Critical Notes

Roundup: David Mitchell’s Twitter story, Roxana Robinson, Maureen McLane, Patricia Lockwood, & More

By Jane Ciabattari

Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items to Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.

Balakian award winner Parul Sehgal, NBCC fiction award winner Colson Whitehead, NBCC finalists Zadie Smith, Elif Batuman and Teju Cole,  NBCC pro bono angel Lauren Cerand, Rachel Fershleiser,  Maud Newton, Bethanne Patrick, among Flavorpill's 35 Writers Who Run the Literary Internet.

The NBCC Reads new series, “What's Your Favorite First Book Ever?” continues, with NBCC autobiography award winner Darin Strauss on James Joyce, and poet Grace Schulman on a dozen firsts, including Marianne Moore, Amy Clampitt, Phil Schulz, and Hortense Calisher. Not too late to send your choice.

NBCC fiction finalist David Mitchell tweets a new story, #TheRightSort.

NBCC Balakian award winner Katherine A. Powers reviews Kevin Birmingham's “The Most Dangerous Book” for the Barnes and Noble Review.”…miraculously and happily,” she writes, “'The Most Dangerous Book' is the farthest thing from redundant. Detailed, lucid, and attentive to character, it is a fast-paced, thoroughly absorbing history of Ulysses' coming-to-be, a tale of mishap as much as of triumph.”

Authors Guild president Roxana Robinson says the indispensibility of writers is forgotten in the Amazon-Hachette battle.

Former NBCC board member Jessa Crispin reviews “Fifty Shades of Feminism” and “Hard-Core Romance” in her juxtaposition of the 50 Shades phenomonon with modern feminism in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

NBCC board member Rigoberto González on Michael Nava, Ramón Novarro, and a literary breakdown of ethnic and sexual barriers.

NBCC board member Eric Liebetrau reviews Elizabeth Mitchell's “Liberty's Torch” for the Boston Globe: “…she does readers a service by sifting fact from fiction in the creation of one our most beloved monuments, which would continue to “inspire the same sort of emotion and vision that led to her creation in the first place, the potent whimsy that made a young man from a picturesque village . . . [in] France dream that he, too, could achieve immortality.”

NBCC board member Colette Bancroft on James Lee Burke's “Wayfaring Stranger:” “Burke addresses many of the same themes he grapples with in his crime novels: power and corruption, integrity and depravity, America's indelible heritage of violence and oppression and the valor of those who have stood against it.”

NBCC board member David Biespiel's new Rumpus poetry column begins, “The wisdom of poetry is a ladder to the underground. The wisdom of poetry is a rope dropped out of the skies. The wisdom of poetry is a passage past the rocks of doubt. The wisdom of poetry is the full receipt of both ancient and contemporary poetic forms.”

Mark Rotella reviews Joseph Lucci's “My Two Italies” for, concluding, “As for his own sense of being an Italian American, he strikes a bittersweet chord: 'We commemorate our past only to remind ourselves how far we have traveled from it.'”

Former NBCC board member David L. Ulin on Germaine Greer's “White Beech“: “gorgeous writing, personal and heartfelt.”

Jeff Gordonier's NYTBR review of ‘This Blue,’ by NBCC finalist and former board member Maureen N. McLane: “poems that keep you on your toes.”

'Strange and riveting,” is Edward Hirsch's response to “Falling Out of Time,” the new novel by NBCC fiction finalist David Grossman in the NYTBR.

NBCC finalist Anne Carson's “The Albertine Workout” reviewed by Peter Freeman in Full Stop.

Former NBCC board member Lev Grossman's best-selling The Magicians trilogy coming to Syfy, pilot in the works.

Reader's Digest Books Editor Dawn Raffel's 23 contemporary writers to read.

Ron Charles, NBCC board member and Washington Post Book editor, tweets, “We're using the new Books page in Sunday Arts & Style to cover nonfiction & fiction related to A&E. New column for quirky book news too.”

NBCC finalist and former board member Stephen Burt likes the new Patricia Lockwood collection:”It’s always wrong to judge a poem by its retweets, but when a literary work, by a poet not world famous for something else, gets hundreds of thousands of “shares,” “likes” and other such notices online, within weeks of publication, it’s time to ask why.”

Clea Simon, reviewing in the Boston Globe, was “not that impressed by Eden Lepucki's “California” “However, I adored Lydia Netzer's “How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky” And here's her take on Emma Straub's “The Vacationers” for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Denise Low’s book “Mélange Block” reviewed in Brian Burnes’ “Readorama” section of the Kansas City Star. She reviews William Trowbridge, Patricia Lockwood, Kevin Young and Alarie Tennille in her latest Kansas City Star “On Poetry” column.  

Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviews Charles Seife's “Virtual Unreality: Just Because the Internet Told You, How Do You Know It's True?” in the Christian Science Monitor.  Here's his short review of Marja Mills's “The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee,” for the Chicago Reader. 

Maureen Corrigan's take on “The Mockingbird Next Door“: “Rather than warmed-over gossip, what “The Mockingbird Next Door” does offer is a rich sense of the daily texture of the Lee sisters' lives.”

And NBCC board member Carolyn Kellogg writes about Harper Lee's puzzling reaction to Marja Mills' book in a letter to the press: ” 'Rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood,' it reads. Lee, the 88-year old author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” signed the typed letter.”

Grace Bello recommends Tiphanie Yanique's first novel, “Land of Love and Drowning” –“a family saga told with sensual prose”–as a summer read in Guernica.