Critical Notes

Reviews and More from NBCC Members

By David Varno

Mary Ann Gwinn talking with Joyce Carol Oates

Dear NBCC Friends,

We at the NBCC are remembering the work of Hilary Mantel, who died last week at 70, and whose Wolf Hall won the 2009 NBCC fiction award. Board member Linda Wolfe, in her appreciation for the book as part of our 30 Books in 30 Days series, argued that Mantel’s triumph was not in her “revisionist portrait” but in her “style,” which invited the reader “deep within the head of ‘the unknowable, the inconstruable, the probably indefeasible Master Cromwell.’” 

When Mantel brought her trilogy to an end in 2020 with The Mirror and the Light, board member Colette Bancroft reviewed the final installment for the Tampa Bay Times, calling Mantel’s Cromwell the “most memorable, fascinating character ever brought to life in historical fiction.”

In the Spotlight

Namwali Serpell’s fourth book (and second novel) The Furrows is an “English major’s dream date,” writes Hamilton Cain ,reviewing the novel for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Indeed, The Furrows is full of illusions both literary and cinematic.

Jake Cline published his review of Serpell’s novel in the inaugural edition of the Washington Post’s revived Book World section, noting how its many enigmas and riddles add up to a more than reasonable response to grief.


Joyce Sáenz Harris reviewed Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson for the Dallas Morning News.

Ellen Prentiss Campbell reviewed Kim Garza’s debut novel The Last Karankawas for The Washington Independent
Adam Hochschild reviewed Andy Campbell’s We Are Proud Boys for the New York Times Book Review, and Sarah Churchwell’s The Wrath to Come for the New Statesman.

Abby Manzella reviewed Ling Ma’s Bliss Montage for the Minneapolis Star Tribune

Ron Slate reviewed Mothercare by Lynne Tillman; and Canción by Eduardo Halfon, translated by Lisa Dillman and Daniel Hahn, for On The Seawall.

Colette Bancroft reviewed Jonathan Escoffery’s If I Survive You for the Tampa Bay Times.

Lindsey Anthony-Bacchione reviewed for Elissa Bassist’s new memoir Hysterical for the Chicago Review of Books.

Michael Bobelian reviewed Partisans: The Conservative Revolutionaries who Remade American Politics in the 1990s by Nicole Hemmer for the Washington Post

Diane Scharper reviewed The Village Idiot by Steve Stern for the National Review.

Steven G. Kellman reviewed a new English translation of Albert Camus’s La Peste in Translation Review.

Joan Silverman reviewed Lucy By the Sea by Elizabeth Strout for the Portland Press Herald.

Balakian winner Michael Gorra reviewed Critical Revolutionaries: Five Critics Who Changed the Way We Read by Terry Eagleton for the New York Review of Books.

Julia M. Klein reviewed Nina Totenberg’s memoir, Dinners with Ruthfor the Forward and Greg King and Penny Wilson’s Nothing but the Night for Chicago Magazine.

Linda Hitchcock reviewed Thomas C. Foster’s How to Write Like a Writer for BookTrib.

Nell Beram reviewed Simon Doonan’s Transformer: A Story of Glitter, Glam Rock, and Loving Lou ReedLauren Nossett’s The Resemblance; and Jerry Saltz’s Art Is Life: Icons and Iconoclasts, Visionaries and Vigilantes, and Flashes of Hope in the Night for Shelf Awareness.


Ryan Chapman interviewed Mohsin Hamid for BOMB magazine’s fall issue, about his new novel The Last White Man.

For the Los Angeles Times, former board member Mary Ann Gwinn interviewed historian Orlando Figes about Russia’s war with Ukraine and his new book, The Story of Russia.

Erik Gleibermann spoke with Emily Bernard about racially conscious literary criticism for The Massachusetts Review.

Anne Charles talked with Vermont Congressional Candidate and writer Becca Balint in about her collection The Girl in the Yellow Pantsuit: Essays on Politics, History, and Culture for Orca Media.

Paul Wilner interviewed Andrew Sean Greer about Less Is Lost for the San Francisco Examiner.

For their podcast “Across the Pond,” Board member Lori Feathers and co-host Sam Jordison talk to DeMisty Bellinger whose novel, New to Liberty, about the American Dust Bowl and how it scars a Kansas community is Unnamed Press’ nomination for the 2022 Republic of Consciousness Prize.

Rhonda Feng interviewed Rachel Aviv on her new book for Bookforum.


Rain Taxi is holding a virtual event on September 27 with Jeffrey Archer as part of their lead-up to the Twin Cities Book Festival.

Ben Yagoda has received a MacDowell fellowship to work on a historical novel about O. Henry in New York.

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Photo: Mary Ann Gwinn interviews Sandrof award winner Joyce Carol Oates at the Seattle Writers Festival in September.