Critical Notes

Roundup: J.K. Rowling, Pablo Medina, Natasha Trethewey, and More

By Mark Athitakis

The amount of attention paid to book critics’ opinions may have hit its high point last week, with the release of J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy. Time’s Lev Grossman delivered one of the rare raves for the book, writing that “I had come under the spell of a great novel.” Elsewhere, the Los Angeles TimesDavid L. Ulin criticized “Rowling's inability to engage us, to invest us sufficiently in her characters, young or otherwise, to reckon with the contrivances of her fictional world.” And the New York TimesMichiko Kakutani wrote that the book leaves the reader with a “numbing understanding of the difficulty of turning a dozen or so people’s tales into a story with genuine emotional resonance.” (The Guardian rounds up the critical reactions to the novel across the pond.)

Rigoberto Gonzalez considers the novels of Pablo Medina for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Parul Kapur Hinzen reviews Natasha Trethewey’s poetry collection Thrall for ArtsATL.

Jordan Michael Smith reviews Joseph Crespino’s Strom Thurmond’s America for the Daily Beast.

David Biespiel, in his new poetry column for the Rumpus, discusses difficult poetry.

Carmela Ciuraru reviews Louise Erdrich’s novel The Round House for USA Today.

Fred Setterberg reviews three memoirs by musicians, including Charlie Louvin’s Satan Is Real, at Talking Writing.

Jane Ciabattari interviews A.M. Homes about her new novel, May We Be Forgiven, for the Daily Beast.

Joseph Peschel reviews Davy Rothbart’s collection of personal essays, My Heart Is an Idiot, for the Boston Globe.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviews Salman Rushdie’s memoir, Joseph Anton, for the Christian Science Monitor.

Steven G. Kellman reviews Steve Stern’s story collection The Book of Mischief for the Dallas Morning News.

Mythili G. Rao, Jacob Silverman, and Rob Verger pick three essential new books on modern India for Newsweek.

Your reviews and recommendations help seed these roundups: If you’re an NBCC member with a review you’d like considered for inclusion, please email You can also get our attention by using the Twitter hashtag #nbcc, posting on the wall of our Facebook page, or joining our members-only LinkedIn group.