An end of week recap
Following a regular 21-day review, the Welsh Government announced that as of 1st June, people from one household will be permitted to meet outdoors with people from one other household (while remaining a minimum of two metres apart) – however, ‘stay local’ (within five miles of our homes) is the order of the day. The lockdown laws are easing at different rates in each of the UK’s four nations, often confusing people and adding to the general impression of a great bumbling coronashambles. Not that these changes make much difference to me because my partner is classed as ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’, which, under current rules mean she is quarantined indefinitely, and I have opted to do the same in case I pass on any nasties.
This morning, as every morning, I prepared breakfast, drank a gallon of strong tea, listened to a podcast as I worked-out (if it can so be described) on my antwacky Wii, checked out the Guardian Daily app on my phone for some sensible news and dipped into Letters From Tove. I don’t foresee much changing in the short term but today the sun is shining, a pale yellow Brimstone has alighted on my windowsill and the dogs are basking in the heat. All could so easily be well with the world. One day, perhaps, this will be true – but I fear it will take far more than the elimination of a virus to become a reality.
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.
A poem from Faber this week. Emily Berry reads from the landmark edition of The Complete Poems by Emily Dickinson – a poet whose boundless vision resonates ever more powerfully today. Berry’s own collection of poems, Stranger, Baby (shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection), has been widely celebrated for its intelligent and boldly inventive meditations on loss and grief. >> Poem of the Week: ‘[We grow accustomed to the Dark–]’ by Emily Dickinson >>
* The Mysteries of Udolpho Readalong *
“This read along is easy, flexible and […] rather amusing”, says Cleo from Classical Carousel of the challenge she has set herself to read and blog about Ann Radcliffe’s 1794 Gothic romance. She hopes others may wish to join the event, which will run from 1st June to 31st August 2020 and, perhaps, post their thoughts on the novel. She issues a request for others to jump aboard the “Udolpho train for this rather wild ride into the overly dramatic”. Her “guess is that you won’t be disappointed”. Please head over to The Mysteries of Udolpho Read-Along to see her proposed or “mock” schedule.
* 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 Birdwatcher – Jeanne Griggs of Necromancy Never Pays describes William Shaw’s 2016 mystery novel as “full of suspense, red herrings” and “the one crime novel you want to read this year.”
Rethinking ‘Diversity’ in Publishing – Online Launch Coming Up – Sandra van Lente from Literary Field Kaleidoscope reveals details of a “joint project” which she is undertaking with “Dr Anamik Saha at Goldsmiths, University of London”. She hopes to discover how “books by writers of colour are published and how the structures of the field empower or hinder writers of colour.” The report will be released towards the end of June. She suggests you “stay tuned” for further details.
Review: The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage – Diana at Thoughts on Papyrus feels Thomas Savage’s “underappreciated” 1967 western novel “deserves more recognition than it has received so far”. While the “drama is handled strangely”, its “intense character study of Phil Burbank” instils an “unforgettable sense of unease” into this “tale of a quiet American town”.
Melissa Albert, The Hazel Wood (2018) – Albert’s fantasy novel is “intriguing” and “at times darkly wonderful”, but it is “marred by the conclusion, which [feels] underdeveloped”, according to Ola G of Re-enchantment Of The World. It is, however, “a formidable – and admirable – debut”.
A Trapdoor: Rereading Carol Shields (Small Ceremonies) – Marcie at Buried In Print is “taking [her] time” rereading Small Ceremonies, Carol Shields’ first novel published in 1976. She was, it seems, “beckoned back to [the late Canadian author’s] tender and matter-of-fact way of telling stories” by the “Covid-19 lockdown”.
* 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 London Magazine: Interview | Rosanna Amaka on The Book of Echoes and Brixton in the 1980s – Briony Willis talks to “Rosanna Amaka, born to African and Caribbean parents” – an author who “began writing her debut novel twenty years ago to give voice to the Brixton community in which she grew up”.
