An end of week recap
There is little change to the lockdown regulations in Wales – the single relaxation of rules being permission to take exercise outdoors more than once a day (providing we do it locally and maintain a two metre distance from others). We are still being told to ‘stay home, protect the NHS and save lives’, unlike the English, who have been instructed to ‘stay alert’, though nobody seems quite sure what this means. Perhaps, if our UK compatriots are extra vigilant, they’ll spot a COVID-19 heading towards them (a spherical entity with club-shaped peplomers, should you be wondering) and be in a position to take cover in a nearby shrub or doorway!
Have a good weekend. I’m planning to listen to a couple of podcasts, start reading Letters From Tove and, of course, watch Katherine Jenkin’s ninth Saturday Concert this evening – it’s DIVA week, which should be fun. What are you hoping to do?
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.
* New Welsh Writing Awards 2020 *
The shortlisted and highly commended manuscripts for this year’s New Welsh Writing Awards have been revealed. >> NEW WELSH WRITING AWARDS 2020: Shortlist Announced >>
* 20 Books of Summer Returns *
Cathy Brown has issued a “call to start planning” if you are intending to join her in reading and reviewing 20 assorted books this summer. Her popular yearly challenge, 20 Books of Summer, runs from 1st June to 1st September, during which you are invited to read your way through a list of pre-selected titles of your choice. For further details, head over to 746 Books and take a look at 20 Books of Summer ’20 is on the Way – and please be sure to use the #20booksofsummer20 hashtag if you mention the event on Twitter.
* 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:
Book review: ‘The Salt Madonna’, by Catherine Noske – “Set on the fictional Australian island of Chesil”, Noske’s debut novel is “an expertly crafted, gripping story” with something of Lord of the Flies about it”, says Professor Wu of Nothing in the Rule Book.
The Phoenix’ Nest by Elizabeth Jenkins (1936) – Discovered in “the closing-down sale of a lovely local second-hand bookshop”, Jane from Beyond Eden Rock found this mysterious novel set in “Elizabethan London” was “beautifully written” and caught her eye at “exactly the right moment”.
The Age of Atheists – Peter Watson’s The Age of Atheists: How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God “covers a range of issues”, says Adam at Roof Beam Reader, including “science and religion, politics and history, art and literature”, ending “on a message of hope and togetherness.”
* 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 New York Times: Michael Cunningham Thinks Most People Misunderstand ‘Lolita’ – “Granted, says the author of books including The Hours and A Wild Swan, it’s ‘about a sociopathic predatory pedophilic rapist.’ But it’s also ‘a messed-up love story right out of Beauty and the Beast.’”
Literary Hub: The 50 Best Contemporary Novels Under 200 Pages – “Or,” says Emily Temple, “50 afternoons well spent”.
The Critic: A Radical Proposal: Book reviews should review books – “Give us more judgement, more opinions and more criticism”, says Alexander Larman.
The Guardian: Bluey: The Beach named book of the year at Australian Book Industry awards – “Title in hit series based on TV show becomes first children’s book to take the honour”.
Penguin: What we inherit when we inherit books – “Having a family funeral during lockdown was difficult. But going through my grandmother’s bookshelf inspired me to approach tough times like she would”, says Sam Parker.
Vox: Why it’s so hard to read a book right now, explained by a neuroscientist – It would seem we are “trying to resolve an uncertainty that is unresolvable.”
BookTrust: Kittens and dinosaurs: the museum cats that inspired writer Holly Webb – “Author Holly Webb writes about her favourite history-loving felines…”
CrimeReads: Genre Labels: What Makes a Book More Thriller Than Sci-Fi? – “An author examines the borderlands of two closely related genres.”
Open Culture: The Shakespeare and Company Project Digitizes the Records of the Famous Bookstore, Showing the Reading Habits of the Lost Generation – The papers of Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore are soon to be made available to the public via a project at Princeton University.
BBC Culture: The women who created a new language – “At times of crisis in the past, writers coined words to describe our lives. Kelly Grovier explores how words like ‘frustrating’, ‘spring-clean’ and ‘outsider’ came to be – and the ways we can reinvigorate our lexicon.”
Kirkus: On the Art and Craft of Translating Chekhov – Gregory McNamee shares his thoughts on Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s translation of fifty-two Chekhov stories.
Baffler: The Pulitzer Problem – Rafia Zakaria finds the “journalistic elites celebrate the journalistic elites”.
Bomb: Mysterious Unfixable Elements: Olivia Laing Interviewed by Alex Zafiris – “On writing to include others, artists who generate hope, and how constriction can be inventive.”
Book Marks: The First Reviews of Every Virginia Woolf Novel – To celebrate the 95th publication anniversary of Mrs. Dalloway, BM has unearthed the first reviews of every Virginia Woolf novel.
Vogue: The Pulitzer Prize Is Getting More Diverse. Dana Canedy Is One Reason Why – Michael Cuby reports that Dana Canedy, the Pulitzer Prize administrator, is having a positive influence on diversity.
JSTOR Daily: Do Series Books Turn Kids Off Adult-Approved Novels?– “Goosebumps. The Baby-Sitters Club. Even Nancy Drew. In the 1990s, concerned educators wondered if series books were luring kids away from ‘literature’”, finds Erin Blakemore.
