An end of week recap
I ventured out between downpours this week to join Barmouth Library in the hope of tracking down an English-language collection of Caradog Prichard’s poetry for the Wales Readathon (having failed to detect any such thing on the Internet). Alas, it appears none of his poems have been translated and I must turn elsewhere for a suitable introduction to Dewithon 2020, which commences tomorrow and runs throughout March.
In the meantime, those of us in Wales and other parts of the UK are currently sitting out Storm Jorge (named by the Spanish Met Office and thus pronounced ‘hor-hay’), which has already caused a critical incident in South Wales. We’re becoming quite accustomed to wild conditions in our little lodge by the sea. Even the dogs are resigned to brief, between-deluge airings. However, all this remaining indoors to read, drink tea and take notes bode well for Dewithon. I’ve no excuse but to keep posting fresh content.
As ever, this is a weekly post in which I summarize books read, reviewed and currently on my TBR shelf. In addition to a variety of literary titbits, I look ahead to forthcoming features, see what’s on the nightstand and keep readers abreast of various book-related happenings.
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE TBR >>
I shared my thoughts on rereading Richard Bach’s 1970 apologue, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, for The Classics Club. >> THE CLASSICS CLUB: Jonathan Livingston Seagull >>
* Moominous Goings On *
Before we get underway, I should like to draw your attention to Chris Lovegrove’s recent post at Calmgrove for the Tove Trove project: Falling under a spell. He discusses Tove Jansson’s 1946 Comet in Moominland, his first sojourn into Moominvalley in the company of Moomintroll, Sniff, Snuffkin and other characters from the much-loved series. He describes this tale of “a bunch of disparate creatures thrown together by chance and circumstances who managed to rub along together” as “magical” and admits to being “charmed”. I was delighted to learn he is “contemplating” the next title to read.
* Lit Crit Blogflash *
I’m going to share with you five of my favourite literary posts from around the blogosphere. There are so many talented writers posting high-quality book features and reviews, it’s difficult to limit the list to only these few – all of them published over the last week or two:
‘The Five Wonders of the Danube’ by Zoran Živković – This collection of five tales about the Danube was Akylina’s “personal introduction to [the] oeuvre” of Živković, a “contemporary Serbian” author. Head over to The Literary Sisters to discover why it made her list of Most Memorable Books of 2019 and the reasons she hopes others, too, will “discover the magic quality of his pen.”
“I want obliquity…” – One of the many books reviewed by Karen Langley of Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings for Fitzcarraldo Fortnight is Essayism by Brian Dillon, which she describes as a “marvellous and involving read”, not to mention “thought-provoking, moving, absorbing” and “fascinating”.
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar – At Word by Word, Claire McAlpine was “was very quickly pulled into” this Iranian, magical realism novel, which, she found, “demands perseverance”. Once she let go of the “need to have all of the story narrated in the realistic voice,” she was “warmly rewarded” by Azar’s “Persian style of storytelling”.
Carmel Bird, Field of poppies – Sue T from Whispering Gums says the “seriously cheeky” Bird’s latest novel isn’t a “book you read for plot” but for the “joy of engaging with a lively but concerned mind”. Furthermore, it is “rich in commentary, satire and jokes about contemporary life”, plays “with the idea of fiction” and, best of all, made her laugh.
‘The Path of Metaphor is rife with perils.’ A review of Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen – Over at The Monthly Booking, Murakami’s 2017 magical realism novel is described as “shining with details that make the action and characters leap off the page and into real life”. As “an introduction to his storytelling genius”, this title is declared “perfect.”
* Irresistible Items *
Umpteen fascinating articles appeared on my bookdar last week. I generally make a point of tweeting my favourite finds (or adding them to my Facebook group page), but in case you missed anything, here are a handful of interesting snippets:
The Guardian: My favourite Mantel: by Margaret Atwood, Colm Tóibín, Anne Enright and more – “From Wolf Hall to Beyond Black and Giving Up The Ghost, cultural figures pick their highlights from a remarkable career”.
