An end of week recap
We were basking in intense sunshine earlier in the week with temperatures reaching 32.6˚C in parts of the UK. Sadly, as we neared the weekend, conditions transformed overnight into torrential rain, thunderstorms and gusty winds. Such is the British weather!
None of this has interfered with my daily drill, which includes listening to a podcast as I work-out Mad Lizzie-style (anyone remember her?) but it does create mutiny in the ranks. The dogs pace restlessly about the house while my partner sighs periodically, no doubt thinking of all the mowing, chopping and snipping tasks awaiting her in the garden. This all-consuming discontent and reliance on fine weather is to be expected after shielding for so many weeks, however, such vexation isn’t particularly conducive to writing book features – though I suspect, regardless of conditions outside, it may now be impossible to catch up on numerous outstanding pieces for Book Jotter. I can only affirm, as I did in a previous post, this laxity is the result of “coronashutdown-induced writing lethargy” and there is nothing one can do until it passes.
I have therefore resolved to fret no more over missed deadlines, half-finished projects and ever-lengthening lists of unaccomplished literary ventures. My writing mojo will return when it is good and ready. In the meantime, I will read purely for pleasure.
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 >>
* Look and Listen *
Here I recommend engaging podcasts and other digital recordings I’ve come across during the week. Hopefully, you too will enjoy them.
This week saw the return of Alan Bennett’s “much loved” Talking Heads to British TV, with ten of the original monologues re-filmed and featuring a new cast, including Jodie Comer, Monica Dolan, Martin Freeman, Tamsin Greig, Sarah Lancashire, Lesley Manville, Lucian Msamati, Maxine Peake, Rochenda Sandall, Kristin Scott Thomas, Imelda Staunton and Harriet Walter. Before watching it on BBC iPlayer, you may like to read an explanatory review of this moving series by Lucy Mangan in The Guardian: Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads review – still a masterclass in storytelling. >> Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads >>
* 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:
From Greece to Turkey: Children of War by Ahmet Yorulmaz – Dr. Neriman Kuyucu of Reading Under the Olive Tree declares this historical novel, drawn from the diary of a refugee: “one of the most important translated works released in 2020”, which “encourages us to resist the politics of demonization that breeds polarization and fear”.
Review: Birth of the British Novel (BBC Four) – Over at Passion For Books, Phillip Kang shares his thoughts on Birth of the British Novel, “a BBC Four documentary hosted by author Henry Hitchings, first shown on TV in 2011.” He found this “exploration of the lives and works of Britain’s pioneering 18th century novelists” both “entertaining and eye-opening”. It is a programme he would highly recommend.
On my Bookshelf: Why Materialism is Baloney – Bernado Kastrup. – Kastrup’s “cheeky title”: Why Materialism Is Baloney: How True Skeptics Know There Is No Death and Fathom Answers to Life, the Universe and Everything “belies a serious book”, says Michael Graeme at The Rivendale Review. It is “engaging and accessible” but he suggests readers should have their “wits about” them “because the concepts [of this philosophical title] are so startling.”
* 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:
Scroll.in: Meet the Writer: A pandemic wipes out most of the male population in a recent novel from South Africa – An interview with the South African writer Lauren Beukes on her recently released novel, Afterland.
Bookforum: Translating Jean-Patrick Manchette – “Donald Nicholson-Smith on channelling the prolific French crime novelist”.
The Japan Times: ‘Hojoki’: The paradox of desire and detachment in recluse literature – “There’s a pervasive Japanese archetype that spans centuries: the minimalist, searching for meaning by forsaking material attachments”, writes Kris Kosaka .
Popula: Farewell to a Bookstore that Never Closed – Brian Hioe looks back at “the strange magic of one of the world’s first 24-hour bookstores”.
BBC News: Louisa May Alcott: Early work by Little Women author published at last – “A little-known work by Little Women author Louisa May Alcott, written when she was 17 and left unfinished, is being published for the first time.”
The Paris Review: On Translationese – Critics have stamped the works of both Haruki Murakami and Kenzaburo Oe with the label “translationese.” Masatsugu Ono wonders what it means.
The New York Review of Books: Richard Wright, Masaoka Shiki, and the Haiku of Confinement – Christopher Benfey finds “illness, confinement, loneliness, and pervasive fear” may offer perfect conditions for writing haiku.
Publishing Perspectives: Coronavirus Update: Hay Festival Announces a Physical Program in Segovia – “Set for September 17 to 20, the Hay’s Segovia outing in its 15th year is to return to a format ‘in real life,’ not digital, but with venues at one-third of capacity and staggered scheduling.”
Book Riot: 6 Nonfiction Canadian Books by Black Authors About Racism – Casey Stepaniuk suggests some non-fiction Canadian books by Black authors about racism.
CrimeReads: The Best Books of 2020 (So Far) – “A look at the year’s best crime novels, mysteries and thrillers, with the full understanding that it’s only June, barely past the solstice.”
The Hindu: India-China tension: Your reading list for decoding the border dispute – For the past few months, the eastern India-China border along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has witnessed an escalation of tension. Here are six books that can assist you in understanding the origins of the issue and its consequences on the world order.
Penguin: What kind of summer book reader are you? – “Are you an ‘influencer’? A ‘student’? Or a ‘magpie?’ [Penguin breaks] down the most common beach holiday readers.”
Literary Hub: Lives Lived at Sea: A Reading List – The novelist Lisa Alther recommends her favourite tales of ship-bound life.
Jezebel: The ‘Invincible Innocence’ of Whiteness – Rachel Vorona Cote re-reads Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence 100 years after its publication.
