Critical Notes

New Reviews and More From NBCC Members

By David Varno

Cubicle bookcase

Dear NBCC Friends,

To help kick off the Brooklyn Book Festival, the NBCC will hold a virtual Bookend event on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 7pm-8pm ET with John Leonard Prize winners and nominees Torrey Peters, Larissa Pham, and Megha Majumdar, moderated by NBCC Awards VP Maris Kreizman. Join us on Zoom!

And now for this week’s reviews by NBCC members.

In the Spotlight

It’s a big year for sequels. First Tom Perrotta brought back Tracy Flick, and now we’ve got more Lucy Barton plus more of, well, Less. Priscilla Gilman, reviewing Lucy By The Sea by Elizabeth Strout for the Boston Globe, called it “both comforting and challenging.” Hamilton Cain, writing for the New York Times, noted how Strout avoids the “trap of first-world problems” and pulls off a genuine transformation for her familiar protagonist. Andrew Sean Greer’s Less Is Lost, on the other hand, sounds like more of the same—though maybe not in a bad way. Cain, doing double duty this week, reviewed Greer’s follow-up to the Pulitzer-winning Less for Minneapolis Star Tribune, and Dan Kubis covered it for the Boston Globe.


Dana Wilde reviewed Adam White’s novel The Midcoast in his Off Radar column for the Central Maine Newspapers.

Benjamin Woodard reviewed Sara Mesa’s Bad Handwriting for On the Seawall.

Diane Josefowicz (she/her) reviewed In the Between: 21st Century Short Storiesedited by Brice Particelli for Necessary Fiction

Steven G. Kellman reviewed Ian McEwan’s Lessons for the Boston Globe:

Nell Beram reviewed Edward Enninful’s A Visible ManChristine Madrid French’s The Architecture of Suspense: The Built World in the Films of Alfred HitchcockAmy Fusselman’s The Means; and Daniel Stashower’s American Demon: Eliot Ness and the Hunt for America’s Jack the Ripper, all for Shelf Awareness.

Mary Maxwell reviewed The Lascaux Notebooks by Jean-Luc Champerret, edited and translated by Philip Terry, for On the Seawall.

Steve Paul reviewed Victory Is Assured: Uncollected Writings by Stanley Crouch, edited by Glenn Mott, for KC Studio magazine.

Bill Thompson reviewed Soundings: Journeys in the Company of Whales by Doreen Cunningham for the Post and Courier.

Tara Cheesman reviewed Panics by Barbara Molinard, translated by Emma Ramadan, for Barrelhouse. She also reviewed Raymond N. MacKenzie’s new translation of Stendhal’s Red and Black for On the Seawall.

Kevin O’Kelly reviewed Republic of Detours by Scott Borchet for the Harvard Review.

Zach Graham reviewed David Cronenberg’s film Crimes of the Future for Astra.

Tobias Carroll reviewed Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov, translated from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel for On the Seawall.

Lisa Russ Sparr looked at second books of poetry by Kate Daniels, Chloe Honum, and Corey Van Landingham for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

For the Duluth News Tribune, Jay Gabler revisited How To Talk Minnesotan in the wake of author Howard Mohr’s death at 83. Jay also reviewed two new 75th birthday tomes celebrating Elton John and the late David Bowie.

Kristen Martin reviewed David Milch’s memoir Life’s Work for NPR.

Mara Sandroff’s critical essay “Am I Ukranian? A Study in Eight Parts” was published on Roxane Gay’s The Audacity.

Beth Kanell reviewed The Bad Angel Brothers by Paul Theroux for New York Journal of Books

George De Stefano reviewed Steven W. Thrasher’s The Viral Underclass for PopMatters.

NBCC Membership VP Chelsea Leu rounded up the “Best Books for a Broken Heart” for the Atlantic, including fiction finalist Bryan Washington’s Memorial.

Oline H. Cogdill reviewed Mother Daughter Traitor Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal and Marple: Twelve New Mysteries by various authors and Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn and The Lost Kings by Tyrell Johnson for the Sun Sentinel. Oline also reviewed Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney and Where Secrets Live by  S. C. Richards for Shelf Awareness.

Linda Hitchcock reviewed Alexander McCall Smith’s A Song of Comfortable Chairs and Hell and Back by Craig Johnson for Booktrib.


NBCC Board Member Mandana Chaffa interviewed Elisa Gabbert about her new collection Normal Distance for Chicago Review of Books.

Grant Faulkner interviewed Mychal Denzel Smith for the Write-minded podcast.

VP/Events Jane Ciabattari talked to the authors of two notable short story collections for LitHub: Ling Ma, author of Bliss Montage; and Jonathan Escoffery, whose If I Survive You is longlisted for the National Book Award.


Former board member Steve Paul’s biography Literary Alchemist: The Writing Life of Evan S. Connell has been reissued in paperback by the University of Missouri Press. 

Balakian and autobiography winner Daniel Mendelsohn wins Italy’s 2022 Malaparte Prize

NBCC member Ellen Pall’s book Must Read Well will be published in October by Bancroft Press.

Joan Frank will publish two books this October: the novel Juniper Street (CR Press), and the autobiography Late Work (Univ. of New Mexico)

Mary Mackey’snew book Creativity has just been published by March Hawk Press and has been reviewed in Synchronized Chaos MagazineHer film script Time Piece, co-written with her script-writing partner, Renee De Palma, has won the City of Angels Women’s Film Festival Award for Best Short Film Script.

Photo: News Tribune cubicle by Jay Gabler

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