Critical Notes

Carolyn Burke, biographies, and books about experiencing cancer

By Taylor Anhalt


Q: When is a detective story more than a detective story?
A: When it’s an allegory for the state of the nation.
Joe Peschel reviewed Jonathan Lethem's “Feral Detective” in the Portland Press Herald.

Anna Leahy reviewed books written about experiencing cancer for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Past Balakian Citation winner and current Board member, Katherine A. Powers reviewed Lucasta Miller's “L.E.L.: the Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated 'Female Byron'” for the WSJ, and both Tom Phelan's “We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It” and Lisa Gornick's “The Peacock Feast” for Newsday.

Member Sarah McCraw Crow recently reviewed Boris Fishman’s memoir “Savage Feast” for BookPage.

Abby Frucht reviewed Maryse Meijer's short story collection, “Rag,” for On the Seawall.

In a long piece for Virginia Quarterly Review, John Domini reviewed three books: “Once Into the Night,” short stories by Aurelie Sheehan, “Ghost Wall,” a novel by Sarah Moss, and “Binstead’s Safari,” a novel by Rachel Ingalls. He also reviewed “The Volunteer,” the new novel by Salvatore Scibona, in the Washington Post. Finally, In The Brooklyn Rail, Domini reviewed two short-story collections, Josip Novakovich’s “Honey in the Carcasse” and Brian Evenson’s “Song for the Unraveling of the World.”

Ron Slate reviewed “The Condition of Secrecy,” essays by Inger Christensen (New Directions) for On The Seawall.

NBCC board member and biography chair Elizabeth Taylor discusses this year's five biography finalists at Five Books.

NBCC VP/Online Jane Ciabattari teases out “Foursome” author Carolyn Burke's five favorite group biographies, from “Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein & Company” to “Just Kids.” 

Alexis Burling reviewed “Death, revisited: Where Reasons End,” by Yiyun Li, and “The White Book,” by Han Kang for the San Francisco Chronicle/Datebook.

NBCC member Anita Felicelli reviewed Helen Oyeyemi's “Gingerbread” at Los Angeles Review of Books.

Katharine Coldiron reviewed “Sissy” by Jacob Tobia for the Washington Post, “Something Like Breathing” by Angela Readman for the Guardian, “The Body Myth” by Rheea Mukherjee for Book and Film Globe, and “This Never Happened” by Liz Scott for Book and Film Globe.

Board member Lori Feathers' review of Annie Proulx's “Barkskins,” first published at The Rumpus, is featured in a new book, Contemporary Fiction by Women, Volume 3.

Lisa Spaar reviewed two books of poetry for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Paul Gleason reviewed John Kim's “I Used to Be a Miserable F*ck: An Everyman's Guide to a Meaningful Life” and Edith Hall's “Aristotle's Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life” in the Los Angeles Times.


Other News

Daniel Mendelsohn has been named Director of the newly-established Robert B. Silvers Foundation, whose mission is to support writers of nonfiction in the categories supported by the late founding editor of the NYRB: long-form journalism and criticism, and arts writing. 

NBCC VP/Online Jane Ciabattari's latest short story, “Swarm,” part of her new collection, Arabella Leaves and Other Stories, a finalist for the Dzanc Books short story collection prize, has just been published in The Slag Review.


NBCC News 

This year's National Book Critics Circle membership meeting will be on Thursday, March 14, from 10 a.m. to noon at The New School. That's also the day of the awards ceremony. All members are welcome. Membership meeting at 10 a.m., with coffee and bagels provided. At 11, we'll have a panel titled  “The Stephen King Solution; Could It Work Elsewhere?” moderated by Carlin Romano. The membership meeting ends at noon, and the board begins awards consideration and voting at 12:30.

Join us also for the Finalists' reading on Wednesday, March 13, also at the New School, the awards ceremony on March 14, and the gala awards after-party, celebrating books and our finalists. Tickets $50 for members in advance.

Applications are now being accepted for the third year of the NBCC Alan Cheuse Emerging Critics Fellowships. Deadline April 3.  Details here.

SAVE THE DATE: The National Book Critics Circle is an AWP literary partner. Come see our featured reading at AWP2019 in Portland on Thursday, March 28, at 4:30 p.m., with NBCC (and Booker) Fiction Award winner Paul Beatty and NBCC (and PEN/Faulkner) Fiction Award winner Joan Silber, conversation with NBCC president Kate Tuttle. And come see us at Bookfair Booth #4010.

The 31 Books in 30 Days series begins week 6 today. Almost done! Do go back and read them all before the awards ceremony.


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.