Critical Notes

New reviews and more from NBCC members

By Michael Schaub

Members and friends, we hope you’re having a great spring so far! Our members have been busy this month, reviewing books by authors like Haruki Murakami, Dorthe Nors, Richard Thompson, Marissa King, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and more, and interviewing writers including Blake Bailey, Mariame Kaba, Sharon Charde, and Gina Frangello. We hope you’re all doing well and staying safe, and as always, thanks for reading!

Member Reviews/Essays

Hamilton Cain wrote a personal essay about loss and resilience for Oprah Daily.

Steven G. Kellman, a former NBCC board member and a winner of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, reviewed two biographies of Philip Roth for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

“That’s the wonderful thing about poems: Your pleasure will guide you. You can read poems to find out what they mean, you can read them to take pleasure in how they mean. But perhaps as importantly, you can enjoy what a poem lets you excavate inside yourself.” Former NBCC board member Tess Taylor celebrates National Poetry Month at CNN.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviewed The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen for PopMatters

Priscilla Gilman reviewed First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami for The Boston Globe.

NBCC board member Heather Scott Partington reviewed William Deverell’s Kathy Fiscus and Carol Edgarian’s Vera for Alta.

Ron Slate reviewed My Heart by Semezdin Mehmedinović, translated by Celia Hawkesworth, for On The Seawall. 

John Domini reviewed Dario Diofebi’s first novel, Paradise, Nevada, for the Los Angeles Times, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Committed for The Brooklyn Rail, and an unconventional new take on Dante’s Inferno by Dinty W. Moore, To Hell With It, in Vol. 1 Brooklyn.

Former NBCC President Laurie Hertzel wrote about musician Richard Thompson’s very bookish memoir, Beeswing, for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where she is senior editor of books. She also wrote about a new museum exhibit on the modern-day relevance of Sinclair Lewis, whose themes include racism, fascism and sexism. And she also covered (via streaming) the PEN America awards, happy to see Minnesota writers Jonathan Slaght and Kawai Strong Washburn bringing home awards. (Also, Victoria Chang!)

Jeremy Lybarger reviewed Francis Bacon: Revelations by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan for The New Republic

Former NBCC board member Mary Ann Gwinn reviewed The Agitators; Three Friends Who Fought for Abolition and Women’s Rights by Dorothy Wickenden for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Robert Allen Papinchak reviewed CNN political analyst Ronald Brownstein’s Rock Me On The Water: 1974, The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television and Politics for the Los Angeles Review of Books.  

For the Minneapolis Star Tribune, NBCC Vice President/Treasurer Marion Winik reviewed Brood by Jackie Polzin and The Part That Burns by Jeannine Ouellette, both Minnesota authors.

Charles Green reviewed Kristian Williams’ Resist Everything: The Anarchist Philosophy of Oscar Wilde for The Gay & Lesbian Review, as well as Ellsworth James’ Winslow’s Journey and Andrew Eustace Anselmi’s Iron Butterfly for Blueink Review.

For her podcast, “Across the Pond,” NBCC board member Lori Feathers and her UK co-host Sam Jordison discuss the 1970s Canadian novel Bear by Marian Engel, which has just been re-released in England.

Anthony Domestico wrote a poetry column featuring work by James Merrill, Deborah Warren, Maryann Corbett, and Aaron Poochigian, and wrote an essay in remembrance of Denis Donoghue, for Commonweal

Benjamin Woodard reviewed Dorthe Nors’ story collection, Wild Swims, translated by Misha Hoekstra, at Words Without Borders.

Oline H. Cogdill reviewed Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay for the Sun Sentinel and other venues, and reviewed Tower of Babel by Michael Sears and Heaven’s a Lie by Wallace Stroby for Shelf Awareness.

Elizabeth Rosner wrote about a legacy of complicated hope for Psychology Today.

Former NBCC board member Mark Athitakis reviewed Blake Bailey’s biography of Philip Roth for USA Today and Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s documentary on Ernest Hemingway for the Los Angeles Times.

Theodore Kinni reviewed Marissa King’s Social Chemistry for strategy+business.

Peggy Kurkowski reviewed Jack Livings’ The Blizzard Party for The BookBrowse Review.

Cory Oldweiler reviewed Ross King’s The Bookseller of Florence for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Member Interviews

Elias Rodrigues interviewed Mariame Kaba for The Nation.

Steph Opitz interviewed Katharine Heiney about her latest novel Early Morning Riser for SEEN magazine.

NBCC Vice President/Treasurer Marion Winik interviewed Blake Bailey about his Philip Roth biography for Kirkus Reviews.

Oline H. Cogdill interviewed authors Hank Phillippi Ryan, David Baldacci, and Linwood Barclay for The Morning Call (Lehigh Valley) PRIME Expo. The interviews also will be part of the Sun Sentinel PRIME Online event, April 14-29, 2021. 

Kathleen Rooney interviewed Gina Frangello about her new book for The Brooklyn Rail.

Elizabeth Lund interviewed Sharon Charde, author of I Am Not a Juvenile Delinquent, for NewTV.

Member News, Etc.

John Domini’s memoir The Archeology of a Good Ragù: Discovering Naples, My Father, & Myself will be published by Guernica World Editions on May 1.

NBCC board member Gregg Barrios has endowed a poetry prize for best performance at this year’s MEGA CORAZON 2021. The prize will be ongoing each year for the foreseeable future. The winner will receive a $500 cash prize and a citation.

NBCC Vice President/Treasurer Marion Winik’s The Big Book of the Dead was included in a list of recommended memoirs by Whitney Otto at Literary Hub.

Hélène Cardona nominated The Mind by John FitzGerald (Salmon Poetry, 2011) for World Literature Today‘s “21 Books for the 21st Century: The Longlist.” Hélène also will be participating in the panel “Baudelaire’s Influence on Women Writers Today” at the French Alliance in Dublin’s Literary Festival celebrating Baudelaire’s 200th anniversary.

Connie Post’s book Prime Meridian was reviewed by Erica Goss at the Cider Press Review.

NBCC Award winners Joy Harjo and Layli Long Soldier will be in conversation for an event at the Chicago Humanities Festival. You can register here.

NBCC Award-winning author Blake Bailey’s biography of multiple NBCC Award-winning author Philip Roth was reviewed by NBCC Award-winning critic Cynthia Ozick at The New York Times Book Review.

Partner News

Issue 101 of the quarterly Rain Taxi Review of Books, an NBCC publication member, has just been released, featuring three dozen pieces of critical writing about contemporary literature.

Our partners at the Whiting Foundation will announce the 10 winners of the Whiting Awards on Wednesday, April 14, at 7:00 pm Eastern. You can register for the virtual announcement here.

NBCC partners the PEN/Faulkner Foundation are holding a celebration to honor PEN/Faulkner Award winner Deesha Philyaw (The Secret Lives of Church Ladies). The event, featuring NBCC member Ron Charles as master of ceremonies, will be held on May 10 at 8:00 pm Eastern, and you can get tickets here.

Our partners at the Aspen Words Literary Prize are holding a ceremony on April 21 at 7:30 pm Eastern, and you can register here.

Photo by Miki Yoshihito via Flickr / CC BY 2.0.