Critical Notes

End of 2017 Edition

By Jane Ciabattari

Steph Opitz, who has worked on or with the Texas Book Festival, the Brooklyn Book Festival, the PEN World Voices Festival, Literary Arts’s Wordstock, and others, is launching a new festival in Minneapolis called Wordplay (she writes about it here for Lit Hub).

NBCC Sandrof awardee Wendell Berry is one of the three living novelists in the Library of America series (the others are multiple NBCC award winner Philip Roth and Ursula Le Guin). His Port William Novels & Stories, edited by Jack Shoemaker, Editorial Director of Counterpoint Press, who has workd with Berry for more than forty years, are due out in February 2018.

David Varno reviews the first two books in Karl Ove Knausgaard's seasons quartet, Autumn and Winter, for The Brooklyn Rail.

NBCC board member Kerri Arsenault reviews Juli Berwald's Spineless for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Former NBCC board member Colette Bancroft reviews John Banville's Mrs. Osmond for the Tampa Bay Times, where she is book editor.

For Slate, NBCC Emerging Critic Ismail Muhammard writes about why Cornel West's attack on Ta-nehisi Coates is so disappointing.

NBCC Emerging Critic Summer McDonald reviews Ursula K. Le Guin's No Time to Spare: Thinking about What Matters for Newsday.

NBCC Emerging Critic Heather Scott Partington chronicles  A Year in Reading for The Millions, reviews James Salter's Don't Save Anything for the Las Vegas Weekly, Jenny Diski's The Vanishing Princess for Newsday, and, for Electric Literature's Doubletake literary criticism series, discusses Christine Angot's Incest with Ian MacAllen. And she writes up the first Emerging Critics Bookchat (with former NBCC president and current board member Tom Beer, books editor of Newsday, who offers four top tips for book reviewers) for Critical Mass.

Roxana Robinson writes about the contradictions of Hemingway's house in Cuba for The New Yorker.

Maureen Corrigan picks books to close out a “chaotic 2017.” NBCC VP/Online Jane Ciabattari focuses on fiction, including novels by NBCC award winners Jennifer Egan,  Louise Erdrich,  and Jesmyn Ward,  in her best of 2017 list for BBC Culture. Former NBCC board member Rigoberto Gonzalez writes about his two favorite 2017 books for the Los Angeles Times.

Patricia Lockwood writes about NBCC award finalist Joan Didion in the London Review of Books.

Michael Magras is featured in Lit Hub's “Secrets of the Book Critics” series.

NBCC award winnwe Diana Athill turns 100, and her memoirs are still essential reading for women, notes Alexandra Heminsley (The Pool).

Anita Felicelli reviews Mary Beard's Women & Power for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Yvonne C. Garrett has multiple reviews in The Brooklyn Rail. She reviews Naomi Alderman's The Power, Cristina Rivera Garza's The Iliac Crest, Patrick McGrath's The Wardrobe Mistress, and Claire Messud's The Burning Girl.

Lisa Russ Spaar features second books by Susan Stewart and Jennifer Chang in her Second Acts column at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Alison Buckholtz reviews Daniel Mendelsohn's An Odyssey  for the Florida Times-Union. 

Lanie Tankard has the feature review in the January 2018 issue of World Literature Today, about Elif Shafak's novel, Three Daughters of Eve.

Daniel Asa Rose writes about Vietnam 40 years later for Tripatini.

Hélène Cardona is interviewed by Mia Funk in The Creative Process.

For The Collagist, David Nilsen reviews Cindy Hunter Morgan's poetry collection Harborless. And for Rain Taxi he reviews Kathleen McGookey's poetry collection Heart in a Jar.

Helen Mitsios has edited Out of the Blue, the first book of contemporary Icelandic short stories in English translation, with a foreward by Foreword by Sjón.

NBCC members note: Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including news about your new publications and recent honors, to With reviews, please include title of book and author, as well as name of publication. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.​ We love dedicated URLs. We do not love hyperlinks.






Jane Ciabattari writes the Between the Lines column for BBC Culture, is a columnist for LitHub, and contributes to and others. She is vice president/online and a former president of the National Book Critics Circle, serves on the advisory board of The Story Prize and is a member of the San Francisco Writers Grotto.