An end of week recap
As Wales begins to emerge, sloth-like, from tough lockdown conditions, other parts of the UK are seeing a hotchpotch of local quarantine regulations reimposed after experiencing alarming spikes in COVID-19 cases.
Like a couple of trepidatious puffins snuggled safely in our burrow, we shuffle gingerly from our seaside hideaway only occasionally – usually to exercise the dogs – while all the time wondering when, if ever, a successful vaccine will be found.
Little has changed in our lives since we began isolating in March. Daily routines have been established, sporadically broken by the odd Zoom get-together or visit to see our mothers from a ‘safe’ distance. D, of course, is sheltering until 16th August, after which, we are assured, she can return to whatever the ‘new normal’ may be at that point. One cannot help but wonder how much touching of wood and crossing of fingers went on when this announcement was made.
Nevertheless, we have much for which to be thankful, not least D’s continuing good health, splendid sea views, a feast of online cultural events and, of course, books!
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.
As regular readers will know, I’m a huge fan of the Finnish writer and artist Tove Jansson (1914-2001) and therefore wildly excited to report her birthday this year will be celebrated across the globe through a set of interesting and inspiring live stream sessions. According to the Moomin website, the “event will be streamed on the official Moomin Facebook channel” (the link is due to be announced any day now) and will be hosted by Caitlin Allen of Riot Communications – “a long-time Tove Jansson fan” who has also worked promoting her “life’s work in the UK for the past 4 years.” Check out the programme of events and join the party on Sunday 9th August. >> Tove Jansson’s birthday celebrations are to be live streamed to your home for the very first time on 9th of August >>
* 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:
An Emotional Journey of Survival in Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy – McConaghy’s debut novel is an “all consuming […] story of loss and hope” says Jennifer Blankfein of Book Nation by Jen. Read her fascinating question and answer session with the author of this “love letter to nature.”
Providence – Jeanne Griggs of Necromancy Never Pays can’t help but care about the characters in Max Barry’s latest science fiction story of a war with “hostile aliens”. She found the plot became steadily “more exciting” as she read and completed the 352-page novel in only “one day”.
The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson (1951) – Claire McAlpine of Word by Word read Carson’s “beautifully told narrative account of three creatures that live within the ecosystem of the sea” while “on holiday sitting next to a lake”. Born “of a great passion and love of the sea”, she discovered this “thrilling and insightful [non-fiction] pageturner” about the natural world presaged “climate change”.
* 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:
Electric Literature: How Fantasy Literature Helped Create the 21st Century – “Ann and Jeff VanderMeer track modern fantasy from post-war to pre-apocalypse”.
The Wall Street Journal: For Eons, Iceland Has Endured Calamity Through Books – “The island’s famed sagas were written out as early as the 12th century, and it now publishes the most books per capita of any nation”, finds A. Kendra Greene.
Brain Pickings: D.H. Lawrence on Trees, Solitude, and How We Root Ourselves When Relationships Collapse – “One must possess oneself and be alone in possession of oneself.”
Knowledge Quest: Using #Bookstagram to Enhance the Library – Karin Greenberg with tips on following and creating your own Bookstagram account.
The Cut: A New Magazine? In This Economy? – Emilia Petrarca is surprised and encouraged by the launch of Inque, “a large-format title dedicated to ‘commissioning and publishing diverse global writing next to extraordinary art, design and photography,’ but with a radical business plan.”
Al-Fanar Media: Black Saudi Author Focuses on Neglected History of African Migration and Slavery – M. Lynx Qualey on the cult Saudi novel Maymouna, written by Mahmoud Trawri and published in 2001.
Lapham’s Quarterly: The Power of Flawed Lists – Elizabeth Della Zazzera looks at how “The Bookman invented the best seller.”
Prospect: Vivian Gornick unlocks the pleasures of re-reading – “In the legendary critic’s rendering, re-reading isn’t just a portal to consolidation but exposes the emotional distortions that accrue through repetition”, writes Alice Blackhurst.
CBC: What reading and storytelling means to Maria Campbell – The celebrated Métis elder and author on the important role books and storytelling played in her life.
Virago News: London in Lockdown by Linda Grant – “With restrictions beginning to ease author Linda Grant [author of the 2019 novel A Stranger City] shares what she has discovered about herself, her neighbours and her city during lockdown.”
Book Marks: A Children’s Fable for Adults: Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince – “This week marks the 76th anniversary of the disappearance of French writer, journalist, and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.” BM “[takes] a look back at some of the earliest reviews of Katherine Woods’ 1943 English language translation of this beloved and deceptively profound novella.”
The Critic: How I discovered secondhand books – “A home with books is a launching pad for a life well lived, says Daniel Johnson”.
The First News: New Netflix Original film sees a powerhouse line up of writers including Nobel prize winner Olga Tokarczuk – Erotica 2022, the first Polish film to be commissioned as a new Netflix original, “sees a powerhouse line up of writers including Nobel prize winner Olga Tokarczuk”.
