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 >>
* 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.
The paperback edition of The Testaments, Margaret Atwood’s Booker-winning follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale, is out now, complete with an author interview and questions calculated to provoke discussion about life in Gilead. You are invited to join Atwood in conversation from the comfort of your home for her sole UK publication event, happening today at 18:30 BST – it will be available to view on demand up to 72 hours after it has ended and can be accessed worldwide. You can read my comments on The Testaments right here. >> ‘Book and Stream’ with Margaret Atwood >>
* One for the Tolkienites *
Over at The Edge of the Precipice, Hamlette is hosting a Tolkien Blog Party from 20th to 26th September, during which she will hold “a giveaway and a game or two”. She invites you to join in the fun by contributing fresh Tolkien posts. “Anything Tolkien-related is fair game,” she says, “even if it doesn’t involve Middle-earth. You could review one of his books, share your thoughts on the movies, discuss how his works have inspired you…”. A widget will be provided to share your links and the official hashtag is soon to be revealed. >> Announcing the 8th Annual Tolkien Blog Party! >>
* Lit Crit Blogflash *
I am 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 is difficult to limit the list to only these few – all of them published over the last week or two:
Maresi, The Red Abbey Chronicles by Maria Turtschaninoff (Finland) – Claire McAlpine of Word by Word “really enjoyed the story and characters” in this YA “feminist fantasy”. It is “an empowering read for young women” and reminded her somewhat of Madeleine Miller’s Circe.
Book Review: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova – This award-winning 2005 novel “has the perfect plot for someone who is obsessed with old books”, says Rachel Carney from Created to Read. “The plot is complex” and it isn’t a story she would advise you “to read after dark”, but it is nevertheless a “gripping read with a satisfying ending”.
A Month in the Country by J L Carr – After wondering if this widely-admired 1980 novella would “live up to expectations”, Sandra from A Corner of Cornwall found it “poignant” and “bittersweet”. Indeed, it was “a joy” to read.
* 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:
Evening Standard: Books bonanza: our pick of the new season page-turners – Super Thursday was “the biggest day of the publishing year with a whopping 600 books hitting the shelves. Here, Katie Law and Jessie Thompson pick the brilliant debuts and other hidden gems you might otherwise miss”.
BBC Culture: The remarkable cult of Elena Ferrante – “A searing new novel by the mysterious author is as unflinching as her millions of fans have come to expect. Clare Thorp explores the extraordinary phenomenon of ‘Ferrante fever’.”
Pledge Times: Striving to become: how a former officer changed Russian science fiction – Bhavi Mandalia looks at how Arkady Strugatsky became a leading figure in the development of Russian Science Fiction.
The Guardian: Literary figures join Extinction Rebellion campaign against thinktanks – Margaret Atwood is among those supporting the Writers Rebel group protesting in London.
Slate: Zadie Smith’s Radical Empathy – “The author’s new collection of essays [Intimations] was written entirely during lockdown. Laura Miller finds it “optimistic”.
The New York Review of Books: The Jim Crow South in Faulkner’s Fiction – Faulkner was “a witness to the injustice of a world from which, as Toni Morrison once said, he would not allow himself to look away”, says Michael Gorra.
Standpoint: Inventing the sublime – As far as Rev Gilpin was concerned,” says Kathryn Hughes, “he would have to rearrange Nature in his sketchbook until she became, in his approving term, ‘Picturesque’”.
Chicago Review of Books: A Different Settler Story in “The Exiles” – Greer Macallister speaks to Christina Baker Kline about The Exiles, her new novel set in nineteenth-century Australia.
The Public Domain Review: “I Am My Own Heroine” How Marie Bashkirtseff Rewrote the Route to Fame – “The diary of Marie Bashkirtseff, published after her death from tuberculosis aged just 25, won the aspiring painter the fame she so longed for but failed to achieve while alive”, writes Sonia Wilson.
Inc.: The Founder of This Beloved L.A. Institution Reflects on Being Black and a Business Owner in America – “James Fugate has run the Black author-focused Eso Won Books since 1990, and he’s never seen a sales surge like the one he’s experiencing now.”
The Age: Save the date: Three major Australian authors go head to head – Melanie Kembrey reveals Trent Dalton, Craig Silvey and Richard Flanagan will all release new novels on the same day in September.
