May, 2015

Critical Notes: Jon Krakauer, Elif Shafak, Ron Padgett, Jillian Lauren, Aleksandar Hemon, and more

by Eric Liebetrau | May-18-2015

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 password.


Kerri Arsenault writes about Edwidge Danticat, Luc Sante, Michael Ondaatje, and others.

"Why Whole Foods Is Popping Up In Novels," by Adam Kirsch.

Clifford Garstang reviews "What is Visible" by Kimberly Elkins.

Julie Hakim Azzam reviews Elif Shafak's novel "The Architect's Apprentice" for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Howard Lovy reviews "The Marion Experiment: Long-Term Solitary Confinement and the Supermax Movement."

At, Megan Labrise interviews investigative food journalist Barry Estabrook ("Tomatoland," 2011). His latest is "Pig Tales: An Omnivore's Quest for Sustainable Meat."

Margot Mifflin reviews "Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of the New Yorker," by Thomas Kunkel.

"Brief Inner Happiness": NBCC board member David Biespiel's latest Poetry Wire.

Anne Payne reviews "Missoula" by Jon Krakauer.

Gregory Wilkin reviews Joel Samuel Stames' "Red Dirt."

"Rats Build Their Labyrinth: Oulipo in the 21st Century," by Michael Leong.

Laverne Frith reviews "Alone and Not Alone" by Ron Padgett.

"Mark Rothko's tortured, brilliant life explored in new biography," by Angie Jabine.

John Domini reviews Andrew Ervin's "Burning Down George Orwell's House." Domini also reviews Amelia Gray's "Gutshot."

Robert Birnbaum interviews Philip Kerr.

Marian Ryan reviews Sara Bladel's Danish thriller "The Lost Girls."

Michelle Huneven’s "Off Course," reviewed by Lori Feathers.

Michelle Newby reviews Merritt Tierce's "Love Me Back," as well as James Hannaham’s Delicious Foods.

Piali Roy reviews "Discontent and Its Civilizations" by Mohsin Hamid. Roy also reviews "Nothing Like Love" by Sabrina Ramnanan. In addition, Roy reviews Chigozie Obioma’s debut novel, "The Fishermen."

Second Acts: A Second Look at Second Books of Poetry by Rae Armantrout and Ye Chun," by Lisa Russ Spaar.

Michael Magras reviews Ken Kalfus' latest.

Daniel Dyer on Zachary Leader's impeccably researched first volume of "The Life of Saul Bellow."

Through two recent films, Daniel Mendelsohn examines how our robot fantasies derive from Homer.

Meredith Maran reviews Jillian Lauren's "Everything You Ever Wanted."

Karl Wolff reviews "History of Joseph Smith by His Mother," by Lucy Mack Smith.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviews Aleksandar Hemon's novel "The Making of Zombie Wars."

"'Re Jane' cleverly recasts Jane Eyre as a Korean American from Queens," by Terry Hong.

NBCC Board member and 2013 Balakian winner Katherine A. Powers reviews "The Fishermen" by Chigozie Obioma. Powers also reviews Kate Atkinson's "A God in Ruins."

NBCC Panel May 27: Race, Gender and Book Reviews

by Admin | May-13-2015

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at 2 p.m.
The Center for Fiction
17 E. 47th St., 2nd Floor
NBCC Panel: "Race, Gender, and Book Reviews"
NBCC board member Walton Muyumba leads a conversation about racial and gender representation in book reviewing. Among the questions we'll engage are: What do the VIDA numbers explain about the health of American publishing? Does the American reading public actually benefit from gender and racial parity in publishing? And should book review editors and book reviewers worry about sociological concerns like gender and racial diversity?
Walton Muyumba, moderator
Muyumba's essays and reviews have appeared in Oxford American, The Crisis, NPR Books, The Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, and The Los Angeles Review of Books.  He’s the author of "The Shadow and the Act: Black Intellectual Practice, Jazz Improvisation, and Philosophical Pragmatism" (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2009).  He is an associate professor of American and African Diaspora literature in the English Department at Indiana University-Bloomington.
Hawa Allan, panelist
Allen writes fiction and criticism. Her essays have appeared in "Best African American Essays" and Tricycle magazine, where she is a contributing editor. She’s published fiction in Transition: An International Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Amazon's literary magazine, Day One, and the Chicago Tribune's literary supplement, Printers Row Journal. A graduate of the University of Chicago and Columbia Law School, Allan practices law and has been a fellow at Columbia’s Center for the Study of Law and Culture.
Alexander Chee, panelist
Alexander Chee is the author of the novels Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night, forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in February of 2016. He is a recipient of a 2003 Whiting Award, a 2004 NEA Fellowship in prose and a 2010 MCCA Fellowship, and residency fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the VCCA, Civitella Ranieri and Amtrak. His essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Tin House, Slate, Guernica, NPR and Out, among others. He has taught writing at Wesleyan University, the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Texas – Austin. He is the curator of Dear Reader at Ace Hotel NY, and a contributing editor at Literary Hub. He lives in New York City. 

