Critical Mass, The Blog of the National Book Critics Circle

Critical Notes: The Sandrof Award, Susan Choi, Miram Toews, and More

by admin | Apr-15-2019

We Need Your Help Selecting the Next Sandrof Award Honoree

Each year, the NBCC board selects a person or institution to win the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, and we’d love to have your help choosing the next winner.

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. The most recent honoree, Arte Público Press, received significant national media attention for their win, including articles in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the San Antonio Express-News, Texas Monthly and NBC. They even received a special citation from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in honor of their victory.

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…

Heller McAlpin says that your book club’s next selection should be Susan Choi’s buzzy Trust Exercise in a review for NPR. Over at USA Today, NBCC board member Mark Athitakis concurs.

Speaking of Mark, our man in Arizona puts on his Gen-X flannel shirt and Doc Martens and asks where the great millennial novel is in an essay for the Washington Post.

Also at the Post, NBCC board member Charles Finch considers Isabella Hammad’s debut novel, The Parisian.

Post fever: catch it! The paper’s poetry columnist, Elizabeth Lund, writes about new books by Jericho Brown, Yanyi, Emily Skaja, and Naomi Shihab Nye. And John Domini reviewed Now, Now, Louison” a fictional biography of Louise Bourgeois, for the D.C. newspaper.

Newsday books editor and past NBCC president Tom Beer was astonished by Miriam Toews’ Women Talking.

The always busy David Canfield loved Susan Choi’s Trust Exercise and was conflicted about Nell Freudenberger’s Lost and Wanted. He also profiled Normal People author Sally Rooney for Entertainment Weekly.

Zach Graham also weighs in on Lost and Wanted for Epiphany, as does Michael Lindgren at On the Seawall.

Lanie Tankard reviewed Lia Purpura’s All the Fierce Tethers for the Woven Tale Press.

At the National Book Review, Michael Bobelian reviews Robert A. Caro’s Working.

Hamilton Cain took a look at Nathaniel Rich’s Losing Earth for Chapter 16.

Heather Scott Partington has been making the rest of us look like slackers. She reviewed David Means’ Instructions for a Funeral at On the Seawall, Jennifer duBois’ The Spectators at USA Today, Nell Freudenberger’s Lost and Wanted at Newsday, and Yiyun Li’s Where Reasons End at the National Book Review. She also interviewed JoAnn Chaney at Charge Magazine.

Also keeping busy this week was Katharine Coldiron, with reviews of Mieke Eerkens’ All Ships Follow Me at NPR (her first for the radio network), Brice Matthieussent’s Revenge of the Translator at the Carolina Quarterly, and Molly Dektar’s The Ash Family at the Arts Fuse. She also wrote a recap of this year’s AWP conference for Book & Film Globe.

Rebecca Foster has reviews of Carrianne Leung’s That Time I Loved You for BookBrowse and Amy Hempel’s Sing to It for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

NBCC board member Ismail Muhammad thinks Bryan Washington’s short story collection Lot is “a debut that announces a writer of uncommon talent and insight.” Read his review at Bookforum.

NBCC board member Michael Schaub reviewed Laila Lalami’s The Other Americans for the Los Angeles Times.

In the mood for a memoir? Jenny Shank has your back. She wrote about five spring memoirs for the Barnes & Noble blog.

Bridget Quinn reviewed Karl Ove Knausgaard’s So Much Longing in So Little Space: The Art of Edvard Munch for Hyperallergic.

Michael Adam Carroll wrote about Hernán Díaz’s In the Distance for Ploughshares and Laila Lalami’s The Other Americans for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

NBCC Emerging Critic J. Howard Rosier reviewed the reissue of Raymond Queneau's The Blue Flowers for Kenyon Review.

Olga Zilberbourg writes about four recent books in translation from Russian in World Literature Today.

Christoph Irmscher just published an essay on Audubon and Haiti in the Public Domain Review.

And Here’s Some Member Interviews and News...

Ryan Chapman interviewed The Old Drift author Namwali Serpell for Bomb.

Celia Bland was interviewed about her new book, Cherokee Road Kill, by David Salvage at the Southern Literary Review.

Harvey Freedenberg interviewed Jennifer L. Eberhardt about her new book, Biased, for BookPage.

Meg Waite Clayton’s forthcoming novel, The Last Train to London, received a prepublication notice in Library Journal. It will be published in 12 countries.

Randall Mann has a new book: The Illusion of Intimacy: On Poetry is being published by Diode Editions.

NBCC members note: Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including news about your new publications and recent honors, to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. With reviews, please include title of book and author, as well as name of publication. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.​ We love dedicated URLs. We do not love hyperlinks. We do love coffee, but that’s neither here nor there.

