An end of week recap
“Reading is a life-long collision with minds not like your own.”
– Jeanette Winterson
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.
* Witch Week 2020 *
“Are you ready for Witch Week 2020?” asks Lizzie Ross as she and Chris Lovegrove of Calmgrove prepare once again to host this popular autumn reading event (originally conceived by Lory Hess of The Emerald City Book Review), which is set to begin “in roughly three weeks time” and will run “from Hallowe’en to Bonfire Night”. Inspired by a Diana Wynne Jones fantasy called Witch Week, “this year’s event features Gothick as a theme”, with the official read-along being Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. In the meantime, Lizzie will post a selection of “inspirational music videos to help get you in the mood.” See Going Gothick for further details.
* Nonfiction November 2020 *
From 2nd to 30th November you are invited to indulge in an excess of non-fiction reading. If you are “tired of bad news”, Rennie Sweeney of What’s Nonfiction? has “some wondrous news for you — it’s almost time for Nonfiction November!” Throughout the month, Rennie and the gang invite you to follow each week’s prompt, which will be posted every Monday on a different host’s blog with a link to whereabouts you can share your post for that week. Even if you don’t have a blog, you “can participate in the Instagram photo challenge”, chat to others about the book you are reading or “dip in and out” of whichever posts take your fancy. Please take a look at the schedule and other useful suggestions at Nonfiction November Is Coming!
* 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:
BBC National Short Story Award 2020: ‘Come Down Heavy’ by Jack Houston – In the latest post in his 2020 BBC National Short Story Award series, David Hebblethwaite of David’s Book World shares his thoughts on Jack Houston’s shortlisted entry – the style of which is the “most obviously unconventional” in the anthology. He declares it “harrowing to read” but the prose is “unstoppable.”
‘In Paris and free’ [book review] – While it “isn’t necessarily an easy book to read”, Eleanor Updegraff of The Monthly Booking finds A Country for Dying by Abdellah Taïa has “a searing honesty” to its prose and keeps the reader “spellbound even [when preferring] to look away.” There are “stories within stories” in this tale of North Africans in Paris and Taïa “is careful never to give away too much, allowing us only momentary glimpses of minds and bodies”. It is a novel to make us ask questions.
Renée Rautenbach Conradie Perfectly Blends Storytelling and a Rich French/SA History – Over at De Beer Necessities, Diane De Beer speaks with Renée Rautenbach Conradie about “her debut novel, Met Die Vierkleur in Parys (With the flag of Transvaal in Paris …) – a “book in a class of its own.”
Other voices, Other rooms, Other books – “Do we value a piece of writing because it directly relates to our lives, or do we value it for the opportunity to see how others see the world, and how there are other worlds?” asks British poet Geoffrey Heponstall. He “ponders these questions in this discursive essay” for Nothing in the Rulebook.
* 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:
Literary Hub: On Learning of My Autism While Trying to Finish a Novel – “Madeleine Ryan considers the richness of neurodiversity” and being “diagnosed as autistic” when writing A Room Called Earth.
The Guardian: From cut-out confessions to cheese pages: browse the world’s strangest books – “Edward Brooke-Hitching set out to curate the ultimate collection of bizarre books down the ages. He leads [Alison Flood] around the Madman’s Library”.
Russia Beyond: Top 3 Jewish writers who clashed with the Soviet system – “Jewish authors were harshly persecuted by Stalin and had to go through hell before being officially recognized as part of the Russian culture decades later.”
Penguin: What’s the perfect length for a book? – Sarah Shaffi asks: “Is there such a thing as an ideal number of pages? And why are we preoccupied by the size of novels?”
Brittle Paper: The AKO Caine Prize for African Writing is a Literary Institution Built to Last – “The year 2000 marked a shift in African literature”, says Delfhin Mugo. “From its inception, the AKO Caine Prize has contributed to fostering [its] global visibility”.
City Journal: The True Poet of Jazz – Ted Gioia on the way in which “legendary New Yorker critic Whitney Balliett captured the magic of the music.”
Radio Prague International: The Seven Churches: a Gothic murder mystery from Prague – The Seven Churches, a Gothic murder mystery by Miloš Urban, has been described as “one of the most haunting and terrifying thrillers to come out of Europe in years.”
Cosmopolitan: 24 Witch Books That Belong on Your Bookshelf – “They’ll put a spell on you”, warns Erika W. Smith.
Humanist UK: Wikithon for Banned Books Week expands humanist history on Wikipedia – “To mark Banned Books Week, [Humanist UK held its] inaugural Wikipedia edit-a-thon (or ‘wikithon’), focusing on expanding the online encyclopaedia’s coverage to do with publishing, censorship and freedom of thought and expression.”
Words Without Borders: Farewell to the White Giants – “In the future, glaciers will be an alien phenomenon, rare as a Bengal tiger”, says Andri Snær Magnason, one of Iceland’s most celebrated writers.
Bomb: Jessica J. Lee’s Two Trees Make a Forest Reviewed by Rachel Heng – Rachel Heng finds Two Trees Make a Forest is a “moving treatise on how to look closely and see truthfully while unearthing a family history in Taiwan.”
National Review: Right Words – Jay Nordlinger shares some thoughts on “how to write, and what to read”.
Kyodo News: Haruki Murakami sees bright strength in “sad” translated U.S. classic – “The internationally acclaimed novelist Haruki Murakami, who recently translated the 1940 American classic The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers, recently spoke about the book’s meaning to him,” says Sahara Suzuki.
