An end of week recap
After a two-week hiatus due to the unfortunate demise of my PC – resulting in the loss of much irreplaceable data (for which I was entirely at fault for failing to back-up my work on a regular basis) – I return with something of a whopperlog, filled with all the usual literary revelations and bookish bumf, but more so.
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.
A little different this week – rather than highlighting a specific podcast, I share with you an article from The Guardian in which a selection of “bizarre and brilliant” broadcasts “from the truth about McDonald’s fries to Ed Miliband’s badger fears” are put in the spotlight. While not all book-related, these programmes are immensely entertaining. I hope you agree. >> Facts, entertainment: 16 fascinating things we’ve learned from podcasts >>
In episode five of Read Smart, a monthly podcast from the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, Razia Iqbal catches up with 2019 winner Hallie Rubenhold and 2019 chair of judges Stig Abell. She asks them to cast their minds back to the winner ceremony, what they’ve been doing during lockdown and how the pandemic has impacted their work – they also explore the documentation of epidemics and pandemics throughout history and how art in the future may respond to this period. >> Episode 5: Winning and Writing History >>
* Wales Book of the Year 2020 *
Niall Griffiths is the overall winner of the 2020 Wales Book of the Year Award with his novel, Broken Ghost. >> WALES BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD 2020: The Winners >>
* Lit Crit Blogflash *
I am 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 is difficult to limit the list to only these few – all of them published over the last week or two:
Miss Benson’s Beetle – Rachel Joyce (2020) – “Women are at the heart of this of this wonderful story”, says Ali Hope of Heavenali. The author, she finds, “has a real understanding of small, sad lives” and “portrays […] disappointments […] in a way that is always relatable.” The book is “deeply poignant” and “beautifully written”.
“Killing Me Softly” (Roberta Flack) – Over at Madame Bibi Lophile Recommends, Madame B says she fairly “whizzed through” Oyinkan Braithwaite’s 2017 “tale of a murderous sibling”, My Sister the Serial Killer. She admired the novel’s “dry humour and lack of preachiness” and declares it an “impressive debut.”
Atlantic Books Today No. 91 – Naomi MacKinnon of Consumed by Ink loves “reading about books” almost “as much as reading books” and was therefore impressed by the “fine articles” and reviews contained within the “Canadian east coast publication about books and authors”, Atlantic Books Today.
Summerwater by Sarah Moss: The longest day – Susan Osborne at A life in books has been a fan of Sarah Moss “for quite some time”, and was delighted to discover this “elegantly slim novella”, which takes place in “a single drenching day,” is “sharply observed and delivered with characteristic insight”. She is already looking forward to the author’s next 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:
Publishers Weekly: In the Study, with a Typewriter: 100 Years of Agatha Christie Novels – Liz Scheier examines the legacy of Agatha Christie.
Observer: Interview DBC Pierre: ‘You can be shut down from life because of one mistake’ – “The hellraiser turned Booker prize winner on the infantilising nature of the internet, his favourite reading choices and why second chances are so important”.
Fine Books & Collections: Discover the UK’s Historic Books – Alex Johnson reports on “a new [online] project encouraging readers to get to know some of the book treasures in England’s libraries in East Anglia”.
The Atlantic: The Best American Novelist Whose Name You May Not Know – “When her first novels were published, in the mid-1970s, Gayl Jones’s talent was hailed by writers from James Baldwin to John Updike”, says Calvin Baker. Then, apparently, “she disappeared.”
CrimeReads: Weird Women: The Forgotten Female Horror Writers of the 19th Century and Beyond – Women were at the cutting edge of strange and supernatural writing long before Lovecraft came on the scene.
Eurozine: Shards of truth – “Svetlana Alexievich talks about the legacies of the Soviet past in Belarus; about literary freedom and the role of culture; and why, in her personal relationships, love prevails over the political.”
The Nation: To Fascinate and Unnerve – Andrew Marzoni on “the philosophical leftovers of Gilles Deleuze”.
The Nation: For Ottessa Moshfegh, Novel Writing Is a Spiritual Experience – Rosemarie Ho “talked to the writer about how she composes her books and how she gets into the minds of her characters.”
ABC News: Mercedes Barcha, widow of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, dies at 87 – “Mercedes Barcha, who was credited by late husband and Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez with making it possible for him to write his masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude, has died at the age of 87”.
TIME: We’re Still Living in the World That Inspired Animal Farm—75 Years Later – Decades after the publication of George Orwell’s “seminal work of anti-Stalinist satire”, have we let down our guard and grown “bored with the lessons of the past”? asks Téa Obreht.
Guernica: Diane Cook: “Our humanity is what makes us so particularly wild.” – “The author reflects on writing the physical world into fiction, what makes someone a ‘bad mom,’ and what a wilderness community has in common with The Office.”
