Critical Notes

Roundup: A(nother) Roth Controversy, and more

By Mark Athitakis

We swear we didn’t have any inside knowledge: Just after we wrapped up our weeklong Celebrating Philip Roth series on Critical Mass, Roth was named the winner of the 2011 Man Booker International Prize. The prize would’ve generated plenty of chatter in any circumstance, but the discussion got noisier when word came out that one of the judges, Virago Press founder Carmen Callil, quit the three-judge panel to protest Roth’s selection. In the Guardian, Callil explains her thinking, writing that “to give this prize to yet another North American writer, when we had such great writers to choose from (the previous winner was the truly great Canadian writer, Alice Munro) suggests a limited vision, to say the least.”

Elsewhere, Tablet’s Marc Tracy chats with Roth in New York the evening after the announcement; in a video, Benjamin Taylor interviews Roth about his career; and former NBCC president John Freeman discusses the inherent tension in prize panels at

If you’re heading to BEA this week, Library Journal’s Barbara Hoffert has a comprehensive guide to which publishers are giving away what galleys and where on the tradeshow floor.

Jim Carmin reviews Francine Prose’s My New American Life for the Oregonian and Edna O’Brien’s Saints and Sinners for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

A tribute to the late Reynolds Price, whose 1986 novel, Kate Vaiden, was a finalist the NBCC fiction prize, was held last week at Duke University.

Harold Bloom, a repeat NBCC finalist, takes part in a video interview for the New York Times Book Review podcast.

Adam Kirsch reviews Kevin M. Schultz’ Tri-Faith America: How Catholics and Jews Held Postwar America to Its Protestant Promise in Tablet.

Ruth Franklin reviews Paula Fox’s News From the World for Slate.

Eric Banks reviews Deborah Baker’s The Convert for the Chicago Tribune.

Rigoberto Gonzalez reviews Martin Espada’s The Trouble Ball for the El Paso Times.

Steven G. Kellman reviews Bharati Mukherjee’s Miss New India for the Barnes & Noble Review.

Carolyn Kellogg reviews Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test for the Los Angeles Times.

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photo: Nancy Crampton