Critical Notes

New reviews and more from NBCC members

By Michael Schaub

Save the date: on Nov. 9 at 6:30 pm Eastern, the NBCC is co-sponsoring a virtual event with Community Bookstore, featuring Laura Marris, who will present her new translation of Albert Camus’s The Plague, in conversation with Camus biographer and scholar Alice Kaplan and NBCC board member Adam Dalva. This program will take place on Zoom, and you can register here.

Member Reviews/Essays

Ericka Taylor reviewed Andrea Elliott’s Invisible Childfor NPR.

Sebastian Stockman wrote about Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, and bad art friends in A Saturday Letter.

NBCC Emerging Critic Fellow Mandana Chaffa reviewed Divya Victor’s Curbfor The Los Angeles Review.

NBCC Vice President/Secretary Colette Bancroft reviewed Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny’s State of Terrorfor the Tampa Bay Times.

Ron Slate reviewed Worldly Things, poems by Michael Kleber-Diggs, for On The Seawall.

Barbara J. King reviewed Susan Orlean’s On Animals for NPR.

NBCC Vice President/Emerging Critics Fellowship Heather Scott Partington ​​reviewed Rabih Alameddine’s novel The Wrong End of the Telescopefor the San Francisco Chronicle.

At the Republic of Consciousness Prize blog, Prize Chair and NBCC board member Lori Feathers wrote about the 2022 judges’ favorite small press reads of 2021.

Carlos Lozada, a winner of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing and the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, reviewed Adam Schiff’s Midnight in Washingtonfor The Washington Post.

Former NBCC President Laurie Hertzel reviewed the witty mystery A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz and the memoir The Electricity of All Living Things by Katherine May for the Star Tribune, where she is senior editor of books. She also wrote her weekly Bookmark column on the effects the supply chain woes are having on bookselling this holiday season. (Remember, if you’re giving books as gifts this holiday season, buy them early!)

Jenny Shank wrote an essay about her friend and teacher Lucia Berlin for the November/December issue of Poets & Writers.

Lanie Tankard reviewed Lemon by Kwon Yeo-sun, translated by Janet Hong, for The Woven Tale Press.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Margaret Verble’s When Two Feathers Fell From the Sky for Chapter 16. 

Christoph Irmscher reviewed two books celebrating the Harvard entomologist E. O. Wilson for The Wall Street Journal: Richard Rhodes’ new biography, Scientist, and the first of two Library of America volumes dedicated to Wilson’s work.

Kathleen Rooney reviewed Mark Gustafson’s Born Under the Sign of Odinfor the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

RJ Heller reviewed Bob Keyes’ The Isolation Artistfor the Bangor Daily News.

Julia M. Klein reviewed Mark Oppenheimer’s Squirrel Hilland Judy Bolton-Fasman’s Asylum for the Forward.

John Domini reviewed Shukri Mabkhout’s The Italian, translated by Miled Faiza and Karen McNeil, for The Brooklyn Rail.

The spice must flow: Kevin Blankinship wrote about the upcoming Dune movie for Prospect Magazine.

Oline H. Cogdill reviewed The Savage Kind by John Copenhaver, The Neighbor’s Secret by L. Alison Heller, andThe Last Guest by Tess Little for Shelf Awareness. For the Sun Sentinel, she reviewed Mercy Creek by M.E. Browning and Death at Greenway by Lori Rader-Day; I Play One on TV by Alan Orloff and Mango, Mambo, and Murder by Raquel V. Reyes; Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger and My Sweet Girl by Amanda Jayatissa; and 1979 by Val McDermid.

Erika Dreifus‘s essay about the timely resonance of Dear Mr. Dickensa new picture book by Nancy Churnin and illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe, about the true story of a Jewish reader’s outreach to Dickens regarding anti-Jewish prejudice in Oliver Twist—was published in JTA.

Meg Waite Clayton‘s October Bay City Books includes new releases by Jonathan Franzen, Rebecca Solnit, J.M. Thompson, Saul Griffith, Sara Jayaraman, Atsuro Riley, Gabrielle Selz, and Rhys Bowen, and paperback releases by Caroline Kim, Jacqueline Winspear, Vendela Vida, and Katherine Seligman. 

Lisa Russ Spaar wrote a column featuring micro-reviews of three second collections of poems for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

NBCC Vice President/Online Michael Schaub reviewed Claire Vaye Watkins’ I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darknessfor the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Margaret Verble’s When Two Feathers Fell From the Skyfor NPR.

Member Interviews

For Kirkus Reviews, former NBCC President Tom Beer conducted a video interview with Joshua Ferris about his new novel, A Calling for Charlie Barnes. (Yes, that’s Tom asking the questions off-camera.)

Anne Charles interviewed Penny Mickelbury about her recent collection God’s Will and Other Lies and her historical novel Two Wings to Fly Away on the cable access show All Things LGBTQ.

Oline H. Cogdill interviewed Scottish author Val McDermid about her novel 1979 for Murder on the Beach bookstore in Delray Beach, Fla.

Sarah D’Stair interviewed the poet Jennifer Militello for The Adroit Journal

Member News, Etc.

What Just Happened: Notes on a Long Year, the latest book by former NBCC board member Charles Finch, a winner of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, will be published by Knopf on Nov. 9.

Clea Simon’s upcoming psychological suspense Hold Me Downhas been reviewed by David Daniel in The Arts Fuse, who says, “On many levels, Hold Me Down is terrific. Its power lies in the vitality of Clea Simon’s prose and her insider savvy.”

Jenny Shank will be on a Zoom short story panel for the Montana Festival of the Book on Oct. 23 at 3:00 pm Mountain.

Former NBCC board member Clay Smith is shifting from San Antonio, where he headed the San Antonio Book Festival, to Washington, D.C., where he’ll be curating the 2022 National Book Festival as literary director. Clay Smith will join the national library this month as chief of literary initiatives to lead year-round literary programs, including the festival. Smith, who is also a journalist, was previously editor-in-chief of Kirkus Reviews and literary director of the Texas Book Festival where he worked with former first lady Laura Bush who also co-founded the National Book Festival in 2001.

On Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, Judy Reveal will be doing a “Book Talk” at the Greensboro, Maine, library. She will discuss her recent book, and engage in a discussion about the importance of writing.

Hélène Cardona has a poem published in Pratik: The Ghosts of Paradise — Special Los Angeles Double Issue, Summer/Fall 2021 Vol. XVII, along with work by Amy Uyematsu, André Naffis-Sahely, Charles Harper Webb, John Fitzgerald, Lynne Thompson, Ralph Angel, Vandana Khanna, and Dana Gioia.

Partner News

Our friends and partners at Rain Taxi are hosting a live, in-person event with author Elizabeth Strout (Oh, William!) in conversation with Julie Schumacher on Friday, Oct. 22, at 7:00 pm Central, at Stillwater Middle School in Stillwater, Minn. Tickets can be purchased here.

Photo of adorable bookseller by Dany Sternfeld 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.