The Critic: No prefix required: how gay writers came of age – “Douglas Murray refuses to mourn the death of the gay novel”.
The Conversation: How reading habits have changed during the COVID-19 lockdown – “One of the earliest and most noticeable changes seen during the COVID-19 lockdown was how we consume media — and especially how we read.”
The New Republic: Who Will Win the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature? – “Not Haruki Murakami, that’s for sure”, says Alex Shepard in his yearly analysis of possible recipients. (The winner was announced on 8th October.)
Town & Country: The Best Books to Read This October – Ten “standout new releases of the month”, plus one old favourite – from Adam Rathe.
The New Yorker: The D. H. Lawrence We Forgot – “Lawrence became famous writing novels about sex”, says Frances Wilson. “But his best stories—and his most profound achievements—reside elsewhere.”
The Moscow Times: Celebrating Writer Ivan Bunin – Yulia Skopich remembers “the first Russian writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature” on the 150th anniversary of his birth.
World Literature Today: Broken Novels, Ruptured Worlds: A Conversation with Michelle de Kretser – In this conversation, Australian author Michelle de Kretser and Roberta Trapè discuss tourism as privilege, casual racism, Australian politics, Shirley Hazzard, and the role of clothes in fiction.
The Guardian: Louise Glück: where to start with an extraordinary Nobel winner – “Poet Fiona Sampson explains why she admires the 2020 Nobel laureate and picks her favourite poems from a long career”.
The Sydney Morning Herald: Ubud writers festival still standing after COVID-19 twists the plot – “I can think of no other festival that has had to deal with as many tragedies and dramas as we do – it’s never-ending,” says former Melburnian Janet DeNeefe.
New Statesman: The longform patriarchs, and their accomplices – “Beyond the white male canon: Bernardine Evaristo’s New Statesman / Goldsmiths Prize Lecture offers a manifesto for the creation of a new, inclusive literary landscape.”
Literary Hub: Eleanor Roosevelt’s son was the author of twenty mysteries in which his mother solves murders. – Olivia Rutigliano is fascinated to discover that “Elliott Roosevelt, the son of Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt, wrote a long-running murder mystery series starring his mother as an amateur detective.”
The New York Review of Books: The Oracle of Our Unease – “Fitzgerald became America’s poet laureate of nostalgia because he understood its perils as well as its allure”, says Sarah Churchwell.
NIKKEI Asia: Malaysian horror writer screams from the shadows – John Krich finds Tunku Halim “brings ancient demons to life in contemporary fiction”.
Reuters: The final chapter? COVID spells crisis for Paris’ riverside booksellers – “Books have been sold on the banks of the Seine since the 16th century”, says Johnny Cotton – however, he reveals, the continuing Covid-19 crisis is threatening their survival.
The Baffler: Kafka in Pieces – “A new collection defamiliarizes the author we think we know”.
DW: Holocaust survivor and author Ruth Klüger dies at 88 – “Ruth Klüger, who survived the concentration camp in Auschwitz as a child and wrote a memoir about her time there, has died.”
Prospect Magazine: What Germaine Greer saw – In Hadley Freeman’s opinion, “Greer was and is far from perfect—but the [The] Female Eunuch, published fifty years ago, will forever remain part of the canon.”
Quill & Quire: Cam & Beau – “Maria Cichosz’s debut novel, Cam & Beau, set in early 21st century Toronto, is “the first in a projected series” and “brims with theory and tension”, according to Jackie Mlotek.
The Washington Post: For Banned Books Week, I read the country’s 10 most challenged books. The gay penguins did not corrupt me. – Ron Charles read every title on The Top 10 Most Challenged Books list for Banned Books Week.
GQ: Luc Sante Talks About New York in the 70s, Street Photography, and the Magic of eBay – Michaelangelo Matos finds the “maverick historian of the slums has a new collection of essays.”
France24: Ex-wife bites back in French literary spat – “The ex-wife of [Emmanuel Carrère] one of France’s most celebrated writers has accused of him lying in his new hit memoir [Yoga] and of breaking a contract not to write about her.”
ABC27 WTXL Tallahassee: New Tallahassee used bookstore acts as senior cat sanctuary – Veronika Vernachio discovers the “Feline Advocates of Leon County create Fat Cat Books”.
The Chronicle of Higher Education: How One Prominent Journal Went Very Wrong – According to Jesse Singal: “Threats, rumors, and infighting [at HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory] traumatized staff members and alienated contributors. They blame its editor.”
Bitch Media: Palatable Love: Seeking a Happily Ever After in a White Publishing World – “For many diaspora writers, success is predicated on a hefty down payment of writing through the white gaze”, says Madhuri Sastry.
The Intercept: Louise Glück Should Refuse the Nobel Prize for Literature. Here’s Why. – Peter Maass describes the Swedish Academy, which selects the Nobel winner, as “a corrupt institution that has tolerated genocide denial and sexual assault.”
The Straits Times: Big Bad Wolf Book Sale comes to Singapore in an online flash sale with 20 million books – “Major Malaysian book fair The Big Bad Wolf Book Sale will be coming to Singapore for the first time, albeit virtually”, says Olivia Ho.
The Sun: NO SEX PLEASE Lord of the Rings TV series slammed for ‘trying to rip off Game of Thrones’ with nudity and sex scenes – Nick Ferris reveals: “The Lord of the Rings TV series has been slammed by fans for ‘trying to rip off Game of Thrones’ with nudity and sex scenes.”
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