Critical Notes

Roundup 1


Several weeks back the Chicago Tribune book section, edited by NBCC board member Elizabeth Taylor, took a savvy appoach to inevitable change, soliciting reader suggestions. Among the 1,000-plus responses was a request for a more-regular column of reader’s letters, and a comment from Chicago-based novelist Sara Paretsky, who began her letter:

“I read the Books section chiefly for reviews, not essays. I think this section should be doubled in size. Often you review books weeks, sometimes months, before “The New York Times,” so I rely on your section more than on the “Times” book review, although I also read it. Other strengths of the section include your choice of reviewers—I’m often impressed with people like Alan Cheuse. Like all Chicago writers, I appreciate the fact that you pay attention to what we’re doing here in Chicago and the greater Midwest.”

Writing of Hunter Thompson’s collaboration with Oscar Zeta Acosta, NBCC member Greg Barrios argues that “In the interaction between Zeta and Hunter, gonzo was born.”

NBCC finalist Blake Bailey wanted to hate Jula Reed’s Katrina memoir….

NBCC board member Scott McLemee finds Vincent Bugliosi’s “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder” reads “like a blog in disguise.”

NBCC board memer Lizzie Skurnick finds echoes of David Lodge in Jess Winfield’s “My Name Is Will,” but adds, “this particular brand of silly, filthy fun is Winfield’s own.” And here is her take on Stephanie Meyer’s take on life.

NBCC board member Geeta Sharma-Jensen talks to novelist Elizabeth Berg about Wisconsin cheese, Dunkin Donuts and the title story in her new collection, “The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted.”

NBCC member Frank Wilson asks how is the thriller “The Lemur,” written by Irish novelist John Banville as Benjamin Black, different from his other works.

NBCC member Mark Sarvas’s novel, “Harry, Revised,” is a nominee for the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association award in fiction.

NBCC member Liesl Schillinger finds Julia Blackburn’s memoir, “The Three of Us, “completely distinct yet hauntingly familiar.”

NBCC member Adam Kirsch writes that in his first novel, “A Manuscript of Ashes,” Spanish writer Antonio Muñoz Molina imples that “the past is never as dead as we think, and the stories it tells us are never free of hidden agendas.”

Novelist/journalist Bryan Woolley reminds us why Rick Bass can be considered a Texas writer.

NBCC member Carlo Wolff on the link between marketing and the search for self in today’s consumer culture, via “Wacky Packages,” “Obsessive Branding Disorder” and “Buying In:The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are.”

NBCC member Chris Patsilelis on “The Ice Diaries,” the story of a daring Cold War submarine mission.

NBCC member Jim Ruland finds Helmut Krausser’s “Eros” wanting.

NBCC member Nigel Beale reports on “A Report on the Afterlife of Culture” by Stephen Henighan.

NBCC member Carolyn Kellogg, who contributes to the Los Angeles Times book blog, Jacket Copy, on her reactions to commentary on the changes to the book section here.

NBCC member Lauren Elkin on the 100th anniversary of Simone de Beauvoir’s birth (and her derriere).