Critical Notes

New reviews and more from NBCC members

By Michael Schaub

Members and friends, we’d like to remind you to mark Thursday, Jan. 20, on your calendars—that’s when we’ll be announcing the finalists for the NBCC Awards, as well as hosting a virtual panel on the critic as artist, featuring four past winners of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing! It all starts at 7:00 pm Eastern, and trust us, you won’t want to miss it. You can find more information here, and we hope to see you at the event!

Member Reviews/Essays

Betsy Groban wrote a year-end roundup of notable 2021 children’s books for The Boston Globe.

NBCC Vice President/Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Ruben Quesada wrote about six books by Latinx poets for the Harvard Review.

Lauren LeBlanc reviewed Kathryn Schulz’s Lost & Found for The Boston Globe.

Andru Okun wrote an essay on tourism, disaster, and Louisiana for Popula.

Julia Lichtblau reviewed Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry’s debut short story collection, What Isn’t Remembered, which won the 2021 Prairie Schooner Book Prize, for The Common.

Anri Wheeler reviewed Thrity Umrigar’s Honor for The Boston Globe.

Former NBCC board member Victoria Chang and Dean Rader reviewed NBCC member Joan Naviyuk Kane‘s Dark Traffic for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Rachael Nevins wrote about survival in Juhea Kim’s debut novel, Beasts of a Little Land, for the Ploughshares blog.

Charles Green reviewed Dolores Chernoski Moses’ Second Thoughts: Second Chances for Blueink Review and Brandon Taylor’s Filthy Animals for The Gay & Lesbian Review.

Linda Hitchcock reviewed Laura Lippman’s Seasonal Work for BookTrib.

Kathryn Ma reviewed Jessamine Chan’s The School for Good Mothers for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Martha Anne Toll reviewed Mina Seçkin’s The Four Humors for NPR.

Cory Oldweiler reviewed Present Tense Machine by Gunnhild Øyehaug, translated by Kari Dickson, for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson reviewed The Week by David M. Henkin for The Wall Street Journal.

Sarah McCraw Crow reviewed Out of Office by Anne Helen Petersen and Charlie Warzel for BookPage.

Jeffrey Mannix reviewed The Trees by Percival Everett for his Murder Ink column in the Durango Telegraph, covering southwest Colorado and the vast Four Corners of the Southwest.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Taylor Harris’ This Boy We Made for The Boston Globe and Kathryn Schulz’s Lost & Found for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Oline H. Cogdill reviewed The Replacement Wife by Darby Kane for Shelf Awareness, and Find Me by Alafair Burke and The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf, and A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham and Seasonal Work by Laura Lippman, for the Sun Sentinel.

Chris Barsanti reviewed Robert B. Weide and Don Argott’s documentary Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time for Slant, and wrote about Craig Whitlock, Richard Powers, Colm Tóibín, and Lauren Groff for PopMatters’ Best Books of 2021 feature.

Kevin Blankinship reviewed Samak the Ayyar: A Tale of Ancient Persia, translated by Freydoon Rassouli and adapted by Jordan Mechner, for the Los Angeles Review of Books

Corey Van Landingham reviewed debut poetry collections by Marianne Chan, Alexandria Hall, and Su Hwang for West Branch.

For The Current, Jay Gabler recently reviewed Dan Ozzi’s Sellout: The Major-Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo, and Hardcore 1994-2007; Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen’s Renegages: Born in the U.S.A.; Kelefa Sanneh’s Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres; and Robert K. Elder’s Christmas With Elvis: The Official Guide to the Holidays from the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Jay also rounded up the ten best music books of 2021, and for The Tangential, reflected on how the now-complete first season of the Apple TV+ series Foundation reveals Isaac Asimov’s genius — by omission.

Daneet Steffens reviewed ​​I Came All This Way to Meet You: Writing Myself Home by Jami Attenberg for The Boston Globe.

Member Interviews

Andru Okun interviewed Kristen Radtke for Hazlitt.

Brent Calderwood interviewed Guillermo del Toro and co-screenwriter Kim Morgan about William Lindsay Gresham’s novel Nightmare Alley for Noir City magazine. His accompanying cover feature on the history of “Carnival Noir” discusses the crime fiction of Patricia Highsmith, Dorothy B. Hughes, and Graham Greene. 

Amy Wright interviewed former NBCC board member Victoria Chang for World Literature Today.

NBCC President David Varno profiled ten debut fiction writers for Publishers Weekly’s semiannual Writers to Watch feature. Adaptations turned out to be a running theme, as more and more literary fiction writers are getting involved in TV and film. Kate Folk, whose “Out There” is the title story of her new collection and will be adapted for Hulu, says “‘existing IP,’ as they call it…seems like a really good way to get a foot in the door.”

Paul Wilner interviewed NBCC member Cynthia L. Haven about her new book, Czesław Miłosz: A California Life, for the Nob HIll Gazette. He also spoke with Peter Richardson about his new biography, Savage Journey: Hunter S. Thompson and the Weird Road to Gonzo, for the Gazette.

NBCC board member Rebecca Morgan Frank interviewed M. Soledad Caballero about her debut collection, I Was a Bell, for Letras Latinas’ Curated Conversation(s): a Latinx Poetry Show.

Jeff Alessandrelli interviewed skateboarder/writer Kyle Beachy about his new essay collection, The Most Fun Thing: Dispatches from a Skateboard Life, for Full Stop.   

Oline H. Cogdill interviewed film and TV director, screenwriter and author Nicholas Meyer for Mystery Scene magazine’s winter issue.

Heidi Seaborn interviewed Jill Bialosky for The Adroit Journal.

Sarah McCraw Crow interviewed Jean Hanff Korelitz (The Plot) for the Women of Dartmouth Alumnae Group.

Member News

Susan Kelly-DeWitt is the inaugural poet in Gunpowder Press’ California Poets Series with her newest book, Gatherer’s Alphabet, which will be published on Feb. 1.

NBCC board member Jacob M. Appel‘s novel, Shaving with Occam, was published by Press Americana.

Corey Van Landingham’s second book of poetry, Love Letter to Who Owns the Heavens, was just published by Tupelo Press.

NBCC board member Lori Feathers will be in conversation with Paulo Scott and translator Daniel Hahn to discuss Scott’s novel, Phenotypes, for a virtual event on January 24 at 7:00 p.m. (EST), sponsored by Dallas’ Interabang Books and Words Without Borders. You can join the discussion here.

Sarah McCraw Crow was interviewed about her novel The Wrong Kind of Woman for A Mighty Blaze’s Authors Love Bookstores.

Cynthia L. Haven’s book Czesław Miłosz: A California Life was reviewed at ZYZZYVA, and Cynthia was interviewed at the Nob Hill Gazette.

Former NBCC board member Victoria Chang and Dean Rader‘s collaborative review of Douglas Kearney’s Sho was named one of the Top Ten Book Reviews of 2021 by Literary Hub.

Gessy Alvarez, editor-in-chief of the journal Digging Through The Fat and publisher and series editor of the Digging Press Chapbook Series, interviewed Jenny Shank about her story collection Mixed Company for the podcast Digging Through.

Former NBCC board member Mark Athitakis was interviewed by Phoenix public-radio station KJZZ about his favorite novels of 2021.

Oline H. Cogdill was one of the critics interviewed by the Los Angeles Times about the state of mysteries.

Photo by One Whrld 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.