An end of week recap
Yesterday my partner received a second letter from the Welsh Government’s Chief Medical Officer instructing her to continue ‘shielding’ until 16th August. I therefore thought it apt to share a short poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1878 in which the speaker longs to remain indoors and not face a troubled world.
It is the complete antithesis of the way so many people are feeling at present but it may serve to remind those of us fortunate enough to have a roof over our heads that home should be considered a place of safety and not a prison.
Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest;
Home-keeping hearts are happiest,
For those that wander they know not where
Are full of trouble and full of care;
To stay at home is best.
Weary and homesick and distressed,
They wander east, they wander west,
And are baffled and beaten and blown about
By the winds of the wilderness of doubt;
To stay at home is best.
Then stay at home, my heart, and rest;
The bird is safest in its nest;
O’er all that flutter their wings and fly
A hawk is hovering in the sky;
To stay at home is best.
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.
John Mitchinson and Andy Miller, hosts of the superb book podcast Backlisted, are joined by Alexandra Pringle, the Executive Publisher of Bloomsbury Publishing and one-time editor of the Virago Modern Classics series. The main title discussed in this episode is The Constant Nymph (1924) by English novelist and playwright Margaret Kennedy, reissued by Vintage in 2014. Andy also continues his exploration of British modernism with Alexandra Harris’s Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists & the Imagination from Virgina Woolf to John Piper and John examines time through Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time. >> 113. Margaret Kennedy – The Constant Nymph >>
* WIT Month 2020 *
Meytal Radzinski of Biblibio is making preparations for Women in Translation Month 2020, which runs throughout the month of August. This year, she has “decided to approach WITMonth a little differently” and will herself focus “specifically on women writers from those countries, continents, subcontinents, and cultures that are too often brushed aside.” Meytal intends, as ever, “to spend [her] time recognizing that good literature spans the entire globe” and invites you to join her in “thinking about the ethnic and racial disparities in WIT”. Please head over to WITMonth 2020 | Preparations and my reading plan for further details.
* 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:
The Plague Court Murders by Carter Dickson (1934) – Host of the excellent classic mysteries and domestic suspense blog Dead Yesterday declares The Plague Court Murders “a master class in terror” and a “fascinating locked-room puzzle” with a “nerve-wracking” summation scene.
The View from Here: walking in the writer’s footsteps (part 1) – Sandra from A Corner of Cornwall shares her reflections on “the glories of the wildflowers and the Cornish spring” at the “end of the second full month of lockdown.” She finds herself enthralled by “a rendition in poetry by Matthew Francis of The Mabigoni”, which offers solace during the “turmoil of a pandemic.”
Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020: The Mirror and The Light – The third and final novel in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy “is in a class of its own”, says Laura Tisdall. This “very long and intricate story” is a “masterpiece” and Laura won’t be the least surprised if, like the preceding two titles in the series, it “sweeps all the prizes again”.
Must Read Biographies for Fans of Classic Literature – Madison finds certain classics “a bit slow and unexciting for [her] taste” but others have inspired in her an “intense” love and desire to reread. Over at Madison’s Inkwell she shares a selection of “must read biographies” on the subject of authors who have “captured [her] attention.”
* 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: How Do You Write About a Woman Who Loathed the Spotlight? – “Alice Miller on Georgie Hyde-Lees, who was married to a famous Irish poet”.
Lapham’s Quarterly: The Correctors – Anthony Grafton introduces us to the editors of early modern book publishing.
Culture Trip: Essential Books To Read To Educate Yourself About Racism – “The senseless death of George Floyd has caused a huge reaction around the world. Here is a list of books to read in order to better understand the Black Lives Matter movement and inform yourself on racism in the United States and beyond.”
Literary Review of Canada: The Rule of Jane – Kevin Shaw with a “writer’s lessons for today”.
J.K. Rowling.com: J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues – J.K. Rowling thinks it’s time to explain herself “on an issue surrounded by toxicity.”
The Conversation: Kylie’s hut: bushfires destroyed the writing retreat of an Aussie literary icon – The hut of Kylie Tennant, an Australian author best-known for her novels of the Depression-era working-class, was one of the many buildings destroyed in the recent bushfires.
The Guardian: Jane Austen museum under threat due to coronavirus – “The heritage site where author wrote all her novels says it could be forced to close for ever because all of its operational budget comes from visitors”, says Richard Lea.
Guernica: Karla Cornejo Villavicencio: DREAMer memoirs have their purpose. But that’s not what I set out to write. – “The writer on taking control of her narrative, her telepathic connection to Stephen Miller, and the army of mutants.”
CrimeReads: Growing Up in a Small Town, Books Opened My World – How fiction helped William Morrow learn about the world beyond his small mining town and gave him a new understanding of his home.
Knowledge Quest: Tips for Recording Digital Book Talks – Library media specialist Karin Greenberg provides useful advice on how to make a successful digital book talk.
BBC News: Mary Shelley: Bath Frankenstein museum plans approved – “Plans have been approved for the UK’s first Frankenstein museum, celebrating author Mary Shelley’s most famous story.”
Los Angeles Review of Books: Unpacking Wharton’s Library – Robert Minto on Sheila Liming’s What a Library Means to a Woman: Edith Wharton and the Will to Collect Books – an examination of personal libraries as technologies of self-creation in modern America, focusing on Wharton and her remarkable collection of books.
BookTrust: Why I’m Reading Kids’ Books and Making Lego in Lockdown – The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley author Amber Lee Dodd writes about the power of nostalgia in soothing a troubled mind.
