An end of week recap
The sun is shining and I am gorging on the most succulent, delectable plums imaginable – freshly picked from the tree outside my window. In my head I recite a poem by Gillian Clarke, which I would like to share with you because it makes me smile.
I find there are certain small joys in life that no lurking virus, political turmoil or planetary tribulation can spoil. Would you agree? Has something simple but exquisite recently given you a few moments of pleasure amid all the daily angst and befuddlement?
When their time comes they fall
without wind, without rain.
They seep through the trees’ muslin
in a slow fermentation.
Daily the low sun warms them
in a late love that is sweeter
than summer. In bed at night
we hear heartbeat of fruitfall.
The secretive slugs crawl home
to the burst honeys, are found
in the morning mouth on mouth,
We spread patchwork counterpanes
for a clean catch. Baskets fill,
never before such harvest,
such a hunters’ moon burning
the hawthorns, drunk on syrups
that are richer by night
when spiders pitch
tents in the wet grass.
This morning the red sun
is opening like a rose
on our white wall, prints there
the fishbone shadow of a fern.
The early blackbirds fly
guilty from a dawn haul
of fallen fruit. We too
breakfast on sweetnesses.
Soon plum trees will be bone,
grown delicate with frost’s
formalities. Their black
angles will tear the snow.
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.
* German Literature Month 2020 *
Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy Siddal of Lizzy’s Literary Life are again hosting German Literature Month – for the tenth year on the run. In these peculiar times, when there is “plenty to be glum about,” the ladies have decided to “buck the trend” and “celebrate [this popular reading jolly] with a bang!” Throughout November, you are invited to read “all things originally written in German – in whatever language you wish to read it”, then share your thoughts with “the world” via your blogs, twitter feeds, Facebook pages and other social media sites. Should you require inspiration, “a veritable database of reviews over at www.germanlitmonth.blogspot.com [will] help you find something appealing.” Apparently, this “year’s programme is a little different”, so I suggest you head over to the official page to check out the latest plans. Please use the hashtag #germanlitmonth when discussing all things connected with this event. >> Announcing German Literature Month X >>
* 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:
Tokyo Ueno Station – Within the pages of this novelistic retelling of Japan’s “stormy history”, Amalia Gavea of The Opinionated Reader finds the award-winning author Yū Miri has created a “bitter” but powerful impression of “failed hopes, injustice and death” in a society “that is supposed to have learnt from the past.”
‘The Lying Life of Adults’ by Elena Ferrante (Review) – Over at Tony’s Reading List, Melbourne dweller Tony Malone is relieved to report that he “really enjoyed” Ferrante’s latest work, which he had awaited with “mixed feelings” of “exhilaration and dread”. He declares it “a fascinating story” and “a successful follow-up to her earlier books.”
‘Bread is quiet, mute’ [book review] – Eleanor Updegraff of The Monthly Booking is impressed by the “astonishing amount of research” that has gone into Our Daily Bread, Predrag Matvejević’s “self-declared meditation” on seven-crusted bread. “Exquisitely translated” from Croatian, this “very human history” is “hard-hitting” and a “reading experience not to be rushed”.
Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn – Nirmala of Red Lips and Bibliomaniacs says novels such as Bottled Goods are “the reason why historical fiction is one of [her] favourite genres.” Set in Ceausescu’s Romania, the “harrowing” elements of this story were offset by “bizarre and madcap” episodes, which “made it more bearable.”
* 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 Irish Times: Thirty books to look out for this autumn – Martin Doyle with his pick of the new releases from the “deluge” coming this autumn.
Prospect: George Orwell: political flake, towering moralist – Stephen Ingle is of the opinion “Orwell wasn’t a serious political thinker of any stripe,” indeed, he says, “it is not even clear what his politics were. The real value lies elsewhere.”
The Guardian: Publishing must make room for disabled authors – for its own good – “Attention to diversity has yet to pay much heed to us, but we are the biggest minority in the world, so if space is cleared everyone stands to win”, says Frances Ryan.
BBC News: Bronte Parsonage receives £20,000 from TS Eliot estate – “The Bronte Parsonage has received a £20,000 donation from the estate of TS Eliot after the coronavirus pandemic put the museum’s future at risk.”
