Critical Notes

W. B. Yeats, Kate Walbert, Heidi Julavits & More

By Elizabeth Taylor

Yeats turns 150 and asks: “The 20th Century’s Greatest Poet?” To consider that question, past NBCC President and current VP Jane Ciabattari talks with Harvard's poet/critic Stephen Burt, Stanford's Dublin born poet Eavan Boland, NBCC award honored poet/memoirist Honor Moore, poets Tess Gallagher, James Longenbach, Tom Sleigh.

For the “Florida Times-Union,” NBCC Member Anne Payne reviews Rebecca Scherm's novel Unbecoming and she writes:

“The sleekly written Unbecoming opens with Grace from Tennessee keeping a low but not abject profile in Paris. She is known to the shady employer who pays her under the table for antique restoration work as Julie from California. Grace is a good-looking woman in her early 20s with clever hands, an artistic eye and no working papers.”

For the Women’s World Cub of Literature, NBCC member Lori Feathers judges the match-up between Cameroon’s Dark Heart of the Night by Léonora Miano and Switzerland’s With the Animals by Noëlle Revaz. She writes: 

“While in many respects these two novels are as different as the two countries from which they come, reading them in close succession reveals a common theme—what happens when an insular, primitive people are confronted with progressive thoughts and ideas from the outside.”She admired both books, but the game must go on. Final call: “With a tied score of 1-1, Cameroon’s Dark Heart of the Night squeaks -by to defeat Switzerland’s With the Animals by a penalty kick?”

For “Bookslut's” Daphne Awards, Lori Feathers also considered Clarice Lispector’s The Passion According to G.H.

NBCC member and reviewer Michelle Newby has recently written three reviews with “Lone Star Literary.” About Nobody’s Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle she writes:  “If you’re looking for an original read that challenges you or prose that sparks your imagination then look elsewhere. If you’re looking for comfort in something light and sweet then Nobody’s Cuter might be for you.” She also reviews The Book of Wanderings: A Mother-Daughter Pilgrimage by Kimberly Meyer and finally The Unraveling of Mercy Louis by Keija Parssinen 

For BUR’s arts and culture site, TheArtery, NBCC member Carol Iaciofano writes an essay about two classic children's books (The Little Engine that Could and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel) and how they relate to today's job market. The headline: “Little Engines to Big Steam Shovels: Thinking Creatively in a Changing World.”

For the Clarion Ledger, NBCC member Jim Ewing reviews Into the Savage Country by Shannon Burke and The World's Largest Man by Harrison Scott Key about which he writes: “First, we probably need to keep this book a secret just between us Southerners.”

For Biographile, NBCC member David Burr Gerrard reviews Etgar Keret's new memoir The Seven Good Years and writes “It would not exactly be accurate to say that Keret mixes the personal and political, since they have already been mixed for him.”

For “The Oregonian,” NBCC member Alexis Burling reviews Judy Blume’s In the Unlikely Event and writes:

“For anyone who has lived through a national tragedy — Hurricane Katrina, the September 11 terrorist attacks, the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. — there's a “secret club” no one willingly wants to be a part of: that of the survivors.”

NBCC member Laurie Hertzel writes an essay titled “Taking the guilt out of the guilty pleasures in reading” for the “Star-Tribune”. 

For the “Seattle Times,” NBCC Board member Mary Ann Gwinn interviews David McCullough about The Wright Brothers, and gets him to explain how the Wrights were more than Orville and Wilbur, but rather an entire family.

For the “Portland Press Herald,” NBCC member Joan Silverman reviews The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits which she describes as

“a grown-up diary for the new millennium” and “like a mash-up of Lena Dunham and Kierkegaard. Which is to say, the book is at once raunchy, outrageous and funny, wistful, contemplative and smart.”

For Fig Tree Books, NBCC member Louis Gordon writes:  “Gerald Green’s To Brooklyn With Love (1967) might be the greatest bildungsroman to have ever been forgotten by the literary establishment.”

For the “Tampa Bay Times,” NBCC Board member Colette Bancroft reviews Kate Walbert’s The Sunken Cathedral and writes:

“Women become invisible after a certain age, the bitter joke goes, the only variation being which decade marks our disappearance. But Kate Walbert not only sees vanishing women — a pair of widows in their 80s, the suddenly uncertain mother of a teenage son, a middle-aged art historian with visions of a drowning city — but paints their lives in indelibly rich and vibrant colors in her stunning new novel, The Sunken Cathedral.”

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