Biography: Algonquin Round Table: How the Group of Writers Became a Symbol of the Roaring Twenties – “After the end of World War I, the collection writers and critics met at New York City’s Algonquin Hotel for a ‘10-year lunch’ that epitomized the glamour and excitement of the decade”, writes Barbara Maranzani.
Time Out Sydney: This Bondi bookstore is engaging a ‘bibliotherapist’ to recommend you new reads – The Gertrude and Alice bookstore will soon be hosting bibliotherapy sessions, says Divya Venkataraman.
The Washington Post: The ingenuity keeping indie bookstores going – Katrina vanden Heuvel discusses the many ways bookstores are trying to save themselves.
Publishers Weekly: Summer Reads 2020 – PW with its annual selection of summer book recommendations.
Guernica: Stephanie Danler: Empowered by Choice – The novelist and memoirist talks to Elizabeth Lothian “generational trauma, developing compassion for oneself, and feeling empowered by choice.”
New Statesman: How the Second World War was written – “If poetry was the literary form of the First World War, it was fiction that best expressed the reality of the Second.”
The Atlantic: The 1798 Poem That Was Made for 2020 – James Parker thinks Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner “is taking on new meaning during the coronavirus pandemic.”
Book Riot: Contemporary Pakistani Literature: A Brief Introduction and Guide – Julius Lobo believes that “echoes of colonial oppression, cultural exchange, and indigenous resistance still resonate in contemporary Pakistani literature.”
Nautilus: The Book That Invented the World – Ed Simon on Abraham Ortelius’s comprehensive atlas, one of the most popular books 450 years ago.
Esquire: Inside the Book Industry’s Battle to Stay Afloat During the COVID-19 Crisis – “Authors, readers, booksellers, and publishers have become more tightly-knit than ever to outlast a global pandemic.”
Literary Review: Why I Won’t Be Writing a Coronavirus Novel – D J Taylor has no intention of writing a coronavirus novel.
TLS: My therapy animal and me – Joyce Carol Oates examines “identity and companionship in isolation” with the assistance of her cat, Zanche.
BBC News: Bryan Washington is £30,000 Dylan Thomas prize winner – “The winner of the £30,000 Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize has been named as US writer Bryan Washington.”
The Spectator: Authors making sneaky appearances in their own novels – Lucy Vickery asks readers to imagine how well-known writer might slip a self-portrait into a scene from one of their works.
Poetry Foundation: Enemy in the Mirror – “Heiner Müller—poet, playwright, and informant—embodied the divisions of postwar Germany”, writes Holly Case.
The Hindu: Author Anees Salim’s recommendations for lockdown reading – “This week’s Reading List features world literature hand-picked by Anees Salim , author of The Small Town Sea, Vanity Bagh, The Blind Lady’s Descendants”.
Radio New Zealand: Debut novelist wins country’s richest literary prize – Becky Manawatu has won the top prize at the 2020 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards with her debut novel Auē.
The Hedgehog Review: The Book’s the Thing – Pano Kanelos asks the question: “What is so compelling about a book?”
Literary Hub: 20 Artists’ Visions of Alice in Wonderland From the Last 155 Years – “It was 155 years ago […], on May 4th, 1865, when Alice tumbled down the rabbit hole”, says Emily Temple. She feels now is “just as good a time as any to revisit some of the best artistic treatments Alice and the gang have gotten over the years”.
The Jerusalem Post: ‘Kafka’s Trial’ wins prestigious Sami Rohr book prize – “The Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature recognizes the unique role of contemporary writers in the examination and transmission of the Jewish experience.”
Reuters: France’s bookstores fight for survival after coronavirus lockdown – Michaela Cabrera finds the eight-week coronavirus shutdown “has weighed heavily on profit margins and threatens the survival of some [book]stores” in France.
The New Yorker: What Shakespeare Actually Wrote About the Plague – Shakespeare may have lived “his entire life in the shadow of bubonic plague”, but he wrote very little on the subject.
Jewish Book Council: The Pioneers: The Oldest Jewish Women’s Book Club in America – “Pamela Nadell discovers that in 1879, Rosa Sonneschein gathered a group of friends and acquaintances together in St. Louis and founded the first Jewish women’s book club in America”.
Nieman Lab: Bookshop, a new startup, is offering publications bigger kickbacks than Amazon (and the thrill of battling Bezos)– Sarah Scire discovers “the pitch is simple. ‘They get to feel good about themselves. They get to diversify the revenue. And they don’t have to take a financial hit because we’re able to deliver the sales that they want.’”
The Mit Press Reader: The Symbolic Use of Barrier Contraceptives in American and English Literature – “The diaphragm and cervical cap have been used to signify extramarital sex, working-class status, embarrassment, sorrow, and the onset of adulthood — but rarely a joyful or pleasant sexual encounter”, finds Donna J. Drucker.
Los Angeles Times: Against consolation: Reading dark materials in COVID-19 quarantine – “We don’t read or write to be reassured”, says David L. Ulin, but to “reckon with all the things we cannot know.”
Literary Tourist: Honey, Wax, & Women Booksellers in New York – Nigel Beale, the Literary Tourist, on his third day in New York.
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