Critical Notes

AWP15, Ben Fountain’s Ang Lee Film, PEN finalists, Claudia Rankine & More

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NBCC featured reading at AWP15 in Minneapolis, caught onstage by reading host Jane Ciabattari: Jayne Anne Phillips, two-time finalist; Anthony Marra, awarded inaugural John Leonard prize for best first book; Lily King, NBCC fiction finalist. (Marra was named a Guggenheim fellow the next day.) More AWP moments, including folks dropping by the NBCC booth at the bookfair, on the National Book Critics Circle Facebook page.  NBCC volunteer team this year:  Anthony Marra, NBCC members Laurie Hertzel, Karen White, Christopher X. Slate, Monica McFawn, Grant Faulkner, Larry Smith, NBCC board members Karen Long, Michele Filgate, Joanna Scutts, David Biespiel, former board member Rigoberto Gonzalez.

Coming up at AWP16 in Los Angeles: this year's NBCC poetry awardee Claudia Rankine will be keynote speaker (she won a Los Angeles Times book prize this week).

NBCC fiction awardee (for Americanah)and finalist (for Half of a Yellow Sun) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was named to Time magazine's list of the world's 100 most influential people. Writes Time's Radhika Jones: “her greatest power is as a creator of characters who struggle profoundly to understand their place in the world.”

Among the finalists for PEN awards announced this week: Phil Klee, this year's NBCC John Leonard awardee for best first book; Claudia Rankine, this year's NBCC poetry awardee,  former NBCC fiction finalists Rabih Alameddine and Teju Cole, and nonfiction finalists S.C. Gwynne and Elizabeth Kolbert.

NBCC fiction awardee Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk coming to film; the Ang Lee film based on the novel is set to open in November 16, during Oscar awards season.

Former NBCC president John Freeman, launching Freeman's magazine soon, is executive editor of newly launched The Lit Hube. He kicked off the inaugural week at AWP with this essay, “A Brief History of the Future of Reading.”

Longtime NBCC board member Rigoberto Gonzalez, whose poetry collection, Unpeopled Eden, won the Lambda Literary Award and the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and who was awarded the 2015 Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Publishing Triangle, was signing a new chapbook, Our Lady of the Crossword, at AWP. 

Priscilla Gilman reviews Elizabeth Alexander's memoir of love and loss for the Boston Globe.

Former NBCC board member David Haglund, now literary editor of, joins executive editor Amelia Lester, Leslie Jamison and Joshua Rothman in this podcast  discussion of the state of the memoir.

Former board member Stephen Burt has a new collection from Rain Taxi, All-Season Stephanie.

NBCC board member Colette Bancroft's take on Sandrof award winner Toni Morrison's new novel, God Help the Child.

Grace Bello interviews Editorial Director of TOON Books and Art Editor of The New Yorker Françoise Mouly for Guernica.

Ryan Teitman reviews Ander Monson's Letter to a Future Lover for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Julia M. Klein's dual review–Kate Bolick's “Spinster” and Robin Rinaldi's “The Wild Oats Project”–for the Chicago Tribune.

Julie Hakim Azzam interviews memoirist Alexandra Fuller about her newest memoir, Leaving Before the Rains, for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Michelle Lancaster reviews Simon Barnes' Ten Million Aliens for Bookslut.

Susannah Nesmith reviews Cynthia Barnett's Rain for the Miami Herald.

Joan Gelfand on poetry month for Huffington Post.

Anne Boyd Rioux reviews How To Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis in The Rumpus.

Karl Wolff reviews One Nation Under God by Kevin M. Kruse for the New York Journal of Books.

Sheri J. Caplan reviews Valerie Lester's, Giambattista Bodoni for Bookslut.