Winding Up the Week #112

An end of week recap

WUTW3Given the current situation with coronavirus (COVID-19), I find it uncanny this is issue 112 of WUTW because, as many of you will know, it is a common emergency telephone number in nearly all member states of the European Union as well as numerous other countries. Last week’s 111 is the NHS website (and phone line) we in the UK are asked to access for guidance about the virus. A coincidence, of course, but it merely adds to the sense that whichever way one looks at the moment, it’s pandemic pandemonium.

Whilst on the subject of this virulent virus, I have been wondering if perhaps bookish folk are better prepared for self quarantine than others may be. Not because we have stocked up on more toilet rolls, pasta or hand sanitizer than anyone else, but for the simple reason we are well adapted to spending long periods of time in our own company. Unlike the wider world, we tend to view isolation as an opportunity to read, write, discuss literature online with fellow biblioburrowers and so on. Clearly I’m putting a positive spin on a dire situation but, I would rather view an unscheduled hibernation period as an opportunity to decrease my TBR mountain than a possible prison sentence.

Like all of you, I have grave concerns regarding my elderly and immuno-compromised loved ones. These are worrying and bizarre times, but having listened to friends and neighbours discuss the dreadfulness of being “confined to barracks” with “nothing to do but stare at four walls”, I realise I’m fortunate in that this state of affairs alarms me far less than it does more physical (as opposed to cerebral) types.

In my somewhat frivolous opinion, the best advice I can offer anyone during this global crisis (after ‘wash hands’ and ‘cough into a tissue’, of course) is FSR. No, not five-second rule or floor space ratio but: Feet up. Specs on. Read.

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.


* Lie Back and Listen *

adorable blur cat close up

Here I recommend engaging podcasts and other digital recordings I’ve come across during the week. Hopefully you too will enjoy them.

Up for discussion in this episode of The Guardian Books podcast is Isabel Greenberg’s “graphic almost-biography of the Brontës […], Glass Town” and the books nominated for “this year’s International Booker prize, the annual £50,000 award for the best translated fiction – and the controversy surrounding one of the books.” >> Inside the Brontës’ fantasy world, and a Booker controversy – books podcast >>

The Guardian Books podcast is a weekly look at the world of books, which is presented by Claire Armitstead, Richard Lea and Sian Cain. Included are “in-depth interviews with authors from all over the world, discussions and investigations”, making it “the perfect companion for readers and writers alike”.


* Week Two of the Wales Readathon *

LYNETTE ROBERTS PICMany thanks to everybody who contributed reviews and features during week two of Dewithon 20. There were a wonderfully diverse mixture of entertaining, engrossing and thought-provoking posts – all can be found on the official Wales Readathon 2020 page.

We celebrated the second week of Wales Readathon 20 with a poem from a neglected Welsh writer: Curlew by Lynette Roberts >> A Poem by Lynette Roberts >>

Should you be either taking part or following the progress of this year’s official readathon book, One Moonlit Night by Caradog Prichard, I have now posted my thoughts on chapters 1-4. >> DEWITHON 20 WEEK 2: One Moonlit Night by Caradog Prichard >>

If you post any content relating to Dewithon on your blogs, please be sure to let me know.

* Lit Crit Blogflash *

I’m going to share with you three 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:

MOTHERWELLMotherwell: A Girlhood by Deborah Orr – Jacqui of JacquiWine’s Journal found the late, great Deborah Orr’s memoir “staggeringly good” and declares it “a powerful, humane and beautifully-written book”.

Furthest south – Keri Hulme’s “writing isn’t easy” and the “story is rough, with violence, anger [and] isolation”, says Lizzie Ross of The Bone People, a 1984 magical realism novel set in New Zealand. Ultimately, though, she found it “worth the effort” and took from it a “hopeful message”.

Simon & Schuster Spring Blogger Evening 2020 – Over at Sarah’s Vignettes, Sarah Swan shares her experience of attending the Books and The City Spring Blogger Evening earlier this month. She got to “hang out with the authors, get [her] proofs signed and mingle” – plus there was “good merchandise”.

* Irresistible Items *

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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:


TEMPORARYGuernica: When All Is “Temporary,” Nothing to Hold Onto – Maggie Lange finds Temporary, Hilary Leichter’s “destabilizing debut novel”, predicts “a productivity-centric dystopia, not far off.”

The Guardian: ‘Surreal immediacy’: how a 1,000-page novel became a 45-hour audiobook – “Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport has attracted much attention for its length, but one publisher believes the spoken word might be its perfect medium”, says Laura Snapes.

JSTOR Daily: How Do We Know That Epic Poems Were Recited from Memory? – “Scholars once doubted that pre-literate peoples could ever have composed and recited poems as long as the Odyssey. Milman Parry changed that.”