Miriam Markowitz, panelist
Markowitz is deputy literary editor of The Nation and a board member of the NBCC. She was previously an editor of Harper’s Magazine and Viet Nam News in Hanoi. Her essay “Here Comes Everybody” examines some of the root causes of gender imbalance in magazine and book publishing.
Parul Sehgal, panelist
Sehgal is an editor at the New York Times Book Review. She is the recipient of the Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle, and her work appears in the New York Times, Slate, Bookforum, Tin House, and the Literary Review, among other publications. She has been a speaker at TED and is currently teaching at Columbia University.

Critical Notes: Maggie Nelson, Elizabeth Alexander, Sarah Manguso, Sally Mann, and more

by Eric Liebetrau | May-11-2015

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 password.


Randon Billings Noble reviews Maggie Nelson's "The Argonauts."

Elizabeth Alexander's "The Light of the World: A Memoir," reviewed by Carol Iaciofano.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviews "At Home in Exile: Why Diaspora Is Good for the Jews," by Alan Wolfe. Al-Shawaf also reviews "Orhan's Inheritance," by Aline Ohanesian.

"'One Of Us' Examines The Damaged Inner Terrain Of Norwegian Mass Shooter." Maureen Corrigan discusses Asne Seierstad's new book.

Elaine F. Tankard reviews Sarah Manguso's "Ongoingness: The End of a Diary." Tankard also reviews Margret Aldrich's "The Little Free Library Book."

In the New York Journal of Books, Laverne Frith reviews Nathaniel Mackey's "Blue Fasa."

Michelle Newby reviews Attica Locke's "Pleasantville."

At, Gerald Bartell interviews A. Brad Schwartz.

Ellen Akins reviews "Early Warning" by Jane Smiley, as well as "A God in Ruins" by Kate Atkinson, both for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Terry Hong reviews Janice Nimura's "Daughters of the Samurai." Hong also explores the work of Yasushi Inoue. In addition, Hong interviews Janie Chang.

At the Brooklyn Rail, Leora Skolkin-Smith interviews Andrea Scrima.

NBCC Balakian finalist Ruth Franklin on the reissue of Shirley Jackson's "Life Among the Savages" and "Raising Demons."

Sheri J. Caplan reviews Sally Mann's "Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs."

Julie R. Enszer reviews “Erebus” by Jane Summer and “Fanny Says” by Nickole Brown, as well as “A Stranger’s Mirror” by Marilyn Hacker at Lambda Literary.

Lori Feathers reviews "Baboon" by Naja Marie Aidt, part of the “Why This Book Should Win” series for the 2015 Best Translated Book Award. Feathers also reviews "The Vegetarian" by Han Kang. In addition, Feathers reviews Sergey Gandlevsky’s "Trepanation of the Skull."

"‘Look Who’s Back,’ With a Resurrected Adolf Hitler," by Daniel Torday.

NBCC awardee William H. Gass' "Middle C" wins William Dean Howells award for best novel in past 5 years, from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Carl Rollyson reviews "Young Eliot," by Robert Crawford.

Critical Notes: Jane Smiley, Toni Morrison, Kate Atkinson, and more

by Carmela Ciuraru | May-04-2015

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 password.


* Please join the NBCC on Wednesday, May 27th, in New York: It's the first day of BEA, and a number of activities are planned, including the annual mmbership meeting, a panel discussion, and a cocktail reception at the Center for Fiction. You can find out the details here.

Steven Kellman reviews "Lifted By the Great Nothing," by Karim Dimechkie, for the San Antonio Current.

Carl Rollyson reviews a new biography of T. S. Eliot for the Star Tribune.

John Strawn on Jon Ronson and Toni Morrison for The Oregonian.

NBCC Board Member Jane Ciabattari picks 10 books to read in May for her Between the Lines book column for, now in the UK as well as the US and the rest of the world:Edna O'Brien, Margaret Lazarus Dean, the complete Patrick Melrose novels, first novels from Jabari Asim and Patricia Park.