BBC News: Middlemarch and other works by women reissued under their real names – “Novels written by women using male pen names have been reissued using the authors’ actual names.”
Politics Home: Wood that inspired Roald Dahl will be destroyed by HS2 this autumn – The Woodland Trust has revealed: “Nearly half of the wood said to have inspired Roald Dahl to write Fantastic Mr Fox will be destroyed for HS2 this autumn.”
Smithsonian Magazine: The Inside Story of the 25-Year, $8 Million Heist From the Carnegie Library – Travis McDade discovers “precious maps, books and artworks vanished from the Pittsburgh archive over the course of 25 years”.
Vintage: An extract from Joe Sacco’s graphic novel ‘Paying the Land’ – “Journalist and cartoonist Joe Sacco’s new graphic novel reports from the frontlines of the Canadian Northwest Territories on how Canada’s colonial legacy – from Residential Schools designed to destroy Indigenous cultures, to exploitative resource extraction – continues to affect the people of the Dene Nation.”
Book Riot: 20 Must-Read Books Set in Spain by Spanish Authors – Leah Rachel von Essen shares some of the books she enjoyed reading in Spain with “a glass of wine”.
The Creative Independent: On writing the thing no one else can write – Writer Blake Butler on crafting sentences, not wanting to please himself, the explosion of revision, why language is like witchcraft, and how consumerism kills art.
Russia Beyond: What makes the Silver Age of Russian poetry so important – “You won’t find another period in Russian literature with such a concentration of talented poets and their brilliant use of the Russian language. Who were these literary geniuses of the early 20th century, and what did they write about?” wonders Alexandra Guzeva.
The Critic: The death of Theatre Criticism – “The great critics always began before they were forty. Who are their equivalents today?” asks David Herman.
Literary Hub: Reading the First Drafts of Anna Karenina – “Bob Blaisdell on Tolstoy’s creation and Pushkin’s influence”.
Entertainment Weekly: Six of the year’s buzziest authors discuss bringing their books into the world during cultural upheaval – EW assembled a literary panel featuring Emily M. Danforth, Robert Jones, Jr., Charlotte McConaghy, Tiffany McDaniel, Nadia Owusu and Sara Seager.
The New York Times Magazine: How We Retain the Memory of Japan’s Atomic Bombings: Books – “Literature is a refuge we turn to when we are forced to confront contradictions that lie beyond reason, writes the Japanese novelist Yoko Ogawa.”
The Washington Post: In turbulent times, culling my book collection gave me the illusion of control. Then the dilemmas began multiplying. – Michael Dirda has, over the past two months, “been sorting and culling the vast number of books [he had] accumulated in a lifetime of reading and collecting.”
AP News: Sons use e-books to help virus-stricken dad, other patients – “Geoff Woolf gave his sons a love for literature. When he got sick with COVID-19, they turned to books to help him — and others”, writes Jill Lawless.
Ploughshares: “Racism makes it difficult to love yourself”: An Interview with Matthew Salesses – JA Tyler speaks to the author of Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear.
Moomin: “I suppose I prefer it when a storm is raging” – The interesting role storms played in Tove Jansson’s life and literature – Why did Tove Jansson love storms so much? Why did she include so many storms in her Moomin books? What eventually made her move away from the sea and its storms?
The Week: How book publishing has filled the coronavirus entertainment void – Culture critic Jeva Lange finds that “with movies and new television on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, books have remained one of the few forms of entertainment able to proceed relatively unaffected”.
The New Yorker: Has Self-Awareness Gone Too Far in Fiction? – Katy Waldman finds that increasingly, “characters seem to be rewarded for the moral work of feeling bad.”
Reedsy Discovery: Guide to African American Literature: 30 Must-Read Books from the Past Century – Dive into African American literature with these 30 essential works, from classic novels to contemporary collections.
Shondaland: 10 Books Set to Become the New Feminist Classics – “These reads shed light on where modern feminism stands now — and where trouble in its ranks still remains”, says Lily Herman.
The New York Times: A Guide to Nordic Noir – Tina Jordan and Marilyn Stasio recommend “something cold and dark [to read] on a hot summer day”.
The Guardian: Before Brexit, Grenfell, Covid-19… Ali Smith on writing four novels in four years – “When she embarked on a project to write four contemporary novels in as many years, Ali Smith had no idea what was about to unfold. As the final book is published, she reflects on an epic undertaking”.
The Takeout: Classic Cookbooks: The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen – “The mere words Moosewood Cookbook feel like a time portal back to the ’70s,” says Aimee Levitt.
