Critical Notes

Stephen King, Jeanette Winterson, Edna O’Brien, and More

By Mark Athitakis

NBCC president Laurie Hertzel wrote about the question of whether literary awards should be based on the book alone, or on  the author, or some combination, for the Minnesota Star Tribune, where she is senior editor for books. She also profiled writer Tim O’Brien about his memoir Dad’s Maybe Book for the Star-Tribune.

Tara Cheesman reviewed The Night of Rome by Italian writers Carlo Bonini and Giancarlo De Cataldo, translated by Antony Shugaar, for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Balakian recipient and former board member Ron Charles posted a Totally Hip Video Book Review of Jeanette Winterson’s novel Frankissstein.

Sebastian Stockman reviewed Lewis Hyde’s A Primer for Forgetting: Getting Past the Past for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Sarah Neilson interviewed Cyrus Grace Dunham about their debut memoir, A Year Without a Name, for Literary Hub.

Melanie Dragger reviewed Pamela Paul and Maria Russo’s How to Raise a Reader for The Literary Child.

For Publishers Weekly’s coverage of the upcoming Miami Book Fair, board member David Varno profiled the ever-charming prince of puke, John Waters, with whom he discussed Waters’s latest book Mr. Know-It-All and his origins as a writer. He also interviewed Nathan Englander about and what drives people to pursue their religious convictions.

Katharine Coldiron reviewed If I Don’t Make It, I Love You, a collection of pieces about school shootings edited by Amye Archer and Loren Kleinman, for the Washington Post; Johanna Skibsrud’s essay collection The Nothing That Is for Bomb; and Jon Roemer’s novel Five Windows for Book and Film Globe. Coldiron also interviewed novelist and essayist Christopher Higgs for Berfrois.

Kathleen Rooney reviewed Jac Jemc’s novel False Bingo for the Chicago Tribune.

Julia M. Klein reviewed Mikhal Dekel’s Tehran Children: A Holocaust Refugee Odyssey, for the Forward, and Elizabeth Strout’s sequel to NBCC fiction finalist Olive Kittredge, Olive, Again, for the Chicago Tribune.

At Ploughshares, Laura Spence-Ash wrote about the way time moves in Maria Kuznetsova’s novel Oksana, Behave! and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive, Again, and also reviewed Mimi Lok’s story collection Last of Her Name.

Board member Lori Feathers wrote about Edna O’Brien’s new novel, Girl, and the author’s previous novels as part of her “In Context” series at Literary Hub.

Kamil Ahsan reviewed Bill Bryson’s The Body for NPR.

Balakian recipient and former board member Steven G. Kellman reviewed Benjamin Moser’s Sontag for The American Scholar.

Gerald Bartell reviewed two dystopian thrillers, Rob Hart’s The Warehouse and John Marrs’s The Passengers, for the Washington Post. He also reviewed William J. Mann’s biography of Marlon Brando, Contender, for Newsday.

Dana Wilde reviewed Stephen King’s The Institute in his Off Radar
column in the Central Maine Newspapers and Richard Foerster’s Boy on a Doorstep: New and Collected Poems for the Cafe Review.

Robert Allen Papinchak reviewed Tracy Chevalier’s novel A Single Thread for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Heller McAlpin reviewed Gail Collins’ No Stopping Us NowElizabeth Strout’s Olive, Again and Deborah Levy’s The Man Who Saw Everything for NPR.

Allen Adams reviewed Zadie Smith’s story collection, Grand Union, and Christopher McDougall’s memoir Running With Sherman for the Maine Edge.

Board member Mark Athitakis reviewed Steph Cha’s debut thriller, Your House Will Pay, for USA Today. He also interviewed children’s author Ashley Bryan about his World War II memoir, Infinite Hope, for Kirkus Reviews.

And in member news, the Women’s National Book Association selected Michelle Bailat-Jones’s most recent novel, Unfurled,  for its 2019 Great Group Reads list, in connection with National Reading Group Month.

NBCC members: Send us your stuff! Your work may be highlighted in this roundup; please send links to new reviews, features and other literary pieces, or tell us about awards, honors or new and forthcoming books, by dropping a line to

Photo of Susan Sontag by Lynn Gilbert, used under Creative Commons license.