Critical Notes

Reviews and More from NBCC Members

By David Varno

Photo of dimly lit bookcases

Dear NBCC Friends,

We’ve lost some great ones in the blink of a week. At the NBCC, we’re remembering the work of trailblazing journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, whose Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class, was a finalist for the nonfiction prize in 1989. Former NBCC board member Scott McLemee’s 2005 interview with Ehrenreich about her book Bait and Switch was just republished by New Politics

We also remember the titanic Spanish writer Javier Marías, whose novel The Infatuations was a finalist for the 2013 fiction prize. Former board member Marcela Valdes reviewed the book for the NBCC’s website.

Finally, the seemingly indefatigable French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard has died at 91. Richard Brody’s Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life Of Jean-Luc Godard, was an NBCC finalist in criticism for 2008.

In the Spotlight

Reviews are rolling in for The Marriage Portrait, the latest from NBCC fiction winner Maggie O’Farrell. Balakian winner Ron Charles calls the author “one of the most exciting novelists alive,” and describes how her latest reminded him of Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” in the Washington Post. Hamilton Cain calls the book “glittering” and “propulsive” in Oprah Daily, and Connie Ogle notes the imagination O’Farrell brought to her ”vivid” recreation of a 16th-century Italian city-state in Ogle’s review for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Not everyone was impressed; Dwight Garner’s review for the New York Times was particularly scathing.

Member Reviews

Eric Liebetrau wrote up a bundle of nonfiction books devoted to the working life in his feature “Jobs Outside the Office Are Real Jobs” for Kirkus, where all the books are reviewed. Titles include Pretty Baby by Chris Belcher, A Waiter by Edward Chisholm, and Mothercare by Lynne Tillman.

Steven G. Kellman reviewed Andrea Wulf’s Magnificent Rebels for the American Scholar.

Lauren LeBlanc reviewed The Birdcatcher by Gayl Jones for the Boston Globe.

Christoph Irmscher reviewed Andrea Barrett’s collection Natural History: Stories for the Wall Street Journal.

Diane Scharper reviewed Eliot After the Wasteland by Robert Crawford for the Washington Examiner.

Kitty Kelley reviewed Saving Freud: The Rescuers Who Brought Him to Freedomby Andrew Nagorski for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Chris Barsanti reviewed Douglas Rushkoff’s Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires for PopMatters

David Vogel reviewed Big Red by Jerome Charyn for Chicago Review of Books

Anne Charles reviewed Carla Guelfenbein’s one in me I never loved for the Gay and Lesbian Review.

Farah Abdessamad reviewed Damion Searls’s translation of Felix Salten’s Bambi for Observer.

Scott McLemee reviewed J. Michael Martinez’s Libertines: American Political Sex Scandals From Alexander Hamilton to Donald Trump, Jerry Z. Muller’s Professor of Apocalypse: The Many Lives of Jacob Taubes and Ralph Engelman and Carey Shenkman’s A Century of Repression: The Espionage Act and Freedom of the Press. for Inside Higher Ed

Julia M. Klein reviewed Santiago H. Amigorena’s The Ghetto Within for the Forward.

Dan Kubis reviewed Elizabeth Strout’s Lucy by the Sea for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Judy Reveal reviewed Master of Souls by Irene NemirovskyWe’ve Got to Try  by Beto O’Rourke, Bark to the Future by Spencer Quinn, and Last but not Leashed by Eileen Brady for the New York Journal of Books.


Ian MacAllen profiled filmmaker Peter Miller about a new Marcella Hazan documentary for America Domani.

Martha Anne Toll interviewed Judith Turner-Yamamoto about her debut novel Loving the Dead and Gone for Bloom.

Elizabeth Donnelly interviewed Betty Gilpin for the New York Times and Taylor Jenkins Reid for Vanity Fair.

Heidi Seaborne talked with Lynn Melnick about her new memoir I’ve Had to Think Up a Way to Survive: On Trauma, Persistence, and Dolly Parton for Adroit.

Grant Faulkner interviewed Stephanie Foo about her new book, What My Bones Know, for the Write-Minded podcast.  

Paul Wilner interviewed James Reginato about his new book Growing Up
Getty: The Story of America’s Most Unconventional Dynasty for the Nob Hill Gazette.

Board member Lori Feathers and co-host Sam Jordison talked to Gwendoline Riley about My Phantoms and First Love for the Across the Pond podcast.

Member News

Fran Hawthorne‘s new novel I Meant to Tell You will be out from Stephen F. Austin State University Press on Nov. 15

Clea Simon’s novel Hold Me Down has been long-listed for the 22nd annual Massachusetts Center for the Book Awards fiction prize. The winner will be announced in October.

Former NBCC Board member, Kerri Arsenault, was appointed a Democracy Fellow at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University, where she will be in residence for the 2022-23 academic year working on two biography projects.

Heidi Seaborne’s hybrid book Marilyn: Essays & Poems is coming soon from Pank.

Christoph Irmscher’s new book Audubon at Sea, co-edited with Richard King, was published by the University of Chicago Press. His new essay, “Controversies Remind Us of How Complex John James Audubon Always Was,” was published by the Library of America.

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