BBC Culture: Such a Fun Age – the hit novel that skewers white privilege – What happens when a young woman is falsely accused of a crime? Novelist Kiley Reid discusses race, class, humour – and uncomfortable truths – with Arwa Haider.
Los Angeles Times: Five authors of Korean thrillers you should be reading, by Paula Woods – A list of top Korean crime novelists published in English from Paula L. Woods.
Trendhunter: Bookstore Assistance Robots – “The ‘AROUND B’ robot carries books for browsing and purchasing”.
Tor: Badass Librarians Fight for Our Future in 2020 – Books in which feisty librarians fight for our future.
The Curious Reader: How Reading Into The Setting Enhances A Book – In his essay, Yash Raaj talks about how reading into the setting of a book gives him a better idea of the hidden histories that course beneath the story.
Fine Books & Collections: Framed Book Covers Do Furnish a Room – Rebecca Rego Barry looks at First Edition Book Cover Art Prints, newly arrived at Uncommon Goods, the Brooklyn-based retailer of literary gifts.
World Economic Forum: Meet the woman prescribing books as a cure for depression – “A new wave of bibliotherapists is prescribing certain books as cures”, says Kate Whiting.
The Telegraph: Charles Portis: the unsentimental cult novelist who wrote True Grit – “The cult novelist Charles McColl Portis died on February 17. This article was first published in 2011.”
Sunday Times SA: Shortlist revealed for 2020 Humanities and Social Sciences Awards – “The fifth annual Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) Awards ceremony will take place on March 12 at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg”.
Smithsonian Magazine: Charles Darwin’s Publisher Didn’t Believe in Evolution, but Sold His Revolutionary Book Anyway – Dan Falk on the “famed naturalist and conservative stalwart John [Murray’s] III formed an unlikely alliance in popularizing a radical idea”.
Refinery 29: When Did Reading Books Become So Competitive? – Elizabeth Bennett “feels pressure” if she’s not “keeping up” with reading books.
The New York Review of Books: The Post-Traumatic Novel – Lili Loofbourow discusses the reasons why “crimes have a tendency to become not just stories but genres, once we get too accustomed to them.”
CNN Travel: On the trail of African American writers and artists in Paris – Europe’s cultural capital embraced the genius of creative African Americans in the early to mid-20th century.
Mel Magazine: Is There Anything Wrong With Being a Slow Reader? – Magdalene Taylor is firmly of the belief “you should feel good for reading for fun at all, even if it takes you forever”.
The Calvert Journal: Can you ever truly know your mother? In the novel The Doll, Ismail Kadare thinks you can’t – Matt Janney on Ismail Kadare’s memories of his mother and his childhood in Albania.
Study Finds: Plot Twist? Study Concludes Edgar Allan Poe Likely Didn’t Kill Himself – John Anderer looks at a new study which examines the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of Edgar Allan Poe.
Literary Hub: The American Archetype of Rural Queerness Redefined – “Zee Francis goes deep into the subtext of Willa Cather’s My Ántonia”.
Radio Prague International: The Good Soldier Švejk: Jaroslav Hašek’s comic masterpiece – “Jaroslav Hašek’s The Good Soldier Švejk is a classic of not just Czech but world literature”, says Ian Willoughby.
The Seattle Times: Seattle’s Globe Bookstore prides itself on being ‘an orphanage for books,’ but its days may be numbered – An increase in rent on the building housing Seattle’s Globe Bookstore could lead to it closing for good, finds Gabriel Campanario.
Stylist: 10 glorious new books to buy this March – Francesca Brown’s choice of the best new books coming out in March.
Sydney Review of Books: Publishing from the Provinces – A “slightly revised version of the Boisbouvier Oration [by Ivor Indyk], delivered at the Melbourne Writers Festival, 4 September 2019.”
