An end of week recap
And so ends another week in lockdown.
I was delighted to receive the spring/summer edition of The Persephone Biannually in my mail box on Wednesday morning, which was, as ever, filled with entertaining features and snippets – including news of Persephone Book No. 136 (The Oppermanns by Lion Feuchtwanger) – and also contained a charming bookmark from Sylvia Townsend Warner’s English Climate: Wartime Stories, showing the ‘Sailors’ design, taken from a 1940-41 Calico Printers Association dress fabric.
While perusing the ‘Our Readers Write’ section, I was pleasantly surprised to come across Persephone reviews penned by various members of our book blogging community, including (but certainly not limited to) Madame Bibi Lophile (Madame Bibilophile Recommends), Ali Hope (Heavenali) and Joules Barham (Northern Reader). Lovely work, ladies – you lifted my day.
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.
PAUSE FOR A POD >>
* Lie Back and Listen *
Here I recommend engaging podcasts and other digital recordings I’ve come across during the week. Hopefully you too will enjoy them.
Earlier this month, National Public Radio (NPR), the American independent, non-profit media organization founded to create a more informed public, produced a 25-minute programme about a group of young Syrians who “built a secret library from books they spirited out of bombed buildings.” The makers “spoke with Mike Thomson, BBC World Affairs correspondent, […] about his experiences getting to know these brave and dedicated book lovers. Thompson’s new book is titled, Syria’s Secret Library: Reading and Redemption in a Town Under Siege.” >> Inside A Secret Library In Syria >>
* New Welsh Writing Awards 2020 *
Susan Karen Burton has won the 2020 New Welsh Writing Awards: Rheidol Prize for Prose with a Welsh Theme or Setting with an excerpt from her biographical non-fiction manuscript, The Transplantable Roots of Catharine Huws Nagashima. >> NEW WELSH WRITING AWARDS 2020: Winner Announced >>
* Jazz Age June 2020 *
“2020 is the 100th anniversary of the publication of The Great Gatsby”, says Fanda Kutubuku of Fanda Classiclit, which she describes as “the epitome of The Jazz Age or the Roaring Twenties.” Along with Laurie Welch at Relevant Obscurity she now intends to host a “pandemic” reading challenge, namely Jazz Age June, from 1st to 30th June. To participate, you simply read, watch or listen to an appropriate book, film, play, dance performance or piece of music, then write up your thoughts on the experience. Laurie says: “Anything published, produced on stage, opened in a gallery or museum or film released from 1920-1929 qualifies.” Please head over to #JazzAgeJune A Reading Event! for further information.
* 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:
How can you lose something that’s growing within you, like a tree? – The “highlight” of this 1934 “love letter to desire” is its “fragmentary, experimental, sometimes lyrical” form, says The [Blank] Garden’s Juliana Brina of Crisis by Karin Boye.
On Rekindling my Love of Physical Books – Over at The Library at Woodring Estate, Sarah is “reading more than [she has] in years”, but only “physical books” rather than her customary Kindle or beloved audiobooks. These days, when she needs “to decompress”, she does it “with something that isn’t backlit.”
Master Class by Christina Dalcher – Nirmala of Red Lips and Bibliomaniacs was fascinated by the “exploration of the history of the eugenics movement in America” contained within this recently released dystopian novel. She had one or two minor “quibbles”, such as disliking “the two main characters”, but ultimately, was “glad” she read Master Class.
Autism, Bullying and the Child – Chris Lovegrove of Calmgrove describes this guide for autistic children and teens as a “useful and accessible self-help book for those who feel different”. It is written by his partner, the psychologist Emily Lovegrove, whom he says “writes from experience and with insight” on the subject. Subtitled The Really Useful Stuff You Need to Know About Coping Brilliantly with Bullying, it is published by Jessica Kingsley and is available now from all good outlets.
Independent Press Profile: Linen Press – The second in Eleanor Updegraff’s Independent Press Profile series at The Monthly Bookings highligts Lynn Michell’s “small but strong” Linen Press. Championing “excellent writing by women”, this UK publishing house “tends overwhelmingly to literary fiction” and “has been stealthily creeping into the prize lists over the years”.
* 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:
InsideHook: COVID-19 Books: Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You – “How soon is too soon to put out a coronavirus memoir?” asks Tobias Carroll.
Literary Review of Canada: A Novel Situation – Daniel Goodwin examines “literary creatures in this time of crisis”.
The New York Times: This Is No Time to Read Alone – “In lockdown and through our screens, we’re reminded of all that’s special and strange about group reading: a solitary, private act made public”, suggests Gal Beckerman.