Critical Notes: Ingmar Bergman’s Novels; Édouard Louis’ ‘Who Killed My Father’

by David Varno | Apr-07-2019

First, Some News About a New Way to Support the NBCC's Mission:

The National Book Critics Circle is thrilled to announce the creation of a new partnership category: Sustainers.

Founded at the Algonquin Hotel in 1974 to encourage a sense of community among book reviewers and honor each year’s best books, the NBCC has for many years offered membership exclusively to working critics, scholars, and students.

The Sustainer category has been designed to include a wider range of literary citizens in the NBCC’s activities, including editors, writers, publicists, agents, and readers.

 At a tax-deductible annual cost of $250, this new tier serves two purposes:

  • first, to increase the involvement of publishing industry colleagues in the NBCC’s programming and events 
  • second, to offer crucial backing to the NBCC’s unique existing programs, including the John Leonard Prize for best first book, the Ivan Sandrof Prize for lifetime achievement, the Nona Balakian Citation for excellence in reviewing,  NBCC programming at AWP, and the Emerging Critics Fellowship, which seeks to identify and nurture the next generation of critics – along with, of course, our annual reading and awards ceremony

Sustaining patrons do not have members’ voting rights, to avoid potential conflicts of interest, but have access to discounted tickets to NBCC events, including the annual awards after-party, and are honored by name in NBCC materials should they wish to be.
 
Perhaps most importantly, patrons in this new category are supporting the NBCC, a non-profit which has no endowment, no corporate partnerships, and holds just one annual fundraiser. At a difficult moment for books coverage, the NBCC hopes that support offered by members in the Sustainer category will be both an opportunity for a more formal alliance between critics and non-critics within the book world who have long been supportive of the NBCC’s mission, and a vital source of income.
 
We hope you will consider joining us!

On to Member News and Reviews...

NBCC autobiography and Balakian winner Daniel Mendelsohn published an essay on Ingmar Bergman’s novels in the April 18 issue of the New York Review of Books

Heller McAlpin reviewed Claire Harman’s Murder by the Book for The Washington Post. She also reviewed Mary Norris’ Greek to Me and Nell Freudenberger’s Lost and Wanted for NPR.

Former board member and Balakian finalist David Biespiel offered an appreciation of W.S. Merwin at The Rumpus.

Martha Anne Toll reviewed two books published in translation from the French by New Directions for NPR: Édouard Louis' Who Killed My Father and Jean Frémon's Now, Now, Louison, for NPR. Kamil Ahsan also reviewed the Louis for The Masters Review

Speaking of translations, new member Bridget Quinn reviewed Karl Ove Knausgaard’s So Much Longing in So Little Space: The Art of Edvard Munch for Hyperallergic.

Former VP/Online Jane Ciabattari's April BBC Culture column includes new novels from Nell Freudenberger, Ian McEwan, Ann Beattie and T.C. Boyle. Her recent Lit Hub/Book Marks column features an exchange with Christian Kiefer about Mothers Who Are Also Human Beings, which draws comparisons to Yiyun Li and Evan Connell's Mrs. Bridge, and Nathan Englander on Transformations (of worlds, of people).

NBCC Emerging Critic Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers reviewed Rabindranath Maharaj’s Fatboy Fall Down, Maggie Gee’s Virginia Woolf in Manhattan, Rin Chupeco’s YA fantasy, Shadowglass, and debut novelist Mathangi Subramanian’s A People’s History of Heaven, for Foreword Reviews. 

New NBCC member Michelle Ainsworth reviewed Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes by Kevin Young and Hoax: A History of Deception by Ian Tattersall and Peter Nevraumont for Skeptic

Tobias Carroll talked with Namwali Serpell about her new novel The Old Drift at Longreads and chatted with Duncan B. Barlow about his new novel A Dog Between Us for The Brooklyn Rail.

Matthew Jakubowski continues his ongoing series of experimental reviews with a review of Ksenia Buksha’s novel, Freedom Factory, for The Critical Flame.

Joe Peschel reviewed Ian Frisch's Magic is Dead: My Journey into the World's Most Secretive Society of Magicians in The Brooklyn Rail.

Grace Lichtenstein's review of the debut novel by Melissa Rivero, The Affairs of the Falcóns, is in the New York Journal of Books.

Pam Munter's review of Big Fella by Jane Leavy was up last week on Fourth and Sycamore.

Priscilla Gilman reviewed Amy Hempel's Sing To It for the Boston Globe.

Sarah McCraw Crow recently reviewed Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone for BookPage.

Edward Guiliano’s book Lewis Carroll: The Worlds of His Alices has a pub date of April 30.

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