Critical Notes

Critical Notes: February 3, 2020

By David Varno

It’s February and 2020 is in full effect, with this week’s batch of book reviews from members. Also, don’t forget to order your tickets for the NBCC Gala Fundraiser, following the awards ceremony on March 12.  And if you’re heading to San Antonio for AWP, make sure to check out these NBCC events.


NBCC online VP Carolyn Kellogg reviewed Paul Yoon’s Run Me to Earth for the Los Angeles Times, saying it “inverts and reinvents the American war story.” Also this week, Kellogg reviewed Charles Yu’s “Interior Chinatown” for the Washington Post.

Benjamin Woodard interviewed Abby Frucht about her new poetry collection, Maids, for the Rumpus.

William O’Rourke reviewed Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and The End of the American Century by George Packer for the National Catholic Reporter.

Clea Simon explains why she opted out of reviewing American Dirt for the Boston Globe.

Board member Mark Athitakis reviewed Phillipa K. Chong’s study of book reviewers, Inside the Critics Circle, for On the Seawall. He also spoke with Five Books about the autobiography finalists for this year’s NBCC awards.

Speaking of five books, Moment magazine asked Erika Dreifus for a list of what to read to be an educated Jew.

Peggy Kurkowski reviewed The Reality Game: How the Next Wave of Technology Will Break the Truth, by Samuel Woolley, for Open Letters Review. Kurkowski also reviewed The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson for the BookBrowse Review.

Julia M. Klein reviewed Emuna Elon’s House on Endless Waters for the Forward.

Joe Peschel writes about E. B. White’s essay collection, On Democracy, in the Portland Press Herald.

Karl Wolff reviewed How to Get Rid of a President: History’s Guide to Removing Unpopular, Unable, or Unfit Chief Executives by David Preiss for the New York Journal of Books.

Ron Slate reviewed Scratching the Head of Chairman Mao, stories by Jonathan Tel, for On The Seawall.

Jim Ruland talks to Michael Chabon about making the jump to showrunner for Star Trek: Picard in the Los Angeles Times, and reviewed Cristina Rivera Garza’s The Taiga Syndrome in Message from the Underworld.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Carola Saavedra’s Blue Flowers for Ploughshares:

Michael Adam Carroll reviewed Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo for Ploughshares and The Criminal Child by Jean Genet for Ploughshares 

Cassandra Luca reviewed Anna Wiener’s Uncanny Valley for the Harvard Crimson.

Fran Hawthorne reviewed To the Edge of Sorrow by Ahron Appelfeld for the New York Journal of Books.

Member news

Recipients of the inaugural Big Other Literary Citizenship Award for outstanding efforts toward supporting the work of innovative writers and adventurous presses, through reviewing, editing, publishing, and/or promoting books, as well as encouraging, building, and sustaining a robust literary culture include NBCC members Tobias Carroll (who has a new column up at Words Without Borders), Jane Ciabattari, and Gabino Iglesias.

Member Parul Kapur Hinzen’s short story “Raus!”, set in 1990s Germany, appears in the Winter 2020 issue of Pleiades.