Winding Up the Week #139

An end of week recap

“We read to know we’re not alone.”
William Nicholson

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.


* Look Back in Books at MCMLVI *

1956 was a leap year in which TV broadcasting began in Australia, the Red Army invaded Hungary, Britain and France occupied Suez, and Elvis Presley caused a scandal dancing to ‘Hound Dog’ on The Milton Berle Show. This period saw young literary types don turtleneck sweaters and duffel coats as they discussed existentialism and Look Back in Anger in steamy coffee bars – and, I’m delighted to say, its introduction allows me to issue a heads-up for a much anticipated reading event: the 1956 Club.

From 5th to 11th October, you are invited to participate in a literary challenge “dreamed up by” Karen Langley of Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings and Simon Thomas at Stuck in a Book, whereby you are encouraged to read, discuss and critique books from the aforementioned year. With possibilities ranging from Agatha Christie’s Dead Man’s Folly and Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals to James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room and Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, there are umpteen books from which to choose. Karen promises “a marvellous week of bookishness” from a “bumper year” and would very much appreciate you sharing your reading plans with everyone on her official post at Coming soon – the #1956Club!! 😀. 

* 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: 

In Black and White by Alexandra Wilson – Race, class and gender in a broken justice system – “This is an important book”, says Joules Barham from Northern Reader of this recently published non-fiction story about a mixed-race trainee criminal barrister from Essex. Wilson’s “searingly honest account of the inspiration behind an ambition that resulted from a tragedy” is “well written” and “readable”, never allowing itself to become “bogged down in detail or legal obscurity.” 

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi – “[Deep] thinking about mind and soul, neuroscience and faith, permeate Gifty’s” follow-up to her acclaimed bestseller, Homegoing, says Deb Baker of Bookconscious. It’s “much more than [a mere] story of an immigrant family”, it is also “a pleasure to read.” 

Imaginary Cities – Jan Hicks of What I Think About When I Think About Reading has mixed feelings about Darran Anderson’s “weighty tome”, which, she says, attempts to “pull together all manner of writing, thinking, visual representation and design theory on space and specifically on cities.” It has a “strange structure”, is prone to “rambling discourse” and doesn’t “focus too deeply on anything” – but, for all that, it “contains much that is interesting”. She suggests Imaginary Cities is certainly “worth a look” if you have an interest in science fiction, city planning or architecture. 

* 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: 


Sydney Review of Books: The Crystal Mirror or the Book That Wasn’t – “Jessica Anderson’s Tirra Lirra by the River is one of the few Australian novels of the 1970s that has remained in print since its first release”, writes Alice Grundy. 

Open Culture: Good Movies as Old Books: 100 Films Reimagined as Vintage Book Covers – In his ongoing personal project, ‘Good Movies as Old Books’, Matt Stevens envisions some of his favourite films as vintage books. 

The Lafayette: Emily Raboteau discusses the role of literary writers in the fight against climate change – “For author Emily Raboteau, the climate crisis is urgent—and literary writers have a place in the fight against it.”

The Critic: Don’t worry, novelists are still envious and bitter – “Unlike Douglas Murray, John Self thinks the satirical novel isn’t dead”. 

TLS: ‘The Children’s Hour’ – “An unpublished story by Edith Wharton”. 

Literary Hub: Meet the PhD Student Inventing a New Scientific Language in Welsh – Ally Findley on Bedwyr Ab Ion Thomas’s mission to reach one million Welsh speakers. 

CBC: Facing terminal cancer diagnosis pushed CBC Nonfiction Prize finalist Amy MacRae to find her voice as a writer – The late writer’s husband, Garreth MacRae, spoke to North by Northwest host Sheryl MacKay about his wife’s CBC Nonfiction Prize shortlisted story, Take a Photo Before I Leave You

NetCredit: Literary World Map – “A good novel can transport you anywhere”, says Barbara Davidson. Here she shares the most popular book set in every country of the world. 

The Paris Review: Notes on Notes – Mary Cappello considers the note, a diminutive but essential literary form. 

Lapham’s Quarterly: Form Follows Function – Eve Sneider on “Louis Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats and the viral ideas of influential how-to books.” 

Vox: The false link between Amy Coney Barrett and The Handmaid’s Tale, explained – “They’re not actually connected. But the story spread anyway”, says Constance Grady. 

Bomb: The Queer Continuum: Emily Hashimoto Interviewed by CQ – “If When Harry Met Sally was a lesbian rom-com novel, this would be it”, says Christina Quintana. 

Publishers Weekly: Frankfurt 2020: A Virtual Experiment – With the physical fair cancelled, the international event is creating new online opportunities for publishers, finds Ed Nawotka. 

Star Tribune: The top 15 books we’re looking forward to this autumn – Laurie Hertzel with a selection of “don’t-miss books coming out between now and the end of the year”. 

NBC News: Viet Thanh Nguyen, 1st Asian American Pulitzer board member, on how his new role transcends literature – Viet Thanh Nguyen’s life changed when he won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2016 for his startling debut novel, The Sympathizer, says Victoria Namkung. 

