An end of week recap
I hope you are having a good weekend. I am likely to spend a fair slice of mine breaking into a fresh novel and gazing through the window at the sea while I shelter from the rain.
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.
The Audible adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s classic DC comic series, The Sandman, which commenced on 15th July, features an impressive cast, including amongst its ensemble James McAvoy as Lord Morpheus, Riz Ahmed, Miriam Margolyes, Kat Dennings and Taron Egerton plus an original musical score by British Academy Award winner James Hannigan. The opening episode adapts the first three volumes, namely Preludes And Nocturnes, The Doll’s House and Dream Country. The twisting story with numerous threads unfolds over 20 episodes. >> The Sandman – Listen Now >>
* 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:
Hope and Resistance: A Door Between Us by Ehsaneh Sadr | Coming September 1, 2020 – Sadr’s story “is a poignant yet heartwarming reflection on the importance of breaking down barriers in an increasingly polarized, politicized world”, says Dr. Neriman Kuyucu at Reading Under the Olive Tree of this forthcoming Iranian novel. Indeed, she believes it “will remain relevant and inspiring for many decades to come.”
‘A Glastonbury Romance’ by John Cowper Powys – Jonathan at Intermittencies of the Mind found it “difficult to leave […] behind Cowper Powys’s 1932 “epic” after spending “just over a month” in his mystical “world”. “There is something strangely attractive about his writing”, says Jonathan, and although considered “unfashionable”, his novel is eminently “readable”.
Helen Garner, Yellow notebook: Diaries, Volume 1, 1978-1987 – “The yellow notebook has a lot to offer Garner lovers”, says Sue T at Whispering Gums of the first volume of diaries from one of Australia’s most respected authors. “Observations from life” and “reflections on her own writing” are among its “wide-ranging” subject matter – all delivered in “glorious sentence after glorious sentence.” Sue hopes you will “read the book yourself.”
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – “There are so many good stories, and so many interesting people, in this novel”, says Deb Baker at Bookconscious. Tracing three hundred years in Ghanaa, it is a “hopeful” read with “much love” despite the “heartbreak” as characters are “beaten down by systems they cannot overcome” – but ultimately, there is a “sense of transcendence”.
* 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 Christian Times Monitor: His name was chosen to bring good fortune. So far, it isn’t working. –Terry Hong discovers “Lysley Tenorio’s novel The Son of Good Fortune explores the sorely tested bonds of a Filipino mother and her son living in the shadows in America.”
Literary Hub: Reading Every Unread Book on My Bookshelf During the Pandemic – “Angelica Baker on building a home, one book at a time”.
Time: Best-Selling Novelist David Mitchell Talks About Visiting the 1960s Rock Music Scene in New Novel Utopia Avenue – Dan Stewart profiles the English novelist and screenwriter, David Mitchell.
Apollo: Public libraries have been vital in times of crisis – from conflict to Covid-19 – Alistair Black discusses the role of libraries in times of national crisis.
The Guardian: I am not reading. I am not writing. This is not normal – “Novelist Amy Sackville reflects on how what sounded like a perfect occasion for creative writing has filled instead with vacancy”.
The Age: CBD Melbourne: A very Canberra literary war – “A detente has occurred across the fraught capital territory literary landscape, which fractured this week when the Canberra Writers Festival was attacked over its lack of diversity.”
Pushkin Press: An Interview with Dorthe Nors – “Dorthe Nors is one of the brightest names in Danish literary fiction.” In April, she spoke to Laura Macaulay “about living alone in isolation, the process of writing the human psyche, and what it’s like to publish to international success.”
Wales Arts Review: Low | Day Smith Introduces Border Country – “In this first of a new set of articles, Wales Arts Review publishes introductory essays on the titles in the Library of Wales series of books, beginning at the beginning, with the first to be published, Raymond Williams’ Border Country.”
New Statesman: Inside the feminist publisher that upended the literary world – The story of Virago: “How a generation of women rewrote the rules of publishing in the 1970s.”
National Post: Dark, difficult and epic: A summer reading list for the age of quarantine and COVID-19 – Calum Marsh presents a different kind of summer reading list: arduous epics and bleak masterpieces, intellectual classics and revolutionary texts.
Prospect: Sarah Moss’s Summerwater subverts expectations – “Summerwater re-examines some of the diverse themes of Moss’s other novels in just over 200 pages”, finds Catherine Taylor.