Also, Ciabattari's short story collection, California Tales (2014), is now on Audible.

Amy Gentry reviews Kate Atkinson's "A God in Ruins" for the Chicago Tribune.

Micah McCrary interviews Maggie Nelson for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Daniel Dyer on "A Young General and the Fall of Richmond," in The Plain Dealer.

Harvey Freedenberg on William Maxwell's "So Long, See You Tomorrow" in Harrisburg Magazine.

Heller McAlpin on Jane Smiley's "Early Warning" for

Janette Currie reviews "The Old Straight Track" by Alfred Watkins in the TLS.

Hope Reese on "The Folded Clock" by Heidi Julavits, for the Chicago Tribune.

Sebastian Stockman reviews "The Top of His Game" for the Boston Globe.

NBCC Board Member Colette Bancroft on Kate Atkinson's "A God in Ruins" for the Tampa Bay Times.

Mary Mackey interviews Marge Piercy.

Julia M. Klein reviews Richard Dunn's "A Tale of Two Plantations" for the Pennsylvania Gazette.

NBCC Board Member David Biespiel's latest essay in The Rumpus.

Dominic Green on Hilary Mantel and Todd Endelman.

Katherine Powers  of the NBCC Board reviews "The Making of Zombie Wars" for the Chicago Tribune.

Megan Labrise interviews Elizabeth Alexander for Kirkus.

NBCC Board Member Carmela Ciuraru's latest "Newly Released" column for the New York Times.

Ellen Akins reviews "Early Warning" by Jane Smiley for the Star Tribune.

Andrew Ervin on Toni Morrison and Adam Thirlwell. Also: Soho Press has just published Ervin's debut novel, "Burning Down George Orwell's House."

April, 2015

Critical Notes: Judith Miller, Ross Macdonald, Toni Morrison, T.C. Boyle, Ali Smith, and more

by Eric Liebetrau | Apr-27-2015

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 password.


Anne Payne reviews George Hodgman’s "Bettyville."

Maureen Corrigan examines a "Suburbia-Gone-Sour In Ross Macdonald's Crime Fiction."

At the Minneapolis Star-Tribue, Ellen Akins reviews Toni Morrison's "God Help the Child."

Cliff Garstang reviews Darrin Doyle's "The Dark Will End the Dark."

David Biespiel and Rigoberto Gonzalez on "The Fate of the Writer."

Julia M. Klein reviews Judith Miller's "My Story" for Columbia Journalism Review. She also reviews Richard Reeves's "Infamy" for the Boston Globe. In addition, Klein reviews Richard J. Evans's "The Third Reich in History and Memory" for the Jewish Daily Forward.

Michael Magras reviews T.C. Boyle's new novel, "The Harder They Come."

Antonio Tabucchi's "Time Ages In a Hurry: Stories," reviewed by John Domini.

Michelle Newby reviews Chris Cander's "Whisper Hollow."

Larry Smith reviews "The Road Home: A Contemporary Exploration of the Buddhist Path."

In the New York Journal of Books, David Cooper reviews "Portrait of a Man Known as Il Condottiere" by Georges Perec.

Linda Simon, interviewed in Bloom magazine.

Nathaniel Popkin reviews Ali Smith's "How to Be Both."

Laurie Hertzel: "Per Petterson on writing, translating, and his reluctance to revise." Hertzel also interviews Sonia Nazario, author of "Enrique's Journey."

Mythili Rao reviews "The Folded Clock: A Diary" by Heidi Julavits and "Ongoingness: The End of a Diary" by Sarah Manguso in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Christi Clancy reviews Jane Smiley's "Early Warning."

President’s Message: NBCC Membership Events, May 27, 2015

by Tom Beer | Apr-24-2015

Dear NBCC members,

The National Book Critics Circle reading and awards ceremony, held March 11-12, were a great success-with good attendance and widespread media coverage.  At the March 13 meeting of the new board, I was elected president, and I look forward to serving the National Book Critics Circle over the next two years. 

Looking ahead, this year's membership meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27, the first day of BEA. We have a number of activities planned:

8:30 - 10 a.m. Breakfast with the Publishers Publicity Association at Hachette, 1290 Avenue of the Americas. Coffee and bagels, and the opportunity to meet and network with publicists and other NBCC members.

11 a.m. General Membership meeting at the Center for Fiction, 17 E. 47th St., 6th floor.

Items on the agenda include discussion of the website. Please bring questions, concerns, and suggestions about NBCC membership.

