Critical Notes

New reviews and more from NBCC members

By Michael Schaub

We hope you all had a good August, and are getting ready for the fall! This week, our members reviewed books by authors including Ali Smith, Helen Macdonald, Susan Minot, and Maggie O’Farrell, and interviewed writers like Isabel Wilkerson, Kapka Kassabova, and more. If you’d like your work featured in the next Critical Notes, remember to send it to us at Stay safe, and thanks for reading!

Member Reviews and Essays

Heller McAlpin reviewed Summer, the final season of Ali Smith’s remarkable seasonal quartet, for NPR.

Joan Frank reviewed Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19, edited by Jennifer Haupt, for The Washington Post.

Jake Cline reviewed Helen Macdonald’s Vesper Flights for The Washington Post.

Joan Silverman reviewed Susan Minot’s Why I Don’t Write for the Portland Press Herald.

NBCC Vice President/Secretary Colette Bancroft reviewed Ariel Sabar’s Veritas for the Tampa Bay Times.

NBCC Vice President/Online Michael Schaub reviewed Helen Macdonald’s Vesper Flights and Jon Meacham’s His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope for NPR.

Lydia Pyne reviewed Nicole Tersigni’s Men to Avoid in Art and Life for Glasstire.

Diane Scharper reviewed Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet for the National Review. Scharper’s review appeared in the Aug. 20, 2020 online edition of National Review and will appear as “What’s in a Name?” in the Sept. 7, 2020, print edition of National Review. 

Paul Wilner reviewed Kelly Daniels’ A Candle for San Simón for ZYZZYVA.

Julia M. Klein reviewed Hilary Levey Friedman’s Here She Is for the Forward.

Grace Lichtenstein reviewed Jennie Fields’ Atomic Love for BookPage.

Michelle Newby Lancaster reviewed Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan’s A Place at the Table for Lone Star Literary Life.

Steve Paul reviewed Robert K. Elder’s Hemingway in Comics for Booklist and former NBCC board member Kerri Arsenault‘s Mill Town: Reckoning With What Remains for the Star Tribune.

Beth Kanell‘s summer reviews at the New York Journal of Books include mysteries by Sara Paretsky, Elly Griffiths, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Amanda Flower, and Lucy Burdette. 

Jim Scott reviewed Stamped From The Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi for the Wellington Square Bookshop website.

Member Interviews

Barbara Spindel interviewed Isabel Wilkerson for The Christian Science Monitor.

Sarah Haas interviewed Kapka Kassabova for The Rumpus.

Jenny Bhatt interviewed Shruti Swamy about her new story collection, A House Is a Body, for Electric Literature.

Anne Charles interviewed photographer Eva Weiss on the cable access show All Things LGBTQ. Weiss discusses her years working with performance troupe Split Britches at the WOW Cafe in Greenwich Village in the 1980s.

Member News, Etc.

Jennifer Haupt has edited and curated Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19, which will be published on Sept. 1. Ninety authors contributed essays, poems, and interviews with Jennifer to this anthology, including Nikki Giovanni, Susan Henderson, Major Jackson, Jean Kwok, Ada Limón, Claudia Castro Luna, and Luis Alberto Urrea. All sales profits will be donated to Binc.

Susan Henderson, a lifetime member of the NBCC, had her essay “Quarantine” highlighted in Joan Frank‘s Washington Post review of the COVID-19 anthology, Alone Together, edited by Jennifer Haupt. On Sept. 3, she will be a part of an online launch party for the anthology, featuring librarian Ron Block, along with authors Pam Houston, Ruben Quesada, Caroline Leavitt, Anna Quinn, Kristen Millares Young, and Jennifer Haupt.

NBCC board member Jacob M. Appel‘s short story collection, Winter Honeymoon, was published by Black Lawrence Press.

NBCC Vice President/Online Michael Schaub will interview Edmund White about his new book, A Saint From Texas, at a virtual event hosted by Brazos Bookstore on Sept. 3 at 7:00 pm Central Time.

Megan Harlan’s memoir-in-essays, Mobile Home, which is out from the University of Georgia Press on Sept. 15, was reviewed at Kirkus. 

Ellen Prentiss Campbell’s new book, Known by Heart: Collected Stories, was reviewed by Ginger Eager at Necessary Fiction.

Photo of the Stockholm Public Library by square(tea) via Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

SEND US YOUR STUFF: 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 Be sure to include the link to your work.