Full Stop: Cat in the Agrahāram and Other Stories – Dilip Kumar – Bailey Trela on a recently published collection of stories from the celebrated author Dilip Kumar.
JSTOR Daily: The First Black-Owned Bookstore and the Fight for Freedom – “Black abolitionist David Ruggles opened the first [US] Black-owned bookstore in 1834, pointing the way to freedom—in more ways than one”, finds Ashawnta Jackson.
Hazlitt: ‘The Promises of Pleasure, Freedom, Excitement, Opportunity, and Encounter’: An Interview with Leslie Kern – “The author of Feminist City on intersectional urban planning, care work, and feminist geography.”
Brittle Paper: Saara El-Arifi’s Signs 2 Six-Figure Deals for Her Debut Novel The Final Strife – Sudanese-Arab-Ghanaian-British author Saara El-Arifi signed two big publishing deals for her “African-inspired epic fantasy trilogy”, The Final Strife.
CrimeReads: A Brief History of Queer Women Detectives in Crime Fiction – “The first well-drawn, fully-developed queer women characters I ever encountered were in the pages of crime fiction”, writes Viva Minotaur.
The Irish Times: The power of literature in a time of plague – “Shelley, Edgeworth and poems on the news show value of reading amid contagion fears”, says Claire Connolly.
Popula: Writing Africa’s Future in New Characters – Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún introduces us to the Ńdébé Script, a modern writing system for the Ìgbò language.
Yale Climate Connection: 12 more books for summer reading lists – “In this – spoiler alert, understatement coming – unusual summer, here are a dozen books to inspire critical thinking about ourselves, our country, and the state of our home planet”, says Michael Svoboda, Ph.D.
The New Yorker: Living Through Turbulent Times with Jane Austen – “How six unexpectedly far-ranging novels carried [Rachel Cohen] through eight years, two births, one death, and a changing world.”
The Paris Review: Re-Covered: The Orlando Trilogy – In her monthly column, Re-Covered, Lucy Scholes exhumes “British novelist Isabel Colegate’s masterwork”, The Orlando Trilogy.
Redbrick: Bookstore’s Struggle to Survive – “Emma Curzon examines the impact of COVID-19 on independent bookstore’s and delves into the creative ways they have been surviving”.
Guardian Australia: What if the wife of a colonial monster had left behind brutally frank secret memoirs? – “In writing Elizabeth Macarthur’s imagined tell-all, [Kate Grenville] wanted to take the image of the devout, demure, compliant and uncomplaining woman and blast it open”.
The Hedgehog Review: Tell Me About Your Mother or: You Should Come Twice a Week – “The ideal mother, as countless novelists have known, is a dead one”, says Claire Jarvis.
Literary Review of Canada: Labyrinth – Sheree Fitch, the author of You Won’t Always Be This Sad, writes about the loss of her son and the friend who placed a journal and a pen in her hand.
The Bookseller: Why the survival of bookshops must matter to us all – “Bookshops have been a bellwether measure during this crisis”, says Meryl Halls. “We need to ensure high street bookselling survives this period renewed and not mortally wounded.”
WIRED: WIRED’s Ultimate Summer Reading List – “Summer is as much a season as a mindset—a sunny thing to escape to. Here are some weird, wild books to help get you there.”
Tin House: Quedarse: A Writer in Mexico During COVID Gets Stuck in Her Own Novel – In Mexico to promote Costalegre, Courtney Maum gets stuck in her own novel during the pandemic.
Scroll.in: How the pandemic is depriving lovers of Urdu literature of their environment for enjoyment – “Discussions and debates, critiques and readings, held at haunts of Urdu books and writing around the country have been interrupted rudely”, says Mahtab Alam.
Commonweal: What Might Have Been – “Often, we ask ourselves not just who we are, but who we might have been.” Morten Høi Jensen thinks “fiction can help us explore answers to that question.”
The Guardian: Mervyn Peake ‘visual archive’ acquired by British Library – “Library says illustrations, beginning when he was seven and continuing through his life as a novelist and illustrator, show he was one of the great ‘writer-artists’”.
The Mit Press Reader: What the National Review Gets Wrong About Deconstruction – “A misguided article in the conservative magazine blames the concept for the powerful cultural transformations we’re seeing today. That’s about all it gets right”, says David J. Gunkel.
