Critical Notes

New reviews and more from NBCC members

By Michael Schaub

We hope you’re all having a great autumn so far! Over the past week, our members have been keeping busy with reviews of books by authors including SJ Sindu, Domenico Starnone, Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, Ann Patchett, and Claire Vaye Watkins, and interviews with writers like Alice Notley, Jodi Picoult, and Sarah Hall. Please stay safe and stay warm, and as always, thanks for reading!

Member Reviews/Essays

Rachel Jo Walker reviewed Claire Vaye Watkins’ I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

May-lee Chai reviewed SJ Sindu’s Blue-Skinned Gods for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

NBCC lifetime member Fran Hawthorne reviewed Nicola Cornick’s The Last Daughter of York for the New York Journal of Books.

Carlos Lozada, a winner of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing and the Pulitzer Prize, reviewed The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, created by Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New York Times Magazine and edited by Caitlin Roper, Ilena Silverman, and Jake Silverstein, for The Washington Post.

NBCC Treasurer Marion Winik took issue with J. Alfred Prufrock in her Bohemian Rhapsody column for the Baltimore Fishbowl. On the Weekly Reader podcast, she covered 1979 by Val McDermid and The Commune by Erica Abeel; also Lily King’s Five Tuesdays in Winter and Leslie Pietrzyk’s Admit This To No One. 

Julia M. Klein reviewed Ken Krimstein’s When I Grow Up for Chicago Magazine.

In The Brooklyn Rail, John Domini reviewed two experimental fictions, Marcus Practor’s short story collection Begat Who Begat Who Begat and Marc Anthony Richardson’s “scorching variation on spec-fic,” Messiahs. And in The Washington Post, John praised Domenico Starnone’s new novel, Trust, translated by Jhumpa Lahiri.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Woody Holton’s Liberty Is Sweet for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Farah Abdessamad wrote about her love for French writer Chateaubriand and her recent visit to his childhood town of Combourg in France in a personal essay/literary criticism piece for Berfrois.

Hannah Joyner reviewed My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson for the Harvard Review, The Young H.G. Wells: Changing the World by Claire Tomalin for the Washington Independent Review of Books, and Every Day the River Changes: A Journey Down the Magdalena by Jordan Salama for On the Seawall.

Ellen Prentiss Campbell wrote about reading, writing, and resisting labels and pigeonholes for the Fiction Writers Review. She also wrote about her struggle with Swedish vowels (De är väldigt svåra!) for the Washington Independent Review of Books, and reviewed Sam Gridley’s new novella, The Bourgeois Anarchist, for Tiferet.

For Kirkus Reviews, former NBCC President Tom Beer wrote about The 1619 Project and Born on the Water, two new books for adults and young readers that are adapted from the New York Times’ 1619 Project.

Robert Allen Papinchak reviewed three books for Mystery Scene magazine: Cherie Priest’s Grave Reservations, Lisa Unger’s Last Girl Ghosted, and Hannah Morrisey’s Hello, Transcriber.

M. Adam Carroll reviewed Melissa Lozada-Oliva’s Dreaming of You for the Ploughshares blog.

Ron Slate reviewed Chess With My Grandfather by Ariel Magnus, translated by Kit Maude, and The Notes by Ludwig Hohl, translated by Tess Lewis, for On The Seawall.

Patricia Schultheis reviewed The Pastor by Hanne Ørstavik, translated by Martin Aitken, for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Meg Waite Clayton‘s November Bay City Books column includes new releases by Naomi Krupitsky, Dave Pell, Claire Oshetsky, Dan Grunfeld, and Dave Eggers. 

Alta Ifland wrote about morality, political correctness, and social class in a post from her work in progress American Insanity or How (Not) to Be an American.

Clea Simon wrote about the crime that inspired her fiction for Crimespree Magazine

Priscilla Gilman reviewed Ann Patchett’s These Precious Days for The Boston Globe.

Christoph Irmscher reviewed several new books on birds, including Richard Dawkins’ Flights of Fancy, for The Wall Street Journal.

Member Interviews

Jeff Alessandrelli interviewed Alice Notley for BOMB and Joshua Pollock for 3:AM.

NBCC Vice President/Events and Fiction Chair Jane Ciabattari‘s Literary Hub conversation with Sarah Hall covers how the COVID pandemic inspired Burntcoat, her uncanny fever dream of a new novel, and transformed her life.

NBCC Treasurer Marion Winik interviewed Jodi Picoult for Newsday.

Member News, Etc.

NBCC board member Rod Davis joined members of the Texas Institute of Letters in signing a protest statement objecting to radical right-wing attacks from the Texas governor and state legislature on books in schools that could cause student “distress.” The suppressions now include suspensions and firing of teachers and administrators at some schools. Rod also responded by asking the Texas House of Representatives General Investigating Committee that one of his works, American Voudou: Journey into a Hidden World, be added to the list of 850 titles subject to inspection and possible ban. He invited TIL and other writers to do the same.

Hélène Cardona’s translation, “He has begun to speak to me” from The Abduction by Maram Al-Masri, was published in AGNI, as part of the major portfolio of translated work on the subject of Futures, edited by Jennifer Kwon Dobbs and Shuchi Saraswat, along with work by Amy Beeder, Ishion Hutchinson, Tomaz Salamun, Marina Tsvetaeva, Ananda Devi, Kazim Ali, and Tzveta Sofronieva, among many.

Lisa Russ Spaar’s new poetry collection, Madrigalia: New & Selected Poems, was published by Persea Books on Nov. 16. The collection got a shout-out from Gregory Cowles in The New York Times.

Alta Ifland’s latest novel, The Wife Who Wasn’t, was published on May 18 by New Europe Books.

Meg Waite Clayton‘s The Postmistress of Paris received a starred review from Library Journal, calling it “A true gem … a testament to the power of good.” It has been selected for the December IndieNext List in the U.S. and is the #2 LoanStars pick by Canadian librarians. It will be published by Harper Books on Nov. 30.

Cynthia L. Haven’s Czesław Miłosz: A California Life was reviewed by NBCC member Cory Oldweiler in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Jon Davis’ seventh poetry collection, Above the Bejeweled City, is now out by Grid Books.

Photo of Liberty Rock Books in Hobart, N.Y., by Paul Cooper 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.