Critical Mass, The Blog of the National Book Critics Circle

New reviews and more from the National Book Critics Circle

by Carolyn Kellogg | Sep-15-2019

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's new novel The Testaments continues to sweep across the literary landscape. Megan Labrise interviewed Atwood about The Testaments for Kirkus Reviews. Former board member Colette Bancroft considers The Testaments in her column at the Tampa Bay Times and Constance Grady reviewed The Testaments at Vox.

Nathan Wesbter reviewed Stephen King's The Institute for the Daily Beast. and Clea Simon reviewed The Institute for The Boston Globe. Simon also contributed to the Globe's fall book preview.

Hamilton Cain previewed fall books for O, the Oprah Magazine, reviewed Binyamin Appelbaum's The Economists' Hour for the Barnes & Noble Review and reviewed Etgar Keret's Fly Anyway for Chapter 16

Julia M. Klein reviewed Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey's She Said for the Forward, and also the Forward she reviewed Edward Berenson's The Accusation. She also talked to Leslie Morgan about her memoir The Naked Truth for the Pennsylvania Gazette.

Ben Yagoda reviewed Condé Nast: The Man and His Empire, by Susan Ronald, for the Wall Street Journal.

Chelsea Leu wrote abut Jesse Ball's The Divers' Game, Rob Hart's The Warehouse and Bob Proehl's The Nobody People for the New York Times Book Review and also about Josie Iselin's The Curious World of Seaweed at Bay Nature.

Julia Lichtblau reviewed two books from West Africa's new wave -- Julia Wayetu Moore's She Would Be King and Ayesha Atta's The Hundred Wells of Salaga -- for Commonweal

Zack Graham wrote about Rivka Galchen's first book for young readers, Rat Rule 79, at Epiphany.

Tobias Carroll wrote about psychedelic science fiction and Erik Davis's new book High Weirdness at Polygon; at InsideHook, he interviewed Jonathan Vaughters about his memoir One Way Ticket and wrote about wrote about the new edition of Helen Cromwell's memoir Good Time Party Girl; at, he wrote about David Koepp's novel Cold Storage and Sarah Davis-Goff's Last Ones Left Alive; and at Mystery Tribune, he discussed novels by Jordy Rosenberg and Kathe Koja.

Katharine Coldiron reviewed White Flights by Jess Row for the L.A. Review of BooksSpiritual Choreographies by Carlos Labbé for On the SeawallBloomland by John Englehardt and This Tilting World by Colette Fellous for Book & Film Globe; and As a River by Sion Dayson for the Arts Fuse.

Christine Brunkhorst reviewed the novel This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Joan Gelfand reviewed the poetry collection The Jaguars that Prowl Our Dreams by Mary Mackey for Compulsive Reader.

Allen Adams reviewed two books at The Maine Edge: Stephen King's The Institute and Quichotte by Salman Rushdie.

John Domini reviewed Quichotte then talked to author Salman Rushdie for the Brooklyn Rail.

Erika Dreifus reviewed The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer for Reading Jewish Fiction.

Board member Lori Feathers interviewed Ducks, Newburyport author Lucy Ellmann for Lit Hub

And Andrew Ervin dove deep into fantasy with Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast novels and The Big Book of Classic Fantasy for Lit Hub.

Also at Lithub, Olga Zilberbourg wrote about a Soviet version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Natalie Bakopoulos talked to Elizabeth Ames about her debut novel The Other's Gold at Fiction Writers Review.

Lanie Tankard reviewed Indigenous Literatures from Micronesia for The Woven Tale Press.

Constance Grady considered the cult of Sally Rooney at Vox

Peggy Kurkowski reviewed The Borgias by Paul Strathern at Open Letters Review.

Eric Nguyen reviewed Blood Sisters by Kim Yideum, translated by Jiyoon Lee for Spectrum Culture and also reviewed Human Matter by Rodrigo Rey Rosa, translated by Eduardo Aparicio, for Necessary Fiction.

Member news:

Daniel Mendelsohn was interviewed by Michael Tackens at Poets & Writers about his essay collection Ecstasy and Terror, coming from NY Review Books in October. 

Tim Riley co-authored the first textbook on the music of the Beatles, What Goes On -- the Beatles Their Music in Their Time, with Walter Everett (Oxford University Press). 

Robert Birnbaum wrote on his blog, Our Man in Boston, about Norman Locke's American Novels series and the book Order of Imagination: The Photographs of Olivia Parker.

On her blog, Madam Mayo, C.M. Mayo published interviews with Eric Barnes about his novel Above the Ether and with Diana Anhalt about her poetry collection, Walking Backward. Mayo's short story "What Happened to the Dog?" was included in Richard Polt's anthology Escapements: Typewritten Stories from Post-Digital Worlds and her translation of Mexican writer Rose Mary Salum's short story "The Aunt" appears in the Fall issue of Catamaran Literary Reader (PDF).

