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.
English author and academic David Runciman talks to the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and historian, Anne Applebaum, about “her highly personal new book, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, which charts the last twenty years of broken friendships and democratic failure” for the always popular London Review of Books podcast. In this 42-minute episode of Talking Politics, their conversation begins in Poland “with the story of what happened to the high hopes for Polish democracy, including what [had been learned from] the presidential election. But [they also take] in Trump and Brexit, Hungary and Spain. What explains the prevalence of conspiracy theories in contemporary politics? Why are so many conservatives drawn to the politics of despair? Is history really circular? And is democracy doomed?” >> Twilight of Democracy – David Runciman talks to Anne Applebaum >>
On this week’s Prospect’s podcast, author Frances Cha joins the team to discuss life and culture in contemporary Seoul, and how she brought it to life in her new novel, If I Had Your Face. She speaks on a variety of subjects including “writing about the world of K-pop, room salons, and contemporary Seoul”. >> The Prospect Interview #139: South Korea in fiction >>
* Another Milestone Reached *
Several days ago, I discovered another of those colourful, saucer-shaped thingies from WordPress conveying the message: “You’ve received 1,337 follows on Book Jotter.” A big thank-you to every one of you for your continued support.
* 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:
Trees, Woods, Forests! (3): Walks In the Wild – Peter Wohlleben – Peter Wohlleben is Lizzy Siddal’s “favourite German forester” and she found his book “so much more” than a mere “tour guide”. Head over to Lizzy’s Literary Life to find out why she was impressed with “his considered and often impassioned thoughts and arguments”.
Blacktop Wasteland by S. A. Cosby – Chris Wolak says this “gritty, violent, Southern noir mystery novel” is a “fantastic read”, which fairly “crackles with energy”. She “highly” recommends you read it and looks forward to “more from Cosby.”
Seven Stories from the Ocean: Interview with Laura Trethewey – The Sea Library’s Anna Iltnere “wanted to know more about [Laura Trethewey’s] relationship with the sea”. The author of The Imperiled Ocean: Human Stories from a Changing Sea spoke to her on subjects, ranging from living in a boat to “the ongoing race to map the world’s seafloor by 2030”.
The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry: Cameroon – Reading this African poetry collection “has been bringing out the literature student” in Sally Miller of Books by the Window as she “[unpacks] the layers of the poems”. She very much enjoyed the anthology and feels she has also “learned a little about Cameroonian culture”.
900 Miles by E.J. Runyon – Adam from Roof Beam Reader has long been a “big fan” of LGBT+ fiction author E.J. Runyon – a writer with a knack for “[capturing] voice” and getting her “characters’ perspectives right”. There is as much in her new novel “that is sad as […] happy”, he observes, and the story unfolds “in moments, in flares of color and passion.” Much “beauty”, he concludes, is contained between the pages of this “short but thoughtful” book.
* 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:
Rain Taxi: Bleach or Pinot Noir? Susan M. Gaines and Jean Hegland in Conversation – Two writers unexpectedly became roomies during the pandemic lockdown. Here they reflect on their experience in a weeks-long conversation.
The Cut: How to Write When You’re Not Sure About Anything – “I wish I could say this anxiety was all COVID-19 related, but self-doubt is central to my way of being, and my writing is not immune”, says Naima Coster.
Slate: Frog and Toad and Me – “Authors and illustrators reflect on what Arnold Lobel’s friendship-defining series means to them.”
Reuters: In echo of Mao era, China’s schools in book-cleansing drive – “As schools reopened in China after the COVID-19 outbreak, they have thrown themselves into a nationwide exercise to remove books deemed politically incorrect”, says Huizhong Wu.
Book Marks: Art as Pure Villain: On Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea – This month “would have been Booker Prize-winning novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch’s 101st birthday. To mark the occasion, here’s a 1979 review of her most famous work: The Sea, The Sea.”