The Curious Reader: The 14 Most Anticipated Books By Indian Authors Releasing In June 2020 – A list of the month’s most highly anticipated books by Indian authors.
Bustle: Books About Race In Britain To Add To Your Anti-Racist Reading List – Alice Broster shares a list of books intended to “help readers learn about the history of racism and anti-racist activism in the UK”.
Electric Literature: 8 Stories by LGBTQ Women Writers From Around the World – “Brazilian writer Natalia Borges Polesso recommends a reading list of lesbian literary geographies”.
Outlook India: At 94, poet Gulzar Dehalvi beats COVID-19 – The 94-year old poet Gulzar Dehalvi has made a recovery from coronavirus.
Mel Magazine: There’s No Hype Machine for Selling Literature to Dudes – “What happens to the guys when fiction becomes a feminine brand?” asks Gareth Watkins.
Melville House: Interview with Canadian indie champs Alana Wilcox and Kyle Buckley – “Melville House co-publisher Dennis Johnson interviews two of the leading lights in Canada’s indie book scene”.
Mental Floss: Famous Novelists on Symbolism in Their Work—and Whether It Was Intentional – Lucas Reilly finds out what authors had to say about symbolism in their writing.
VQR: Sex in the City – Kaitlyn Greenidge on the “Black Female Flaneur in Raven Leilani’s Luster”.
The Chronicle of Higher Education: ‘The Most Impressively Talented Women’ – “The author Maggie Doherty on feminist education and the tension between intellectual journalism and academe”.
The Guardian: Lockdown life in your 20s and 80s by Megan Nolan and Margaret Drabble – “Moving back in with parents, drinking too much, the loneliness of Zoom calls and feelings of detachment … two writers in very different stages of life reflect on their circumstances”.
Vulture: What Is an Anti-Racist Reading List For?– “An anti-racist reading list means well” says Lauren Michele Jackson, but who is it for, she wonders?
The New Yorker: Maxine Hong Kingston’s Genre-Defying Life and Work – Hua Hsu on the “one last big idea” of Maxine Hong Kingston, an “Asian-American literary pioneer, whose writing has paved the way for many immigrants’ stories”.
BBC Scotland: Dumfries and Galloway’s literary links aim to aid post-pandemic recovery – “Famous works of fiction could have a part to play in the post-pandemic recovery of south west Scotland.”
Humanities: A Monument to the Mother Tongue – “Samuel Johnson’s work helped define the English language for readers on both sides of the Atlantic” – Danny Heitman on “one of the longest-running literary projects in American publishing”.
Yahoo! News: New Elena Ferrante book sparks fan fever in France – “Queues formed outside French bookshops” as “fans rushed to get a copy of [Elena Ferrante’s] acclaimed new book, The Lying Life of Adults.”
The Irish Times: Canada and Ireland: How a country across the Atlantic has influenced Irish affairs – “Book review: Philip Currie recounts how the decision in 1948 to declare Ireland a Republic was announced in the Canadian capital Ottawa”.
Jewish Book Council: Writing Out of Our Minds – “Literature gives us a way to look closely, to do the work of imagining unbearable suffering, our own, and everyone else’s”, writes Rachel DeWoskin.
New York Public Library: Make Your Mark: A Celebration of Bookmarks – Do bookmarks get the appreciation they deserve? NYPL staff share pictures of their favourite bookmarks.
Literary Hub: Changing Me to We: We Should All Try Writing in the First Person Plural – “Sharon Harrigan recommends stories told from the collective perspective”.
Guardian Australia: Christos Tsiolkas and Tara June Winch join our book club to discuss unmissable Australian books – “Which Australian book do you always recommend others read?” asks Michael Williams.
Middle East Eye: Palestinian writing: Maps redrawn, futures reimagined – writers and scholars bringing new perspectives – and restoring lost ones – M Lynx Qualey introduces us to “writers and scholars bringing new perspectives – and restoring lost ones – to Palestinian literature”.
National Affairs: The Erosion of Deep Literacy – Adam Garfinkle examines the “wondrous effects” of deep literacy and the way it nurtures “our capacity for abstract thought”.
The Cut: ‘The Bronx Is Not Going to Let This Bookstore Close’ – Noëlle Santos, the owner of The Lit. Bar, the only independent bookshop in the Bronx, speaks to Charlotte Cowles about “being forced to close down her storefront only ten months after its opening due to the coronavirus”.
Vulture: Roxane Gay and Other Authors Reveal Salary Disparities With #PublishingPaidMe Hashtag – Devon Ivie reports on the #PublishingPaidMe hashtag created by fantasy novelist L.L. McKinne.
Vogue: 13 Necessary Queer Literary Classics For Every Bookshelf – “From Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room to Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Color Purple and Ocean Vuong’s 2019 debut — the queer literary landscape is vibrant, expansive and ready to be explored”, says Rosalind Jana.
Dissent: Irving Howe at 100 – “Remembering Irving Howe, the founding editor of Dissent, on his 100th birthday.”
JSTOR Daily: The Linguistic Case for Sh*t Hitting the Fan – Chi Luu finds that “idioms have a special power to draw people together in a way that plain speech doesn’t.”
Radio Prague International: Impetuous, infantile and scientific – Patrik Ouředník’s Europeana – “Patrik Ouředník’s 2001 book Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century is one of the shortest and most fast paced histories of humanity’s bloodiest century”, says Tom McEnchroe.
Reliefweb: COVID-19: A camel library takes remote learning to new levels – “A camel library is giving children out of school in some of Ethiopia’s most remote villages a unique opportunity to continue reading and learning, despite COVID-19 school closures.”
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