Critical Notes

New reviews and more from NBCC members

By Michael Schaub

Members and friends, we hope you’re having a great fall so far! Our members have been busy with reviews of books by authors like Louise Glück, Jai Chakrabarti, Jonathan Franzen, Warren Ellis, Claire Tomalin, Sam Quinones, Paul Auster, Tamara Shopsin, and much more. (Thinking of buying any of these books for holiday gifts? Remember to order early this year!) We hope you’re staying safe and enjoying the fall weather, and as always, thanks for reading!

Member Reviews/Essays

NBCC Emerging Critic Fellow Mandana Chaffa reviewed Louise Glück’s Winter Recipes from the Collective for the Chicago Review of Books.

Richard Deming reviewed Paul Auster’s Burning Boy: The Life and Work of Stephen Cranefor The Boston Globe.

Former NBCC board member Victoria Chang and Dean Rader review Tracy K. Smith’s Such Color: New and Selected Poems and Arthur Sze’s The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems for their “Two Roads” column in The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Cory Oldweiler reviewed Edward Dolnick’s The Writing of the Godsfor the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Porter Fox’s The Last Winterfor The Boston Globe.

Shara Lessley wrote about Li-Young Lee’s poetry and her year at The Kirov Academy of Ballet for Poetry Daily, and launched the annual column, “This Long Winding Line: A Poetry Retrospective,” at West Branch, where she is editor-at-large. The most recent installment features three essays on Ai’s Killing Floor. Shara and Danielle Cadena Deulen’s collaborative essay on friendship, Rilke, and survival was recently published at The Rumpus.

NBCC Vice President/Fundraising Anita Felicelli reviewed Jai Chakrabarti’s A Play for the End of the World for The Washington Post.

W. Scott Olsen reviewed The Substance of Things Hoped For by Tom Noyes for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Former NBCC President Laurie Hertzel reviewed Tamara Shopsin’s LaserWriter IIand Torbjorn Ekelund’s A Year in the Woods, translated by Becky L. Crook,for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She also wrote her “Bookmark” column about the 10th anniversary of the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroadsfor Oprah Daily and Gary Shteyngart’s Our Country Friendsfor the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Tobias Carroll wrote about Un-su Kim’s The Cabinet, translated by Sean Lin Halbert,for, and reviewed Robin Clifford Wood’s The Field Housefor the Portland Press Herald. He also wrote about October books in translation for Words Without Borders.

At the Republic of Consciousness Prize blog, NBCC board member and Republic of Consciousness Prize Chair Lori Feathers writes about small press debuts by now well-known authors.

Dana Wilde reviewed Billy Summers by Stephen King in his Off Radar column for the Central Maine Newspapers.

Oline H. Cogdill reviewed These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall and The Collective by Alison Gaylin and Life Without Parole by Elaine Viets for the South Florida Sun Sentinel, and These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant for Shelf Awareness. Oline also has three articles in the current issue of Mystery Scene: an interview with British author Ann Cleeves, a look at senior detectives who are still kicking it, and names six authors to watch—Wiley Cash, Jess Montgomery, Kwei Quartey, Mia P. Manansala, Michael Michaelides, and Joanna Schaffhausen.

John James reviewed Dora Malech’s Flourish for The Scores.

For Kirkus Reviews, former NBCC President Tom Beer wrote about the role of the family in Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroads and Kirstin Valdez Quade’s The Five Wounds.

Judy Reveal’s review of She Kills Me: The True Story of History’s Deadliest Woman by Jennifer Wright is published at the New York Journal of Books.

Jay Gabler reviewed Jackie Kay’s Bessie Smith: A Poet’s Biography; Megan Milks’s Tori Amos Bootleg Webring; Dave Grohl’s The Storyteller; Eric Harvey’s Who Got the Camera? A History of Rap and Reality; Stephen Deusner’s Where the Devil Don’t Stay: Traveling the South with the Drive-By Truckers; and Steve Bergsman’s I Put a Spell On You: The Bizarre Life of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins for The Current. And at Literary Hub, Jay also wrote about the disappointing history of attempts to adapt Isaac Asimov’s science fiction for film and TV.

