An end of week recap
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.
I learnt of Burley Fisher Books in a recent Vintage Book Podcast: Booksellers in a Pandemic, which was broadcast to celebrate Independent Bookshop Week in the UK and Ireland. Leena Norms chatted to the store’s co-owner Sam Fisher about pre-COVID-19 times and his plans to reopen the store in Haggerston, East London. BF Books specialises in new fiction and small press publications. It also has its own podcast, launched initially to keep the local book reading community together during lockdown, but is now so popular it recently aired episode 18. Isolation Station, hosted by Antony Duckels and Daniel P Fuller, regularly welcomes poets and authors to discuss their published works and incorporates an array of “musings from booksellers” – recent casts have covered a range of topics including the importance of fantasy, translated fiction and suggested “quarantomes”. You can follow the team on Twitter at @BurleyFisher.
* Robertson Davies Reading Weekend 2020 *
Over at The Emerald City, Lory is planning “a three-day birthday weekend” to celebrate the life and work of Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, journalist and professor, William Robertson Davies (1913-1995). “This will be a very free-form event”, says Lory, “simply read whatever you like by or about” the author, including “fiction, nonfiction, plays, criticism, biography” or whatever you have on your shelves – “and if you are so moved, post about it during the weekend.” It is scheduled to run from 28th to 30th August but there “will be further reminders as the weekend approaches”. Please head over Robertson Davies Reading Weekend for more 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 Innocents by Michael Crummey – “The genius of The Innocents”, says The Miramichi Reader’s Ian Colford “is that, though it references a vividly rendered and tangibly authentic historical context, the atmosphere is post-apocalyptic.”
Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Mexican Gothic (2020) – This “distinctly Gothic novel set in 20th century Mexico” boasts a “feisty female protagonist” and many “delightfully repulsive twists” which Ola G at Re-enchantment Of The World found deeply enjoyable – though, “the conclusion” seemed a bit “rushed” and rather “too simple.”
Must-Read Books from the North – Beth Barker has written a thought-provoking post on books from the north of England, which, she says, are “vastly underrepresented in the publishing industry”. Growing up in this region and as “a working-class woman”, she always “struggled” to identify with characters in novels and, therefore, shares with us a selection of “incredibly written” northern titles that explore a variety of “themes”.
T.H. White: A Biography by Sylvia Townsend Warner – For Sylvia Townsend Warner Reading Week Simon Thomas at Stuck in a Book read her 1967 biography of T.H. White. A “very intriguing portrait emerged” and, he discovered, it shared “the tone” of STW’s fiction, in the sense that “everything is marvellous […] but nothing especially so.” In conclusion, Simon felt there was plenty “to delight [readers who come] because they love Warner.”
* 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:
Spine: University Press Cover Round-Up – Designer, Jordan Wannemacher, with the latest selection of recent University Press cover designs.
Now: 11 essential books to read by Black Canadian authors – “From non-fiction anthologies and memoir to literary fiction, these titles unpack systemic racism and will spur discussion”, says Samantha Edwards.
BBC Culture: The best books of the year so far 2020 – “From a bracing exploration of US racism to a funny dystopia and a bawdy collection of essays, [Lindsay Bakersome presents] great reads, selected by BBC Culture.”
Entertainment Weekly: Jennifer Egan on the 10th anniversary of A Visit From the Goon Squad and how it changed her life – The Pulitzer Prize-winning author reflects on EW’s best book of the decade — a decade later.
Pen America: Alternative Childhoods: A World Voices Festival Reading List From Andrés Barba – Books about childhoods “wholly ‘unprotected’ from the gaze and surveillance of adults”.
Deadline: Charles Webb Dies: Author Of ‘The Graduate’ Novel Was 81 – Bruce Haring reports that the author “Charles Webb, whose first novel The Graduate inspired the 1967 film,” died on 16th June in Eastbourne, UK, of “a blood condition”.
The Province: Marc Côté: A treatise on bookselling in Canada – Marc Côté believes Canada can’t afford to lose any more bookstores.
Crime Reads: How Women Writers Are Transforming Hardboiled Noir – “These authors are using noir to capture a new era’s zeitgeist”, says Shelley Blanton-Stroud.
The Guardian: Tashi: 25 years on and more than 1 million copies sold but still an ‘enchanted’ delight – “Author Anna Fienberg tells the stories behind her bestselling children’s books, from her mother’s working-class childhood to the character’s origin story”.
Brain Pickings: Beloved Writers on Nature as an Antidote to Depression – Maria Popova introduces “several beloved writers from the past quarter millennium who have known the dark patches intimately and have written beautifully about this abiding antidote to the inner gloom”.
BBC News: Queenie author Candice Carty-Williams wins British Book Award – “Candice Carty-Williams has said she feels ‘proud’ but ‘sad’ to become the first black author to win book of the year at the British Book Awards” with her novel Queenie.
Tor.com: Five Books With Fantasy Worlds Inspired by India – A selection of recently published books with fantasy worlds inspired by India and Indian history.