The Critic: My first Carr – “A S H Smyth discovers a true English literary eccentric”: JL Carr, born in May 1912.
Literary Hub: Women Who Did What They Wanted: A Reading List – C.W. Gortner is “addicted to women who break the rules”.
The Calvert Journal: A bookshop in every village: how the late Soviets animated Moldovan rural life with books – “Between 1970 and 1990, 1,500 bookshops opened in Moldovan villages”, writes Paula Erizanu. “Now they are almost all abandoned, turned into grocery shops, storage spaces, or sheep barns.”
Aeon: On gibberish – “Babies babble, medieval rustics sing ‘trolly-lolly’, and jazz exults in bebop. What does all this wordplay mean for language?” asks Jenni Nuttall.
The Journal i.e.: Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t spoiled the plot for independent bookshops – Bookstores in Ireland seem to be surviving the coronavirus crisis.
Book Marks: Téa Obreht on Ishiguro, Beloved, and The Master and Margarita– Thirteen rapid-fire recommendations from the author of Inland.
The Michigan Daily: Quarantine and comfort in ‘Moominvalley’ – “Many unexpected developments have happened over the course of the past several months”, says Tate Lafrenier – but no more so than her “new-found love for a family of furry hippo-like trolls.”
Quill & Quire: Winnipeg artist Cliff Eyland remembered for his card-sized library paintings – “Winnipeg-based artist, curator, and professor Cliff Eyland’s paintings may be small – the size of a 3″ x 5″ library card, to be exact – but their effect is monumental”, says Sue Carter.
The New York Times: Larry Kramer, Playwright and Outspoken AIDS Activist, Dies at 84 – Daniel Lewis recalls: “He sought to shock [the USA] into dealing with AIDS as a public-health emergency and foresaw that it could kill millions regardless of sexual orientation.”
London Review of Books: Maigret’s Room – “Nobody is sure how many books Georges Simenon wrote”, says John Lanchester. Even he “himself didn’t know, indeed he couldn’t remember all of them.”
Five Dials: ‘Climate change is us. The sixth extinction is us. We are at the heart of all of these issues.’ – Julian Hoffman, author of Irreplaceable: The Fight to Save Our Wild Places, on “the state of the world”.
Gal-Dem: Prepare to cackle, weep, and live for the British PoC authors up for the Jhalak Prize – Leah Cowan “devoured these six incredible essential 2020 books and [provides here] a like-for-like low down on what to read afterwards”.
The Irish Times: Shortlists for €30,000 Dalkey Literary Awards revealed – “Dalkey Book Festival cancelled but prizes recognise Irish writing is having a moment”.
The New Criterion: Another look at “The History Man” – Steve Morris on Malcom Bradbury and his novel of choices.
New Welsh Review: Channelling Marilynne: Translation as Possession, Envy And Belonging – Gwen Davies interviews herself about her new translation of Caryl Lewis’ novel, recently published as The Jeweller.
The Guardian: Like Christmas: New Zealand’s post-Covid books boom – “Booksellers report huge growth of interest in New Zealand literature and an uptick in sales after lockdown lifted”, finds Eleanor Ainge Roy.
The Economic Times: Writer Joyce Carol Oates wins France’s $218,000 Cino del Duca World Prize – “The prize is often seen as a stepping stone to the Nobel.”
Public Books: Public Picks 2020 – “Each year around this time [PB dispatches its readers] into summer with a thoughtfully curated list of titles appearing over the past 12 months”.
Vogue: 7 Literary Classics From ‘Normal People’ Worth Adding To Your Reading List – Timothy Harrison with “a list of all of the key novels, plays, and poetry that make a cameo in the BBC adaptation of Sally Rooney’s bestseller.”
Russian Art + Culture: Loud Words – Chekov, the Doctor with a Gun – Chekov believed the writer should “not making false promises to the reader”, finds Anton Sanatov.
The Sydney Morning Herald: A burning question about how to deal with writers’ final wishes – “Should Max Brod have burned Franz Kafka’s manuscripts, as the novelist asked?” wonders Jane Sullivan.