History Today: The First Svengali – Mathew Lyons is intrigued to discover “Svengali appeared as a character in Trilby, released as a book in the US on 8 September 1894.”
The Baillie Gifford Prize For Non-Fiction: The Baillie Gifford Prize 2020 longlist announced – The longlist for The 2020 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, which celebrates the best in non-fiction writing, has been revealed.
Book Riot: So What’s The Difference Between a Myth, a Fairytale, and a Legend? – “Myths, legends, and fairytales are all folkloric stories, but they aren’t interchangeable”, says Caitlin Hobbs. “The components of these stories are what makes them different.”
Town & Country: Put Down the Book: These Are the Best Movie and TV Adaptations of Charles Dickens Novels – “For as long as films have been made, Dickens has been a sure bet.” Liz Cantrell and Adam Rathe share their favourites.
Brain Pickings: The Mountain and the Meaning of Life: René Daumal’s Alpine Allegory of Courage and the Measure of Wisdom – Nobody, says Maria Popova, “has explored the existential through the metaphor of the alpine more elegantly than the French surrealist poet, philosopher, and novelist René Daumal […] in his allegorical novel Mount Analogue: A Tale of Non-Euclidian and Symbolically Authentic Mountaineering Adventures”.
The Sydney Morning Herald: Homeless people aren’t literary? Think again – Sarah Garnett founded The Footpath Library in Sydney’s Woolloomooloo, which, finds Nicole Abadee, provides books for the homeless.
Melville House: Will the screen adaptation of “Dune” live up to readers’ expectations? – Will the book be better than the film or vice versa? Allison Green eagerly awaits the forthcoming film adaptation of author Frank Herbert’s 1965 best-selling novel Dune.
Chicago Tribune: Kevin Young on curating 250 years of African American poetry: ‘So vital and rich that it can barely be contained.’ – “Kevin Young’s star has been burning bright for some time now”, says Darcel Rockett. She talks to him prior to the publication of the anthology African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song.
Literary Review: Bonfires of Reason – Timothy W Ryback on Richard Ovenden’s “fascinating new history,” Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack.
Smithsonian Magazine: Remembering the Forgotten Women Writers of 17th-Century Spain – “A show in Madrid highlights female authors who penned histories, biographies, poetry, novels, scripts and more”, finds Theresa Machemer.
The Paris Review: Cooking with Italo Calvino – “In Valerie Stivers’s Eat Your Words series, she cooks up recipes drawn from the works of various writers.”
The Bookseller: Inaugural Sceptre Bookshop Award shortlist revealed – Ruth Comerford announces: “The shortlist for the first Sceptre Bookshop Award shortlist has been revealed, featuring independent retailers across the UK.”
Penguin: Found in translation: how brilliant writing from around the world makes it into English – “UK readers are consuming more translated fiction than ever. But the process is far more sophisticated than just converting like-for-like words.” Sarah Shaffi speaks to “those at the top of their game about the fine art of translation.”
Romania-Insider.com: Romanian bookstore chain opens mobile bookshop – “The Humanitas bookstore chain has added a mobile unit to its network to reach localities in the country that do not have a bookshop”, says Simona Fodor.
IOL: ‘We have lost a treasured friend’ – Tributes for Achmat Dangor – The South African writer, poet and political activist, Achmat Dangor, whose novels include Kafka’s Curse (1997) and Bitter Fruit (2001), died suddenly on 6th September.
The Atlantic: Hate the Sin, Not the Book – “Reading works from the past can offer perspective—even when they say things we don’t want to hear”, says Alan Jacobs.
National Post: A time-old treasure, Winnie-the-Pooh has returned to the spotlight once again – “The bear’s movie-star replica (from the 2017 film Goodbye Christopher Robin) is in the Royal Ontario Museum’s exhibit Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic”, finds Sharon Lindores.
The Calvert Journal: 100 poets from around the world join to write collective lockdown poem – Romanian writer Ioana Morpurgo has brought together one hundred poets from around the world to write a single ‘lockdown’ poem.
Literary Hub: The Unexpected Politics of Book Cover Design – “Jenny Bhatt on subverting gender and class stereotypes with design”.
