Critical Notes

Catch-Up Roundup


Bookbabes Ellen Heltzel and Margo Hammond will launch their new book, “Between the Covers: The Book Babes’ Guide to a Woman’s Reading Pleasures” at Inkwood Books in Tampa, Fl, on Friday night at 7 pm. Saturday they’ll be at the St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading. Colette Bancroft reviews the book here, noting “Don’t be misled by the subtitle. Although the book is aimed at female readers, it’s not a list of chick lit or books by only female authors (and many of its books will appeal to a broad range of readers of either gender). ‘Between the Covers’ is a smart, reader-friendly compilation of 55 lists of 10 books each, all related to a single theme but approaching it in a different way. Most are recent; about a third are fiction, a third general nonfiction and a third memoirs.”

John Freeman, on the National Book Award fiction finalists, in The Guardian: “All of the finalists are in dialogue with world literature.”

Heller McAlpin on Sarah Vowell’s “The Wordy Shipmates:” “…one of her more outrageous parallels compares the Pequot war, in which 700 Indians were murdered in Mystic Fort, with a frustrated skateboarder’s ‘destructive tantrum.’”

National Book Award finalist Aleksandar Hemon, whose “The Lazarus Project” is set in Chicago, receives the Chicago Tribune’s “Heartland Prize” on November 1. Details here.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette book editor Bob Hoover talks to Pulitzer winner Richard Russo, who laments the current publishing climate as tough on new novelists.

Mary Ann Gwinn calls Ivan Doig “a fearless storyteller.”

Art Winslow on legendary war correspondent Dexter Filkins’ “The Forever War:” “Simply put, ‘The Forever War’ is credibly the best single source from which to glean an understanding of the so-called war on terror from its front lines.”  Filkins reads at the Half King in New York City Monday night at 7 pm.

Roxana Robinson and Tod Hasak-Lowey read at KGB Bar in New York on Sunday night. Robinson’s take on “Happy Families,” the new Carlos Fuentes story collection: “Fuentes’s corrosive voice is powerful, and there’s nothing small or timid about his vision. But if we compare Fuentes to Tolstoy, we remember that one of the Russian’s great strengths is his direct access to the emotions. The darker ones are present in his world, but love is also there. Tolstoy’s understanding of that rich and vital force in all its forms—filial, romantic, parental, erotic, fraternal—illuminates his writing, and the wide spectrum of these feelings makes his somber tones more somber and his brights more brilliant. Fuentes chooses here to reveal only the darker emotions, like a lens that shows only black and white.”

Poets Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover read from their new translation, “Selected Poems of Friedrich Holderlin,” in the Lone Mountain Reading series at the University of San Francisco, Xavier Hall/Fromm Hall, Main Campus, 2130 Fulton Street, San Francisco, on Wednesday evening, Wednesday, at 7:30 p.m.

Ron Charles on Joyce Hinnefeld’s novel, “In Hovering Flight:” “Here’s another one to look out for: a rare, delicate novel that takes its title from Roger Tory Peterson’s description of the bobolink’s song: ‘in hovering flight and quivering descent, ecstatic and bubbling, starting with low, reedy notes and rollicking upward.’”

David L. Ulin on “Mean:Poems,” by Colette Labouff Atkinson: “Atkinson is as comfortable riffing on pop culture (Willie Nelson, ‘Three Days of the Condor’) as she is on Cicero, John Milton and Herodotus, all of whom show up in her poems.”

Tim Brown on Marybeth Hamilton’s “In Search of the Blues,” in Rain Taxi online:

“Most important to Hamilton is the process by which a founding myth of the blues was advanced. She writes, ‘the Delta blues was not born in the bars and dance halls of Mississippi…It was discovered—or, if you like, invented—by white men and women, as the culmination of a long-standing fascination with uncorrupted black singers, untainted by the city, by commerce, by the sights and sounds of modernity.’”

Gregg Barrios on “Latinos in Lotusland:“Long overdue, ‘Latinos in Lotusland’ is a literary GPS guide to El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles, aka the city of Angeles as seen through Latino—mostly Mexican American and Chicano—writing.”