Critical Notes

Reviews and More From NBCC Members

By Chelsea Leu

Greetings, NBCC friends,

Yesterday, the NBCC released a statement condemning the repression and killing of Burmese writers, and announcing our commitment to standing with PEN Myanmar, the Myanmar Poets’ Union and the Burmese people in their defense of fundamental rights. You can read the statement here, and feel free to share it widely.

In member news: in case you haven’t noticed, we’ve put a permanent link to the NBCC member Slack at the end of this email so you can easily access it every week. If you haven’t joined the Slack yet and want to, click this link!

In The Spotlight

Mohsin Hamid’s latest novel The Last White Man has a provocative premise: a white man wakes up one day to discover, Gregor Samsa-like, that he has turned brown.

Our critics were split on the book.

Cory Oldweiler found the novel effective but also “blunt and reactionary” in the Star Tribune, while John Domini, writing for the Brooklyn Rail, praised Hamid’s nuanced prose.

Member Reviews and Essays

For Words Without Borders, NBCC board member Mandana Chaffa reviewed Maya Abu Al-Hayyat’s poetry collection You Can Be the Last Leaf, “in which texts become architecture, furnished with memories of literary guides and lost loves.”

NBCC Emerging Critic Layla Benitez-James reviewed Vivek Narayanan’s After, a digressive reimagining of the Ramayana, for the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Books. 

For the New Yorker, Roxana Robinson explored the perils of using other people’s writing in fiction, both in Wallace Stegner’s 1971 novel Angle of Repose and in her own work: “When you’re writing your own fiction, it’s like taking a kayak down the rapids—you’re caught up in the current. But, if you’re rewriting someone else’s story, it’s like dragging a rowboat across a field.”

Cory Oldweiler reviewed Anthony Marra’s novel Mercury Pictures Presents, which follows a group of European immigrants linked to a movie studio during World War II, for the Star Tribune.

Keishel Williams reviewed Ayanna Lloyd Banwo’s debut novel When We Were Birds—“part ghost story, part social commentary”—for The Rumpus.

For the Chicago Review of Books, Alexander Pyles reviewed Jake Goldsmith’s Neither Weak Nor Obtuse, a memoir of living with cystic fibrosis that “traces not only the thin, static thread of his life, but the refracted experience of illness in our society.”

Fran Hawthorne reviewed the fairy tale-inflected The Puppeteer’s Daughters for The New York Journal of Books.

John Domini considered a new wave of experimental fiction in contemporary American literature in LitHub.

Jim Schley reviewed Bill McKibben’s The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon for Seven Days.

Bill Thompson reviewed Ron Shelton’s The Church of Baseball for the Charleston Post and Courier.

Oline H Cogdill reviewed Two Nights in Lisbon by Chris Pavone, My Summer Darlings by May Cobb, Wild Prey by Brian Klingborg, Never Coming Home by Hannah Mary McKinnon, Harlem Sunset by Nekesa Afia, The Local by Joey Hartstone, The Drowning Sea by Sarah Stewart Taylor, Hatchet Island by Paul Doiron, and The Finalists by David Bell, all for Shelf Awareness.

Ellen Prentiss Campbell sets out to debunk the myth that writing is a lonely pursuit in the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Linda Hitchcockreviewed Ed Lin’s Death Doesn’t Forget for BookTrib.

For Heavy Feather Review, Jeff Alessandrelli wrote an essay on grappling with genre labels to accompany an excerpt of his recent book And Yet. He also reviewed Jay Ponteri’s Someone Told Me, another book that challenges genre conventions, at Full Stop.  

Member Interviews

Martha Anne Toll interviewed Sopan Deb about his debut novel Keya Das’s Second Act for The Millions

Ladane Nasseri spoke with CJ Hauser about the braided-essay form and her memoir in essays, The Crane Wife, for Catapult Magazine. She also interviewed Colombian author Ingrid Rojas Contreras about her memoir The Man Who Could Move Clouds for the Los Angeles Times.

Kylie Gellatly spoke with Ada Calhoun about Also A Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father, and Me for the National Book Review.

Chris Wolak and her Book Cougars podcast cohost Emily Fine interviewed Vince Liaguno and Rena Mason, editors of Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology.

Member News

Martha Anne Toll
’s debut novel Three Muses was named one of The Millions’ most anticipated books for the second half of 2022.  

Ellen Prentiss Campbell’s novel Frieda’s Song was selected as a Next Generation Indie Book Award finalist in Historical Fiction. 

Oline Cogdill was interviewed about her summer book recommendations for Mystery and Thriller Mavens

Photo by NBCC member Sue Henderson. Used with permission.

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