The New York Review of Books: The Fiction of Winners & Losers – “All of narrative fiction […] can be sorted into four grand categories”, says Tim Parks.
The Times: Booker Prize 2020 longlist: where are the new male hotshot novelists? – “As the longlist for the literary prize comes out, James Marriott reports on the strange absence of young men writing breakthrough novels”.
BBC History: The Brontës: the unfortunate and unlikely tale of the world’s “greatest literary sisters” – Mel Sherwood recounts the story of the Brontë sisters.
Scroll.in: A former bookseller explains why bookshops will find the post-pandemic period especially difficult – “Ajit Vikram Singh, who owned and ran Delhi’s iconic Fact and Fiction bookshop, on the future of brick-and-mortar bookselling.”
Penguin: How my cancer diagnosis turned reading from a habit into a compulsion – “Confronted with news of a life-altering illness before she was 30, Alice Purkiss feared she’d run out of time to finish all the books she wanted to read. Here she shares what she learned about the power of reading on her road to recovery.”
Bomb: Cultural Hierarchies: Kate Milliken Interviewed by Lydia Kiesling – “On writing about California in the 1990s, embodying our experiences, and launching a novel during a pandemic.”
Literary Review of Canada: North and South: Cuba’s Orwellian mystery – The subtitle of Frédérick Lavoie’s personal account of contemporary Cuba at a pivotal point in its history is How ‘1984’ Came to Be Published in Castro’s Twilight. It is reviewed here by Amanda Perry.
Zora: ‘I Wasn’t Taught Certain Things About My Ancestors’ – Morgan Jerkins in conversation with novelist Kaitlyn Greenidge.
Bookforum: Comedy of Heirs – Eileen Myles catches “a glimpse of heaven in the confines of Tristram Shandy”.
The Guardian: Authors condemn Saudi Arabia’s bid to host World Science Fiction Convention – “More than 80 writers sign an open letter protesting against Jeddah’s plan for the 2022 Worldcon, saying it is antithetical to everything SFF stands for”, finds Alison Flood.
Romania-Insider: Romanian online bookstore sees increase in orders during social distancing, summer holiday periods – “Online bookstore Libris.ro has seen a 27% [year-on-year] increase in the number of books ordered […], which coincided with the social distancing requirements and the summer holidays.”
Open Culture: 29 Free Short Stories from Some of Today’s Most Acclaimed Writers: Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell & More – The Decameron Project provides free short stories from popular writers such as Tommy Orange, Margaret Atwood and Victor LaValle.
Autostraddle: 8 Great Queer Scandinavian Books, from Tender Novels to Supernatural Horror– Casey Stepaniuk with a selection of her favourite queer Scandinavian books.
Somerset County Gazette: William Wordsworth’s former Somerset home Alfoxton Park sold to Buddhist charity – The former “Somerset home of poet William Wordsworth has been sold for around £2,000,000 – to a Buddhist charity”, finds Paul Jones.
The Paris Review: Cooking with D. H. Lawrence – Valerie Stivers makes bread, pork chops and a simple summer pie as a tribute to literature’s most notorious outcast.
Books + Publishing: New project to digitise, lend and sell out-of-print Australian titles – “The Australian Society of Authors […] is working with the University of Melbourne and Australian public libraries on a pilot project ‘to breathe new life into important out-of-print Australian books”.
The New Yorker: An Elegy for the Landline in Literature – Sophie Haigney mourns “a device that gave fiction surprise, suspense and uncertainty.”
Faber: Nicola Upson remembers P. D. James – “As part of [Faber’s] celebrations for the centenary of P. D. James’ birth [on 3rd of August], author of the Josephine Tey novels Nicola Upson shares her memories of the crime writing icon.”
Inside Philanthropy: How an Influential Nonprofit Publisher Survived a Pandemic and Informed a Social Movement – “Diane Wachtell and André Shiffrin, the longtime publishers of Pantheon Books at Random House, founded the New Press in 1990 as a nonprofit publishing house operating in the public interest”, finds Mike Scutari.
France 24: Book that exposed French author to be made into film – “A bestselling book that exposed the acclaimed French writer Gabriel Matzneff as a paedophile is to be adapted for the big screen”.
Columbia Journalism Review: Easy as pie? Not quite. – Merrill Perlman on a literary etymology of ‘cake’.
Public Books: A Tale of Two Valleys – Adam Fales looks at the literature of Silicon Valley.
The Bookseller: Sunak’s online sales tax has ‘immediate appeal’, says Halls – Ruth Comerford reveals Britain’s chancellor is considering an online sales tax to protect high street shops from competition from internet retailers.
Quill & Quire: Inhabit Media to open a new bookstore in Toronto – The Inuit-owned publishing and media company Inhabit Media is to open Inhabit Books in 2021.
The Conversation: Many writers say they can actually hear the voices of their characters – here’s why – John Foxwell looks at how writers hear their characters in their heads.
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