Tor.com: Survival Island: Caribbean Fiction That Blurs Genre Boundaries – “There are a multitude of outstanding Caribbean literary voices”, finds Lilliam Rivera.
The Bookseller: Edinburgh International Book Festival celebrates ‘special’ digital experience – Edinburgh International Book Festival director Nick Barley says the 2020 event “generated its own sense of community”, although it was “entirely online for the first time.”
Crime Reads: The Women of Canadian Crime Fiction: A Roundtable Discussion – “Canada is experiencing a boom in crime fiction.” Lisa Levy has assembled “some of the leading lights for a wide-ranging conversation.”
Vogue: In Jennifer Weiner’s Novels, the Big Girl Wins Every Time—And Reading Them, So Do I – “Weiner insists on giving every single one of her fat heroines a happy ending, book after book after book”, says Emma Specter.
CBC: Why up to 100 authors live in this mountain town of 14,000 – Hannah Kost finds that “some magic about Canmore and the Bow Valley has lured the writers who make up as much as 1% of its population”.
The Paris Review: The Pleasures and Punishments of Reading Franz Kafka – “Reading the work of Franz Kafka is a pleasure, whose punishment is this: writing about it, too”, says Joshua Cohen.
Design Week: David Pearson revisits Penguin’s Great Ideas book series with 20 new covers – “Some 25 years on from its first launch, the series dedicated to great thinkers and philosophers is being updated with 20 more titles.”
Vox: The real-life origin story behind The Count of Monte Cristo – “Alexandre Dumas wrote his famous novel as a revenge fantasy for his father.”
Inside Hook: What Makes a Perfect End-of-Summer Book? – Jason Diamond advises you to pick up “something short and bittersweet, set in a good location and usually featuring lots of booze”.
Poetry Foundation: Listen, Bro – “A new translation of Beowulf brings out the epic’s feminist power”, finds Jo Livingstone.
Wales Arts Review: 100 Page Turners – “In the latest instalment of […] 100 Page Turners from Wales series, Emma Schofield introduces [the] panel’s selection of titles with the theme of ‘Romance’.”
New Statesman: The coming avalanche: why the pandemic has shaken the book world – “This year, 210 titles were held back until September, causing chaos for publicity teams and bookshops, and leaving authors disappointed”, says Ellen Peirson-Hagger.
Lee & Low Books: How Labeling Books as “Diverse” Reinforces White Supremacy – Librarian Alexandria Brown discusses the problem with diversity labelling.
Vimeo: Sincerely, Erik – “In this tender and evocative film, Erik, a NYC bookseller navigates pandemic isolation, as best as he can”, says the writer and director Naz Riahi.
Vanity Fair: On Witness and Respair: A Personal Tragedy Followed by Pandemic – The acclaimed novelist, Jesmyn Ward, lost her husband as COVID-19 swept across the USA. She shares their story, and her grief.
The Japan Times: Jay Rubin: An academic’s path to translation – “With translations across every genre from mysteries to literary classics to horror to feminist works, Japanese storytelling has earned a starring role on the international stage of literature,” writes Kris Kosaka in her regular column, which this month highlights the work of Jay Rubin.
Scroll.in: A reader’s guide to the ten books on the Rs 25-lakh JCB Prize for Literature 2020 longlist – “Six women writers, one woman translator, four debut novels.” Suhasini Patni reveals the longlist for “the richest literature prize in India”.
Read it Forward: The Allure of Older Protagonists – “There is always still room for revision, expansion, and squeezing out even more meaning”, says Daniel Hornsby.
Electric Literature: It’s Time for the Slow, Aimless Novel to Get Its Due – “Pandemic isolation is the perfect time to reconsider ‘loiterly’ literature: meandering works where the wandering is the point,” says Amir Ahmadi Arian.
The New York Times: Doris Lessing’s ‘Golden Notebook’ and Our Era of Unrest – The Golden Notebook is “the novel that best captures the mood of our own era of political unrest”, says Karan Mahajan.
The Walrus: How The Lord of the Rings Made Me a Better Parent – Thomas Homer-Dixon believes “Tolkien’s trilogy teaches us how to stay hopeful in the face of overwhelming odds”.
The Oprah Magazine: Novelist Ann Patchett Gets Real About Running an Independent Bookstore During Covid-19 – Leigh Haber describes Patchett as “a patron saint of independent bookstores.” She speaks to the author of Dutch House and Bel Canto about “how she and other booksellers are navigating these rocky times.”
