May, 2016

Critical Notes: Edna O’Brien, Don DeLillo, Helen Oyeyemi, Richard Russo, Adam Haslett, and more…

by Carmela Ciuraru | May-14-2016

Your reviews seed this roundup. Please send items, including news about recent publications and honors, to (Current members only.) Please only send links that do not require a subscription or a username and password.

Kevin O'Kelly reviews "American Rhapsody" by Claudia Roth Pierpont for the Christian Science Monitor.

NBCC president and Newsday books editor Tom Beer reviews Adam Haslett’s new novel, “Imagine me Gone."

Anita Felicelli reviews Shobha Rao's "An Unrestored Woman" for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Julia M. Klein reviews Andrew Nagorski's "The Nazi Hunters" for the Forward.

Heather Scott Partington reviews "Hystopia" by David Means for the Northwest Review of Books.

NBCC Board Member Mark Rotella writes about George Plimpton for Vanity Fair.

Michael Leong's reviews "Antithetical Poetics: Recent Books by Joseph Donahue" for Hyperallergic.

Jim Ruland reviews "Cities I've Never Lived In" by Sara Majka and "Making Nice" by Matt Sumell for San Diego CityBeat.

Kerri Arsenault interviews Declan Spring of New Directions Publishing for Lit Hub.

Fred Volkmer writes about Mark Ciabattari's "Preludes to History" and Louis Begley's "Kill and Be Killed" for

NBCC Board Member Kate Tuttle reviews recent nonfiction titles for the Boston Globe.

Michael Upchurch reviews “Our Young Man” by Edmund White for the New York Times Book Review, “The Road Taken: The History and Future of America’s Infrastructure” by Henry Petroski for the Washington Post, “Apostle” by Tom Bissell for the Seattle Times, and "Black Deutschland" by Darryl Pinckney for the Chicago Tribune.

Benjamin Woodard reviews "A Well-Made Bed" by Laurie Alberts and Abby Frucht for the Northwest Review of Books.

John Domini reviews "Zero K" by Don DeLillo for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and on Lit Hub, offers a reading list guide to Naples, the city of Elena Ferrante. For American Book Review, he writes about John Keene's "Counternarratives."

NBCC Board Member Colette Bancroft, recent winner of a first-place National Headliner Award, reviews Richard Russo for the Tampa Bay Times.

Diane Scharper reviews Helen Oyeyemi's stories, "What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours," for America Magazine.

Judy Krueger reviews Edna O'Brien's "The Little Red Chairs" at Litbreak.

Michael Magras reviews Adam Haslett's "Imagine Me Gone" for the Miami Herald.

NBCC Board Member Marion Winik interviews Richard Russo about "Everybody's Fool" in Newsday, and Ron Tanner about "Missile Paradise" in the Baltimore Fishbowl. Her column in the Fishbowl is a Hunter S. Thompson tribute.

Bob Hoover reviews Jennifer Haigh's "Heat and Light" for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

David Cooper reviews "Max's Diamonds" by Jay Greenfield for the New York Journal of Books.

Elizabeth Rosner reviews Viet Thanh Nguyen's "Nothing Ever Dies" for the San Francisco Chronicle.

NBCC Board Member Walton Muyumba reviews Don DeLillo's "Zero K" for Newsday.

Joseph Peschel interviews Allison Amend for the L.A. Review of Books.

Lori Feathers reviews "The Investigator" by Margarita Khemlin for World Literature Today.

Michael Lindgren reviews Moby’s memoir, "Porcelain" in the Washington Post.

NBCC Board Member Jane Ciabattari's "BBC Culture Books to Read in May" includes
new novels by NBCC award winner Louise Erdrich, C. E. Morgan, and more. For Lit Hub, she recently wrote about Maggie Nelson, C. D. Wright, and others.

Alexis Burling reviews "Imagine Me Gone" by Adam Haslett for the San Francisco Chronicle.

April, 2016

NBCC General Membership Meeting May 12 in Chicago

by Tom Beer | Apr-28-2016










The NBCC's 2016 membership meeting is scheduled during BookExpo America in Chicago next month, at the offices of the NBCC's pro bono law firm. Here are the details:

WHEN Thursday, May 12 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.
WHERE Quarles & Brady, 300 N. LaSalle St., Suite 4000, Chicago.
RSVP by May 10 to Tom Beer, with subject line NBCC MEETING

The meeting is open to all members in good standing, but please do RSVP; your name must be on the list with security at the front desk. We plan to go to lunch at a nearby restaurant after the meeting; details to follow.

