An end of week recap
Lockdown continues and I’m writing very little, though I am filling my days reading books, newspapers, blogs, dictionaries (just about anything, in fact), taking regular exercise – usually with the dogs (I’ve also blown the dust off my old Wii console after goodness knows how many years), eating rather too well (D has become wonderfully creative in the kitchen), listening to music (we never miss Katherine Jenkins’ live Facebook concerts on a Saturday night) and indulging in deep and, hopefully, worthwhile contemplation. The days rattle by fairly rapidly but, like everyone else, I feel a mixture of emotions, and often wonder, what next?
I offer another fat weekly wind up to help enlighten, entertain and generally distract you over the weekend.
As ever, this is a weekly post in which I summarise 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.
* Looking Forward to Club MCMLVI *
Following another fabulously successful reading jolly (the 1920 Club), Karen Langley of Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings and Simon Thomas of Stuck in a Book are turning their attentions to 1956. This popular biannual event will next run from 5th to 11th October 2020. The hosts had “a bit of a chat” before deciding they both “felt happy at moving back to a mid-century position”, says Karen – especially once a brief search online revealed their chosen year was filled with “all manner of interesting titles […], both well-known and quite obscure.” Head over to Announcing the next club! for further details, however, Simon promises to give us plenty of “reminders nearer the time.”
* Lit Crit Blogflash *
I’m going to share with you four 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:
Little Eyes – Samanta Schweblin – “The psychological insight was the main takeaway” for Lizzy Siddal from this Man Booker International-shortlisted science fiction novel. Point your browsers towards Lizzy’s Literary Life to discover what “impressed” her in this tale of the way humans can be “steered unwittingly or otherwise into situations they would never have contemplated.”
‘The Sheltering Rain’ by Hanmura Ryo – Ryo’s novel “set in Shinjuku” during the ‘60s and ‘70s, “may at times deal with difficult issues” but it is “a great form of escapism”, says Akylina of The Literary Sisters. Filled with “society’s drop-outs and people who have fallen in between the cracks”, it “transports us to the night world” of Tokyo’s buzzing commercial district.
Far Away and Long Ago by William H Hudson – Claire McAlpine of Word by Word found this Argentinean author, naturalist and ornithologist came across “as a boy who never [grew] out of his love of nature”. The story, written when he was confined “during a period of illness” was penned “in a naturalists paradise” and “provides a unique glimpse into life in another era”. It was, she says, an “enjoyable read.”
The Octopus and I, by Erin Hortle – While this debut novel “from Tasmanian author Erin Hortle” contains plenty of “earthy language” and “recreational drunkenness”, it is also an “interesting” story with an “original premise”, says Lisa Hill from ANZ LitLovers.
* 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:
Literary Hub: Why Are We Obsessed With Writers’ Houses? – “Elisa Wouk Almino on an age-old fascination”.
Book Marks: The First Reviews of To Kill a Mockingbird – In honour of Harper Lee’s birthday on 28th April, we look back at a selection of the first reviews following publication of her famous novel.
BBC News: Per Olov Enquist: Swedish author dies at the age of 85 – “One of Sweden’s best-known authors, Per Olov Enquist, has died aged 85.”
Quill & Quire: Indigenous bookseller Strong Nations closes its physical store but continues online sales – “Indigenous book and gift store Strong Nations is shutting down its physical location in Nanaimo, B.C., but will continue to sell online”, says Sue Carter.
Lambda Literary: Songs in Isolation: 17 LGBTQ Writers on What They are Listening to Right Now – Marrion Johnson thinks you should “turn up speakers and prepare to shake your body as you dig into Lambda’s LGBTQ Writer’s Playlist”.
Prospect: What the history of rhyming dictionaries reveals about literary snobbery – “For centuries, these guides have been met with distaste. But their roots are wholeheartedly democratic—and fun”, says Harry Harris.
Wales Arts Review: Carys Davies | Hopes for the Future – In a new series, some of Wales’s top writers share their thoughts on what is to come. Here Carys Davies sees hope for the future in literature.
The Walrus: The Poet Whose Work Helped Set the Stage for #MeToo – “Twenty-seven years after her death, [Canadian poet] Bronwen Wallace’s feminist poetry feels newly relevant”, writes Anita Lahey.
Slate: There’s an Eighth Chronicle of Narnia, and Now Is the Perfect Time to Read It – “All the more reason this unofficial sequel should be published immediately” thinks Laura Miller.
The Irish Times: Panicked about the pandemic? Writing and reading help – “The Holding Cell, Pendemic, Cúirt and Shelf Analysis show the book world adapting to survive”, says Niall McArdle.
Penguin: ‘I feared I would never paint again’: the story behind the new cover of ‘The Lost Spells’ – “After The Lost Words, illustrator Jackie Morris decided to collaborate once again with writer Robert Macfarlane. But a family tragedy meant she had to work in the toughest of circumstances. Here she shares her story, and reveals the beautiful artwork itself.”
The Spectator: The lockdown list: books to read during quarantine – “Daily reading recommendations from The Spectator’s writers and editors”.
Read It Forward: How Being a Librarian Saved My Life – Before [Amanda Eyre Ward] was a novelist, [she] was a librarian.”
America – The Jesuit Review: What Evelyn Waugh saw in America (An Anglo-American romance) – Joshua Hren on why Evelyn Waugh’s 1947 trip to the USA to negotiate the film rights to Brideshead Revisited was a “disaster”.
The First News: Incredible literary “jewel” missing for 500 years found at online auction – “A long-lost Latin script from which the first printed book in Polish was translated has been discovered at auction after disappearing for 500 years.”