The Guardian: Librarian who put books behind Boris Johnson says message was for school – “Late twist in the tale as former librarian claims titles including The Twits and The Subtle Knife were intended for management”.
The National: Kuwaiti writers welcome change to book censorship laws – Saeed Saeed finds the new amendment “removes the need for official approval prior to publication”.
Libro.fm: Libro.fm’s TBLT List: Fall’s Most Anticipated Audiobooks – Claire Handscombe with the latest annual TBLT list.
Aeon: A history of punctuation – “How we came to represent (through inky marks) the vagaries of the mind, inflections of the voice, and intensity of feeling”.
Refinery29: R29 Reads: The Books We’re Reading This September – Alicia Lansom shares Team R29’s book selection for September 2020, which includes an assortment of genres, ranging from “tense mystery thrillers to romantic love stories.”
The Spectator: The paradox of Graham Greene – searching for peace in the world’s warzones – “The torrid border country that is Greeneland promised not only escapist thrills but equilibrium for the conflicted writer, says Richard Greene”.
Heavy: David Graeber Dead: Anthropologist & Anti-Capitalist Thinker Behind ‘We Are the 99%’ Slogan Dies at 59 – David Graeber, the author of Debt: The First 5000 Years and The Utopia of Rules, has died at the age of 59.
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
Wow, a veritable plethora of articles! I particularly enjoyed all the Tolkien and the one about the reader who said that Jennifer Weiner was the “first person to show me that a fat woman could be worthy of a story that didn’t center around her losing weight.”
Thank you, Jeanne. There’s a fair bit about Tolkien appearing in the literary press at the moment with Oxonmoot happening on the 18th and it being the anniversary of his death this month. I enjoyed that Emma Specter piece, too. 😊
Lovely links! Off to check out the Atwood! 😀
Thank you so much, Kaggsy. I wasn’t able to listen to the broadcast last night, so I’m off in a mo to investigate the Atwood interview. 😊
Such a powerful piece by Jesmyn Ward…
It is indeed powerful, Becky. Brave too.
Great resources as ever!
Thank you, Liz. Your positive comments are always much appreciated. 😊
So many delights as always Paula! I’ve had a mixed experience with Zadie Smith but I could do with some well-thought-out optimism right now, so I will definitely be looking at that article further.
Many thanks, Madame B. I’m with you on the optimism – I certainly require oodles of the stuff at present!
Awww, thank you for the shout out, Paula 😍 I am honoured! And as ever, thank you for this amazing resource. Aways a treasure trove. I’m starting with the other blog posts you highlighted, both of which I had missed and both of which sound like books I should be reading. Hope you’re staying safe and well 😊
It’s a pleasure, Sandra – A Month in the Country is one of my favourites, too. We’re fine, thank you. Hoping for an Indian summer, as promised by the forecasters. Enjoy those links. 😎
Yes! Sometimes I love myself some “loiterly” literature!
Very distracted by the beautiful covers of Entangled Life and All Our Shimmering Skies.
One day I WILL get around to reading A Month in the Country
Trent Dalton is a unique and genuinely nice man and I hope his second novel ‘All Our Shimmering Skies’ works just as well as his first. He certainly is up against some stiff Aussie competition around September and the pre-Christmas releases, both here and overseas. Choices, choices… 🙂
Oh, what a wonderful round-up Paula – particularly the translators, Ann Patchett and the independent bookstores, not to mention the older protagonists, the history of punctuation and Graham Greene. I’ve read the first three I’ve named here, and plan to read the others.
I’m so glad you found so much of interest in this wind-up, Sue. 😀
And a couple more that I forgot to mention!
It’s so hard to believe it’s already been a year since The Testaments! And what an inspiration, to see that she’s joining the Extinction Rebellion Protests. She reminds us all, that being in one’s 80s doesn’t mean you stop!
And what a twelve months it has been, Marcie. I read The Testaments on a beach in Northern Cyprus with not a hint of the coming pandemic to mar my enjoyment of the blue sea and sunshine. How life has changed since then!
MA is indeed an inspiration. Her energy and enthusiasm never seem to wane. Long may her strength, ebullience and sheer sparkly-eyed brilliance continue to motivate the rest of us. 🤩