NBCC lifetime member Fran Hawthorne reviewed Violaine Huisman’s The Book of Motherfor the New York Journal of Books.

Edward Derby reviewed The Poem’s Country: Place & Poetic Practice, co-edited by NBCC member Shara Lessley and Bruce Snider, for The Rumpus.

Bill Thompson reviewed Aliya Whiteley’s The Secret Life of Fungiand Wyatt Williams’ Springer Mountainfor the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier.

Former NBCC board member Kerri Arsenault reviewed Dave Eggers’ The Everyfor The Boston Globe.

Kathleen Rooney reviewed Warren Ellis’ Nina Simone’s Gumfor the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Tara Cheesman reviewed the final installment of David Peace’s Tokyo Trilogy, Tokyo Redux, for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Nicholas Birns reviewed John Kinsella’s Insomniafor The Common.

Heller McAlpin reviewed Tamara Shopsin’s charming debut novel, LaserWriter II, for NPR, and Claire Tomalin’s The Young H.G. Wellsfor The Wall Street Journal.

Linda Hitchcock reviewed Jenna Blum’s Woodrow on the Benchfor BookTrib.

Sebastian Stockman reviewed The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth, by former NBCC Nonfiction Award winner Sam Quinones, for The Boston Globe.

Wayne Catan reviewed Born of No Woman by Franck Bouysse for the Chicago Review of Books

Member Interviews

Parul Kapur Hinzen spoke to authors Jenny Bhatt and Vinod Busjeet for a panel on hyphenated identities and writing from the Indian diaspora for the Jaipur Literature Festival at Houston. You can watch the discussion here

Former NBCC President Laurie Hertzel interviewed William Kent Krueger for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Oline H. Cogdill interviewed Rachel Hozwell Hall (These Toxic Things) and Alison Gayline (The Collective) and Jeffery Deaver (The Midnight Lock) for The San Diego Union-Tribune Successful Aging Virtual Expo. This will be called the Prime Expo when it begins for the Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Grant Faulkner interviewed E.J. Koh about her memoir, The Magical Language of Others, on the Write-minded podcast. 

Tobias Carroll interviewed photographer Chas Gerretsen about a new collection of his work for InsideHook.

Member News, Etc.

Julian Lucas has joined the staff of The New Yorker.

Marjoleine Kars isone of three finalists for the International Cundill Prize in History for her book Blood on the River (New Press), about a slave revolt in South America in 1763-1764.

Nicholas Birnsnew book on Anthony Trollope, co-written with John Wirenius, is out from McFarland.

NBCC Vice President/Fundraising Anita Felicelli is the new editor of the California Book Club. She compiled a list, “Recommended Reading for the End of the World as We Know It,” in connection with Rebecca Solnit’s book, the club’s September selection. She also wrote a newsletter, “Out of Maxine Hong Kingston’s Overcoat,” for the club.

Dean Rader has poems that enter into conversation with the artist Cy Twombly alongside the pieces themselves in the new issue of Air/Light Magazine and in the fourth anniversary edition of Ron Slate’s On the Seawall.

Clea Simon’s new Hold Me Down was reviewed in The Boston Globe. Calling it a “propulsive new thriller,” Nina MacLaughlin said: “In electric prose, Simon conjures the rock-and-roll world, its drink, drugs, and band-dynamics, and the twin seductresses of excess and success, as she makes a penetrating portrait of friendship.”

Shara Lessley’s “Season of Mists” (first published in Kenyon Review) was named a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2021.

Daphne Kalotay was interviewed by The Missouri Review about her new short story “Heart-Scalded,” published in their most recent issue.

Partner News

Our friends and partners at Rain Taxi are hosting a free, virtual event with New York, My Village author Uwem Akpan in conversation with author Okey Ndibe (Foreign Gods, Inc.) on Wednesday, Nov. 3, at 5:30 pm Central. You can register here.

Photo by Lex McKee via Flickr / CC BY-NC 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.