Critical Notes

Reviews and More From NBCC Members

By David Varno

Dear Friends,
For many people, literary new year’s resolutions aren’t just about making time for those formidable multi-volume novels you’ve been meaning to finish—Musil, Proust, etc.—they’re also about self-improvement. To that end, Chelsea Leu recommends a list of books to help solidify or reinvent one’s identity for the Atlantic, and Eric Liebetrau highlights five self-help and inspirational titles that received starred reviews from Kirkus. Both pieces bring to mind the heavy traffic around certain bookstore sections, a bookish equivalent to the January crowd at the gym.
In other annual news, a reminder that we’re currently accepting nominations for the John Leonard Prize for first book. To participate, please write in the name of one book that you feel is the best debut in any genre published in 2023. The book with the most votes will be added to the shortlist. Add your nominations via this form, where you can also sign up to join the judging committee. The deadline is January 17.
On a sad note, the NBCC mourns the loss of Joan Acocella, New Yorker dance and book critic and winner of the NBCC Balakian Prize for her criticism in 2008. Her obituary by Richard Sandomir ran yesterday in the New York Times, and her excellent latest collection, The Bloodied Nightgown and other Essays, which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, will appear next month from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Member Reviews
Cory Oldweiler reviewed Bonnie Jo Campbell’s The Waters for the Boston Globe.
Michael Barron reviewed the new NYRB edition of Andrey Platonov’s Chevengur for the Washington Post.

Edna Bonhomme reviewed The Trials of Madame Restell: Nineteenth-Century America’s Most Infamous “Female Physician” and the Campaign to Make Abortion a Crime by Nicholas L. Syrett for the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Hamilton Cain reviewed Christian Wiman’s Zero at the Bone and Coleen T. Murphy’s How We Age for the Wall Street Journal.
Tobias Carroll reviewed Ann Beattie’s More to Say for the Portland Press Herald.
Carlin Romano reviewed David Mamet’s memoir, Everywhere an Oink Oink, for Moment magazine, where he is Critic-at-large.
Michael Sims, whose anthology Penguin Book of Murder Mysteries was recently reviewed in the New York Times, reviewed The Age of Deer by Erika Howsare for the Washington Post.
Michael Quinn reviewed Living Histories: Queer Views and Old Masters, edited by Aimee Ng, Xavier F. Salomon, and Stephen Truax for the Gay & Lesbian Review.
Sylee Gore reviewed Laynie Browne’s Intaglio Daughters, Meena Kandasamy’s Tomorrow Someone Will Arrest You, Esteban Rodríguez’s Lotería, and John Yau’s Tell It Slant for the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Books.
John Domini reviewed Aimee Parkison and Meg Pokrass’s short fiction collection Disappearing Debutantes for the Brooklyn Rail.
Casella Brookins wrote about science fiction’s complicity with technological harms, and its fans’ discomfort, for the Ancillary Review of Books.
Lee Rossi reviewed Lola Haskins’s Homelight for
Elaine Szewczyk profiled Anna Quindlen for Publishers Weekly.
Julia M. Klein profiles Rajiv Shah, author of Big Bets, for the Pennsylvania Gazette.
Eric Olson profiled Karl Marlantes for the Seattle Times.
Tobias Carroll talked with Timothy O’Grady about the new edition of I Could Read the Sky for InsideHook.
For Tupelo Quarterly, Tiffany Troy interviewed poets Meghan Maguire Dahn, Sean Thomas Dougherty, Alicia Mountain, Anna V.Q. Ross, Emily Simon, and Molly Zhu about their collections and co-editor Virginia Konchan about Marbles on the Floor: How to Assemble a Book of Poem, co-edited with Sarah Giragosian. Troy also interviewed Elizabeth Metzger about her collection Lying In for Rain Taxi.
Member News
Please join us in congratulating this year’s winners of the Robert B. Silvers Prize for Literary Criticism, including last year’s’ Balakian Prize winner Jennifer Wilson.
Iris Jamahl Dunkle’s biography, Charmian Kittredge London: Trailblazer, Author, Adventurer has just been released as an audiobook.                                                                                                                                     
Joan Gelfand’s memoir Outside Voices, a Memoir of the Berkeley Revolution, will be published next week by Post Hill Press.

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Photo by Allie Feeley