Critical Notes

NBCC’s moderator, panel, “Best of AWP 2013,” Anne Carson, Blake Bailey, Renata Adler, & More

By Jane Ciabattari

Wrapping up the “13 Bests of AWP 2013” for the Huffington Post, Ru Freeman named NBCC board member and AWP organizer, Harvard professor, NBCC criticism finalist and poet Stephen Burt “Best Moderator:” “All moderators should be so erudite, charming, and energetic. Particularly at 1.30pm on the last day of AWP.”

And she named the NBCC's “What Is Criticism” panelists, all former finalists/winners–Clare Cavanagh, Vivian Gornick,  Parul Sehgal, and James Wood–were named the AWP 2013's best panelists: “All the smart, relaxed, happy-to-contradict people on the 'What is Criticism' session. Highlights included Sehgal's assertion that ideas make regionalism irrelevant, Gornick quoting Auden on never writing about bad art (i.e. don't review bad work, it will sink on its own lack of merit), and her discussion of the long-road taken to her essay on Israel and the necessity to temper criticism with affection or risk a 'yes-but' story, and Woods speaking about writing as a zone of honesty.”

David Duhr covered the AWP for Publishing Perspectives. Here's Day 1Day 2, and Day 3.

NBCC Balakian winner Sam Anderson profiles inscrutably brilliant NBCC finalist Anne Carson for the NYTimes Magazine.

Jennifer Szalai reviews Renata Adler's novels “Speedboat” and “Pitch Dark,” both reissued by New&nnbsp; York Review of Books Press after having gone out of print (“Speedboat,” a 1979 NBCC fiction finalist, was one of the NBCC Reads “books we'd most like to see back in print” a few years back): “The Renata Adler of lore — obstinate, relentless, untroubled by second thoughts — is barely in evidence. 'Pitch Dark,' like 'Speedboat,' exudes a certain openness, a vulnerability, even.”

In the WSJ, Adam Kirsch says of NBCC biography winner Blake Bailey's “Farther and Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson,” “That Mr. Bailey has managed to turn such an unpromising subject into a brilliant and gripping book suggests that, maybe, we are all wrong in the way we approach literary biography.”

In his review of “The Accursed,” Stephen King writes that NBCC Sandrof award winner Joyce Carol Oates has written “what may be the world's first postmodern Gothic Novel: E. L. Doctorow’s ‘Ragtime’ set in Dracula’s castle.”

NBCC fiction finalist Teju Cole talks to Amitava Kumar about those drone tweets.

Steve Kellman on Rebecca Miller's Jacob's Folly for the Dallas News:

In his poetry column for The Rumpus David Biespiel says revising just got easier.

Heller McAlpin writes of Emily Rapp's memoir, “Still Point of the Turning World:” “Although it confronts every parent's worst nightmare, Rapp's book, in covering just the first nine months after Ronan's diagnosis but stopping well short of his death, is not a cathartic tear-jerker. The thing about dread is that it offers none of the release of flat-out mourning.”

 Rayyan Al-Shawaf's double review in The National assesses two books setting forth opposing arguments on the state of Islam in the US–Mucahit Bilici's “Finding Mecca in America: How Islam Is Becoming an American Religion” and Paul L. Williams's “Crescent Moon Rising: The Islamic Transformation of America.

Julia M. Klein reviews Ron Berler's “Raising the Curve” for Columbia Journalism Review and Sheryl Sandberg's “Lean In” for USA Today

Paul Wilner reviews Lenore Zion's first novel, “Stupid Children, ” for Zyzzyva: “Jane, Zion’s fictional protagonist, is wise beyond her years, a smart-ass struggling to find her way in a confusing, and often frightening world, as her father struggles with his own loneliness, sometimes waking her in the middle of the night so they can go to a diner for an early breakfast. The world becomes even scarier—much scarier—when he attempts suicide, leaving her in the hands of two Florida foster parents who belong to a cult called Second Day Believers, whose belief systems could find a comfortable home amid the followers of Jim Jones or the farther reaches of Scientology.”