Penguin: The debate: should you read books in the bath? – “Reading in the tub: the height of literary leisure, or a stressful recipe for soggy pages?” Two Penguin website editors, Alice Vincent and Stephen Carlick, thrash it out.
Books + Publishing: Booksellers establish new literary journal – “In Victoria, Mornington Peninsula booksellers Celeste Deliyiannis and Emily Westmoreland have created a new annual literary journal in response to Covid-19.”
Essence: Here Are The 50 Most Impactful Black Books Of The Last 50 Years – Joi-Marie McKenzie with “50 remarkable books from the last 50 years.”
49th Shelf: Most Anticipated: Our 2020 Fall Nonfiction Preview – Find your next great Canadian read with the assistance of the 49th Shelf Staff – “history, true crime, memoir, nature, music, dance, food, and so much more.”
Wales Arts Review: Rule Breakers | 100 Page Turners of Wales – “Emma Schofield introduces the second [set of] categories for the 100 Page Turners of Wales, Wales Arts Review‘s exploration of the riches of fiction from Wales.”
Vintage: Meet the author: Mark Cocker – “The writer, naturalist and environmental activist behind A Claxton Diary and Crow Country on the “perfection” of Cormac McCarthy, the importance of a wildlife-rich life, and, er, posing nude.”
Evening Standard: The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue: a moving tale of human suffering – “The author of Room has written a tender story of pain and friendship, and nurses coping as best they can during the Spanish ‘flu pandemic, says Susannah Butter”.
BookTrust: “I write about anything and everything, but I always write about neurodiversity”: Elle McNicoll on being a neurodivergent author – “Elle McNicoll, author of A Kind of Spark, is used to people telling her they don’t even know what neurodivergent means – but as a neurodivergent author herself, she understands exactly how important it is for children to see themselves positively represented in stories.”
Metropolis: Your Summer Reading List – “Recommendations from Tokyo’s literary scene”.
New Statesman: Dickens and his demons – Lyndall Gordon on “how the novelist hid his cruel side – infidelity, bullying callousness, malice – in plain sight in his fiction.”
TLS: Master craftsmen – Joe Moran explores the “abiding mystery of why people write”.
Lapham’s Quarterly: The Best Seller Who Hated Best Sellers – Sheila Liming looks at what “Edith Wharton’s library tells us about her reading habits.”
Daily Beast: That Time I Chauffeured Jorge Luis Borges Around Scotland – “Borges was one of the titans of world literature, but to a young American college student he was just a blind old man. As soon as they hit the road, that all changed.”
Dawn: Teaching Pakistani literature to old, white Americans – “What happens when a Pakistani academic in a small American town teaches Pakistani literature to a group of white Americans?”
Grazia: When Mums Go Bad: How Fiction Became Obsessed With The Dark Side Of Motherhood – “Motherhood and ‘mum noir’ is taking over the psychological suspense shelves, but some portrayals have come in for criticism. Author Caroline Corcoran looks into the trend…”
Kyodo News: “Wuhan Diary,” tale of virus lockdown, banned in China amid pressure – A book recounting “life in the central Chinese city of Wuhan while under a strict coronavirus lockdown has been effectively banned in China, its author said in a recent written interview”.
Stylist: UK black-owned independent bookshops to order from online now – “Explore the experiences of black writers and support black-owned bookshops with [Megan Murray’s] guide of those based in the UK and currently taking online orders.”
The Millions: Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2020 Book Preview – The Editor examines the most anticipated titles coming out during the latter half of 2020.
The Paris Review: The Edge of the Map – Colin Dickey discovers monsters have always patrolled the margins of the map. By their very strangeness, they determined the boundaries of the regular world.
Inside Higher Ed: Eyes on November – Scott McLemee looks at forthcoming books focused on the USA presidential campaign.
Epic Reads: 21 Historical Fiction Books to Read When You’re in the Mood for a #Throwback – A list of Team Epic Reads’ favourite “not-quite-contemporary” YA books – often referred to as “throwback fiction”.