Penguin: What the size of your reading pile says about you – Sam Parker asks: “Are you a Connoisseur? A Legendary Bookworm? Or an Unstoppable Reading Machine? More to the point: does it really matter?”

The Paris Review: Shirley Hazzard’s Ethics of Noticing – Michelle de Kretser discovers the beloved Australian author’s writing offers a lesson in how the arrangement of sentences can speak political truth.

Daily Beast: This Beautiful Modern Library is for Fans of Shiny Things – “From its curved, ship-like form, to its lively glass hexagonal facings reminiscent of a mosaic—the library plays with light like no other structure in the city”, says Brandon Withrow of the new Calgary Central Library in Alberta, Canada.

Literary Hub: How Ramona Quimby Taught a Generation of Girls to Embrace Brashness – Rachel Vorona Cote on having the right to be ‘too much’.

The Spinoff: ‘An absolutely amazing day’: Unity Books Auckland named international bookstore of the year – “A little bookshop on High Street just scooped a massive prize.” Toby Manhire “caught up with Jo McColl to celebrate.”

Book Riot: Where to Start Reading Keigo Higashino – “If you love twisty, character-driven mysteries and have never read anything by Keigo Higashino, get excited. You’re about to discover your new favorite mystery writer”, says Tasha Brandstatter.

VQR: The Curse of Cool – Joshua Wolf Shenk on Joan Didion’s elusive Los Angeles.

Open Democracy: Books and the future of understanding – “Every print book is both a time machine and a device to listen to others. We need them more than ever”, writes Jack DuVall.

Abacus News: Coronavirus Prompts Book Delivery Service – “A new program from Meituan Dianping lets 72 bookstores in Beijing deliver books to customers’ doors”.

YouTube: London Feminist Bookshop Tour with Jean Menzies – PenguinPlatform “went on a tour of London’s best bookshops which specialise in books about and by women”, including “The Second Shelf, Gay’s the Word, Housmann’s, Pages Cheshire Street”.

Publishers Weekly: Spanish Dominates Booker International Prize Longlist – Ed Nawotka finds that thirteen books have made the longlist for the 2020 Booker International Prize.

The New York Times: Sally Rooney’s Attention Span Has Improved – The novelist, whose book Normal People is out in paperback, once found Henry James almost unreadable but now loves his work.

CBC News: Amazon no concern for former Raptors boss looking to open bookshop in Amherstburg – “Richard Peddie’s River Bookshop should open in June 2020”.

The Big Issue: Top 100 Changemakers 2020: Literacy and education – Drag queen storytime.

The Hedgehog Review: Our Mindless and Our Damned – “Vampire and zombie stories are stories of a new mass folklore. But they have dreamt themselves into us for specific reasons”, says Antón Barba-Kay.

DARK VANESSAVulture: My Dark Vanessa Was an Oprah’s Book Club Pick. Then It Was Abruptly Dropped. – Kate Elizabeth Russell’s psychological thriller was hastily dropped as Oprah’s Book Club’s March pick, according to Lila Shapiro.

The Sydney Morning Herald: The writer’s life: belly dancing to make a living – “Belly dancing, palmistry, teaching, design, modelling, waitressing and law are among the activities Australian writers undertake to supplement their book earnings.”

Mental Floss: The Library of Congress Needs Help Transcribing Walt Whitman’s Poems and Letters – The Library of Congress is “asking for the public’s help in reviewing thousands of Whitman’s handwritten documents, including letters, poems, and other writings”, reveals Michele Debczak.

The Paris Review: Russia’s Dr. Seuss – “Russia had a Dr. Seuss. Same deal as ours, except his hot decade wasn’t the fifties; it was the twenties”, says Anthony Madrid.

Unilad: New Mega Bookstore In Malaysia Is Filled With A Million Books – Julia Banim on an enormous new bookstore in Malaysia.

The Atlantic: The First Novelist Accused of Cultural Appropriation – Alexandra Styron reflects on his father’s novels The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie’s Choice, “in the age of American Dirt”.

Slate: The Infectious Pestilence Did Reign – “How the plague ravaged William Shakespeare’s world and inspired his work, from Romeo and Juliet to Macbeth.”

The Chronicles of Now: Short fiction torn from today’s headlines – A site dedicated to short fiction based on headline news, which features authors such as Carmen Maria Machado, Sloane Crosley and others.

The Strategist: The Best Books for Budding Black Feminists, According to Experts – Tembe Denton-Hurst with “the best books for the burgeoning Black feminist.”

Bored Panda: I Built A Book Arch In My Store And It Took Over 4 Weeks To Complete – The owner of Sandman Books, an indie bookstore in Punta Gorda, Florida, came up with a brilliant idea for upcycling damaged stock.