As a BEA special for lapsed freelance members, you may rejoin the NBCC for just $40 at the meeting on May 12. Pay by credit card or personal check at the meeting.

Please come and hear what the NBCC has been doing, and let us know what we can do better. We hope to see you there!

Best wishes,
Tom Beer

Critical Notes: Rob Spillman, Edna O’Brien, Hope Jahren, and more

by Michele Filgate | Apr-25-2016

Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including news about recent publications and honors, to (Current members only.) Please send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson interviewed Rob Spillman for the Los Angeles Times, and reviewed Hope Jahren's "Lab Girl" for the New York Times Book Review.

Hilton Als considers NBCC Criticism award winner Maggie Nelson, ending with her acceptance speech at the March 17 awards ceremony.

NBCC board member Greg Barrios has an essay called “Confession of a Counterculture Past” in a new anthology called “The Beatest State in The Union: An Anthology of Beat Texas Writing.”

NBCC board member Michele Filgate writes about Elizabeth Crane and her new book, “The History of Great Things,” for the Los Angeles Times.

NBCC board member Laurie Hertzel interviews Kao Kalia Yang about her memoir, “The Song Poet,” and reviews Curtis Sittenfeld’s “Eligible” for The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

NBCC winner Claudia Rankine is joining the Yale faculty.

Former NBCC board member Katharine Weber reviews “The Stopped Heart” by Julie Myerson for The New York Times Book Review.

Former NBCC board member Karen Long reviews “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren for The Seattle Times.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviews “Guapa” by Saleem Haddad for The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Alexis Burling reviews “The Nest” by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney and “Alice & Oliver” by Charles Bock for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Julia M. Klein reviews Chanan Tigay's "The Lost Book of Moses" for the Forward.

Jim Carmin writes about Diana Abu-Jaber and her new memoir, “Life Without a Recipe,” for The Oregonian.

Michelle Lancaster reviews “Sunset City” by Melissa Ginsburg for Lone Star Literary Life.

Jennifer Bort Yacovissi reviews “The Human Cost of Welfare: How the System Hurts the People It’s Supposed to Help” by Phil Harvey and Lisa Conyers for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Susan Balée reviews Edna O’Brien’s “The Little Red Chairs” for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Nathaniel Popkin reviews “Broken Mirrors” by Elias Khoury (translated by Humphrey Davies) for Public Books, and “Distant Light” by Antonio Moresco (translated by Richard Dixon), “Hill” by Jean Giono (translated by Paul Eprile), “Everything I Learned at the Beach” by Cynan Jones, “Half-Earth” by E.O. Wilson for Cleaver Magazine.

Carla Main reviews “Detroit Resurrected: To Bankruptcy and Back” by Nathan Bomey for City Journal.

Joan Silverman interviews Elizabeth Hand, the author of “Hard Light,” for the Portland Press Herald.

Morris Dickstein reviews three books on Jewish American writing in The Times Literary Supplement.

Harvey Freedenberg reviews Roger Angell’s “This Old Man” for Harrisburg Magazine and Rob Spillman’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties” for Bookreporter.

For Hyperallergic, Michael Leong wrote a piece called “Antiethical Poetics: Recent Books by Joseph Donahue.” 

Gina Webb reviews “Dimestore” by Lee Smith and “Hide” by Matthew Griffin for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Judy Krueger reviews “Innocents and Others” by Dana Spiotta at Litbreak.

Ellen Akins reviews “Margaret the First” by Danielle Dutton for The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

George de Stefano reviews “Fire and Blood: The European Civil War, 1914-1945” by Enzo Traverso (translated by David Fernbach) for PopMatters.

Diane Scharper reviews “The Giveness of Things” by Marilynne Robinson and “Girl in Glass” by Deanna Fei for the National Catholic Reporter.

Carl Rollyson reviews “A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century” by Jerome Charyn for the University Bookman.

NBCC member Michael Orthofer’s new book, “The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary Fiction,” is now available.

Julia M. Klein reviews “Rise of the Rocket Girls” by Nathalia Holt for The Boston Globe.

Joe Peschel reviews “Little Red Chairs” by Edna O’Brien for the News & Observer.

Steven G. Kellman reviews “Kill and Be Killed” by Louis Begley for the San Francisco Chronicle.

John Domini reviews “XX: Poems for the Twentieth Century” by Campbell McGrath for The Brooklyn Rail.

Kevin Zambrano reviews “Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine” by Diane Williams for Electric Literature.

Michael Magras reviews “Orson Welles: Volume 3” by Simon Callow for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Marion Winik in Newsday on Brenda JanowitzMaggie Nelson and Joanna Connors, and Charles Bock, and in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, by Laura Tillman.

