Critical Notes

New reviews and more from NBCC members

By Michael Schaub

Members and friends, the announcement of the finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards is coming soon! Mark your calendars for Jan. 20, 2022, when previous NBCC Award winners Morgan Parker (Poetry) and Patrick Radden Keefe (Nonfiction) will be unveiling our shortlists for the next awards. The announcement will follow a virtual panel celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, featuring NBCC President David Varno in conversation with several past winners of the award. Everything kicks off at 7:00 pm Eastern, and we’d love to see you there! Find more information here.

Member Reviews/Essays

Laura Spence-Ash wrote a personal essay for the Ploughshares blog on the joy of reading slowly.

NBCC Vice President/Fundraising Anita Felicelli reviewed Natashia Deón’s The Perishing and Venita Blackburn’s How to Wrestle a Girl for Alta.

Celia McGee reviewed Louise Erdrich’s The Sentence for The National Book Review.

In the year-end Brooklyn Rail, John Domini has an essay considering the work of Abdulrazak Gurnah, in light of his Nobel Prize, and looking in particular at his latest novel, not yet available in the U.S.

V. Joshua Adams reviewed Michael W. Clune’s A Defense of Judgment for Chicago Review.

Abby McGanney Nolan reviewed Garbo by Robert Gottlieb for The Boston Globe and Rock Concert by Marc Myers for The Washington Post.

Jenny Shank reviewed Lauren Groff’s Matrix and Claire Luchette’s Agatha of Little Neon for America, and wrote about how to write endings for Catapult’s Don’t Write Alone.

Cory Oldweiler reviewed Ayşegül Savaş’s White on White for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Sebastian Stockman published “Freud, Facts, and Folly,” a consideration of Janet Malcolm’s career and its relationship to psychoanalysis in Majuscule (a relatively new outlet that, members might be interested to know, pays $750 for 3,000+-word critical essays). For those without the time, here’s a tweet thread with a rough sketch of the argument.

Yvonne C. Garrett reviewed Hiromi Kawakami’s People from my Neighborhood, translated by Ted Goossen, and Sequoia Nagamatsu’s How High We Go in the Dark for The Brooklyn Rail.

Former NBCC President Tom Beer wrote about his favorite books of 2021 for Kirkus Reviews.

Hamilton Cain reviewed the late Alex Danchev’s Magritte: A Life for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Kai Maristed reviewed Alain Mabanckou’s writing for The Arts Fuse.

John Kaag reviewed Now Comes Good Sailing: Writers Reflect on Henry David Thoreau, edited by Andrew Blauner, for The New York Times.

Kevin Blankinship wrote a tribute to longtime British translator of Arabic Humphrey Davies for New Lines Magazine. He also spoke about medieval Islamic Iberian scholar, mystic, poet, and philosopher Ibn Arabi on the Abbasid History Podcast. 

Former NBCC board member and biography award winner Ben Moser‘s essay “Against Translation”  has been published at Liberties Journal.

Paul Wilner offered a year-end literary review for the Nob Hill Gazette.

Member Interviews

Jeannine Hall Gailey interviewed National Book Award-winning author Jason Mott for The Rumpus.

Rochelle Spencer interviewed Dawnie Walton, author of The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, for The Believer.

Terese Svoboda participated in a conversation with Paul Nemser for Green Mountains Review.

Paul Wilner interviewed Catherine Prendergast about her new book, The Gilded Edge: Two Audacious Women and the Love Triangle That Shook America for the Nob Hill Gazette.

Member News

Rochelle Spencer will be teaching a four-week online writing workshop, Writing the Bomb @#$ Book Review, at Midnight & Indigo. The workshop takes place in March, and you can register here.

Former NBCC Emerging Critic Fellow Jonathan Leal’s first nonfiction book, Dreams in Double Time, is forthcoming with Duke University Press.

Celia McGee has been named Literary Editor of New York’s AVENUE magazine, where she will be responsible for author profiles, book-focused cultural essays, book reviews, and book excerpts. Contact her at

Jeannine Hall Gailey has a poetry book coming out with BOA Editions in the fall of 2023 called Flare, Corona.

Patricia Schultheis’ short story collection, Something Sensed; Someone Summoned, was longlisted for the Steel Toe Books fiction award, and her story, “This Thing with Sticks,” was a finalist for the New Millenniums Writings Flash Fiction Award. 

Former NBCC board member and Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing winner Maureen N. McLane’s More Anon: Selected Poems was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on July 20.

Former NBCC board member Victoria Chang’s book Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief was published by Milkweed Editions on Oct. 12.

Ted Gioia writes about Cynthia L. Haven’s Czesław Miłosz: A California Life: “A new book on the famous writer’s exile in Berkeley is filled with surprises.” And Leon Wieseltier said, “Cynthia Haven’s book is delicious. She evokes so much so vividly and so intelligently; for me her pages were a restoration of a richer and less lonely time. And her intuition is right: Czesław Miłosz and California are indeed a chapter in each other’s history.” 

Partner News

Our friends and partners at The Loft have a new executive director: Arleta Little, the former director of the McKnight Artist Fellowships and former executive director of the Givens Foundation for African American Literature. 

Photo of Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris by remster_9 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.