The New York Times: Revisiting the ‘Emotional Hodge-Podge’ of ‘Catch-22’ – “In 1961, the writer Richard G. Stern reviewed Joseph Heller’s satirical war novel Catch-22 on Page 50 of the Book Review, calling it ‘an emotional hodge-podge’.”
Slate: I’m Thinking of Ending Things Has a Confusing Twist. The Book Can Explain. – Matthew Dessem on how “Charlie Kaufman’s new movie adapts an unadaptable novel.”
Vulture: The Hardest Elena Ferrante Lines I’ve Translated – “Ann Goldstein translates Elena Ferrante’s books from Italian into English, but she has never read the author’s acclaimed Neapolitan novels all the way through”, says Hillary Kelly.
The Age: Turning Pages: Why Australia should take a leaf out of Ireland’s book – Jane Sullivan discovers there has been a blossoming of women writers in Ireland. She wonders if something similar might happen in Australia.
Russia Beyond: 5 Russian novels about growing up and maturation – Russian authors who talk about youth, growing up, maturation and friendship.
BBC News: Women’s Prize for Fiction: Maggie O’Farrell wins for Hamnet, about Shakespeare’s son – “Author Maggie O’Farrell has won this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction [with] Hamnet, a novel inspired by and named after William Shakespeare’s only son.”
Vanity Fair: Viewer Beware: Here’s Your First Look at The Haunting of Bly Manor – Anthony Breznican takes an “exclusive first look” at The Haunting of Bly Manor, a TV series based on Henry James’ 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw, which is due to debut this autumn.
Avidly: Jane Austen Was Not Fucking Around about Home School – In the opinion of nineteenth-century literature professor Sarah Allison, now is the ideal time to “reread Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.”
Lambda Literary: Queer Diaries Are Celebrations of a Secret History – Nadia Niva finds “many queer diarists, especially those of earlier generations, never dreamed that their diaries would be published.”
The Critic: Is artistic nepotism an evil – or a necessity? – “Nepotism in the arts is very much alive and here to stay”, says Alexander Larman.
Nature: The engines of the Internet, digital nature, and colour from shrimp to cyborg: Books in brief – Andrew Robinson reviews five recently released science titles.
Martha Stewart: How to Keep Books in Good Condition, According to a Museum Conservator – “Store, clean, and care for your library with these professional tricks.”
Financial Express: Delhi riots book: Police complaint against publisher Bloomsbury and others after authors meet police chief – “The authors of a book based on Delhi riots have filed a police complaint alleging that a PDF of the book was leaked by the publisher.”
Book Marks: Sarah M. Broom on Shel Silverstein, Gabriel García Marquez, and Toni Morrison – Seventeen “rapid-fire book recs from the author of The Yellow House.
The Guardian: The Age of Innocence is a masterclass in sexual tension – “In Edith Wharton’s wonderful novel about New York high society, a simple tap of a fan or glance across a crowded room can feel intensely charged”, says Sam Jordison.
France 24: Macron urged to move Rimbaud, Verlaine to Pantheon – “A group of French artists, intellectuals and politicians” have handed in a petition to President Emmanuel Macron urging him to give the poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine “the honour of a final resting place in the Pantheon in Paris.”
The Hollywood Reporter: Apple Launches Oprah’s Book Club Podcast (Exclusive) – “Over eight episodes, the veteran host will discuss Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of our Discontents.”
American Libraries: Virus-Responsive Design – “In the age of COVID-19, architects merge future-facing innovations with present-day needs”.
Glasgow Live: Ubiquitous Chip joins worldwide exhibition – but you won’t be able to see the artwork for 50 years – “A Glasgow bar has been chosen as one of six international venues to display “literary artworks” designed to slowly emerge over fifty years.”
BBC News: Wuthering Heights: House that inspired Emily Bronte classic for sale – “A house thought to be the inspiration for Emily Bronte when writing 19th century classic Wuthering Heights is on sale for more than £1m.”
The Paris Review: Building Character: Writing a Backstory for Our AI – Similar to a birth story for a human or fictional character, Mariana Lin discovers AI needs a strong origin story.
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