Terese Svoboda's biography of poet Lola Ridge, Anything That Burns You, was featured on Irish Radio.

Hélène Cardona's translation Birnam Wood won a Readers' Favorite Award in poetry.

Margaret Atwood's new novel is The Testaments. Photo by Liam Sharp.

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

Critical Notes: September 9, 2019

by David Varno | Sep-09-2019

Former board member Barbara Probst Solomon has died. She was 90. Solomon was known for her criticism, her memoir Arriving Where We Started, and her translations from the Spanish. Introducing Afred Kazin in 1996, when he was honored with the NBCC’s Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, Solomon said, “[Kazin] subscribes to Sartre’s idea of freedom as being writing and thinking at the highest pitch. Though, indeed, much has changed for the writer since Sartre’s time, the true prestige of publishers, newspapers and magazines remains defined by the first rate work and moral integrity of the writers they publish, not the other way around.”

Fiction writer Jade Sharma has also died. She was 39. We are sad to hear the news from Catapault, where she had recently been an instructor. Her debut novel Problems was nominated for the Leonard Prize in 2016 by NBCC member Brendan Driscoll, who wrote, "Can you have... a coming-of-age novel in which the coming-of-age is tentative, hesitant, fragile? This edgy, important book insists that you can."

Member reviews

This week in book criticism, Balakian winner Maureen Corrigan reviewed The Yellow House, Sarah M. Broom's memoir of revisiting her hometown of New Orleans after Katrina. "Out of the materials of memory and archival history, Broom's memoir solidly reconstructs what the forces of nature and institutionalized racism succeeded in knocking down," Corrigan wrote for NPR.

Susan Coll reviewed Nina Stibbe’s Reasons to be Cheerful for the NYTBR and Howard Jacobson's Live a Little for Moment Magazine.

Victoria Chang reviewed Carmen Giménez Smith’s book of poems, Be Recorder for On the Seawall.

Jenny Shank reviewed Edwidge Danticat's Everything Inside for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Donna Miscolta reviewed R Zamora Linmark's new YA novel The Importance of Being Wilde at Heart for the Seattle Review of Books.

Ron Slate reviewed The Hum of the World by Lawrence Kramer (Univ of CA Press) for On The Seawall.

Heller McAlpin reviewed The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine for NPR.

Diane Scharper reviewed Teilhard's Struggle, Embracing the Work of Evolution, by Kathleen Duffy in the The New Criterion.

Former board member and Balakian recipient Steven G. Kellman reviewed Lara Prescott's The Secrets We Kept for the Texas Observer.

Julia M. Klein reviews Richard Crawford's Summertime for the Forward and Charles King's Gods of the Upper Air for Sapiens.

Anita Felicelli reviewed Susan Straight's In the Country of Women for Datebook.

Kathleen Rooney published an essay at the Poetry Foundation on Ali Liebegott's Summer of Dead Birds.

Nicole Rudick wrote about reading Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights for The New York Review of Books online.

Jeffrey Mannix reviewed Throw Me to the Wolves by Patrick McGuinness in his Murder Ink column for the Durango Telegraph in Durango, Colorado.

Alexis Burling rounded up two books by SF Bay Area authors for the San Francisco ChronicleCantoras by Carolina De Robertis and Chimerica by Anita Felicelli.

Joe Peschel reviewed Colson Whitehead’s novel The Nickel Boys, T. C. Boyle's novel, Outside Looking In, and Karen Russell’s story collection, Orange World for the Brooklyn Rail.

Joan Silverman reviewed Jia Tolentino’s essay collection Trick Mirror for the National Book Review.

Member news

Erika Dreifus's forthcoming poetry collection, Birthright, is one of 22 "favorite books for fall" listed on the website of Alma, "for ladies with chutzpah."

Meg Waite Clayton's new novel, The Last Train to London (Harper Books, September 10, and coming in 18 translations), is a September Indie Next Good Read, a BBC Top 10 Reads for September, and one of the New York Post's fall books everyone is talking about

Jamie Brown published two poems at Sons & Daughters Literary Journal.

On her website Picking Books, Laura Sandonato writes about discovering knowledge of history through literature.

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From the Critical Mass blog

New reviews and more from the National Book Critics Circle

Margaret Atwood's new novel The Testaments continues to sweep across the literary landscape. Megan Labrise interviewed Atwood about The

Critical Notes: September 9, 2019

Former board member Barbara Probst Solomon has died. She was 90. Solomon was known for her criticism, her memoir Arriving Where We Started, and her

Labor Day literary links from the NBCC

Welcome to the latest news from the Nationa Book Critics Circle! We've got reviews and more for your holiday weekend. Elaine Szewczyk talked to

Scads of book reviews and more from our members this week

NBCC board president Laurie Hertzel, senior editor for books at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, wrote her weekly column about writers'