The New Yorker: The Unruly Genius of Joyce Carol Oates – “In an era that fetishizes form, [Leo Robson wonders if] Oates has become America’s preeminent fiction writer by doing everything you’re not supposed to do.”
Slate: What’s Really Orwellian About Our Global Black Lives Matter Moment – “Orwell was haunted by his years as a police officer in colonial Burma.” Priya Satia finds his “later writings shed light on today’s protests.”
Literary Hub: Every Great Writer is a Great Deceiver: Vladimir Nabokov’s Best Writing Advice – Emily Temple shares “a collection of some of [Nabokov’s] best writing advice”.
The Japan Times: Bradford Smith’s years in Japan influenced his writing career – “For author and educator Bradford Smith, years in Japan inspired a lifelong fascination with the country that influenced his writing career”, finds Patrick Parr.
Bookforum: Writing Motherhood – Maggie Doherty with a “list of books on writing, work, and labors of love”.
The Curious Reader: Reading Kafka In A Kafkaesque World – Aashmika A examines the ways the world we’re living in is growing increasingly Kafkaesque.
Five Dials: Editing David Foster Wallace – Colin Harrison on editing David Foster Wallace.
The London Magazine: Interview | Rick Gekoski on Darke Matter, scepticism and reading for pleasure – According to Erik Martiny, “Rick Gekoski awoke one morning from uneasy dreams and inexplicably found himself metamorphosed into a writer of fiction.”
BookTrust: “By saving the whale, we might save ourselves.” – “Chris Vick, author of Carnegie shortlisted Girl. Boy. Sea., talks about writing, working in marine conservation, and how the ocean inspires incredible stories.”
The Paris Review: The Gimmick of the Novel of Ideas – Sianne Ngai finds “the novel’s desire for ‘ideas’ makes it not so much philosophical as dramatic.”
The Boston Musical Intelligencer: African American Voices in Early Boston – Laura Stanfield Prichard discovers the many Black writers who shaped Boston’s literary landscape in its earliest days.
TLS: Emasculated – Luke Brown on the “problem of men writing about sex”.
Vox: How technology literally changes our brains – “Nicholas Carr on deep reading and digital thinking.”
Letterenfonds: Literary highlights from the Dutch East and West Indies – Wilma Scheffers “offers a brief overview of the former Dutch colonies and takes a look at three important classics from the Dutch Antilles, Surinam and Indonesia, respectively.”
Current Affairs: The Collecting of Books – Nathan J. Robinson on his “decade-long inconvenient, shameful habit.”
Five Books: The best books on Rock and Roll – “Journalist and Beatles biographer Craig Brown selects five of the best books on that rock and roll lifestyle.”
Harper’s Bazaar: 16 Thriller Books That’ll Give You Instant Goosebumps – “Since you can’t get your adrenaline rush out there, find it in here on the page”, says Keely Weiss.
Lambda Literary: July’s Most Anticipated LGBTQ Books – Leo Rachman writes: “Many of this month’s titles reckon with our queer history, look towards our queer future, and hopefully provide a pathway to both queer joy and systemic change.”
Guardian Australia: My mother taught me the joy of reading. I remember her through books – Tegan Bennett Daylight’s mother “spent three weeks in hospital near the end, and [she] would squeeze onto the single bed with her and read aloud”.
The Intercept: I Am a Book Critic. Here’s What Is Wrong With “Black Lists” — and What Is Good. – “What Black author wants to have invested her life force into a book, only to discover it has been conscripted into a kind of therapeutic how-to manual every time protests or white guilt break out?” says Rich Benjamin.
Hazlitt: ‘There Are Plenty of Readers For Whom Plot is Not the Be-All and End-All’: An Interview with Eimear McBride – Colin Barrett talks to the author of Strange Hotel about “the tolerance and patience of readers, writing “difficult” books, and the urgency that comes with age.”
The Critic: Myths of the Prophet Max – “Daniel Johnson on the life and work of Max Weber, whose controversial views on democracy still resonate today”.
Forbes: Why A Retired Cincinnati Teacher Started The Book Bus, A Mobile “Bookstore On Wheels” – “Retired teacher Melanie Moore started Cincinnati’s The Book Bus in 2019”, says Rachel Kramer Bussel.
Penguin: Murder and malaise: the most doomed holidays in literature – “If you’re disappointed not to be going away this summer, console yourself with these disastrous trips from fiction”, suggests Rob Crossan. “They’ll make a fortnight on the sofa all the more enticing.”
Book Institute Poland: Bedside table #45. Piotr Siemion: Man is a narrative creature – “The prose writer and translator Piotr Siemion reveals [to readers] what he has on his reading pile”.
Guernica: Garth Greenwell: Incredibly Vulnerable Beings – “Art is about plunging oneself into the abyss”, Garth Greenwell tells Liv Lansdale.
Vintage: 10 epic books to expand your horizons (that you now have time to read) – “You’ve probably been too intimidated by the size of Middlemarch to pick it up yet, but now there’s no better time to dust off all those big books you’ve been meaning to read.”
Literary Hub: The New Yorker Article Heard Round the World – Greg Mitchell revisits “John Hersey’s ground-breaking article, ‘Hiroshima’.
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