Critical Notes

Massive Monday Roundup: from Nabokov to Hamid to Auster to Coetzee to Simic and more

By Eric Liebetrau

“A tapestry of literary activism and erudition, passion and precision, action with words.” So writes the El Paso Times about Red-Inked Retablos, the latest book from NBCC board member Rigoberto Gonzalez.

Carmela Ciuraru reviews Andrea Pitzer's The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov in USA Today.

Nonagenarian poet Marie Ponsot, wins the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement. The author's 1998 collection The Bird Catcher won the NBCC award for poetry.

In the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Harvey Freedenberg reviews James Salters' latest novel, All That Is, calling it a “mature, unsentimental story of one man’s restless search for love.”

NBCC board member Karen Long reviews Rachel Kushner's second novel, The Flamethrowers, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Kushner, it should be apparent, can write like the blazes,” says Long, and “rewards our heightened attention.” Ron Charles also reviewed the book for the Washington Post.

2012 NBCC Poetry Award winner D.A. Powell among the judges for the National Book Award, along with Charles Baxter, Gish Jen, Rene Steinke, Charles McGrath and others.

Chronogram discusses Far from the Tree, winner of the 2012 NBCC General Nonfiction Award, with author Andrew Solomon.

“A novel within a novel is a clever touch, but are postmodern writers abusing their readers' patience?” So asks Laura Miller in an exploration for Salon, in which she also reviews Kate Atkinson's new novel, Life After Life.

Rebecca Donner interviews Jacob's Folly author Rebecca Miller for Bookforum.

“Complex puzzles in a Zen-like tale”: NBCC board member David Ulin on Ruth Ozeki's a Tale for the Time Being.

For NPR Books, Heller McAlpin reviews Patricia Volk's “stylish coming-of-age tale,” Shocked.

From the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Parul Sehgal on Mohsin Hamid's new novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. Sehgal: “a rags-to-riches story that works on a head-splitting number of levels. It’s a love story and a study of seismic social change. It parodies a get-rich-quick book and gestures to a new direction for the novel, all in prose so pure and purposeful it passes straight into the bloodstream. It intoxicates.”

Boston Globe correspondent Rayyan Al-Shawaf on Shereen El Feki's Sex and the Citadel.

Steve Weinberg examines David Stockman's The Great Deformation for USA Today: “We should all hope Stockman is mistaken [that]…the mess of the past five years will worsen…but simultaneously honor his heavily researched polemic by considering the possibility that he might be correct.”

Maureen Corrigan on Elizabeth Strout's latest novel, Burgess Boys: “a big, floppy, shambling jumble sale of a novel. I mostly loved it because it feels like life: Color it chaotic.”

Former NBCC vice president Dave Wood reviews Alexander Soderberg's The Andalucian Friend for the Hudson Star Observer.

Brad Tyer's Opportunity, Montana one of Publisher's Weekly's list, “10 Best Small Towns in Books.”

The literary letters of Paul Auster and J.M. Coetzee, reviewed in the Oregonian by Jim Carmin.

Oscar Villalon on Matthew Spektor's “relatable Hollywood novel,” American Dream Machine.

Five decades of Charles Simic's poetry: Craig Morgan Teicher reviews this “concise and complete primer on one of the signature 20th-century poetic styles.”

NBCC board member Jane Ciabattari analyzes the work of Jane Gardam.

A portrait of the great Venezuelan Liberator. Paul Berman on Bolívar by Marie Arana.

Carl Rollyson's new biography of Sylvia Plath, American Isis, included in a Plath roundup in the Wichita Eagle.