Entertainment Weekly: Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret is 50 (and still fabulous) – Kristen Baldwin finds “Judy Blume’s classic about religion, puberty, and pre-teen menstruation anxiety remains as vivid and affecting today as it was in 1970.” 

Design Week: Winners of Penguin Student Design Award 2020 revealed – “The 14th edition of the competition saw more than 2,000 entries from students designing covers for The Night Manager, A Short History of Nearly Everything and Goodnight Mister Tom.” 

BBC News: Overdue Basingstoke library books returned after 48 years – “Two children’s books have been returned to a library in Hampshire 48 years after being taken out.” 

Shondaland: Why Political Memoirs Are So Popular Right Now – “A look at the genre that tells us more about our leaders — perhaps better humanizing them than stump speeches do”, writes Melissa Batchelor Warnke. 

The Irish Times: ‘Horror fiction tells you one immutable truth. You’re doomed’ – “Death is real and terrifying but facing it head on is hard. Horror fiction gave [Pádraig Kenny] a way in”. 

The Washington Post: When book storage is limited, people get desperate. Don’t make the mistakes I did. – Michael Dirda shares the experience of pruning his “Smaug-like book hoard”. 

The Times of India: Harry Potter flies in London, playing Quidditch over Leicester Square – “A statue of Harry Potter, flying a Nimbus 2000 broom over the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch, was unveiled on Wednesday in London’s Leicester Square.” 

Book Riot: 12 New Memoirs Written by Asian Authors – Sophia LeFevre discovers 2020 has delivered many “amazing memoirs written by Asian authors.” Each story, she says, “returns a piece of [her she] didn’t know [she] was missing.” 

Smithsonian Magazine: The Women Who Shaped the Past 100 Years of American Literature – Meilan Solly reports on a “new show at the National Portrait Gallery [which] spotlights 24 authors, including Lorraine Hansberry, Sandra Cisneros and Maxine Hong Kingston”. 

Xtra: Queer enchantments: Finding fairy tales to suit a rainbow of desires – “Carefree escape and radical politics are spun from a surprising collection of contemporary classics”, says Jennifer Orme. 

Brittle Paper: Modjaji Books Amplifies Feminist Voices in South Africa and Beyond – “Modjaji Books, based in Cape Town, South Africa, is a highly regarded independent press with the very specific mission to amplify the voices of women from and currently living in Southern Africa.” 

The Moscow Times: Nobel Winner Alexievich Leaves Belarus for Treatment – Friend – “Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich has left the country for treatment in Germany, her friend told AFP Monday, after the Nobel Literature Prize winner faced official pressure for supporting the opposition.” 

New Statesman: Claudia Rankine Q&A: “Phoebe Waller-Bridge needs some black friends. I volunteer!” – “The author talks Fleabag, Leonard Cohen, and the US president.” 

Los Angeles Review of Books: The Artist or the Emperor? Cultural Appropriation and Children’s Classics – Katie Yee on Lao Lao of Dragon Mountain, the much-loved children’s classic about a young Chinese artist, and its writer, a white woman from Lancashire. 

Wired: Publishers Worry as Ebooks Fly off Libraries’ Virtual Shelves – “Checkouts of digital books from a popular service are up 52 percent since March. Publishers say their easy availability hurts sales.” 

Prospect: The struggles of Martin Amis – “A tricksy autobiographical novel feels very familiar” – Miranda France writes a funny and incisive review of Martin Amis’s autobiographical novel, Inside Story: A Life

World Literature Today: The Insolent Gaze of Chilean Poet Elvira Hernández – “When police are blinding protestors on Chile’s streets, eyes like poet Elvira Hernández’s become more important than ever”, writes Soledad Marambio. 

Sunday Times ZA: Trevor Noah wins Book of the Year at SA Book Awards – “Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood was named book of the year at the 2020 South African Book Awards. 

The Guardian: Sweet Dreams by Dylan Jones review – the story of the New Romantics – “From Elizabethans to Hollywood vamps, Duran Duran to Spandau Ballet” – Alexis Petridis reads a new book from the editor of GQ on “how a teenage style cult became a 1980s pop phenomenon that speaks to today”. 

GamesRadar Newsarama: Should major publishers & creators be crowdfunding comics alongside independent and DIY creators? – “Can the DIY system of crowdfunding mesh with the establishment?” Kat Calamia looks at “the growing use of crowdfunding” by major publishers. 

WKSU: Akron’s Newest Indie Bookstore Elizabeth’s Writes its Own Story on What Inclusion Really Means – “Akron [Ohio] has a new pop-up bookstore and writing center focused on highlighting diverse authors in all aspects of literature and nonfiction.” 

The Economist: Creative-writing courses have increased in popularity and prestige – Novelists, it would seem, “now study for their art”. 

Literary Hub: What Exactly Do We Mean By a Book? – “Is it purpose? Portability? James Raven has some questions”. 

