilderness than a wilding of queerness."

For the Wall Street Journal, Gregory Crouch reviewed The Impossible Climb by Mark Synnott. Hamilton Cain talked to David Brooks about his memoir The Second Mountain for Oprah Magazine. At The Rumpus, Martha Anne Toll talked to Kendra Allen about her essay collection When You Learn the Alphabet; Toll also reviewed Anna Merlan's book Republic of Lies for NPR.

In April, Robert BIrnbaum wrote about the baseball books of 2019 for the Washington Post. Also at the Washington Post, Daniel Asa Rose talks to former talk show host Craig Ferguson about his new memoir, Riding the Elephant

Local outlets are also covering books: At the Working Waterfront in Maine, Dana Wilde writes about author Agnes Bushell; Harvey Freedenberg writes about debut novelist Joel Burcat for The Burg, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Hélène Cardona reviews the poetry collection Howling Enigma by Rustin Larson for North of Oxford, a Philadelphia-based literary journal; and Paul Wilner writes about two biographies of journalist and screenwriter Ben Hecht for the Jewish News of Northern California.

Wilner also reviewed A Wonderful Stroke of Luck by Ann Beattie for ZYZZYVA. Wayne Catan talked to Chang-Rae Lee for The Hemingway Review blog. Julia M. Klein reviewed Defying Hitler by Gordon Thomas and Greg Lewis for The Forward and talked to Nicholas A. Cristakis about his book Blueprint for the alumni magazine Pennsylvania Gazette. NBCC board member David Varno wrote about Enrique Vila-Matas' Mac's Problem, translated by Margaret Jull Costa and Sophie Hughes, for On the Seawall. 

Lisa Peet wrote an essay about literary discovery for Bloom. Theodore Kinni reviewed Steven Rogelberg's The Surprising Science of Meetings for Strategy + Business. Patti Jazanosik reviewed the graphic adaptation of Anne Frank's diary by Ari Folman and David Polosnky for Consequence Magazine. Ellen Prentiss Campbell reviews debut novelist David Hallock Sanders' Busara Road at the Fiction Writers Review. At the New York Journal of Books, Michael J. McCann reviews Gray Day by Eric O'Neil and Emily Eternal by M.G. Wheaton.

Congratulations to Joan Frank, who will be heading to a residency at the Vermont Studio Center this summer, and to Rayyan Al-Shawaf, whose debut novel When All Else Fails is excerpted at Truthdig

And back to Tobias Carroll, who started us off; he also reviewed Ian McEwan's Machines Like Me and The Amateurs by Lisa Harman for Tor.com. 

NBCC members: Send us your stuff! Your work may be highlighted in this roundup; please send links to new reviews, features and other literary pieces, or tell us about awards, honors or new and forthcoming books, by dropping a line to NBCCcritics@gmail.com. 

Image: The Toilette of Venus, 1751, by François Boucher, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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