Literary Hub: Why Do Some Writers Burn Their Work? – “Alex George on the satisfying spectacle of torching it all”.
Variety: Shakespeare’s Globe Could Close Permanently Due to Coronavirus, U.K. Legislators Warn – “Shakespeare’s Globe theater is facing the risk of insolvency and closure due to the coronavirus pandemic”, finds Tim Dams.
Entertainment Weekly: The Library Is Open – David Canfield discovers “there has never been a more exciting time for queer literature.” He “gathered four of the biggest and brightest names in the new wave for a roundtable discussion” (while remaining “well over six feet apart”).
Flamborough Review: Bibliophiles rejoice as bookstores set to reopen – Gregory Strong reports that Canadian bookstores are reopening.
Penguin: 12 classic novels coronavirus lockdown would have absolutely ruined – The whaling voyage in Moby Dick? Cancelled. Charlie’s chocolate factory? Closed. Stephen Carlick re-imagines these classic novels had they been set during Covid-19.
Mel Magazine: The Eerie Literature of the Slow Apocalypse – “These authors know that the end of the world doesn’t happen overnight”, says Robert Balkovich.
CrimeReads: 10 Essential Australian Novels – “Discover one of the world’s most vibrant literary traditions” with William Morrow.
The Japan Times: The suspended traveler’s reading list – Stephen Mansfield discovers travel writing can change a life, or at least nudge it in a different direction. In these troubled times, it can also console and inspire.
The Guardian: Orwell prize for fiction shortlist replays 2019 Booker prize contest – “Booker winner Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other will vie with Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport for political writing award”.
Bookforum: The Rest Is Silence – Mark Polizzotti reviews Félix Fénéon: The Anarchist and the Avant-Garde, a new book and exhibition that “tracks the life of an elusive fin de siècle genius”.
The Christian Science Monitor: A books network in Zimbabwe is now a front-line virus response – “Monitor readers still supply books, but now the group has found new purpose in helping communities prepare for the coronavirus pandemic”, says Kate Chambers.
Popula: Why You Should Read Ursula K. Le Guin Right Now – Discover “the new relevance of an ambiguous utopia” with Jack Yates.
The Strategist: 17 Surprising Indie Bookstore Best Sellers – Hilary Reid asked independent bookstores which titles were selling most in their online stores.
CBA: 17 books to celebrate Asian Heritage Month in Canada – “May is Asian Heritage Month [in] Canada. To celebrate, here’s a list of 17 works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and comics by Canadians of Asian descent.”
Sunday Times (SA): Family literacy is the glue that binds us, writes Lorato Trok – “Literacy promotion organisations and individuals have been at the forefront of bringing stories to children and their caregivers” in South Africa during the lockdown.
Interview: Curtis Sittenfeld and Judy Blume Discuss Hillary Clinton’s Life Without Bill – “Hillary Clinton towers above American culture like a pant-suited Colossus of Rhodes”, says Judy Blume, but, in an alternative universe, what might have happened if she hadn’t accepted Bill’s proposal of marriage?
Brittle Paper: 2020 AKO Caine Prize For African Writing: Shortlist Announced – Five writers from Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania “made the coveted list.”
Cultured Vultures: The Discworld Show Makes Me Nervous – “Is it even possible to adapt Discworld for television in a way that keeps everyone happy?” asks Nat Wassell.
New Statesman: Infected by ideas – “For writers from Daniel Defoe to Susan Sontag, plagues offer a window on to a rapidly changing world.”
Kyodo News: Novelist Haruki Murakami cheers up people in “stay home” radio amid virus – The novelist Haruki Murakami, “ hit the airwaves” on Friday night, cheering radio listeners across Japan with a mixture of conversation and music.
Forbes: Social Media App Carry A Book Looks To Unite The Literary Minded – John Scott Lewinski finds a new social media app is seeking to unite keen readers, both during quarantine and after lockdown has ended.
The Calvert Journal: In Maria Reva’s Kafkaesque satire, puzzled occupants discover their Soviet tower block doesn’t exist – “Set in one apartment block, the short stories in Good Citizens Need Not Fear draw on the absurd to show the ways that state power governs life in Soviet and post-Soviet society”, writes Matt Janney.
The Irish Times: Living in lockdown: can literature help? – “Fiction cannot cure illness or predict the future, but it can help us survive a lockdown”.
BookRiot: Yes, Literary Fiction With Happy Endings Exists – Laura Sackton with a selection of 20 “must-read” feel-good books.