Riveted: 13 Historical Fiction Books You Don’t Want to Miss – “From ancient Egypt to the grunge era, historical fiction novels are a fun immersive way to experience the past”, says Jess Harold.

BBC News: Budget 2020: VAT on e-books and newspapers scrapped – The British Chancellor, Rishi Sunak “has announced the 20% tax on e-books and online newspapers, magazines and journals will be abolished on 1 December.”

The New Republic: What Happened to Jordan Peterson? – Lindsay Beyerstein discovers the Canadian author, clinical psychologist, and scholar, Jordan Peterson, was in a drug induced coma in Russia. He awoke unable to speak or write.

Literary Hub: Refuge, Gossip, and Revelation on the Private Book Club Circuit – Marjan Kamali on visiting the homes of her readers.

The Hollywood Reporter: ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’ Leads German Film Awards With 11 Nominations – Burhan Qurbani’s updated version of Alfred Döblin’s classic Geman novel “picked up 11 nominations”.

WITCHESMelville House: Happy Women’s Month! 5 great reads by women, about women – Amelia Stymacks invites you to be “inspired” by her selection of “incredible books by women, about women.”

Book Marks: The Art of the Hand-Sell – Lisa Yee Swope presents “14 booksellers from 4 indie bookshops” and gives them a platform to “rave about their favorite read”.

The Washington Post: In a noisy world, books about silence are booming – Bilal Qureshi finds himself drawn to a “flourishing, but quieter, genre of new releases.”

Daily Star: Ghost of Agatha Christie knocking her own books off shelves in hometown museum – “Torquay Museum in Devon is grappling with a real-life mystery after a poltergeist appears to be targeting the writer’s works – and the ghost of a woman was caught on camera”, claims Sophie Bateman.



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.

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21 replies

  1. Thanks so much for the mention!! I’m pleased you enjoyed my post xx

  2. I suspect you’re right: readers are better set up to weather self-isolation, intoverted bunch that we are, always desperate to get as much reading time in as possible. Keep well, Paula!

  3. Yes, definitely. Feet up, specs on, read is the perfect antidote. And frankly, self-isolating with a load of books doesn’t sound that much of a trial…

  4. Temporary sounds interesting, but I’m thinking that Sarah Pinsker’s A Song for a New Day is more prescient. It’s about social distancing.

    • I just read the description of A Song for a New Day on Goodreads and I see what you mean. It has the deadly virus and illegal public gatherings – how long will it be before we are describing the recent past as “Before times”? Prescient indeed!

  5. Be lucky, Paula!!!!! (As a reader I do think I put myself at a slightly greater risk of infection. The local supermarket sells texts for charity so I linger there far too long. I obtained a Milton collection to keep me going in the new age. Let’s hope that those of us who wear spectacles don’t go blind! Imagine all that bloody hand washing in the dark). Thanks for linking to the story about Jordan Peterson- I can’t quite bear to read about the creature, but I’m confident that (in contrast) you are performing a valuable public service.

  6. Many thanks for featuring my Motherwell piece, Paula, very much appreciated as ever. I hope you’re keeping well. Best wishes, Jacqui

    • It’s a real pleasure, Jacqui. I always enjoyed Deborah Orr’s journalism – she was a total one-off. So sad she’s gone.

      We’re keeping well. Thank you for asking. Hope all is good with you. 😊

  7. Ha – I love FSR! I have been sharing my blog posts on working from home – I’m very used to that after nine years of it. However I now have husband working from home for the foreseeable, too …

    • Thank you, Liz. 😊

      I currently subscribe to your working from home posts and will encourage others to do so. Your features will be of particular interest to many more people at the moment. I’m glad your husband is able to work from home but I can appreciate it will be rather odd having him about the house all day. Perhaps you should make him official tea/coffee maker so he can keep you hydrated and topped up with biscuits through the day! ☕😂

  8. I think you’re right Paula, bookish introverts do have a useful skill set at this time. I’m trying to keep positive to stave off the anxiety and books are a great distraction 🙂 Stay well!

    • Are you able to work from home, Madame B? I expect London must feel very odd at the moment – less so here because we’re out in the sticks (but still no toilet rolls in the local store). Extraordinary times!

      Take care and keep popping in for a chat. 🤗

      • Yes, I’ve just started working at home today. It does feel strange. I’ll certainly keep heading over to your wonderful blog 🙂 Hope the local store is replenished soon!

  9. There are a lot of reading machines according to the Penguin quiz, and undoubtedly more than ever, now that we are coping with such strange living conditions. I also enjoyed the peek at that Malaysian bookshop: wow, just wow! And I just loved that piece about Ramona Quimby – a heroine of mine.

    Take care and stay well, in every way!

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