Critical Mass, The Blog of the National Book Critics Circle

Funk it up with book reviews and more from our critics

by Carolyn Kellogg | Aug-19-2019

Elaine Szewczyk interviewed Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers about his forthcoming memoir, Acid for the Children, for Publisher's Weekly.

Martha Anne Toll reviewed The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom for NPR Books.

Also at NPR Books, board member Michael Schaub reviewed Tupelo Hassman's gods with a little g. Alexis Burling reviewed Hassman's novel for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Board member Carolyn Kellogg reviewed Téa Obreht's Inland for the Los Angeles Times.

Board member Mark Athitakis wrote about Howard Norman's new novel, The Ghost Clause, for the Los Angeles Review of Books

Kathleen Rooney reviewed Amanda Goldblatt's Hard Mouth for the Chicago Tribune.

Also for the Chicago Tribune, Julia M. Klein reviewed Sarah Valentine's memoir When I Was White.

Jacob Cline reviewed Gretchen McCulloch’s Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language for the Atlantic.

Sarah McCraw Crow reviewed Because Internet for Bookpage, where she also reviewed the novels Marilou is Everywhere by Sarah Elaine Smith and The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger.

Natalia Hotlzman reviewed A Girl Returned by Donatella Di Pietrantonio, translated by Ann Goldstein, for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Tobias Carroll reviewed Kimberly King Parsons's Black Light at the Texas Observer and interviewed Cecelia Watson about her book Semicolon at Longreads.

Kathleen Rooney reviewed Trisha Low's Socialist Realism for the Chicago Review of Books.

Peggy Kurkowski reviewed Michael Patrick Lynch's Know-It-All Society: Truth and Arrogance in Political Culture, at Open Letters Review, where she also reviewed Assad or We Burn the Country by Sam Dahger in July.

Anne Charles reviewed Sara Stridsberg’s Valerie, or, The Faculty of Dreams at the Lambda Literary Review.

Jane Ciabattari interviewed Susan Straight, author of the new memoir In the Country of Women, at LitHub/BookMarks.

Tara Cheesman reviewed Anthony Horowitz' meta mystery The Sentence Is Death for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Theodore Kinni reviewed Robert Wilson’s Barnum: An American Life for strategy+business.

Michelle Newby Lancaster reviewed Rule of Capture by Christopher Brown for Lone Star Literary Life.

K. L. Romo reviewed the YA novel Lizze by Dawn Ius for Washington Independent Review of Books.

Also for the Washington Independent Review of Books, Robert Allen Papinchak reviewed Richard Russo's novel Chances Are....

Lanie Tankard reviewed Dottoressa: An American Doctor in Rome by Susan Levenstein, MD, for the Woven Tale Press.

Terese Svoboda reviewed of Stephanie Strickland's poetry collection How the Universe is Made for Tarpaulin Sky.

More from our members:

Svoboda's eighth book of poetry, Theatrix: Play Poems will be published by Anhinga Press in 2021.

Publisher's Weekly called Meg Waite Clayton's forthcoming The Last Train to London "standout historical fiction"; Booklist gave it a star; and it will be on the September Indie Next list. She will also be a fellow at The Writer's Lab woring on her screenplay of the story.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf was interviewed about his novel When All Else Fails.

John Domini was interviewed about his novel The Color Inside of a Melon.

Nicole Rudick wrote about Charles Schulz and Peanuts for the NewYorker online in an essay that will appear in the forthcoming Library of America anthology The Peanuts Papers.

Abby Frucht's book of poetry Maids will be published in 2020 by Matter Press.

Elaine Szewczyk, who started this update with her interview with Flea, also had a humor piece published in McSweeney's

Photo: Flea, bassist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, right, with singer Anthony Keidis, left, performing in Amsterdam in 1989. Credit Rob C. Croes via Wikimedia Commons.