BoingBoing: How to find a book without knowing the actual title – “Have you ever wanted to find a book, but you don’t know the title? This video and article from Make Use Of has some ideas that could help.”
Publishers Weekly: In Pandemic, Dystopian Fiction Loses Its Luster for Editors – Rachel Deahl asks the question, “what are publishers interested in buying during a pandemic?”
Artnet: The Art World Works From Home: Morgan Library Director Colin Bailey Is Watching ‘Frasier’ Reruns and Researching JP Morgan’s Collecting Habits – Eileen Kinsella speaks to Colin Bailey about working from home and studying the earliest literary collections of J.P. Morgan.
The Baffler: Meditations in an Emergency – “Worker writers take stock of a world reshaped by coronavirus”, finds Maddie Crum.
It’s Nice That: “A reminder of what’s possible with ink and paper”: Draw Down Books shares five significant titles from its Bookshelf – The New Haven-based bookshop and publishers – famed for its curated selection of design books – turns to its own bookshelf to highlight five influential titles.
DW: Forever a rebel role model: Pippi Longstocking at 75 – “It’s Pippi Longstocking’s birthday. Why does everyone admire the strongest, bravest and most independent girl in the world? A children’s book classic has the answers.”
Boston Review: Higher Education in the Age of Coronavirus – Farah Jasmine Griffin discusses “teaching African American literature during COVID-19”.
Tablet: Virginia and the Woolf – Jonathan Wilson discovers a “drive across Hitler’s Germany and Austria in May 1935 made Leonard Woolf’s Jewishness real”.
Curbed: The ground floor of this Japanese home is a public library – Liz Stinson discovers a “house in a small Japanese town takes neighborly goodwill to the extreme with a ground-floor library open to the public.”
TLS: Love in a time of war – Laura Thompson on Love in the Blitz, a collection “superbly entertaining romantic letters, written in a time of conflict and discovered by chance”.
The Telegraph: How George Orwell’s hop-picking days sowed the seeds for his genius – “An odd chapter in the author’s life yields fresh insights into both his work and rural Britain in the current crisis, says Dominic Cavendish”.
Rain Taxi: Money is a Country: An Interview With Emily St. John Mandel – Emily St. John Mandel talks to Allan Vorda about the success of Station Eleven, Bernie Madoff, pandemics and writing The Glass Hotel.
Tribune: Radical Publishing in a Pandemic – “A sharp fall in book sales is accelerating the dominance of Amazon and a handful of giant corporations – while pushing radical publishers and small bookshops to the brink”, finds John Merrick.
NewsChain: Rare Harry Potter books saved from skip up for auction – “Three rare Harry Potter books are going under the gavel after being rescued from a school skip.”
America Magazine: The Nuns Who Wrote Poems – Nick Ripatrazone looks back at the poet-nuns of the mid-20th century.
Stylist: The 107 female authors everyone should have on their bookshelf – Fransesca Brown introduces us to “some of the world’s greatest female authors, essayists and beyond.”
Town & Country: What a Celebrity Book Curator Really Thinks of A-Listers’ Bookshelves – “How well did Prince Charles’s book collection score? [Olivia Hosken] asked Thatcher Wine.”
National Affairs: The Erosion of Deep Literacy – Adam Garfinkle wonders if “technology is changing what, how, and why we read, and in turn what, how, and why we write and even think.”
SF Weekly: SF’s ‘Crown-Jewel Literary Journal,’ Turns 35 – Established in 1985, Mike Huguenor finds “Zyzzyva has published works by Raymond Carver and Amy Tan.”
VICE: Jailed Ex-Atomwaffen Division Leader Needs Some Lord of the Rings – “A so-called charity helping incarcerated white supremacists says John Cameron Denton is looking to get personal letters with LOTR content.”
Toronto.com: Toronto science fiction bookstore stays shut for COVID crisis – “Scifi readers understand the dangers of a pandemic better than most says manager” to David Nickle.
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
I had no idea I’d been mentioned in The Persephone Biannually, thanks for letting me know Paula 🙂
Jazz Age June is a great idea, I’m really looking forward to the posts for that!
I’ve not heard of Linen Press but I’ll certainly be investigating their list..
In which case, I’m glad I mentioned your appearance. 😃
I hope you have a pleasant Saturday evening, Madame B.
Same to you Paula!
Thank you so much for the mention, Paula! What a lovely coincidence that The Persephone Biannually arrived this week, in keeping with the theme of women’s writing. Your weekly wind-up is as inspiring as ever – thank you.