Times of India: AutHer Awards 2020 Shortlist announced – “The AutHer Awards 2020 Shortlists for best women authors in Fiction, Non-Fiction, Debut and Children’s Literature were announced today by a panel of 12 eminent judges.”
Wales Arts Review: Literary Atlas Wales: Cartographic Imaginaries – “Josie Cray explores the Literary Atlas Wales, a dynamic exhibition of new work at the Pierhead in Cardiff Bay.”
History Today: Arthur Conan Doyle and the Adventure of the Boer War – “Eight years after giving up medicine for writing, the internationally famous creator of Sherlock Holmes became Dr Doyle once more, on the front line of the Boer War”, finds Sarah LeFanu.
CNN: Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai sentenced to ten years in Chinese jail – China has sentenced a Swedish bookseller to 10 years in prison for “providing intelligence” overseas.
The Bookseller: BBC follows Mantel for six months in new documentary – Mark Chandler reports on a BBC documentary on Hilary Mantel, which follows the author for six months in the run up to The Mirror & the Light, will air on 7th March.
Guardian Australia: They told me I had 18 months to live. Nothing was more important than finishing my book – “Diagnosed with lung cancer, author Andrew Darby found hope in the endurance of ultramarathon shorebirds – and the book he was writing about them”.
Bookforum: Spiral-Walking – Janique Vigier talks with Fanny Howe about fragmentary narratives and recapitulation.
The New York Times Style Magazine: Why Tales of Female Trios Are Newly Relevant – “In literature and pop culture, women often come in threes, deriving power from solidarity even as they work to forge their own paths”, writes Megan O’Grady.
Faber & Faber: World Book Day Costume Ideas – “We are eagerly counting down to the best day of the year, World Book Day”, says Josh Smith.
If there is something you would particularly like to see on Winding Up the Week or if you have any suggestions, questions or comments for Book Jotter in general, please drop me a line or comment below. I would be delighted to hear from you.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I wish you a week bountiful in books and rich in reading.
NB In this feature, ‘winding up’ refers to the act of concluding something and should not be confused with the British expression: ‘wind-up’ – an age-old pastime of ‘winding-up’ friends and family by teasing or playing pranks on them. If you would like to know more about this expression, there’s an excellent description on Urban Dictionary.
Categories: Winding Up the Week
Lovely selection as always Paula. Your dogs are braver than my cats, who haven’t been out in weeks – they stand at the doorway, sniff the damp air with disgust and stalk off back to their cosy beds!
Thank you, Madame B. My Mum’s cat (Thomasina) has been just the same. I don’t think they (cats in general) do blustery conditions and heavy rain – it plays havoc with their pristine fur coats. 🐈
Thank you so much for the mention, Paula – I’m honoured to be included in such an outstanding selection. These posts of yours are always a treasure trove of inspiration – I now know what I’m doing with the rest of my evening!
You’re very welcome. I’m glad you enjoy my weekly wind up. 😊
I’m a slow reader:)
Same here, Becky. 👀
My first instinct was to follow through a couple of those links, particularly the piece about mapping literary Wales, and I succumbed, so job done then, Paula! And thanks for the Jansson mention, I might search out the first Moomin title about the Flood as that seems appropriate given Ciara, Dennis, Jorge and who else planning to visit these shores and elsewhere in Europe. Glad you’re battening down the hatches up there; here, around Williams’s Borderlands, blustery winds and alternating sunshine and spells of rain and hail have convinced us to forego a longer walk and just venture round the block before settling down in the warm.
