Critical Notes

Run for the board, submit for the Balakian and a heap of reviews

By Carolyn Kellogg

Tegan and Sara, whose memoir is “High School.” Photo MCD/FSG.

Tegan and Sara want you to run for the National Book Critics Circle board or submit to be considered for our excellence in reviewing prize. Now’s the time.

Join the NBCC board — nominate yourself by Dec. 6!

The NBCC’s membership elects eight members to join its 24-person board of directors each year. If you are interested in running for the board, please send a short bio and statement of intent (no more than 300 words total) to VP Membership Anjali Enjeti by 5 p.m. ET Dec 6. Board candidates must be NBCC members in good standing to run. (Learn more about membership and join the NBCC.) Read our primer on the NBCC board’s work to learn more about what’s involved.

The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing: Submit by December 9!

The NBCC awards the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing each year to recognize outstanding work by a member of the NBCC. The citation is awarded in honor of Nona Balakian, a founding member of the National Book Critics Circle. Since 2012, the Balakian Citation has carried with it a $1,000 cash prize donated by board member Gregg Barrios. Nominees for the Balakian Award must be NBCC members in good standing, and may submit up to 5 book reviews for a total of 5,000 words.  The deadline is Monday, December 9; guidelines are here.

And for this week’s reviews and more:

Sarah Neilson spoke to Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara about their memoir High School for BOMB magazine, rounded up 13 books about complicated families  for Buzzfeed, and reviewed Lindy West’s latest essay collection, The Witches Are Coming, for the Seattle Times.

In the Chicago Tribune, Kathleen Rooney wrote about Bette Howland, the  Chicago writer who was almost forgotten but now will not be, thanks to the 2019 book Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage.

For the Wall Street Journal’s holiday issue, Christoph Irmscher wrote about science books, specifically Bill Bryson’s The Body: A Guide for Occupants, Jack Hartnell’s Medieval Bodies, John Gurche’s Lost Anatomies and Anatomy: Exploring the Human Body from Phaidon.

At the New Republic, Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein reviewed Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy by Matt Stoller.

At The Millions, Kevin Blankinship looked at trends in Arab literature.

At the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Steve Paul reviewed Carol Sklenicka’s Alice Adams: Portrait of a Writer.

At the Los Angeles Review of Books, former NBCC emerging critic Natalia Holtzman wrote about Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal and his dozens of cats.

At the National Book Review, former NBCC emerging critic Paul Gleason reviewed Michel Houellebecq’s new novel Serotonin.

Jessica Q. Stark wrote about Stefania Heim’s Hour Book in the Fall print issue of The Carolina Quarterly.

David R. Altman reviewed Ann Lamott’s Hallelujah Anyway and Jane Harper’s Force of Nature for the Pickens County Progress in Georgia and considered the dilemma of holiday book giving in the Braselton (Ga.) News.

Dana Wilde reviewed North by Northeast: New Short Fiction by Writers 
from Maine and New England for The Working Waterfront (and wrote about environmental melancholia there in September) and also reviewed Jacqueline Moore’s Chasing the Grass: Poems for Central Maine Newspapers.

NBCC board member Carolyn Kellogg wrote about Nell Zink’s Doxology for the Chicago Tribune and Jeff VanderMeer’s Dead Astronauts for the L.A. Times.

NBCC president Laurie Hertzel reviewed Michael Korda’s memoir of his wife’s death, Passing, for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where she is senior editor for books. She also wrote her weekly Bookmark column about reader response to the question of whether–in light of the recent Nobel Prize for literature–books should be judged independently of their writers. Using Oscar Wilde as an example, most readers who responded said yes.

And still more member news:

At her blog, C.M. Mayo interviewed Bruce Berger about his essay collection A Desert Harvest.

Jessica Q. Stark will be the assistant poetry editor for AGNI and will publish a poetry collection, Savage Pageant, with Birds LLC next year.

Diane Sharper’s poem “Tree of Life” appeared in America Magazine in November.