Literary Hub: Your 2020 Summer Books Preview – “Recommendations from Lit Hub staff and contributors”.
JSTOR Daily: The Timeless Art of the Bookcase Flex – “Flaunting a massive collection of books did not start with work-from-home videoconferences”, says Farah Mohammed.
The New York Review of Books: A Novel Way to Think About Literary Categories – Tim Parks wonders why we “categorize novels? Fantasy, Chick Lit, Crime, Romance, Literary, Gothic, Feminist…”
BookForum: For Goodness’ Sake – Lauren Oyler on the “self-conscious drama of morality in contemporary fiction”.
Esquire: The Best History Books To Help You Escape What’s Happening Right Now – “Rebellions, revolutions, and what the Victorians actually did with vibrators”.
The Hedgehog Review: Our Mindless and Our Damned – “Vampire and zombie stories are stories of a new mass folklore”, says Antón Barba-Kay. “But they have dreamt themselves into us for specific reasons.”
The New York Times: Visit These Science-Fiction Worlds to Make Sense of Our Own – Amal El-Mohtar recommends science fiction books that help us make sense of our current reality.
Book Institute Poland: Bedside table #44. Marta Kwaśnicka: We need to read selflessly – “Marta Kwaśnicka, writer, critic, and editor, the winner of this year’s Marek Nowakowski Award, talks about reading for pleasure and pleasure from reading”.
Chicago Review of Books: 8 Thrilling Horror Stories You Can Read Online Right Now – “Michael Welch shares eight horror stories you can read online”.
Spine: Shreya Gupta on Illustrating a Timeless Classic: Little Women – Vyki Hendy talks to Shreya Gupta about “her process for illustrating the 150th Anniversary edition of Little Women.”
Words Without Borders: The Watchlist: May 2020 – Tobias Carroll shares a handful of recently released or forthcoming titles in translation that especially excite him.
Fine Books & Collections: Book Review: Death of a Typographer – “There are many novels about bookshops, rather fewer about collectors of rare books, and almost none about book design”, says Alex Johnson.
The American Scholar: Radical Elegies – “At a time when many of us are cut off from the natural world,” Jonathan Bate believes “Wordsworth seems more essential than ever”.
Arablit Quarterly: Tunisian Novelist and Essayist Albert Memmi Dies at 99 – The Tunisian novelist and essayist Albert Memmi died in Paris on 22nd May aged 99.
The Guardian: The Australian book you’ve finally got time for: On the Beach by Nevil Shute – “For Mammoth author Chris Flynn, Shute’s apocalypse novel is a dynamite isolation read”.
Tablet: The Philip Roth Archive – “A fan’s obsessive rummage through the letters and papers of the writer who died two years ago […] reveals a playful, funny, brilliant man”, finds Jesse Tisch.
Get Literary: Must-Reads to Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month – In honour of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, GL rounds-up “contemporary fiction page-turners to help you celebrate”.
Nikkei Asian Review: Gangnam-style library in Seoul sells $25 getaway for book lovers – “Sojeonseolim bills itself as a reading room, cafe and concert hall”.
Open Culture: J.K. Rowling Is Publishing Her New Children’s Novel The Ickabog Free Online, One Chapter Per Day – Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling has announced she will release a new standalone fairy tale called The Ickabog, finds Colin Marshall.
The City: NYC Public Libraries Mull Grab-and-Go Book Pickup Service – Reuven Blau reports: “The New York Public Library is working on a plan to launch grab-and-go services for books and other materials — even as it’s buying more e-books…”
Stack: “What is literature for? What can we offer now?” – Kitty Drake takes a look at Berlin Quarterly, a European review of culture.
World Literature Today: Full Circle Bookstore: A Palace of Minds – “In January, [Oklahoma City’s] Full Circle Bookstore was named one of five finalists for Publishers Weekly’s Bookstore of the Year. Palestinian photographer Yousef Khanfar [pays] tribute.”
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