Hindustan Times: Award-winning Spanish novelist Juan Marsé dies at age 87 – “One of Spain’s most-respected novelists over the past few decades, Marsé was awarded the 2008 Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world’s top literary award.”
Culture Trip: The 10 Most Beautiful Libraries in America – “The United States is home to thousands of public, private and university-owned libraries”, says Rachel Gould. In this article she “[drills] down 10 of the best examples of great architectural styles, from neoclassical to brutalist.”
The Atlantic: The Literature of the Pandemic is Already Here – “For those engaging in quick-response art, mess and chaos – not polished elegance – are the forms to best mimic a crisis that has no end in sight”, declares Lily Meyer.
The Korea Times: Controversial author stripped of literary prize, his books recalled – Park Ji-won reports on why privacy concerns are the reason publishers are recalling South Korean author Kim Bong-gon’s two books.
Avidly: Me and Mrs Dalloway: On Losing My Mother to COVID-19 – Jennifer Spitzer on losing her mother to Covid-19 and reading Virginia Woolf.
The Irish Times: The Female Eunuch: This book should be taught in every school to every student – Lucy Sweeney Byrne believes “Germaine Greer’s voice reminds [us] things are still not okay”.
Los Angeles Times: She dreamed of a Black-owned bookstore in Inglewood. Now, she’s going to run one – “Asha Grant was always a bookworm”, says Chace Beech. She is now about to open Salt Eaters, a bookstore “where young Black girls, women, femmes and gender-nonconforming people never [again] have to search for stories that represent them”.
Literary Hub: The Tenacious Constancy of The Merchant of Prato – “Charles Nicholl on Iris Origo and her ‘modern classic’”.
BBC News: Coronavirus: Libraries to open with a new approach to book borrowing – “Libraries across Northern Ireland are preparing to reopen as part of a pilot scheme launched by Libraries NI”, says Emily McGarvey.
Harper’s Magazine: Faintly Risible, Obscurely Resonant – Matthew Bevis on Wordsworth at 250.
The Ringer: ‘Clueless’ Is Still the Best Jane Austen Adaptation – “Twenty-five years later, the classic Amy Heckerling teen rom-com is also the cleverest remake in a very crowded field”, says Jane Hu.
Scroll.in: By ignoring health of jailed poet Varavara Rao, state is imposing capital punishment without trial – Sruthisagar Yamunan finds the “judiciary’s failure to protect his rights to medical treatment […] disturbing.”
The Paris Review: The Flatterer and the Chatterer – The ‘Theophrastan character’ “was what character meant in literature” for many centuries, finds Marjorie Garber.
Men’s Health: Sex, Hugs & ‘Throbbing Boners’: Inside a Bromance Book Club – “What happens when you create a real-life rah-rah brotherhood of men fully committed to reading lusty fiction—and then actually start talking about it?” asks Jason Rogers.
African Arguments: “Who said oppressive gatekeepers can’t come from within?” 2020 AKO Caine Prize nominees (Part II) – In the second of his three-part interview, Ayodeji Rotinwa “talked to the shortlisted writers about the politics of prizes and reading.”
Penguin: ‘I refuse to read a book with an ugly cover’: a glimpse at the compulsive world of book collecting– “Joel Golby speaks with a book collecting expert about his growing habit with seeking out obscure and beautiful covers. What happens when a preference threatens to turn into an obsession?”
Esquire: When I Left My Faith, I Went to Comic Con – “Novelist Raven Leilani reflects on accidentally finding everything she was looking for on an impromptu trip to the beloved convention.”
Windsor Star: Windsor Public Library adopts ‘anti-racism action plan’ – Windsor’s public library in Ontario “has officially adopted an ‘anti-racism’ plan, with stated goals of promoting ‘knowledge over ignorance,’ and staff training to include a book on ‘white fragility’.”
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