Dawn: Racism in LGBT+ community made British Muslim writer Mohsin Zaidi wish he was straight – “In his new memoir A Dutiful Boy, the barrister tells the story of growing up gay in a devout Shia Muslim family in East London”. 

BBC News: Children’s fiction: Cardiff writer’s debut book nets him six-figure deal – A previously unpublished writer has described the “extraordinary” moment a publisher offered him a six-figure advance on a three-book deal”, finds Chris Howells. 

Windsor Star: Independent bookstore establishes Amherstburg roots – “Cracking open the front door to the River Bookshop in Amherstburg [Ontario] is a lot like exploring a new bestseller”, says Mary Caton. 

Penguin: Why Claudia Rankine started talking to white strangers about their privilege – “The author, poet and playwright talks about Just Us, and the ‘experimental’ conversations that informed her work.” 

Brain Pickings: Of Owls and Roses: Mary Oliver on Happiness, Terror, and the Sublime Interconnectedness of Life – “The world where the owl is endlessly hungry and endlessly on the hunt is the world in which I live too. There is only one world.” 

Words Without Borders: New Canons: 9 Anthologies of Translated Literature – In honour of International Translation Day, WWB “compiled a list of nine of the most innovative anthologies of translated literature from the past two decades.” 



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.

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17 replies

  1. Great links Paula – I have Imaginary Cities TBR so may save that post until I’ve finally read it! And thank you for sharing the #1956Club – it promises to be fascinating, there are so many good books!

    • 1956 was a brilliant book year. Just finished “Flight from the Enchanter” which is a bit of a cheat because it was actually Murdoch’s first book and written in 1954. Now re-reading “The Lonely Londoners” and I just have to go and take a look at “The Silver Sword”.

    • 1956 is a great choice, Kaggsy. It was an exciting year for books and pretty momentous in a historical sense. I can’t wait to see your choice of titles! 😀

  2. I was interested in the Vox article about Barrett and The Handmaid’s Tale, but found one of its conclusions disingenuous: “People on the religious right, meanwhile, see the left’s focus on Barrett’s Catholicism as confirmation that American Christianity is losing its cultural power, and that they may soon become a persecuted minority.” Why would they feel this way unless they are trying to erase the line between church and state, making people who believe in religions other than Christianity or who don’t participate in organized religion persecuted minorities? They believe their “cultural power” is theirs by divine right and their untaxed churches should be in charge of what Americans do.

  3. “The Lonely Londoners” would be a third read for me. Last time was about five years ago Remember liking it a lot. Seems relevant in these Windrush redux times.

  4. A great round-up as ever!

  5. How have I missed Good Movies as Old Books til now? What a great idea 🙂

  6. Another wonderfully diverse list, Paula 🙂

    I read the rather intense review of my favourite Jessica Anderson ‘Tirra Lirra by the River’ and have to add that the probable reason this book has (miraculously for an Aussie novel) never been out of print is because it is on high schools curriculums. However, given the theme of the story, I do wonder if it is lost on young students.

    Great to see Harry Potter flying high! I have read several articles on the new statue in Leicester Square and only one actually mentioned the creator’s name Andrzej Szymczyk – hope he got paid well!

    • I’m so glad you continue to enjoy the links, Gretchen. 😊

      I know what you mean about JK. Seemingly her name has become so toxic that you only tend to see it mentioned in relation to the recent controversy. Personally, having read all she has to say on the subject, I don’t believe she is transphobic. Why can’t everyone just sit down together and discuss things sensibly? To my knowledge, no argument has ever been resolved by name-calling or issuing threats of violence! 😢

  7. Great post and recommendations to check out literary articles.

    I am a bit disappointed having read the article “Literary World Map” – I wish most people preferred to read native authors rather English-speaking authors who set their books in other countries. The most popular book set Japan is Memoirs of a Geisha by American Arthur Golden. Goodness, Japanese literature really needs to get out there – there are so many gems stemming from Japanese authors. The South America selections almost made me laugh – Vonnegut takes Ecuador, Tom Clancy – Colombia (even though there is also a man there named Gabriel García Márquez), Conan Doyle – Bolivia, and Defoe – Venezuela – that’s sad, that’s pseudo-colonial conquest all over again! 🙂 If I am to introduce one compulsory subject to every school in the world it will be called “World Literature” (plus maybe culture) – just reading books from other countries in translation and nothing else.

  8. What, Judy Blume’s “I must, I must…” is fifty years old? Impossible! LOL Ahh, I love that book. Still do. She holds up surprisingly well for this grown-up rereader/

    I’m always happy to see Trevor Noah recognized. His Comedy Central reporting is one of the things keeping me sane these days.

    And I thought that Claudia Rankine interview was quite funny. And who wouldn’t want to be Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s friend? 🙂

  9. Hello. Have you ever read anything by Pat Barker? If so, what’s your opinion? I just read Another World. Real good in parts, I thought, but there were events that should have been at least partly-explained rather than left to the reader’s imagination. That’s my opinion, anyway.

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