2 p.m. Panel: NBCC board member Walton Muyumba leads a conversation about racial and gender representation in book reviewing. At the Center for Fiction, 17 E. 47th St., 2nd floor.

Among the questions we'll engage are: what do the VIDA numbers explain about the health of American publishing? Does the American reading public actually benefits from gender and racial parity in publishing? And should books review editors and book reviewers worry about sociological concerns like gender and racial diversity? 

7:30-9:30 pm Cocktail Party at the Center for Fiction, 17 E. 47th St., 2nd floor.

If you are planning to attend the membership meeting, please email me at and put "NBCC Meeting" in the subject line. You will receive separate invitations via Paperless Post to the breakfast and the cocktail party. I hope you can join us for some or all of the day's events, and I look forward to seeing many of you there.


Critical Notes: AWP15, Ben Fountain’s Ang Lee Film, PEN finalists, Claudia Rankine & More

by Admin | Apr-20-2015

Your reviews seed Critical Notes online and via email; 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 password.

NBCC featured reading at AWP15 in Minneapolis, caught onstage by reading host Jane Ciabattari: Jayne Anne Phillips, two-time finalist; Anthony Marra, awarded inaugural John Leonard prize for best first book; Lily King, NBCC fiction finalist. (Marra was named a Guggenheim fellow the next day.) More AWP moments, including folks dropping by the NBCC booth at the bookfair, on the National Book Critics Circle Facebook page.  NBCC volunteer team this year:  Anthony Marra, NBCC members Laurie Hertzel, Karen White, Christopher X. Slate, Monica McFawn, Grant Faulkner, Larry Smith, NBCC board members Karen Long, Michele Filgate, Joanna Scutts, David Biespiel, former board member Rigoberto Gonzalez.

Coming up at AWP16 in Los Angeles: this year's NBCC poetry awardee Claudia Rankine will be keynote speaker (she won a Los Angeles Times book prize this week).

NBCC fiction awardee (for Americanah)and finalist (for Half of a Yellow Sun) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was named to Time magazine's list of the world's 100 most influential people. Writes Time's Radhika Jones: "her greatest power is as a creator of characters who struggle profoundly to understand their place in the world."

Among the finalists for PEN awards announced this week: Phil Klee, this year's NBCC John Leonard awardee for best first book; Claudia Rankine, this year's NBCC poetry awardee,  former NBCC fiction finalists Rabih Alameddine and Teju Cole, and nonfiction finalists S.C. Gwynne and Elizabeth Kolbert.

NBCC fiction awardee Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk coming to film; the Ang Lee film based on the novel is set to open in November 16, during Oscar awards season.

Former NBCC president John Freeman, launching Freeman's magazine soon, is executive editor of newly launched The Lit Hube. He kicked off the inaugural week at AWP with this essay, "A Brief History of the Future of Reading."

Longtime NBCC board member Rigoberto Gonzalez, whose poetry collection, Unpeopled Eden, won the Lambda Literary Award and the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and who was awarded the 2015 Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Publishing Triangle, was signing a new chapbook, Our Lady of the Crossword, at AWP. 

Priscilla Gilman reviews Elizabeth Alexander's memoir of love and loss for the Boston Globe.

Former NBCC board member David Haglund, now literary editor of, joins executive editor Amelia Lester, Leslie Jamison and Joshua Rothman in this podcast  discussion of the state of the memoir.

Former board member Stephen Burt has a new collection from Rain Taxi, All-Season Stephanie.

NBCC board member Colette Bancroft's take on Sandrof award winner Toni Morrison's new novel, God Help the Child.

Grace Bello interviews Editorial Director of TOON Books and Art Editor of The New Yorker Françoise Mouly for Guernica.

Ryan Teitman reviews Ander Monson's Letter to a Future Lover for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Julia M. Klein's dual review--Kate Bolick's "Spinster" and Robin Rinaldi's "The Wild Oats Project"--for the Chicago Tribune.

Julie Hakim Azzam interviews memoirist Alexandra Fuller about her newest memoir, Leaving Before the Rains, for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Michelle Lancaster reviews Simon Barnes' Ten Million Aliens for Bookslut.

Susannah Nesmith reviews Cynthia Barnett's Rain for the Miami Herald.

Joan Gelfand on poetry month for Huffington Post.

Anne Boyd Rioux reviews How To Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis in The Rumpus.

Karl Wolff reviews One Nation Under God by Kevin M. Kruse for the New York Journal of Books.

Sheri J. Caplan reviews Valerie Lester's, Giambattista Bodoni for Bookslut. 


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