Critical Notes

The Legacy of Women Critics, Racism in Florida, and the LA Festival of Books

By David Varno

Jenny Bhatt reviewed ‘Sharp’ by Balakian winner Michelle Dean, about ten women writers who shaped the NYC intellectual scene in the 20th century. In her piece, Bhatt looks at similar books and explores what we gain from reading about how other women writers have made their mark in the literary establishment, despite all they've had to deal with, and how they might inform the writing of women critics today.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Festival of Books is upon us. L.A. Times Book Editor and former board member Carolyn Kellogg offers a preview, with info on events featuring Luis Alberto Urrea (who recently spoke with Mark Athitakis), Alexander Chee, John Scalzi, Tayari Jones, David Kipen, Laila Lalami, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, and more.

NBCC Treasurer Marion Winik may be a Jersey girl, but she has a passionate personal angle on 'God Save Texas,' by Lawrence Wright, in Newsday.

Former board member and Tampa Bay Times book editor Colette Bancroft calls Gilbert King’s ‘Beneath a Ruthless Sun’ “a compelling, horrifying look at Florida’s racist history.”

Tobias Carroll reviewed Joy Williams's novel 'The Changeling' for the Chicago Review of Books and Jenny Boully's essay collection 'Betwixt-and-Between: Essays on the Writing Life' for the StarTribune. Also, Carroll's monthly Watchlist column for Words Without Borders is now in its third month. Check it out for info on the latest notable books for translation and what the critics have said so far. 

Board member Gregg Barrios reviewed Jorge Ramos's new book ‘Stranger’ for the Texas Observer.

Heller McAlpin reviewed Julian Barnes's 'The Only Story' for NPR and Robert Allen Papinchak reviewed it for the National Book Review.

Michelle Bailat-Jones reviewed Hanne Ørstavik's novella ‘Love,’ translated by Martin Aitkin, for Necessary Fiction. Michelle Bailat-Jones’s second novel, ‘Unfurled,’ is forthcoming from Ig Publications in October 2018.

Former NBCC board member Dan Cryer reviewed Richard Powers’ 'The Overstory' and Tom Rachman’s 'The Italian Teacher' in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Daniel Nester wrote an essay about Caddyshack and depression for Electric Literature

Gerald Bartell reviewed ‘Giant: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Edna Ferber, and the Making of a Legendary American Film’ by Don Graham for the Washington Post. Bartell also reviwed ‘Noir’ by Christopher Moore and ‘Last Ferry Home’ by Kent Harrington for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Hope Wabuke published a profile of poet and Cave Canem executive director Nicole Sealey for Shondaland.

Frank Freeman reviewed 'Tolstoy and Tolstaya: A Portrait of a Life in Letters' in Dublin Review of Books.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Neruda by Mark Eisner for the Barnes & Noble Review

Karl Wolff reviewed 'The Absolute Gravedigger' by Vitezslav Nezval for the New York Journal of Books.

Joan Silverman reviewed “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel” by Alexander Chee for the Portland Press Herald.

Christine Brunkhorst reviewed “Ecstasy” by Mary Sharratt and “Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth” by Sheila O'Connor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

George de Stefano reviewed ‘Unveiling the Muse: The Lost History of Gay Carnival in New Orleans’ by Howard Philips Smith for Pop Matters.

John McMurtrie wrote about Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer win for SF Gate.

David Nilsen reviewed Sean Thomas Dougherty's poetry collection The Second O of Sorrow for The Sunlight Press.

Natalie Bakopoulos reviewed Michael David Lukas's The Last Watchman of Old Cairo for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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.