I wish I lived a little closer to Cardiff as I would love to see that mapping literary Wales exhibition. Hope you remain safe and dry during Storm Jorge. 😊
On the general topic of mapping literary Wales I don’t know if you are familiar with this absolutely gorgeous piece of music by Welsh composer John Metcalf called just that “Mapping Wales”. https://johnmetcalf.co.uk/
Joining Barmouth library seems to be an astute decision- my usual library is closed temporarily so I’ve been walking to one further away. ‘Bibliotherapy’ is an interesting concept, but I would caution anyone with real depression to treat the idea with a pinch of salt. If reading actually cured people, I daresay Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf would have had longer and happier lives. That is not to say that reading therapy might not help someone if it was used alongside other approaches, but it is to say that real life is more complex than bibliotherapy postulates. Good luck with another named storm (I’m getting nostalgic for the weather we once enjoyed)!
Many thanks, John. We survived Jorge and the sun has been shining today. 😎
Another good review, as always, Paula. I now have several more browser tabs open thanks to your round-up.
Thank you so much, Mary. I hope those tabs were good ones! 😃
Great resource as per usual.
But now you have me curious about the hor-hay incident in South Wales.
And wondering whether it was anything like the very un-Welsh one Robert Graves reported:
“But that was nothing to what things came out
From the sea-caves of Criccieth yonder.’
‘What were they? Mermaids? dragons? ghosts?’
‘Nothing at all of any things like that.’
‘What were they, then?’
‘All sorts of queer things,
Things never seen or heard or written about,
Very strange, un-Welsh, utterly peculiar
Many thanks, Josie.
The critical incident in South Wales involved flooding in Pontypridd and Cardiff. Apparently the emergency services took umpteen calls from trapped residents in the area.
I live quite close to Criccieth but saw nothing particularly un-Welsh today, except perhaps a few hardy tourists emerging when the sun made a brief appearance this morning.
Sun making an appearance is often most unWelsh (based on my years in Cardiff at least. I remember one year it rained every day in November.
You’re so right, Josie! 🤣
Great links again, Paula, and thanks for sharing my review! I’ve had a whale of a time reading Fitzcarraldos! 😀
Thank you, Kaggsy. It’s a pleasure. 😊
Thanks so much for sharing my Bird post, Paula, I will let the author know.
As always some great links. I already knew of the Ivor lndyk in SRB, and have it printed out ready to read, but there are others there that interest me. But really, you know, you don’t help my TBR with these weekly injections into my reading!
I don’t know whether to wish you fine weather or foul, given what foul lets you achieve so I’ll just say stay safe, warm and comfortable. ×
It’s an absolute pleasure, Sue. Thank you so much.
Great selection as always, Paula – thanks! 😀
Thank you so much, Ola. 😊
You’ve been busy! The mention of the BBC documentary about Hilary Mantel’s third volume makes me wonder if you ever had a chance to see the similar production about Margaret Atwood and her year of preparation for The Testaments. It’s definitely worth a look if you can wrangle a viewing – it’s one I can see re-viewing on occasion as well. But not to bypass Mantel – are you anticipating this new weighty tone, or simply observing the flurry of interest in the bookish community?
Yes, I recorded the MA documentary on TV a couple of weeks ago and will watch it asap. While I’m looking forward to reading Mantel’s latest, having enjoyed the previous two, I’m nowhere near as excited as I was by The Testaments. It may be a while before I’m able to read The Mirror & the Light, so I’m certainly “observing the flurry of interest in the bookish community”.
I’m an observer too; I’ve yet to read the second volume and even though there are always copies of Bring up the Bodies on the library shelves, I think I’ll wait to read two and three when the fuss has settled. Looking forward to your thoughts on the Atwood bio!
Framing book covers is such a fun idea. I have a new reason to scour the older books at book sales no one ever wants!
It is, Naomi. Please do share some pics if you frame any book covers. 😃
I read that piece about ‘competitive reading’ – found myself in so much agreement with the author. I’ve set my Goodreads goal to 1 this year so I dont feel in competition even with myself!
What a good idea. I might just do that myself!
It meant I already achieved my goal by the end of first week of the year 🙂 Some people might call that sand-bagging, I just call it being smart….