Critical Notes

New reviews and more from NBCC members

By Michael Schaub

Member Reviews/Essays

Christoph Irmscher reviewed Steven Turner’s The Science of James Smithson for The Wall Street Journal. 

Heller McAlpin reviewed Martin Amis’s Inside Story for The Christian Science Monitor.

Tom Beer wrote about recent works of American history that are the antithesis of “patriotic education” for Kirkus Reviews.

Barbara J. King reviewed Gaia Vince’s Transcendence: How Humans Evolved Through Fire, Language, Beauty and Time, for the TLS and Rebecca Wragg Sykes’ Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art for NPR.

Martha Anne Toll reviewed Tom Zoellner’s The National Road for NPR.

Erik Gleibermann reviewed Deborah Paredez’s poetry collection Year of the Dog for The Georgia Review.

Chris Barsanti reviewed Elliott Currie’s A Peculiar Indifference for PopMatters and Shaun Prescott’s The Town for Rain Taxi.

Former NBCC board member Dan Cryer reviewed Jess Walter’s The Cold Millions for The Boston Globe.

NBCC Vice President/Online Michael Schaub reviewed Bryan Washington’s Memorial for NPR and Shirley Hazzard’s Collected Stories for The Boston Globe.

Anthony Domestico wrote about Brian Dillon’s Suppose a Sentence, Patrick Samway’s John Berryman and Robert Giroux, and The Selected Letters of John Berryman, edited by Philip Coleman and Calista McCrae, for Commonweal, and also reviewed Dan Chiasson’s The Math Campers for Commonweal.

Walter Uhler reviewed Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste for OpEdNews.

Jim Schley reviewed Elizabeth Powell’s Atomizer for Seven Days.

Jean Huets reviewed David Diop’s harrowing World WarI novel, At Night All Blood Is Black; Lea Singer’s novel (translated by Elisabeth Lauffe) The Piano Student, on the stormy love affair between Vladimir Horowitz and his student Nico Kaufmann; and Gregory Maguire’s A Wild Winter Swan, set in magical 1960s New York City Christmas season, for Historical Novel Society.

Member Interviews

For Granta, Sarah Ladipo Manyika wrote the first in-depth profile of publisher, editor and writer Margaret Busby, Britain’s youngest publisher and first Black woman publisher, and the chair of the Booker Prize jury.

NBCC Emerging Critic 2018-2019 Jennie Hann wrote about The Horror is Us, a new anthology of “social horror” stories from Mason Jar Press, and spoke to the volume’s editor, Justin Sanders, for the Baltimore Fishbowl.

Ryan Chapman interviewed Martin Amis for Esquire.

NBCC Vice President/Events and fiction committee chair Jane Ciabattari talked to NBCC Leonard Award winner Phil Klay about books that show us the civilian experience of war; to Claire Messud about books about the writing life by Jenny Erpenbeck, Edwidge Danticat, Proust & Woolf; to Drue Heinz award winner (selected by Alexander Chee) Caroline Kim about books about the Korean diaspora; and to Joan Frank about her new novel, The Outlook for Earthlings.

For her bookstore’s “Interabang Chats” series, NBCC board member Lori Feathers interviewed Daniel Hornsby about his debut novel Via Negativa, and author Bryan Washington about his new novel, Memorial.

W. Scott Olsen’s podcast interview with Danish photographer Keld Skytte Petersen was published at Frames magazine.

Member News, Etc.

Anita Felicelli’s short story “Amrita” was published in Midnight Breakfast.

Elaine Szewczyk‘s short story “The Death of Heartsick Rick,” about a man who fakes his own death to win back an ex, was published in the 2020 summer issue of Emrys Journal and is now available online.

Photo by Dusty J via Flickr / CC BY 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.