NBCC Balakian winner Carlos Lozada on Winning the Balakian Award

by Carlos Lozada | Apr-21-2016

Good evening, and thank you for that generous introduction. I’d like to thank the National Book Critics Circle for seeing fit to hand its reviewing award this year to a rookie book critic, which means that right now my elation is lathered in insecurity.

I’m supposed to say something about my approach to criticism. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure it out. I’d been at The Washington Post for about ten years – overseeing coverage of economics, national security, and our Sunday opinion section Outlook – when I learned that Jonathan Yardley was going to retire, and I thought, “now that could be an interesting job for me.” So it was opportunism more than anything else.

But when you’re looking to succeed someone who has been in a job for more than thirty years, and to much acclaim, you need to say how you’re going to do it your own way. So my pitch was to try to bring book criticism to the center of the mission of The Washington Post – because nonfiction books are not just great literature, or big ideas, or feats of writing and reporting. They are, overwhelmingly, news.

Sometimes it’s easy to see them that way. Last summer, I wrote about the memoirs of Donald J. Trump, in which he writes, quite forthrightly, about his capacity for deception, or what he calls “truthful hyperbole.” And last month, I wrote about Hillary Clinton’s “It Takes a Village,” which, twenty years after its publication, is still the best distillation of her political project.

But those are obvious – they’re politicians or public figures, so it’s easy to regard their books as news. With other works, it gets murkier. If I read Susan Southard’s “Nagasaki,” is it fair to the book, to the author, to the survivors she writes about, if I review it in the context of the Iran nuclear deal? If Monica Lewinsky happens to give a TED talk about the shaming she endured during the 1990s on the same week that I happen to be reading Jon Ronson’s “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” should that coincidence color the way I review the book? Should I let it? And if Renaissance historian Victoria Coates writes a book about the interplay of art and democracy over the centuries, should the fact that she is Ted Cruz’s top foreign policy adviser affect how I see the book or the insights I hope to tease out?

The answer for me, in all those cases, is YES! Absolutely, yes. I do feel a little guilty about it, though. After all, when I’m reviewing a book that may have been years in the making, why should I be distracted by whatever is in the news that particular week, or by whatever I see on my Twitter timeline?

But I am distracted by all that, or, as I’d rather put it, informed by all that. Rather than read a book as an entirely self-contained work, or assess it against some literary standard or canon, I’d rather measure it against the moment. And depending on the moment, books can make news again and again. Bill Cosby’s bestsellers from the 1980s, considered so funny and cute and adorable back then, are revealing today in an entirely unexpected way, a creepy way – a newsworthy way. And reading Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” like I did last December, is an entirely different experience given the state of American politics today, and different for me, in my first months as an American citizen. It is, in essence, a new book.

To say that books are news does not demean them; it exalts them. It acknowledges that in whatever age they’re read, books will always be in dialogue with the times. This just happens to be our time.

Thank you for this award. It’s an enormous honor.

Carlos Lozada is the nonfiction book critic of the Washington Post, where he has also served as economics editor, national security editor and Outlook editor. Before joining the Post in 2005, he was managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine and a Knight-Bagehot fellow in economics and business journalism at Columbia University. A native of Lima, Peru, he has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

President’s Message to Membership: Fantastic Start to 2016

by Tom Beer | Apr-12-2016

Dear NBCC members:
We've had a fantastic start to the year here at the NBCC. Our reading and awards ceremony, held March 16-17 at The New School in New York, showcased an outstanding roster of books and writers, and our choices were widely recognized in the media.
On March 18, we welcomed five new people to the board who've never served before, and one returning member. The reading and deliberation for next year's awards have already begun. As in past years, we invite your input on the John Leonard Prize for Best First Book - more details to come on that prize and how you can get more involved.
Thanks to the work of Jane Ciabattari and several other members, we had a strong presence at AWP in Los Angeles (March 30-April 2). We had a booth, hosted an NBCC reading (Phil Klay, Amy Wilentz, Hector Tobar) and co-sponsored a party with LitHub and PEN USA.
Next month we continue "Making the Case: Critics on Literature," our series of talks at the Poetry & Literature Center of the Library of Congress, when board member Elizabeth Taylor speaks on "The Ecosystem of Fiction." Liz is a past NBCC president, co-editor of The National Book Review, and literary editor at large for the Chicago Tribune. The talk will take place Monday, May 2, at 12 noon in the Whittall Pavilion of the Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave. SE, Washington D.C. For more information, call 202-707-5394.
Finally, the NBCC general membership meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 12 from 10 a.m. to noon. In recent years the meeting has coincided with BEA in New York, and this year we've decided to follow the expo to Chicago and hold our annual meeting there. If you'll be in Chicago, I encourage you to join us for a discussion about the work and the future of the NBCC. RSVP to and put "NBCC Meeting" in the subject line; I'll reply with meeting details. I look forward to seeing you.
Best wishes,
Tom Beer

Critical Notes: Douglas Brinkley, Charles Bock, Dana Spiotta, and more

by Carmela Ciuraru | Apr-11-2016

Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including news about recent publications and honors, to (Current members only.) Please send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.