The Irish Times: My aunts’ bookshop was heaven for me in childhood – “Waterford Books was a magical space filled with everything from Boswell to the Topper”, writes Peter Cunningham.
Guardian Australia: The surge in sales of Indigenous books is heartening but education takes many forms – “Aboriginal people have been inundated with questions about how to be a better ally”, says Anita Heiss. “It gives her “hope” though she finds it “absolutely exhausting”.
The Bitter Southerner: On Flannery O’Connor and Race: A Response to Paul Elie – Author and feminist Amy Alznauer responds to a recent New Yorker essay on Flannery O’Connor’s racism.
Quill & Quire: Five debut authors share the stories behind their work – In the first instalment in a series, Sue Carter spotlights five exciting new Canadian authors.
Al Jazeera: The ‘unapologetically Malaysian’ voice wooing young adult readers – Kate Mayberry discovers Hanna Alkaf is “drawing attention with books that draw on history, culture and religion to tell deeper truths.”
The London Magazine: Interview | David Constantine on Writing Lived Experience, Fiction as Felt Truth and Hope for the Future – “David Constantine counts himself lucky to be having a relatively peaceful lockdown at home with his wife, Helen, in Oxford. He spends his time walking and, of course, writing in his shed at the bottom of the garden.”
Los Angeles Review of Books: “Who Would Read Me, Lower Your Eyes”: Remembering Amparo Dávila – A celebration of one of Mexico’s greatest fantasists, by her English translator, Matthew Gleeson.
Wales Arts Review: Books | Shattercone by Tristan Hughes – Laura Wainwright reviews Shattercone, “a collection of nine fascinatingly interwoven short stories, set in Canada, the Great Lakes and in Wales”.
Portland Mercury: Reading List: Queer and Trans Black Authors Through the Decades – As part of the Mercury’s 2020 all-digital Queer Week coverage, Alex Zielinski “highlights a sampling of essential literature” over the past decades, including memoirs, science fiction, Black LGBTQ+ writers and others.
The Calvert Journal: Myth, fiction, reportage: 8 books that paint a portrait of the North Caucasus, then and now – “Russia’s North Caucasus region has long captured the imagination of writers, journalists, and storytellers both from the region and from afar”, says Alisa Ganieva. She suggests eight books “to enrich your perception of an under-reported region.”
London Evening Standard: Literary figures on why booksellers thrived during lockdown – and what’s next – “As we fell back in love with reading during lockdown, publishers got creative online and shop owners branched out into tote bags. Katie Law talks to leading industry figures about what’s next”.
The Atlantic: The Encounter That Revealed a Different Side of Emily Dickinson – “After eight years of letter writing, the author Thomas Wentworth Higginson finally met the reclusive poet face-to-face.”
Tor.com: Searching for Body Positivity in Fantasy – Rosamund Lannin says it took her “almost 15 years to find an unconventionally attractive woman in a fantasy novel who was not a mother, villain, or whore.”
The American Scholar: The Bloom Has Faded – “Reforming the Western canon may not go far enough”, warns Robert Zaretsky.
Read it Forward: The Best Summer Books to Help You Escape – “This season’s reads will allow you to vacate this world and enter another entirely.”
Standpoint.: Why T.S. Eliot still matters – “His contemporaries’ reputations have diminished. But Eliot’s has grown: he is the poet who shows us what can be saved from the ruins”, says Douglas Murray.
Literary Hub: Looking for Middle-Earth? Go to the Middle of England – “John Garth on the landscapes that influenced J.R.R. Tolkien”.
Lit Reactor: I Just Spent A Year Exclusively Reading Women (and I Deserve No Congratulations For This) – Christopher Shultz experienced “an entire year exclusively filled with the voices of women”.
NPR: ‘Miss Iceland’ Is A Subdued, Powerful Portrait Of A Suppressed Society – Heller McAlpin on Miss Iceland, Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir’s LGBT novel set in Reykjavík in 1963.
The Baffler: The Allies of Whiteness – “In publishing, the barricades do not fall easily”, says Rafia Zakaria.
JSTOR Daily: “There Was Grit and Talent Galore” – “Lindsy Van Gelder–author of that famous New York Post article about bra-burning feminists–reflects on the alternative LGBTQ+ press of the 1970s.”
Artforum: Anniversary – The 15th June was the first anniversary of the death of writer Kevin Killian. Dodie Bellamy, his wife of 33 years, remembers him.
The Mary Sue: If You Really Want to Unlearn Racism, Read Black Sci-Fi Authors – “When I finally sat down with some science fiction written by black women, my life was changed forever”, says Cree Myles.
Off the Shelf: Forgotten History: 10 Remarkable Novels About Overlooked Moments From the Past – Leslie Howard loves “discovering novels that bring to light little-known or overlooked historical events.” She shares her top ten list of “emotionally nuanced and beautifully written” novels.
The Chronicle of Higher Education: The Professor of Gimmicks – Charlie Tyson looks at how Sianne Ngai became “the most influential literary theorist of her generation.”
Readings: Five recent novels about writers & writing – Australia’s independent retailer of books recommends five recent novels that feature writers as key characters.
Yale Climate Connections: 12 books for ‘virtual’ summer travels – “Travel plans cancelled?” asks Michael Svoboda. “Try visiting new places and exploring new ideas with these books.”
The Nib: Librarians of the World Unite! – How the pandemic manifested labour solidarity at a rapid pace in one library.
Outside: Alaska Airlifts ‘Into the Wild’ Bus Out of the Wild – “In recent years, the bus once occupied by Christopher McCandless had attracted tourists from all over the world—a growing number of whom had to be rescued in their attempt to reach the remote location. Now, apparently, the authorities have had enough.”
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