Critical Notes

Reviews and More From NBCC Members

By David Varno

Bookcases illuminated by an overhead light fixture

Dear NBCC Friends,

As mentioned last week, submissions for the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing are now open. The prize recognizes outstanding work by an NBCC member and awards them $1,000; previous winners have included Jo Livingstone, Katy Waldman, and Carlos Lozada. You must be an NBCC member to be considered. If you’re not an NBCC member yet, you can join here!

It’s an exciting time to get involved in the NBCC; we’re also about to form up our committee to judge the John Leonard Prize for first book, and will soon be holding an election for new board members. 

Now, let’s get onto the week’s reviews.

In the Spotlight

Notices keep coming in for Dinosaurs, the latest from Lydia Millet, which earned stars from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly but found a divided reception among the big newspapers. ICYMI, Ron Charles took issue with the subject matter in the Washington Post (Millet’s central character is a wealthy white man), while Cory Oldweiler picked up on the book’s satire in his review for the Boston Globe, noting also that the novel’s spare prose belies its substance, “dense with meaning if the reader wants to think deeper.” Most recently, Amy Reardon reviewed Dinosaurs for Alta, confirming this reader’s impression:The characters feel so real that after you finish, you keep returning to visit them in your mind.”


Heller McAlpin reviewed Darryl Pinckney’s Come Back in September for the Wall Street Journal.

Mary Ann Gwinn reviewed The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams by Stacy Schiff for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

John Domini gave high praise to Sofia Samatar’s The White Mosque in the Los Angeles Times. 

Heather Green, a member of the NBCC’s inaugural Gregg Barrios Prize jury, reviewed Names and Rivers by Shuri Kido, translated by Forrest Gander and Tomoyuki Endo; and The Threshold, by Iman Mersal, translated by Robyn Cresswell for the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Books.

Amy Reardon reviewed The School of Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan for gxrlpod.

Arden Levine reviewed the poetry collection The Queen of Queens by Jennifer Martelli for Green Linden Press. 

Margot Mifflin reviewed Katie Hickman’s Brave Hearted: The Women of the American West for the Los Angeles Times.

W. Scott Olsen reviewed Please Be Advised by Christine Sneed for the Los Angeles Review of Books

Nell Beram reviewed Vivian Maier by Christa Blümlinger et al., and Shocking: The Surreal World of Elsa Schiaparelli by Marie-Sophie Carron de la Carrière et al., for Shelf Awareness.

Lanie Tankard reviewed Family Album by Gabriela Alemán, translated from the Spanish by Dick Cluster and Mary Ellen Fieweger, for the November/December issue of World Literature Today.

Allan Graubard reviewed Gérard de Nerval’s The Illuminated for the Los Angeles Review of Books.


Abby Frucht talked with Joan Frank for JMWW about her new novel Juniper Street and essay collection Late Work.

NBCC VP/Events Jane Ciabattari spoke with Manuel Munoz about his collection The Consequences for Lit Hub.

On Across the Pond, Board member Lori Feathers and co-host Sam Jordison talk to Damion Searls about his translation of Jon Fosse’s A New Name, Transit Books’ nomination for the 2022 Republic of Consciousness Prize.

Julia M. Klein profiled Rosemary Sullivan, author of The Betrayal of Anne Frank, for UConn Magazine.

Member News

Meg Waite Clayton’s The Postmistress of Paris, which was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, a GMA Buzz Pick, and an international bestseller in hardcover, is out in paperback.

SEND US YOUR STUFF: To have your work featured in the weekly Critical Notes, please join the NBCC. Thanks!!

Photo by Engin Akyurt