Bob Hoover reviews "Rightful Heritage" by Douglas Brinkley for the Dallas Morning News.

David Cooper reviews "Modern Girls" by Jennifer S. Brown and "Alice and Oliver" by Charles Bock for the New York Journal of Books.

Rebecca Hussey on Maggie Nelson's "The Red Parts" for Open Letters Monthly.

Jim Carmin profiles Peter Rock in The Oregonian.

Michael Magras reviews Dana Spiotta's "Innocents and Others" for the Iowa Review.

Joe Peschel reviews "Seven Brief Lessons on Physics" by Carlo Rovelli for the News & Observer.

Karl Wolff reviews "Tom House: Tom of Finland in Los Angeles" by Michael Reynolds for the New York Journal of Books.

NBCC Board member Laurie Hertzel reviews "Dimestore" by Lee Smith and interviews Kate DiCamillo for the Star Ttribune.

Critical Notes: Álvaro Enrigue, Edna O’Brien, Katie Roiphe, Helen Oyeyemi, Peggy Orenstein, and more

by Eric Liebetrau | Apr-04-2016

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.


At Kirkus, Gerald Bartell talks to Linwood Barclay. Bartell also reviews "The Books That Changed My Life," edited by Bethanne Patrick.

Michael Lindgren also reviews Patrick's collection.

Julia M. Klein reviews Arlene Heyman's "Scary Old Sex" for the Forward. Klein also reviews Tara Zahra's "The Great Departure" for the Chicago Tribune. For the Boston Globe, Klein reviews Peggy Orenstein's "Girls & Sex" and Nancy Jo Sales's "American Girls." As well as Ingrid Carlberg's "Raoul Wallenberg" for the Forward.

David Abrams pays tribute to the late Jim Harrison.

At the Toronto Star, Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviews Shelter, a debut novel by Jung Yun.

Steven Kellman reviews "Stork Mountain," by Miroslav Penkov.

"Mysterious Keys Unlock Surreal Landscapes In 'What Is Yours Is Not Yours,'" from Maureen Corrigan.

Michael Magras reviews Álvaro Enrigue's Sudden Death. Magras also reviews Katie Roiphe's "The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End."

In the New York Journal of Books, David Cooper reviews "Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo" by Boris Fishman. Cooper also reviews "The Best Place on Earth" by Ayelet Tsabari.

Lori Feathers reviews Raja Alem’s "The Dove’s Necklace" at Words Without Borders.

Bharti Kirchner reviews Somini Sengupta’s new nonfiction book “The End of Karma."

Joe Peschel reviews "Free Men," by Katy Simpson Smith in the Charlotte Observer. Peschel also reviews "Shylock is My Name," Howard Jacobson.

At the Rumpus, Bradley Sides reviews Tom Hart's graphic memoir "Rosalie Lightning."

Laverne Frith reviews "XX: Poems for the Twentieth Century" by Campbell McGrath.

Priscilla Gilman reviews Edna O'Brien's "The Little Red Chairs."

In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Anita Felicelli reviews "The Association of Small Bombs and "The Year of the Runaways."

"Joseph Brodsky, Darker and Brighter," from Cynthia Haven.

NBCC board member Jane Ciabattari reviews former NBCC fiction finalist Dana Spiotta's "Innocents and Others" for NPR.

Robert Hoover reviews Douglas Brinkley's "Rightful Heritage."

For Jadaliyya’s audio journal Status Hour, Julie Hakim Azzam interviews Leila Abdelrazaq about her graphic novel "Baddawi."

Marian Ryan reviews "Knockout" by John Jodzio.

Ron Slate reviews "The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens" by Paul Mariani.

Rachel Mack reviews "The Benedictines" by Rachel May.

Former NBCC board member Mark Athitakis reviews "Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings," by Stephen O'Connor.

"Trouble and Surrender in Flynn, Jackson, and Marvin," an essay from Lisa Spaar.

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