Critical Notes

Lauren Elkin, Lauren Groff, Books That Unsettle Boundaries, and Women in the Rare Book Trade

By Taylor Anhalt

NBCC members Tara Cheesman and Fran Bigman launch a new Q&A series, The Craft of Criticism, in which they ask book critics and review editors for their thoughts about contemporary criticism, with an interview with Lauren Elkin (above). Coming up: Michelle Dean, Yahdon Israel. If you’re interested in being interviewed for the series,please get in touch at and

Ron Charles, former NBCC board member and Balakian winner, offers a review of Vladimir Voinovich's Monumental Propaganda  as the second in the new NBCC Reads series, What's Your Favorite Book in Translation. It's not too late to participate. The deadline is August 3. Please email your submission to NBCC Board member Lori Feathers:

Theodore Kinni reviewed “The Excellence Dividend” by Tom Peters for the strategy+business magazine.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviewed Rachel Kushner's “The Mars Room” for Truthdig and Rosalie Knecht's “Who Is Vera Kelly?” for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He also reviewed Donal Ryan's “From a Low and Quiet Sea” for the Washington Post.

Alison Buckholtz reviewed “There Are No Grown-Ups” by Pamela Druckerman for the Times-Union.

In Vol. 1 Brooklyn, John Domini reviewed David J. Atkinson’s flash fiction, “Roses Are Red, Violets Are Stealing Loose Change“, “a fresh shot of madness and laughter.” He also called “The Good Mothers“, by Alex Perry, “an essential addition to the growing library on organized crime” for the Washington Post.

Former NBCC Board Member Dan Cryer reviewed Kate Christensen’s “The Last Cruise” for Newsday.

C.M. Mayo reviewed “West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776” by Claudio Saunt for Literal.

Allison Wright interviewed A. N. Devers for the photo essay on women in the rare book trade and the ongoing issues women—particularly as writers and readers—face with erasure in their lives and in history.

Richard Santos interviewed journalist Jean Guerrero about her memoir “Crux: A Cross Border Memoir” for Kirkus Review.

Olga Zilberbourg reviewed “The Consequences“, a debut novel by Niña Weijers, in translation from Durch by Hester Velmans, for The Common.

Robert Allen Papinchak wrote a review of Louise Candlish's “Our House” for Mystery Scene Magazine.

Laura Wetherington reviewed Donald Justice's “Compendium” for Kenyon Review. She also reviewed Berta García Faet's poetry collection “The Eligible Age“, translated by Kelsi Vanada, for FullStop.

Rebecca Foster reviewed “The Art of the Wasted Day” by Patricia Hampl and “In Praise of Wasting Time” by Alan Lightman for The Los Angeles Review of Books. She also reviewed “Slave Old Man” by Patrick Chamoiseau for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

V. Joshua Adams reviewed “Happier? The History of a Cultural Movement That Aspired to Transform America” for Pop Matters.

Jacob Appel reviewed Amy Bonnaffons's “The Wrong Heaven” for the New York Journal of Books.

Steve Donoghue reviewed William Vollmann's “The Carbon Ideologies” for the Christian Science Monitor.

Julia M. Klein reviewed Leon Werth's “Deposition 1940-1944: A Secret Diary of Life in Vichy France” for the Forward.

Joe Peschel reviewed Lauren Groff's story collection “Florida” in the Los Angeles Review of Books: “Most of the stories in Florida, Lauren Groff’s new collection, are as fine and beautifully crafted as any fiction she has written.”

Wayne Catan reviewed “Autumn in Venice: Hemingway and His Last Muse” for the Idaho Statesman.

Former NBCC board member Mark Athitakis reviewed Katie Williams' debut novel, “Tell the Machine Goodnight“, for the Barnes & Noble Review.

Sarah Leamy reviewed “Everyone Wants to be the Ambassador to France” by Bryan Hurt for Hunger Mountain.

VP/Online Jane Ciabattari's Smart Beach Reads” for BBC Culture includes novels from Megan Abbott, Gabriela Aleman, Flynn Berry, Susan Froderberg, Vanessa Hua, Debra Jo Immergut, and an oral history of Silicon Valley. And her interview with Deborah Levy for The Literary Hub focuses on  books that unsettle boundaries (think Carrington, Gertrude Stein, Audre Lorde). 

Gregory Crouch reviewed Sam Kleiner's “The Flying Tigers” and Eugenie Buchan's “A Few Planes for China”, for the Weekend Edition of the Wall Street Journal.

K.L. Romo reviewed Michael Chabon’s poignant memoir, “Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces” for Washington Independent Review of Books.

David Varno reviewed John Edgar Wideman’s short story collection “American Histories” for the Brooklyn Rail. 

Emerging Critic Paul Gleason reviewed David Graeber's “Bullshit Jobs” and Sarah Kessler's “Gigged: The End of the Job and the Future of Work” for the Washington Post.


Member News

Stacy Pratt at Bookriot included Brandon Hobson's novel, “Where The Dead Sit Talking” on her list of “6 New Indigenous Novels By Indigenous Writers.”

Gregory Couch has a new book published: “The Bonanza King: John Mackay and the Battle Over the Greatest Riches in the American West” (Scribner).


Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including news about your new publications and recent honors, to Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.