A pleasure, Eleanor. Thank you so much. 😊
The Persephone Biannually is such a treat, isn’t it? 😀
It certainly is, Kaggsy. Hope all is good with you. 😃
Thank you for featuring my post, Paula! <3
You’re very welcome, Juliana. 🤗
As usual, quite a few links to follow up, Paula, thank you; and thank you for the mention of Emily’s Autism, Bullying and Me which, given the lockdown, is going to have to find its way largely through virtual word of mouth.
I was also drawn to the Félix Fénéon story as I enjoyed the extremely succinct three-line novels (or news in three lines) in a collection I reviewed:
No problem, Chris. I was only too pleased to feature Emily’s new book. I hope it’s a great success. 😊
I’m on my way to check your link out now!
Great links Paula, as usual. My absilute favorite is the Syrian Secret Library – it’s such a heartwarming information in the sea of depressing news!
Thank you, Ola. I’m glad you enjoyed podcast. It certainly is an uplifting story. 😃
You do enjoy a controversial link- which in lock down is especially understandable. It is interesting how a harsh reflection on one of my favourite writers can end with an irrelevant jab against Jeremy Corbyn. Woolf had a severe mental illness and her poorly judged remarks about the servant class and about Jewishness were sadly quite typical of their time. Her marriage to Leonard was symbolic of the fact that she didn’t hate Jews in the way that many of the English aristocracy did. For example, Vita Sackville-West seems to have produced some words which would not have been appreciated by people who had Jewish friends well after the truth of the Holocaust was known. As for the “failed” Mr Corbyn, his dubious remark about irony was in the context of rowdy and intolerant protests against a speaker I believe and could and should have been raised at the time. A leaked report from within the Labour Party has alleged that people in the party machine not only slowed responses to complaints of anti-Semitism to discredit their own leadership, but made racist and sexist remarks about Labour members who actually wanted to stop austerity. Sir Keir Starmer has launched an appropriate investigation. An academic article suggested that 10 years of Conservative governance were linked to the premature death of 200,000 people in the UK. And this was before the inept strategy authored by the likes of Dominic Cummings. Now, I’m not saying that Mr Corbyn or Virginia Woolf have ever been perfect people, but I do feel that some of their most trenchant critics have not made any valuable contributions to political and cultural life. Mr Corbyn has never been a litigious person, and Virginia Woolf has passed away, so the critics will continue to lash out. But it is odd to think that socialism and liberal feminism attract such enormous negativity in a world that is sadly lacking in both ideologies.
Many thanks, John, for your interesting comments. You know your stuff and I agree with all you say. As you have guessed, I like to throw the odd contentious link into the mix every so often. Not to annoy but to prompt discussion and remind the more liberal among us that there are those with views we may find disagreeable and not infrequently exasperating.
Nobody is perfect, of course, but I would have felt far easier under a left-leaning government at the moment than I do with the present bunch of scrofulous shysters.
Incidentally, I’ve been quite impressed with Keir Starmer thus far.
I was excited to see Ali and Joules in my Biannually, too. I always flick to that section first and have had ones in it myself on occasion (I don’t think I’ve actually read a Persephone for ages!).
I will look out for your reviews in future issues, Liz. Hope all is good with you and you’re staying safe and well. 😊
You never know – I haven’t actually read one for ages!! And yes, all good here and hope you and yours are OK too x
You have really kept your focus through all of 2020. I give you huge kudos for that!
Thank you, Elizabeth. My focus hasn’t always been that good, but I appreciate you saying so. Hope all is good with you and you’re staying safe. 😊
Thank you for linking me, Paula! And thank you for your weekly Irresistible Items. They have been such a great source of distraction for me in these trying times…
It’s a real pleasure, Nirmala. I’m so glad you find my weekly wind-ups of interest. 😃
What a treat to find a glimpse of Toronto’s bookselling community in the final link. I’m relieved to hear that Bakka is still carrying on with extreme caution. They have a great little shop and were the bookseller which I frequented most in 2019. (Having fallen a bit off track with SFF reading and being determined to catch up slightly!) This year I’m focusing my few bookbuying dollars on another independent and maybe next year I’ll do better at simply spreading a little all around. LOL I hope you’ve been finding good sources of reading materials, safely and happily, during these strange times.
It’s great you support the indies, Marcie. Toronto seems such a fabulous place for bookshops. I’ll make it over there one of these days! 😊
I went into Persephone books during a weekend in London last year, but had to come out before I spent too much 🙂 .
I’ve never visited Persephone but would love to do so. Perhaps one day… 😊