Critical Notes

New reviews and more from NBCC members

By Michael Schaub

“Take no one’s word for anything, including mine, but trust your experience. Know whence you came. If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go. The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority, but to their inhumanity and fear.” — James Baldwin, “A Letter to My Nephew”

Member Reviews

Board member Carolyn Kellogg reviewed Fire in Paradise by Alastair Gee and Dani Anguina, about the devastating Camp Fire in California and living through tragedy, for The Washington Post.

Carlos Lozada, a winner of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, reviewed David Frum’s Trumpocalypse for The Washington Post.

Scott McLemee, also a winner of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, reviewed Jeffrey R. Wilson’s Shakespeare and Trump and Kevin Peter Hand’s Alien Oceans: The Search for Life in the Depths of Space for Inside Higher Ed.

Tess Taylor reviewed Caleb Scharf’s Gravity’s Engines for The Barnes & Noble Review.

Claude Peck reviewed Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski for the Star Tribune.

W. Scott Olsen reviewed Jonathan Cott’s Listening: Interviews 1970-1989 for the Star Tribune.

Tom Beer wrote about literature of the London Blitz for Kirkus Reviews.

Tobias Carroll wrote about crime fiction set in a particular subculture for Mystery Tribune. He also reviewed JD Scott’s Moonflower, Nightshade, All the Hours of the Day and Hao Jingfang’s Vagabonds for, and wrote two columns about translated books for Words Without Borders

Sam DiBella reviewed Wendy Liu’s Abolish Silicon Valley for Entropy magazine.

Alexandra Enders wrote about the work of Richard Nelson for NYR Daily.

Jonathan Marks reviewed Zena Hitz’s Lost in Thought for The Wall Street Journal, and Salem on the Thames: Moral Panic, Anti-Zionism, and the Triumph of Hate Speech at Connecticut College, edited by Richard Landes, for the website of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

Rien Fertel wrote about four new Texas cookbooks for The Wall Street Journal.

Jenny Shank reviewed five new books set in California for High Country News. Jenny has also been recording video book recommendations for Lighthouse Writers Workshop’s YouTube channel as a part of their online quarantine series—check out her takes on Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half, Rishi Reddi’s Passage West, TaraShea Nesbit’s Beheld, Alia Volz’s Home Baked, and Lydia Yuknavitch’s Verge.

Helen Mitsios reviewed Emma Smith’s This Is Shakespeare for Wonderlust magazine, where she is books editor.

Oline H. Cogdill reviewed Fair Warning by Michael Connelly for the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Allen Adams reviewed Curtis Sittenfeld’s Rodham and Suzanne Collins’ The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes for The Maine Edge.

Ann Fabian reviewed This Is Chance!: The Shaking of an All-American City, A Voice That Held It Together by Jon Mooallem for The National Book Review.

Member Interviews

For her Literary Hub/Book Marks column, NBCC Vice President/Events Jane Ciabattari offered a dual exchange with Alastair Gee and Dani Anguiano, co-authors of Fire in Paradise, a dramatic wildfire narrative, about masterful books of reported nonfiction, including Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire. Jane also interviewed Kate Milliken, author of Kept Animals, about novels born from the mother-child bond. 

Tobias Carroll spoke with the authors of a trio of recent books on design for InsideHook.

Rachel Cantor interviewed Elizabeth Kadetsky about her new memoir, The Memory Eaters, for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Elizabeth Rosner was interviewed by Julie Lindahl for the podcast Voices Between: The Creative Conversation about her book Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory.

For the Macmillan Book Club, Hamilton Cain spoke with Susan Choi about her novel Trust Exercise. You can watch the video here.

Connie Post was interviewed by April Michelle Bratten about her new book, Prime Meridian, for Up the Staircase Quarterly.

W. Scott Olsen interviewed photographer Beowulf Sheehan, best known for his portraits of authors, for a podcast at Frames magazine.

C.M. Mayo interviewed Art Taylor about his new collection of short fiction, The Boy Detective and The Summer of ’74, for the Madam Mayo blog.

Member News, Etc.

The National Book Critics Circle is one of 66 organizations to receive a grant from Amazon Literary Partnership.

Gayle Feldman wrote a remembrance of her editor Robert Loomis, who died in April, for Publishers Weekly, as well as an obituary for Carolyn Reidy, the CEO of Simon & Schuster who died in May, for The Bookseller.

Board member Carolyn Kellogg wrote an essay about reading Octavia Butler during the coronavirus lockdown for Shondaland.

Meg Waite Clayton wrote about grieving ceremonies lost to coronavirus for USA Today.

You haven’t read The Princess Bride? Inconceivable! You can correct that oversight by joining member Constance Grady’s Vox Book Club as they discuss William Goldman’s comic fantasy novel this month.

Susan Henderson, lifetime member of the NBCC, had an excerpt of her novel, The Flicker of Old Dreams, posted in Sunday Pages.

W. Scott Olsen’s essay “Mustang Pie” appears in the current issue of Fargo Monthly.

Photo of James Baldwin by Allan Warren via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0.