Critical Notes

Reviews and More from NBCC Members

By Sebastian Stockman

A set of book covers for titles featured in the post.

Dear NBCC Friends,

Here’s the latest in news, notes, and notions from our members, compiled by a rookie Critical Notes correspondent. All the errors are mine; all the accomplishments are yours. 

In the Spotlight

It’s that time of year, when our critics — at the behest of editors putting together year-end packages — reflect on their reading and write the year-end wrap-ups that might lead to readers’ wrapping up (sorry) some of those books for the holidays.

For instance, at NPR, Heller McAlpin recommended six favorite coffee table and gift books, a third of which involved the Lucian Freud — fitting for the painter whose life is “one of the great marathon performances of art history.” As a bonus, McAlpin added a trio of art books showcasing women.

For The Atlantic Hamilton Cain gathered “Seven Books That Will Make You Smarter” a nonfiction roundup of books about sculpture, dance, and democracy, among other things.

Jean Rhys, Jim Thorpe, and the bald eagle are the subjects of three (separate) books on Mary Ann Gwinn’s Los Angeles Times list of her five favorite nonfiction books of the year.

Oline H Cogdill, compiled for the Sun-Sentinel her favorite/best mysteries of 2022.

And, while it’s not a retrospective roundup, Tobias Caroll previews the translated books due in December from Words Without Borders.

Member Reviews/Essays

Robert Allen Papinchak reviewed Zoe Ballering’s Katherine Anne Porter Prize-winning collection of short stories There Is Only Us for The Oregonian.

Kitty Kelley reviewed Shirley Hazzard: A Writing Life, by Brigitte Olubas for The Washington Independent Review of Books.

For Bookpage, Sarah McCraw Crow reviewed Dani Shapiro’s new novel Signal Fires as well as Jonathan Freedland’s The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke out of Auschwitz to Warn the World.

Clea Simon reviewed Kevin Wilson’s “Now Is Not the Time To Panic” for The Boston Globe.

Rhoda Feng reviewed You’ve Been Played: How Corporations, Governments, and Schools Use Games to Control Us All, by Adrian Hon for The New Republic.

Former NBCC board memberEric Liebetrau reviewed Shaun Bythell’s Remainders of the Day: A Bookshop Diary, for Kirkus.

Former NBCC board member Mary Ann Gwinn reviewed Jane Smiley’s A Dangerous Business for The Los Angeles Times.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Jennifer Homans’ Mr. B: George Balanchine’s 20th Century for Oprah Daily.

May-lee Chai reviewed Bushra Rehman’s novel, Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion, for The New York Times Book Review.

For Booktrib, Linda Hitchcock reviewed the Alice Henderson thriller A Ghost of Caribou.

Marc Weingarten reviewed Sam Lipsyte’s latest, No One Left to Come Looking for You for The Los Angeles Times.

For the Sun-Sentinel, Oline H Cogdill reviewed A Streetcar Named Murder by T. G Herren, as well as Robert Crais’s Racing the Light.

Heller McAlpin reviewed Jane Smiley’s A Dangerous Business at NPR.

Allan Graubard reviewed Indigenous Continent: The Epic Conquest for North America by Peña Hamalainen for Leonardo.

For Salmagundi, Kevin Brown draws on several books of music criticism and history in an essay on the life, music and legacy of Robert Johnson.

Nell Beram reviewed four books for Shelf Awareness: Bloodbath Nation by Paul Auster, Lives of the Wives: Five Literary Marriages by Carmela Ciuraru, Big Man and the Little Men by Clifford Thompson, and Art Is Life: Icons and Iconoclasts, Visionaries and Vigilantes, and Flashes of Hope in the Night by Jerry Saltz.

Edna Bonhomme wrote about Simone Leigh’s Venice Biennale exhibition Loophole of Retreat  for Public Books.

Mara Sandroff reviewed Judith Thurman’s A Left-Handed Woman for Newcity Lit.

For The Portland Press-Herald, Tobias Carroll reviewed Lynn Steger Strong’s Flight.

Kai Maristed published her latest essay, Echolocation, in On The Seawall.

Member Interviews

Anne Charles interviewed writer/historian Scott Bane about A Union Like Ours, his dual biography of scholar F.O. Matthiessen and painter Russell Cheney for Vermont’s cable access program All Things LGBTQ.

For their podcast Across the Pond, NBCC Board member Lori Feathers and Sam Jordison talk to writer Dorthe Nors about her appreciation of Denmark’s lesser known parts: A Line in the World: A Year on the North Sea Coast.

Erik Gleibermann interviewed Jaime Cortez about his story collection Gordo for Alta Online.

NBCC VP/Events Jane Ciabattari was in conversation with NBCC fiction award and Pulitzer prize winner Jane Smiley about her new historical mystery novel, A Dangerous Business, for LitHub.

A big NBCC “welcome back” to The Believer! For the magazine’s return to print, Rhoda Feng interviewed Ling Ma about her new story collection, Bliss Montage.

On the Write-Minded podcast, Grant Faulkner interviewed Angie Cruz on How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water, and Xochitl Gonzalez on her new novel, Olga Dies Dreaming.

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