The Sydney Morning Herald: Helen Garner to be honoured as a pioneer by the book industry – The Australian writer tells Jason Steger she has learnt how to deal with the criticism her work can attract.
RTE: Special postage rate for Irish bookshop purchases – “Ireland’s booksellers have joined forces to help independent sellers’ anti-Covid-19 efforts and to help unite the country around books and reading”, reports Sinéad Crowley.
The New York Times: Coming Soon: New Fiction From Simone de Beauvoir – “The Inseparables, a novel Beauvoir abandoned in 1954, tells the story of a doomed friendship based on one from her own childhood.” It will be published for the first time in 2021.
The Epoch Times: Book Clubs and the Blitz: How WWII Britons Kept Calm and Got Reading – Book clubs were essential for many Britons in staving off boredom during World War II.
The Guardian: Terry Pratchett novels to get ‘absolutely faithful’ TV adaptations – Alison Flood reveals Pratchett’s “Discworld fantasy stories will be adapted for TV ‘in a form he would be proud of’ after BBC America’s controversial cyberpunk take on The Watch”.
Publishers Weekly: Left-Wing Indie Publishers Form Coalition – “A group of international left-wing independent publishers have formed a new coalition with the goal of supporting each other during the coronavirus pandemic”, finds Jim Milliot.
NPR: ‘Why We Swim’ Looks For Answers In People And Places Across The Globe – Why We Swim takes readers from ponds to pools, from surfers to racers to survivors of icy currents in order to answer the question in the title. Its author tells Scott Simon why she’s always felt happiest in the water.
Global Geneva: Running an English bookstore in the time of the pandemic – Matthew Wake finds that Books Books Books, an English Bookshop in Lausanne, has continued operating through the pandemic.
The Local SE: Maj Sjöwall, one of the ‘creators of Nordic Noir’, dies aged 84 – “Maj Sjowall, one half of a Swedish crime-writing couple credited with inventing “Nordic Noir”, has died aged 84, her publisher said on Wednesday.”
The Moscow Times: Pushkin House Announces 2020 Book Prize Short List – Michele A. Berdy with six titles that are “required reading for Russia watchers”.
Literary Hub: A Good Journalist Understands That Fascism Can Happen Anywhere, Anytime – Nancy Cott on “the 1930s antifascist writing of Dorothy Thompson”.
MTL Blog: Beloved Montreal Institution Librairie Olivieri Is Closing Forever After 35 Years – “The neighbourhood just won’t be the same”, says Teddy Elliot.
Atlas Obscura: 7 Spectacular Libraries You Can Explore From Your Living Room – “You can almost smell the old books”, says Claire Voon.
Book Riot: 10 Cat Behavior Books to Expertly Adjust Your Feline’s Feistiness – Sheila Loesch shares a selection of books to help you fathom out the behaviour of your cat.
BBC Culture: Can a book make you vegan? – “The novel Tender is the Flesh imagines a world where carnivores have turned to cannibalism. It’s the latest artwork to fly the flag for plant-based diets, writes Elizabeth Sulis Kim.”
Aeon: How dystopian narratives can incite real-world radicalism – Calvert Jones and Celia Paris wonder if dystopian fiction is likely to affect real-world political attitudes?
The Economist: The secret—and surprising—world of rare books – “‘The Booksellers’, a charming new documentary, shows how the antiquarian trade is adapting to modernity”.
The Paris Review: Re-Covered: A Black Female Beat Novel from the Sixties – In her monthly column, Lucy Scholes exhumes Mojo Hand: An Orphic Tale by J. J. Phillips, a 1966 novel about a young woman’s involvement with a blues musician.
TLS: The female-only book club – Lucy Scholes looks at why women read more than men.
Commentary: What Happened to the Novel? – Joseph Epstein explains why he believes “the novel is declining, and high culture with it”.
ABC News: Indigenous Australian author Tara June Winch wins Book of the Year at NSW Premier’s Literary Awards – “Wiradjuri writer Tara June Winch has pulled off a hat-trick at the 2020 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards for her novel The Yield, taking home three major prizes, including the Book of the Year”, says Kate Evans.
I-D Vice: Dark Academia is the witchy literary aesthetic sweeping TikTok – “Reading 18th century French literature, practicing script, oil painting… the latest internet trend is the perfect cozy quarantine mood.”
Northern Soul: How are independent bookshops navigating the coronavirus crisis? We talk to Northern indies– A number of bookstores in the north of England discuss how they are coping with the pandemic.
Publishers Weekly: The Pandemic Is Changing Book-Buying Patterns – Jim Milliot reports that the Covid-19 outbreak “is altering which books consumers buy and where they buy them”.
CrimeReads: The Women Who Edited Crime Fiction – “For decades, four women were at the center of the mystery world. They built careers, discovered legends, and shaped a genre”, writes Sarah Weinman.
BBC News: Coronavirus: Library books rearranged in size order by cleaner – “A well-meaning cleaner who took the opportunity to give a locked-down library a thorough clean re-shelved all of its books – in size order.”
Melville House: Book industry grits collective teeth; hard road seen ahead – “On April 9 the Book Industry Study Group held a collective survey and televideo call in response to the ongoing novel coronavirus”, finds Mike Lindgren.
The Guardian: ‘A coldness that masks a burning rage’: South Korea’s female writers rise up – Miriam Balanescu finds that a “new generation of authors are finding an international stage to pick apart misogyny, plastic surgery and #MeToo harassment”.
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