Critical Notes

Monday Morning Roundup 1


NBCC board member Marcela Valdes on Dagoberto Gilb’s The Flowers:

“For years, award-winning novelist Dagoberto Gilb said he was working on a novel about his mother. The book, he told an interviewer in 2001, was going to be based on his New Yorker essay, ‘I Knew She Was Beautiful.’ Anyone who’s read this piece, which opens in a train depot in 1950s Los Angeles and ends decades later with a poignant hospital scene, can be forgiven for expecting Gilb’s new novel, The Flowers, to be a kind of redemption story.”

“Emily Dickinson: Post-9/11 poet?”  NBCC board member and Balakian winner Maureen McLane ponders.

Frederic Tuten and Jerome Charyn, both raised in the Bronx, asked to create a portrait of their friend and colleague Donald Barthelme, ended up with a collage of all three and their times.

NBCC board member David L. Ulin on Jonathan Miles’s “Dear American Airlines:”

“Talk about timing.In April, American Airlines grounded more than 1,000 flights, many of them out of Chicago, to check electrical connections on its fleet of MD-80s. Two months later, Jonathan Miles has published his first novel, ‘Dear American Airlines,’ written in the form of a letter from a disgruntled flier stranded at O’Hare, waiting, like Vladimir and Estragon, to be delivered from the existential nightmare of the terminal.”

“While They Slept,” the new nonfiction book by NBCC member Kathryn Harrison, reviewed by Robert Pinsky:

“The violations that destroy human lives, or maim them, seem to demand telling. Possibly we seek such stories as ways to understand our smaller, more ordinary losses and griefs. Mythology and literature (and their descendant, the Freudian talking cure) manifest a profound hunger for narrating what is called, paradoxically, the unspeakable.”

NBCC board member Ellen Heltzel on Andre Dubus III’s new novel:

“‘The Garden of Last Days’ establishes, once and for all, that Dubus is his father’s son. The late Andre Dubus was known for his pessimistic short stories (his ‘In the Bedroom’ was turned into one of my favorite recent movies). Andre III hinted at the same darkness in his brooding bestseller/movie, ‘The House of Sand and Fog.’ This novel clinches the legacy.”

NBCC member Adam Dunn talks to the ubiquitous Alan Furst.