Electric Literature: Crime Fiction Is Complicit in Police Violence—But It’s Not Too Late to Change – “Novels have been selling us the myth that crimes are mysteries and cops are here to protect us”, according to Aya de León.
Book Marks: A 1920 Review of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise – This Side of Paradise is a century old this year. “To mark this literary centennial, here’s one of the earliest reviews of the novel, published in the New York Times”.
The Sydney Morning Herald: Acclaimed novelist Elizabeth Harrower dies aged 92 – “It was more than 40 years after she wrote it that Elizabeth Harrower, who died last week at the age of 92, allowed her fifth and final novel to be published”, says Jason Steger.
Publishers Weekly: Book Launches Get More Creative – According to Ed Nawotka: “Authors, shut out of holding in-person events at bookstores, are getting more creative and collaborative when it comes to promoting their books.”
AV Club: 7 books from the first half of 2020 that more people should read – Laura Adamczyk , Samantha Nelson , Rien Fertel and Taylor Moore with a selection of books published in the first half of 2020 that they think deserve a little more attention.
The Ringer: Difficult Man: ‘Kitchen Confidential’ and the Early Days of Anthony Bourdain’s Legend – “Bourdain’s incendiary industry tell-all was at once a colossal act of mythmaking and one of self-flagellation. Twenty years after its publication, and more than two years after his death, it feels just as urgent today as it did upon its release”, says Elizabeth Nelson.
NPR: Thomas Chatterton Williams On Debate, Criticism And The Letter In ‘Harper’s Magazine’ – Thomas Chatterton Williams speaks to Christianna Silva about the controversial letter published by Harper’s Magazine on the importance of open debate.
Tablet: (Not Much) Sex in the City – Dara Horn writes about: “Virginity and free love in the immigrant world of tenements, in Miriam Karpilove’s newly translated, unselfconsciously Jewish, and hugely popular Yiddish novel Diary of a Lonely Girl”.
The Chronicle of Higher Education: When Plague Is Not a Metaphor – Hunter Gardner was “supposed to be the expert. But when Covid-19 hit, [he] didn’t know what to say.”
West Side Rag: The Strand Opens Its Upper West Side Store; The Owner Explains What Books People are Seeking Out Today – Angela Barbuti reports: “The Strand begins a new chapter […] as the literary landmark opens the door to its second home.”
The Smart Set: The Women of the Gulag – Monika Zgustova shares stories from the USSR’s prison labour camps in her recent book, Dressed for a Dance in the Snow.
The Guardian: Shifting gears: how does a literary festival become a drive-in event? – “Rethought for the pandemic, this year’s Appledore book festival in Devon will play to audiences in cars, who can flash their lights and listen via radio”.
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
Thanks for all the links and recommendations! I will definitely check out the Audible adaptation of The Sandman. Fingers crossed the rain will soon go away – here in London we have 25 degrees and sunshine.
Ooh, you lucky thing. We can’t see a sausage here for low cloud and incessant drizzle! ☂🌧
Great round up and wonderful news about the Peake archive. And I’m so tempted to launch myself into some John Cowper Powys!
Many thanks, Kaggsy. 😊
I have a great John Cowper Powys claim to fame: I once spent the night in the house he occupied in Hillsdale N.Y. (But I have never read his work – which is not any claim to fame or anything else except ignorance.)
LOL! I’ve read one short work, which was excellent – so I *would* like to read more!
I like the article on deconstruction. The controversy reminds me a bit of how my friends in science reacted in the 1990s when the Heisenberg uncertainty principle was used as a metaphor for too many things.
I thought that one interesting, too.
Thanks as always Paula , I really enjoyed the David Mitchell piece!
So glad you’re finding it of interest, Cathy. 😀
“…gazing through the window at the sea while I shelter from the rain” (Ah! summer in Wales) sounds very appealing to me, facing a Sunday where the temperature is said to reach 96 f (36 c) by early afternoon.
As always Paula – thank you for doing the work that lazy, idle good-for-nothings like me just don’t do! I hope it doesn’t feel like work to you and – If it does – then feel free to take a break! You. Are. Amazing.
That’s extremely kind of you, Josie. No, it certainly doesn’t feel like work – link truffling is great fun! 🤗
Incidentally, I certainly wouldn’t describe you as a “lazy, idle good-for-nothing” – you produce some fabulous pieces for your blog, which obviously involve a fair bit of research. You’re rather amazing yourself!