Publishers Weekly: Canadian Libraries Respond to ‘Globe and Mail’ Essay Attacking Public Libraries – “Canadian librarians push back against a recently published editorial arguing that public libraries are ‘a net harm’ to literature”, finds Mary Chevreau.
Penguin: 20 books everyone should read before they’re 60 – “Our fifties may be the first time many of us start to really reflect on life, but it’s a time to look forward, too. Here are some great books to spur us on.”
The Irish Times: Kathleen MacMahon: ‘I think women writers are treated like mistresses’ – Róisín Ingle talks to the author of Nothing But Blue Sky about “a loved one’s death and the curse of likable characters”.
Hyperallergic: The Monumental and Human Poetry of Paul Valéry – “The beauty and power of Valéry’s best writing is undeniable,” says Mark Scroggins. The “human dilemmas his work addresses remain with us.”
Literary Hub: Does Every Country Need to Have Its Own Sylvia Plath? – “Rhian Sasseen on the inescapability of Plath for female writers”.
CBC: L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables manuscript going online – The project “will enrich [the] 853-page manuscript with commentary, research [and] videos”.
Book Post: Notebook: Booksellers Look Ahead, Part II – Ann Kjellberg interviews booksellers about the way customers are now shopping.
BBC Culture: Surprising secrets of writers’ first book drafts – “What is revealed by the early manuscripts of classic novels? From the works of Wilde and Woolf to Fitzgerald and Proust, Hephzibah Anderson investigates.”
Publishing Perspectives: Lebanon’s Publishing and Bookselling Community: Assessing the Damage – “The blast at the Port of Beirut has left many in publishing struggling in a deepening crisis of physical devastation, economic collapse, political upheaval, and viral spread”, finds Porter Anderson.
Scroll.in: The journey of the Rampur Book Club shows how reading communities responded to the pandemic – “The first meeting, held on a sweltering June evening in my drawing room, had six excited ladies armed with googled knowledge on how to set up a book club.”
Metropolis: The Resurgence of a Japanese Literary Master – “Fifty years after his death, Yukio Mishima is reemerging in translation”, finds Eric Margolis.
Expats Cz: Milan Kundera will donate his books, archive, and photos to the Moravian Library in Brno – “The collection includes articles written by or about the author, reviews of his books, authorized photographs, and Kundera’s drawings”.
The Spinoff: Confessions of a jaded NZ bookseller – The Spinoff Review of Books “can’t tell you who wrote this piece, or where they work. What [they] can tell you is it’s not Unity [a NZ bookstore].”
Conde Naste Traveler: Author Stephanie Danler on Spain’s Eternal Draw – The novelist, memoirist, and screenwriter, Stephanie Danler is “always returning to Spain to measure how [she’s] changed.”
Guardian Australia: Fire, Flood and Plague – essays about 2020: As I mourn my mother the pandemic rolls on. Is the whole world, like me, frozen in grief? – “This [James Bradley piece] is part of a series of essays by Australian writers responding to the challenges of 2020”.
Tennessean: Nashville Public Library previews new women’s suffrage room – Carmel Kookogey reports on Nashville Public Library’s new exhibit on women’s suffrage, the Votes for Women Room.
The Straits Times: Jittery Hong Kong authors look to Taiwan as a publishing haven – “China’s new national security law has cast a threatening shadow over Hong Kong’s dynamic book industry”.
Radical Reads: Noname’s Book Club Picks – The rapper and poet Noname recommends “progressive texts by POC writers”.
The Paris Review: Donald Hall’s Amanuensis – “The bond between author and assistant is often close. But in Donald Hall’s case, his decades-long relationship with his assistant proved to be a lifeline that extended his writing career”, finds Wesley McNair.
Epiphany: “Reading as a Form of Protest” by Gracie Bialecki – “If anything which challenges unfair structures and moves us closer to universal justice can be considered protest, then reading is one of its oldest forms.”
France 24: Political clash mars esteemed Spanish-language literature prize – The Venezuelan literature prize Romulo Gallegos is at the centre of “a politically polarized debate”.
The Better India: Post COVID-19, India’s Favourite Bookstores Are Forging New Paths To Our Homes – Ananya Barua thinks there is “something so peaceful about book shopping, especially when it involves walking the labyrinthine streets of old Kolkata.”
Ray Bradbury Centennial: The Ray Bradbury Read-a-thon – Starting today (22nd August), a cross section of writers, actors, librarians and young readers will participate a readathon to mark Ray Bradbury’s centennial.
Readings: Five captivating reads for grown-ups who love fairy tales – The Australian bookseller, Readings, recommends “five terrific works of fiction for grown-up lovers of the magic and other-worldliness of fairy tales.”
Vulture: The Runaways and 9 Other Reads I Can’t Get Out of My Head – Molly Young with a selection of beach reads for all types of people and beaches.
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