Toni Morrison, Moby-Dick, and lots of late-summer reading

by Laurie Hertzel | Aug-12-2019

The first and biggest news of this past week was, of course, the passing of the great Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize winner, writer and mentor to so many. In 2015, the National Book Critics Circle honored her with the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. You can watch Miss Morrison deliver her speech on our website.

Reviews and interviews:

Clea Simon  reviewed Sarah Elaine Smith’s gorgeous Marilou is Everywhere for the Boston Globe and also discussed Laura Lippman’s new Lady in the Lake for Artsfuse, in light of its timeliness.

Cliff Garstang reviewed Paul Tremblay's Growing Things for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

For Orion Magazine, former NBCC Emerging Critic Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers reviewed Thor Hanson’s Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees, a fascinating combination of evolutionary biology, archaeology, art, history, literature, lay science, and ecology that plumbs the perennial connection between humans and bees. No link because Orion is print only.

Olga Zilberbourg reviewed an Azerbaijani novel, Farewell, Aylis, by Akram Aylisli, translated by Katherine E. Young, and published last year by Academic Studies Press for The Common. "A remarkable book, truly worth much wider attention than it has received so far," she says.

NBCC president Laurie Hertzel wrote her weekly column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune on the pros and cons of writing in books. She also appeared on the NPR show "On Point" to discuss summer books and, later, was on MInnesota Public Radio to discuss  Under Purple Skies, a new anthology of Minnesota writing for which she wrote the introduction.

Barbara J. King reviewed Charles King's Gods of the Upper Air:  How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century for NPR.

Jacob Appel reviewed Summerlings by Lisa Howorth for the New York Journal of Books.

Joan Gelfand reviewed The Jaguar That Prowls Our Dreams by Mary Mackey for PANK.

Ellen Prentiss Campbell reviewed Sadie Jones' The Snakes for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Kathleen Rooney wrote about Moby-Dick for the L.A. Review of Books. Why, you might ask? The 200th anniversary. Taking part in a "Moby-Dick" read-a-thon. But also, she writes, because the novel is flawless, "not to be abridged," and laugh-out-loud funny. It also brings her sorrow, in the light of climate change and the current plight of whales.

Board member Katherine A. Powers wrote her monthly audiobooks column for the Washington Post about audiobooks with great narrators. (And not so great.)

Tara Cheesman reviewed Alix Ohlin's Dual Citizens for On the Seawall.

For the September issue of O, the Oprah Magazine Hamilton Cain covered new books from Sarah M. Broom, Ayse Papatya Bucak, Haben Girma, Maggie Paxson, Richard Russo, and Long Litt Woon. He also pulled together a roundup of political books for

Jenny Shank reviewed Sabrina and Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine for High Country News.

Allen Adams reviewed First Cosmic Velocity by Zach Powers for the Maine Edge.

In this week's Lit Hub/Book Marks column, former NBCC president Jane Ciabattari interviews Jess Row, who recommends three books (including Middlesex) and two films (The Landlord from 1970 and this year's The Last Black Man in San Francisco) reflecting white flight.


Other news...

Hélène Cardona's new translation, Birnam Wood (Salmon Poetry, 2018), was reviewed by Rachael Daum in Bookaccino and by Jordi Alonso in World Literature Today. Cardona was awarded a 2019 Naji Naaman Literary Prize in June.

Susan Henderson, Lifetime Member of the NBCC, is the 2019 WILLA Literary Award Winner in Contemporary Fiction for her novel, The Flicker of Old Dreams. She's also a Finalist in two categories for the High Plains Book Awards, which will be announced in October. Later this month, she will be a guest on Yellowstone Public Radio's program, Resounds: Arts and Culture on the High Plains

Joan Gelfand was interviewed on Lit Pub about her new bookYou Can Be a Winning Writer: The 4 C’s of Successful Authors.

The photo of Toni Morrison was taken in 2013 during her lecture to the West Point Military Academy. The photo is in the public domain.

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

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