So many excellent articles here, including a few good ones from Australia.
I have flagged to read a few including the Virago one, the various pandemic ones, the Jane Austen one of course.
I was intrigued by the Canberra Writers Festival article, given I live here and am a member of the “opposing” writers centre, because I’d heard nothing of this (which has more to say about the disconnectedness of my life at present than the issue itself!) We literary readers in Canberra are always disappointed in the Festival because its greater focus tends to be political resulting in literary culture getting short shrift. Nonetheless, in recent years they have had some good Indigenous Australian representation. I have barely looked at this year’s program, not being sure how much I could attend, so hadn’t noticed this year’s diversity levels.
Anyhow, thanks as always – and many thanks, of course, for choosing one of my posts.
Hope all is continuing well for you both.
It’s lovely to ‘see’ you, Sue. I’m glad you found The Age article of interest. All is well in a surprisingly sunny North Wales, thank you. I hope you are muddling through this difficult time. Many virtual hugs and best wishes. 🤗
I am muddling through Paula – but my blog reading, indeed all my reading, is very sporadic. I tend to only manage to read books for about 30 minutes a day, maybe a bit more on the weekends. There’s so much to do re my parents’ apartment, my Mum’s estate, visiting my Dad in his new aged care place, that I just don’t have much me-time. But, this too shall pass … and my keel will even again I know.
I love that you have a surprisingly sunny time!
Another great selection Paula. Thank you. I hope to listen to the Gaiman podcast later. The Commonweal article is an interesting read and I’m tempted by the Andrew Miller book now. It’s raining here too and I hope it brightens up for us all during the week.
The sun is shining here today. Hooray! 😎
So glad you found some links of interest. I hope you enjoy The Sandman. Thank you, as ever, for your continued support, Anne.
A really interesting review of the F.Scott Fitzgerald text- particularly the stress on alcohol consumption (given the role of drinking in the real life of the author). I wonder if 2020 is witnessing an increase in drinking too much- with people escaping from reality in the old-fashioned way?
Hey, John! Good to ‘see’ you. Hope life is treating you well. I think you are probably right about increased alcohol consumption over these last few months – our Tesco delivery chap confirms as much. A heady cocktail of stress, fear and sheer frustration won’t have helped, I’m sure.
I adore the Sandman series, really looking forward to the audio version – although intrigued on how it’ll work, adapting a *graphic* novel!
I would love to know what you make of it.
I’ve added the Sadr book to my wishlist, and been reminded that I have had A Glastonbury Romance on my bookshelf for 25 years, unread. For shame!
You’re not alone, Jan. There are plenty of books like that on my shelves! 😏
So much to choose from! RIP Elizabeth Harrower, great writer and hopefully not better known for her reclusive Greta Garbo-style personality. Also, thank you for the link to the enjoyable Dorthe Nors interview, not a writer I knew and so different from my world 🙂
I must admit, I’m always drawn to Nordic writers. I find everything about that part of the world intensely fascinating. I put it down to being a teenage ABBA fan! 😉
“You are the dancing queen…”
Hmm, I’m not so sure about that, Gretchen. ‘Two left feet’ is an expression that immediately springs to mind! 😂
So many interesting articles to read this weekend. I’m intrigued by the new series around the Library of wales books, they may give me the nudge I need to read some of my collection.
By the way, your link doesn’t work – I think this is the one you need https://www.walesartsreview.org/low-dai-smith-introduces-border-country/
Drat! Thank you so much, Karen – that one slipped through the net! 😮
A great list of articles and reviews as usual. The one that caught my eye is “Crime Fiction Is Complicit in Police Violence—But It’s Not Too Late to Change” – this is so eye-opening, especially in the present climate and it is so true that crime fiction still follows formulaic, Conan Doyle/Agatha Christie-inspired rules of how to present the police and victims – things that long changed and contemporary fiction (not historic, obviously) should reflect the modern world.
I’m glad you found it of interest, Diana. Many thanks for your kind comments.
Ahhh, were you a Sandman fan in the graphic novels too, or have you just recently taken up the habit?
I got into it a little and never really caught hold of the story, but it’s a phenomenon I’ve always felt that I should have been more interested in. So many elements of it do appeal to me!
A fairly recent habit, Marcie, though I’ve always been a huge admirer of Spiegelman’s Maus.