November, 2014

Roundup: Atul Gawande, Laura Kipnis, Glenn Kurtz and how Tolkien affected 1960s counterculture

by Eric Liebetrau | Nov-24-2014

Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including new about your new publications and recent honors, to [email protected]. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.


Don't forget to join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook with your favorite first books of 2014, candidates for the #NBCCLeonard award.


Anjali Enjeti reviews Desiree Zamorano's "The Amado Women" for PANK.

Former NBCC President Carlin Romano reviews Peter K.J. Park's "Africa, Asia, and the History of Philosophy" in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Also in the Chronicle, he offers an omnibus essay on books about revanchism and irredentism.

Sneak Peak: NBCC board member David Biespiel’s "A Long High Whistle," Poetry Columns from the Portland Oregonian.

Ryan Teitman reviews "Dr. Mutter's Marvels" in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

For Guernica, Grace Bello interviews Dr. Atul Gawande, author of "Being Mortal," on the arc of healthcare reform and improving end-of-life care.

Julia M. Klein reviews Glenn Kurtz's "Three Minutes in Poland" for the Chicago Tribune.

NBCC board member Jane Ciabattari's BBC Between the Lines column flashes back to the 1960s to look at Tolkien's influence on the counterculture.

In Kirkus Reviews, Megan Labrise interviews cultural critic and essayist Laura Kipnis, author of "Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation."

"What You Missed," from Robert Birnbaum. He also offers "The Year that Was: The Best American Annuals," as well as his best books list.

"How Has the Social Role of Poetry Changed Since Shelley?": Adam Kirsch and Leslie Jamison discuss.

Paul Wilner reviews "The Haight: The Photography of Jim Marshall."

2013 Nona Balakian winner Katherine Powers offers her five best audiobooks of 2014.

NBCC board member Ron Charles says 2014 was "a good year for book lovers."

Leonard Lopate interviews Hermione Lee, biographer of Penelope Fitzgerald, first winner from outside the US of the National Book Critics Circle award in fiction.

Longtime NBCC member Daniel Asa Rose delivers "A Parable About a Mouse at the New Yorker magazine."

Laurie Hertzel reviews "A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka," by Lev Golinkin.

Sneak Peak: Linda Simon’s The Greatest Shows on Earth

by Linda Simon | Nov-21-2014

Long-time NBCC member Linda Simon's "The Greatest Shows on Earth" is just out from the University of Chicago Press. Here's a sneak peak.

From the Introduction: 

The nineteenth-century conceit of running away to join the circus retained its vitality as a personal myth of glamour and reinvention well into the twentieth century. In the 1940s, for example, one young girl who had ridden hoses throughout her childhood, and who often wore a crown as part of her riding costume, announced that she was going to run away to become Queen of the Circus. When she was fourteen, she wrote a prediction of her future that reiterated that desire to become a circus queen and, not surprisingly, to marry the man on the flying trapeze. The young girl grew up to be Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.


From Chapter Seven, Clowns

Rarely has a clown begun his career clowning. Emmett Kelly was a cartoonist and later an aerialist; Dan Rice was a jockey and riverboat gambler before he devised his exuberant clown persona; the Swiss-born Grock, who amazed Picasso at the Cirque Médrano, was a contortionist and a tightrope walker; George Footit, a favorite of Toulouse-Lautrec, and Edwin ‘Poodles’ Hannaford were trick riders. . .Becoming a clown, for all of them, was a deliberate choice, rewarded not only by their audience’s acclaim, but by prestige and high pay. . . .The clown, wrote circus historian Antony Coxe, ‘is the soul of the circus.’


From Chapter Ten, Transformations

The circus may respond to changing social pressures, look back nostalgically to real or imagined innocence, incorporate slick technologies and turn the spotlight on performers so agile and daring that they take the breath away—but it has one constant. From the first moment a contortionist bent backward to touch the ground with his head, from the moment a daredevil walked on a rope from one church steeple to another, from the moment a wandering family leapt and cavorted on a Paris street corner, the circus has celebrated the fleeting moment of magical spectacle. There is laughter, awe, desire, envy. And then, it’s gone..

