Critical Notes

Sarvas, Hollinghurst, and Agatha Christie Reconsidered

By Taylor Anhalt

More about the NBCC awards:

The NBCC awards ceremony video is posted on our blog. Make sure to watch the wonderful speeches from the winners.

NBCC board member Laurie Hertzel wrote about the NBCC awards for her weekly column at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, noting that “the speeches were generous and, mostly, extemporaneous (because no one expected to win).”

Former board member Karen Long wrote up the awards ceremony for the Anisfield-Wolf Awards website, emphasizing that “for the first time in NBCC history, the winners across all six book categories were women,” while Bookforum noted Carmen Maria Machado's reference to the “unfortunate relevance” of her Leonard award winning story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, in her remarks at the awards ceremony.

In case you missed it, read Machado's acceptance speech here, along with the speeches from Sandrof winner John McPhee and Balakian winner Charles Finch. The amazing photos were taken by John Midgley. Make sure to check back this week for citations and acceptance speeches from all of the winners, along with more photos. 


Maureen Corrigan reviewed Chris Bohjalian’s ‘The Flight Attendant’ for The Washington Post. She also recommended two biographies, Laura Thompson’s ‘Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life’ and Michelle McNamara’s ‘I’ll Be Gone In the Dark’, both surrounding the mysteries of Agatha Christie and The Golden State Killer, for JPR.

Joan Silverman reviewed Christine Schutt’s ‘Pure Hollywood’ for Portland Press Herald.

Lanie Tankard reviewed Vandana Singh’s science-fiction collection ‘Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories’ in the March issue of Woven Tale Press.

Tom Beer wrote about some of the finalists for the Man Booker International Prize, which acknowledges books in translation published in the UK. The winner will be announced on May 22. Additionally, he featured three new books for Newsday, including Anna Quindlen’s ‘Alternate Side’, Nell Scovell’s ‘Just the Funny Parts’, and Sam Taylor’s ‘Hunting the Truth’, and noted the rise of John Oliver’s satire ‘A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo’.

Julia M. Klein reviewed Katja Petrowskaja’s ‘Maybe Esther’ for the Forward.

Michael Magras reviewed ‘Memento Park’ by Mark Sarvas and ‘The Italian Teacher’ by Tom Rachman for Newsday.

Celia Bland reviewed Jeff Friedman’s book of short fiction ‘Floating Tales’ in the current print issue of Rain Taxi.

Joan Gelfand’s review of Andrena Zawinski’s ‘Landings’ appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

NBCC member Jim Ruland reviewed Amy Wallen’s memoir ‘When We Were Ghouls’ for San Diego CityBeat.

NBCC member Laura Wetherington reviewed Lynn Melnick’s second poetry collection ‘Landscape with Sex and Violence’ for Hyperallergic.

Alexis Burling reviewed ‘The House of Broken Angels’ by Luis Alberto Urrea for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Ron Slate reviewed ‘Heretics of Language’ by Barry Schwabsky and ‘Packing My Library’ by Alberto Manguel for On the Seawall.

Emerging critic Paul Gleason reviewed Sarah Ruth Hammond’s ‘God’s Businessmen: Entrepreneurial Evangelicals in Depression and War’ for The Hedgehog Review.

Barbara Spindel reviewed Mark Sarvas’ ‘Memento Park’ for the Barnes and Noble Review. She also reviewed Miles Unger’s ‘Picasso and the Painting that Shocked the World’ for the Christian Science Monitor.

Nathan Deuel reviewed Julián Herbert’s ‘Tomb Song’ for the Los Angeles Times.

Board member Katherine A. Powers reviewed the audio version of Tana French’s ‘Faithful Place’ for The Washington Post.

Heller McAlpin reviewed Mark Sarvas’ ‘Memento Park’ and Alan Hollinghurst’s ‘The Sparsholt Affair’ for NPR. Claude Peck reviewed ‘The Sparsholt Affair’  in the Star Tribune.

Jim Ruland profiled Barry Gifford, author of 60 books including ‘Wild at Heart’, for the Los Angeles Times.

Hope Wabuke published a review of Khadijah Queen’s ‘I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men and What I Had On for Anomoly’, conducted an interview with award-winning children’s book author Derrick Barnes, and did a forecast of books by black authors coming out in 2018 for The Root.

Jenny Bhatt reviewed Daniel Mallory Ortberg’s ‘The Merry Spinsters: Tales of Everyday Horror’ and Dunya Mikhail’s ‘The Beekeeper’ for PopMatters.

David Cooper reviewed ‘The Diamond Setter’ by Moshe Sakal in New York Journal of Books.

NBCC board member and Best Translated Book Award judge Lori Feathers wrote about Domenico Starnone’s novel ‘Ties’ for Three Percent.

NBCC board member Ismail Muhammad reviewed Zadie Smith’s ‘Feel Free’ for The Nation.

Robert Birnbaum looks over the new crop of baseball books at Our Man in Boston.

NBCC Treasurer Marion Winik took time off from pinching pennies to interview Jane Delury about her new novel ‘The Balcony’ for Baltimore Fishbowl.

Hamilton Cain reviewed John Edgar Wideman’s ‘American Histories’ in the April issue of O, the Oprah Magazine.

Former board member Colette Bancroft reviewed Luis Urrea’s novel ‘The House of Broken Angels’ for Tampa Bay Times.

Bob Hoover reviewed Brian Castner’s ‘Disappointment River’ and Edward J. Larson’s ‘To the Ends of the Earth’ for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Member News

NBCC member Rayyan Al-Shawaf’s debut novel ‘When All Else Fails’ has been acquired by Interlink and will be published in the fall of this year or the spring of 2019.

Past Award Winner News

NBCC award winners and finalists Clare Cavanagh, Mary Gaitskill, Ishion Hutchinson, Marlon James, and Brenda Shaughnessey, have won an American Academy of Arts and Letters Literature Award. The award is granted for “exceptional accomplishment in literature.”


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.