Critical Notes

New reviews and more from NBCC members

By Michael Schaub

Members and friends, we hope you’re having a great month so far! Last week, our members have been busy writing reviews of books by authors including Lauren Hough, Elizabeth McCracken, Kazuo Ishiguro, Rickie Lee Jones, Carribean Fragoza, Jonathan Meiburg, Cynthia Ozick, and much more, and interviewing writers like Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., Elon Green, and Jamie Figueroa. Enjoy the spring weather, stay safe, and as always, thanks for reading!

Member Reviews/Essays

Yvonne C. Garrett reviewed J. Nicole Jones’ Low Country: A Southern Memoir for The Brooklyn Rail and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun for StatoRec.

Jake Cline reviewed Rickie Lee Jones’ Last Chance Texaco for The Washington Post.

Daniel Mendelsohn reviewed Jenny Erpenbeck’s essay collection, Not a Novel, in the April 29 issue of the New York Review of Books.

April Yee reviewed poetry collections by Douglas Kearney and Yusef Komunyakaa for Ploughshares online.

Daneet Steffens reviewed Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s Good Company for The Boston Globe

Christoph Irmscher reviewed Jonathan Meiburg’s A Most Remarkable Creature: The Hidden Life and Epic Journey of the World’s Smartest Birds of Prey for The Wall Street Journal.

Rafael Castillo wrote about the PBS documentary on Ernest Hemingway for the San Antonio Express-News.

Kevin Blankinship reviewed Exhausted on the Cross by Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish and translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid for Words Without Borders, and wrote an essay about medieval Muslim freethinker and vegan poet al-Ma`arri’s views on animal rights, on the millennial anniversary of his Epistle of the Horse and the Mule, for Prospect

Sarah McCraw Crow reviewed Elizabeth McCracken’s The Souvenir Museum and Lauren Hough’s Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing for BookPage.

Nicholas Birns reviewed Alvaro Santana-Acuña’s Ascent to Glory: How One Hundred Years of Solitude was Written and Became a Global Classic for ReVista: The Harvard Review of Latin America.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson reviewed Lauren Hough’s Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing for The Washington Post.

Kathleen Rooney reviewed Jim Heynen’s The Youngest Boy for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun for the Harvard Review.

Heller McAlpin reviewed Cynthia Ozick’s Antiquities for The Wall Street Journal and Elizabeth McCracken’s The Souvenir Museum for NPR.

Michael Adam Carroll reviewed Carribean Fragoza’s Eat the Mouth that Feeds You for Ploughshares.

Lanie Tankard reviewed Shira Spector’s Red Rock Baby Candy for The Woven Tale Press.

Kai Maristed reviewed Alexander Wolff’s Endpapers for The Arts Fuse.

Ellen Prentiss Campbell reviewed Elizabeth McCracken’s The Souvenir Museum for the Fiction Writers Review.

Fran Hawthorne reviewed The Passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz, translated by Philip Boehm, for the New York Journal of Books.

Joan Gelfand reviewed Gail Newman’s Blood Memory for the Wilderness House Literary Review.

Jim Schley reviewed Stephen Cramer’s The Disintegration Loops for Seven Days.

Chris Barsanti reviewed Ronald Brownstein’s Rock Me on the Water: 1974 — The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television, and Politics for PopMatters.

Claude Peck reviewed Antiquities by Cynthia Ozick for the Star Tribune.

Member Interviews

Sarah Ladipo Manyika hosted a conversation with Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. as part of the Conversations Across the Diaspora series. Special guests include Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka and the legendary Margaret Busby and Charlayne Hunter-Gault. Sarah also had a conversation with author Sonora Jha, and will be a panelist on an arts and racial justice panel moderated by Charlayne Hunter-Gault presented by the Suncoast Black Arts Collaborative today, April 19, at 5:00 pm Eastern.

Joyce Sáenz Harris interviewed Gregory Curtis about his new book, Paris Without Her, for The Dallas Morning News.

In a conversation with NBCC Vice President/Events Jane Ciabattari, debut novelist Jamie Figueroa shares some thoughts about writing during COVID. “I have continued to write during this time. It reminds me of what I was taught nearly twenty years ago by Natalie Goldberg: ‘Don’t get tossed away. Make positive effort for the good. Continue under all circumstances.’ It feels like muscle memory at this point.” 

Julia M. Klein interviewed G. John Ikenberry about A World Safe for Democracy for Princeton Alumni Weekly.

Allan Graubard interviewed Hugh Levick for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Chuck Augello interviewed David O. Dowling about his book A Delicate Aggression: Savagery and Survival in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop for the website The Daily Vonnegut.  

Tobias Carroll talked to Elon Green about his new book, Last Call, at InsideHook.

Member News, Etc.

April Yee has been shortlisted for the Fitzcarraldo Essay Prize.

Joan Gelfand will participate in a virtual celebration of the life and work of the late Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a winner of the NBCC Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, along with Peter Coyote, Ben Gibbard, Judy Wells, and more, on April 25 at 4:00 pm Pacific. You can register for the event here.

On April 13, the University of Wisconsin Press published NBCC lifetime member Anthony Bukoski’s short story collection The Blondes of Wisconsin.

Yvonne C. Garrett successfully defended her dissertation “(Re)Constructing Identity: Structures of Female Empowerment in 1980s American Punk” for the Ph.D. in History & Culture, Drew University. 

Sarah McCraw Crow was interviewed about her novel The Wrong Kind of Woman for the Hear Us Roar/Women’s Fiction Writers Association podcast and for the Reading and Writing Podcast.

Diane Scharper’s poem “El Niño” appeared in Commonweal.

Partner News

Get ready for one of the best literary events of the year! Our partners and friends at the Bay Area Book Festival will be holding their event virtually from May 1-9. The lineup is incredible, and includes Charles Yu, Dave “Davey D” Cook, Douglas Stuart, Ellen Oh, Ismail Muhammad, Joyce Carol Oates, Kazuo Ishiguro, Maaza Mengiste, Yaa Gyasi, Yiyun Li, Tracy K. Smith, Nnedi Okorafor, and so many more. The BABF was instrumental in helping the NBCC put on our virtual events this year, so please support this amazing event. You can register for individual events or get festival passes here.

Our partners at the Brooklyn Book Festival have videos of 2020 authors in events that addressed the historical—from hidden histories and promises of prior generations to novels that reached back to origin stories and myths. These discussions (and all of their 2020 festival events) are available to view for free here. Also, save the dates for the 2021 Brooklyn Book Festival: Bookends, Sept. 26 – Oct. 4; Children’s Day, Oct. 2; and Festival Day, Oct. 3. 


In last week’s Critical Notes, we misspelled the name of NBCC member Elias Rodriques. Our sincere apologies for the error!

Photo of The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles by Thomas Hawk via Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0.