Linda Simon is professor emerita of English at Skidmore College in New York. She is the author of several books, including "Dark Light: Electricity and Anxiety from the Telegraph to the X-Ray."

Roundup: Kathryn Harrison, Alice Munro, Richard Ford, Gregory Maguire, and more

by Eric Liebetrau | Nov-17-2014

Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items to [email protected]. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.


Call for Entries: Nona Balakian Award for Excellence in Reviewing.

NBCC Board of Director Elections: Deadline December 8.


Carl Rollyson reviews "Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History," by Rhonda Garelick.

Sarah Katz reviews Laura Kasischke's "The Infinitesimals."

Natalie Bakopoulos reviews "Electric City" by Elizabeth Rosner.

"The Four Most Beautiful Words," from Robert Birnbaum.

Meredith Maran reviews Kathryn Harrison's biography of Joan of Arc. She also reviews Kate Shindle's "Being Miss America."

Diane Scharper reviews "Skirting Heresy" by Elizabeth MacDonald.

Lanie Tankard reviews Linda Leaming's "A Field Guide to Happiness."

NBCC board member Steven Kellman on "How James Laughlin Remade the Canon."

David Cooper reviews "Gina Nahai’s fifth novel, The Luminous Heart of Jonah S."

Karl Wolff reviews "Taxidermy Art" by Robert Marbury.

Linda Simon's book "The Greatest Shows on Earth" was just released by the University of Chicago Press.

John Domini reviews Blake Butler's "300,000,000."

NBCC board member Jane Ciabattari reviews NBCC award winner (and Nobelist) Alice Munro's "Family Furnishings: Selected Stories, 1995-2014" for NPR.

Jeff Turrentine reviews RIchard Ford's "Let Me Be Frank with You."

NBCC board member Kate Tuttle reviews four recent nonfiction titles for the Boston Globe.

Joe Peschel reviews Richard Bausch's novel "Before, During, After."

Julie Hakim Azzam interviews Gregory Maguire about his new book "Egg and Spoon." She also speaks with R.J. Palacio, author of the middle grade novel "Wonder" and reviews Nuruddin Farah's "Hiding in Plain Sight."

NBCC Board of Director Elections: Deadline December 8

by Laurie Muchnick | Nov-16-2014

We are now accepting nominations for the eight open seats on the board of directors. Directors serve 3-year terms and participate throughout the year in a number of ways: discussing the books that are under consideration for our annual awards and helping to run our all-volunteer organization.

If you are interested in running for a board position, please don't hesitate to contact me at [email protected] for more information.

To nominate yourself for a board position, e-mail Elissa Schappell, chair of the Newswire Committee, [email protected], with a statement outlining the contributions you hope to make to the board as well as your relevant qualifications. We will send out another call for nominations closer to the deadline, December 8th. You must be an NBCC member to run.

Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor for Kirkus Reviews and President of the National Book Critics Circle

Time to Talk About Nominations for the #NBCCLeonard award for Best First Book

by Admin | Nov-15-2014

Last year, the NBCC introduced the new John Leonard Prize for a first book in any genre, named for a founding NBCC member and Sandrof awardee for lifetime achievement. It was awarded to "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena" by Anthony Marra. Unlike our other awards, the recipient of the Leonard Prize is chosen by a direct vote of all NBCC members.

Choosing the winner of the John Leonard Prize will be a two-step process:

NBCC members will be asked to nominate books that they think should be considered for the prize. To be eligible, a book must have been published in the United States in 2014, and it must be the author's first book. (So if it's a first novel but the author has already published a book of short stories or poetry or a memoir or an academic study, that book would NOT be eligible.)

Next, the board will tabulate the results and compile a list of approximately 10 titles, which we will send to the membership to vote on. The winner of this vote will be awarded the Leonard Prize, and will be announced on January 19th, when we announce the finalists for our other prizes.

We won't be announcing a public list of finalists for this prize, since we'll be announcing the winner in January, along with the winners of the Balakian and Sandrof prizes, instead of at our awards ceremony in March.

