Critical Notes

Midweek Roundup 3


NBCC board member Kevin Prufer’s “National Anthem” chosen for PW’s Best Books of the Year. And his “New European Poets,” edited with Wayne Miller, reviewed here.

NBCC nonfiction award winner Maxine Hong Kingston’s “Obama on O’ahu:”

“The week of summer that we were in Hawai’i visiting our son, Barack Obama brought his family to visit his tutu, his grandmother Toot. Crowds welcomed them with munificent aloha.Commentators back on the mainland worried, the presidential candidate had gone off to a foreign, barely American place. Seeing him and his wife and daughters at the beaches and parks and basketball court—he showed them the ‘aina—people said to one another, ‘He’s a local boy.’ The newspapers declared, ‘Obama’s a local boy.‘I’m sure that Obama was hoping that African Americans would understand, that among the people of Hawai’i, it’s an honor and not a putdown to be dubbed local boy. Like kama’aina, child of the land. Obama conducts himself modestly, and the locals love that in him.”

Troy Jollimore on Kevin Young’s “Dear Darkness:

“Per page, per ounce, per dollar—whatever your preferred unit of measurement, Kevin Young must surely be one of the best entertainment values in today’s poetry world.”

Adam Kirsch invokes Proust in his assessment of Roberto Bolano’s “2666,” which he writes has “the confident strangeness of a masterpiece.”

David L. Ulin’s take on Orwell’s essays:

“What Orwell’s after is less diatribe than dialogue. In his writing, politics and literature are in constant conversation, framing reactions to what he has lived through, what he has read. Throughout these essays, we are confronted with his humanism, which, as much as his intellect, motivates his work.”

Writing in the El Paso Times, Pablo Miguel Martínez notes of Rigoberto Gonzalez’s new collection, “Men without Bliss:”

“Let’s be clear: González’s breathtaking vignettes of men’s lives are not uplifting antidotes to the vitriol of anti-immigrant, anti-Latino agendas. But what these stories do offer, in generous measure, is a potent reminder that ethnic groups are not monolithic.”

SF Signal asks Kit Reed to elaborate on her essay about writers embracing the Internet.

San Antonio playwright/critic Gregg Barrios profiled.