Critical Mass, The Blog of the National Book Critics Circle

Short stories and letters headline this week for the short on time reader

by Anjali Enjeti | Dec-11-2017


Former NBCC board president, and current board member Tom Beer wrote about new books this week for Newsday. 

Star Tribune senior editor for books and NBCC board member Laurie Hertzel wrote her weekly Bookmark column about falling into—and getting out of –a book slump. She also wrote about the Minneapolis book launch of Jonathan Blunk’s new biography of James Wright—a poet who hated Minneapolis and was fired by the University. The irony was not lost on the audience.

Bécquer Seguín reviewed Federico García Lorca’s "Poet in Spain" for Slate. 

Xujun Eberlein's review of Q.M. Zhang's "Accomplice to Memory" appears in the Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel. 

Kai Maristed reviewed by "Old Rendering Plant" Wolfgang Hilbig, translated from German by Isabel Fargo Cole, for The Arts Fuse.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviewed Michael Hardimon's "Rethinking Race: The Case for Deflationary Realism for the National Book Review."

William Gass, who won three NBCC awards in criticism, died this week.

Joan Frank reviewed "Stories" by Emily Fridlund, "The Relive Box and Other Stories" by T.C. Boyle, "Five-Carat Soul" by James McBride, and "Fresh Complaint" by Jeffrey Eugenides for the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Julie Phillips reviewed Mary Beard's "Women & Power" for 4Columns. 

Erika Dreifus's latest "A View from the USA" column for the UK's Jewish Chronicle anticipates some striking Jewish books that are coming in 2018.

Julie Hakim Azzam published a review of Chris Raschka's illustrated short story collection for children, "The Doorman's Repose," in the December 8th Times Literary Supplement (published by the Times of London). There's a snippet of the review here.

Hamilton Cain reviewed of "The Collected Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. 1," in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Dana Wilde reviewed “The Unfastening: Poems” by Wesley McNair and “Elegies and Valedictions” by Burton Hatlen in Central Maine, as well as Caught: time. place. fish. by Glen Libby and Antonia Small for The Working Waterfront. 

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

Announcing the finalists for the #NBCCLeonard award

by Daniel Akst | Dec-07-2017

Big news: the NBCC membership has spoken, and the 2017 John Leonard Prize finalists have been chosen. Here’s this year’s superb list:


What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah (Riverhead)

Marlena by Julie Buntin (Holt)

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons (Viking)

Whereas by Layli Long Soldier (Graywolf)

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (Graywolf)

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (Riverhead)


Nominations for the Leonard prize, for a first book in any genre, are open to any regular voting NBCC member; the six finalists are those titles with the most nominations. A panel of member-volunteers will read the finalists and select the winner, to be announced in January. The John Leonard Prize will be presented at the NBCC Awards Ceremony at The New School in New York on March 15, 2018.

Become a Friend of the NBCC

Upcoming Events

NBCC at AWP18: March 09th, 2018

NBCC Finalists’ Reading: March 14th, 2018

NBCC Awards Ceremony and Reception: March 15th, 2018

NBCC Awards

Award Winners for 2016

See all award winners

Find out how to submit

Read how we select

Frequently Asked Questions

Videos and Podcasts

NBCC 2016 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2015 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2015 Finalists Reading

NBCC 2014 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2013 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2013 Finalists Reading

Video: New Literary Journals

Video: The VIDA Count and Gender Bias in Book Reviewing

Podcast: What Is Criticism? NBCC Winners and Finalists at AWP

All videos and podcasts.


More from the Critical Mass blog

Announcing the finalists for the #NBCCLeonard award

Big news: the NBCC membership has spoken, and the 2017 John Leonard Prize finalists have been chosen. Here’s this year’s superb list:   What It

Sam Shepard’s Swan Song, and more: Critical Notes for the week of December 4

​​ photo by Chad Batka/NYT NBCC Balakian winning critic Parul Sehgal is interviewed by Durga Chew-Bose in SSENSE.  NBCC VP and Online Chair Jane

Reminder: Time to Run for the NBCC Board

RUN FOR THE NBCC BOARD! The NBCC is holding elections to fill 8 open seats on the board, for the term beginning March 2018. Board members serve

Coming up: Diana Trilling at the National Arts Club

National Book Critics Circle members are invited to this upcoming event on the life of Diana Trilling. Tuesday, December 19   8:00pm    Biographer