Between now and the end of the year, we'll be sponsoring discussions on the NBCC's Facebook page and on Twitter (@bookcritics), with the hashtag #NBCCLeonard, and hope you'll all participate, suggesting books for consideration. If you're not already following us, please do.

Nominations for Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement Due December 14

by Admin | Nov-15-2014

The NBCC welcomes nominations from members for the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. Named after the first president of the NBCC, the award 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. 

As you can tell from the list of recipients below, the award is truly ecumenical, seeking to recognize outstanding and longstanding work from any sector that affects a book and contributes to American arts and letters.

Please e-mail your nominations to Steven Kellman at [email protected] You must be a member of the NBCC to submit a name.Nominations should include a brief (approximately five sentences) explanation of why the nominee deserves recognition with the Sandrof Award. The deadline for nominations is December 14.

2013 Sandrof award winner: Rolando Hinojosa-Smith 

2012:Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar

2011:Robert B. Silvers

2010:Dalkey Archive Press

2009:Joyce Carol Oates

2008:PEN American Center

2007:Emilie Buchwald

2006:John Leonard

2005:Bill Henderson

2004:Louis Rubin Jr.

2003:Studs Terkel

2002:Richard Howard

2001:Jason Epstein

2000:Barney Rosset

1999:Pauline Kael and Lawrence Ferlinghetti

1997:Leslie Fiedler

1996:Albert Murray

1995:Alfred Kazin and Elizabeth Hardwick

1994:William Maxwell

1992: Gregory Rabassa

1990:Donald Keene

1989:James Laughlin

1987:Robert Giroux

1984:Library of America

1982:Leslie A. Marchand

Call for Entries: Nona Balakian Award for Excellence in Reviewing

by Admin | Nov-13-2014

The NBCC awards the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing each year to recognize outstanding work by a member of the NBCC. The citation is awarded in honor of Nona Balakian, a founding member of the National Book Critics Circle, where she served as the board’s first secretary. The eminent critic and longtime editor at the New York Times Book Review also served on the Pulitzer Prize committee, the Board of Directors of PEN, and the Authors Guild board, was the author of Critical Encounters: Essays (1978), and co-author (with Charles Simmons) of The Creative Present (1969).

Since 2012, the Balakian Citation carries with it a $1,000 cash prize, thanks to a generous donation by NBCC board member Gregg Barrios.

A complete list of past Balakian winners follows the list of committee members.

2014 Submission Guidelines

You must be a member of the NBCC to be considered. If you are not a member, you can join online anytime before December 14, 2014, in order to be eligible for the award. All submitted reviews must have been published in 2014.

2014 Submission Procedures

Submissions may be made by email. Emails must be time stamped no later than midnight Sunday, December 14, 2014. Submissions may also, as in the past, be submitted in hardcopy by mail.

What to submit via email: 
Send up to five book reviews (all published in 2014) of no more than 5,000 words collectively. The total word count for the submissions must not exceed 5,000, on pain of the entire submission being disqualified from consideration for the award. 
In your email, include a note listing the venue; title and word count of each piece submitted. 
Send links to your reviews as published online.

Due to the capricious nature of the online world, links may expire. If you can, attach PDFs or screenshots of your book reviews as they appeared online or in print. 
Please make a print backup of your submission. In other words, make sure you have one print copy of each book review, preferably the published version. If there is a problem with your electronic online submission, you may be asked to submit a print version.

What to submit via mail: 
Submissions must be postmarked no later than Sunday, December 14, 2014. Send up to five book reviews (all published in 2014) of no more than 5,000 words collectively, with a brief cover letter listing the title and word count of each piece submitted. The total word count for the submissions must not exceed 5,000, on pain of the entire submission being disqualified from consideration for the award.

For questions about the award and submission process, e-mail the Balakian Committee chair, Gregg Barrios. Email: [email protected]

Please put Balakian Award in the subject line of your email. List of Balakian committee members and of all past Balakian winners here.

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