An end of week recap
“To enjoy freedom … we have of course to control ourselves. We must not squander our powers, helplessly and ignorantly, squirting half the house in order to water a single rose.”
– Virginia Woolf
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.
* Prepare For Club MCMXXXVI *
Following a thoroughly successful and entertaining 1956 Club event, Simon Thomas of Stuck in a Book and fellow host, Karen Langley from Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings, have revealed the next reading challenge, which runs from 12th to 18th April 2021, will focus on books first published in 1936. He and Karen did consider “evening up the decades” by doing another year from the 1970s but neither of them were particularly “excited by the prospect”, so decided on a twelve month period that “has a good range of well-known novels as well as many lesser-known works.” A brief search on Google reveals titles ranging from Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn and Aldous Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza to Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. So, please take Karen’s advice – “get reading and planning” right away! >> Coming up in six months’ time – the #1936Club! >>
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:
Jasper Fforde ‘The Constant Rabbit’ Book Review – Gretchen Bernet-Ward of Thoughts Become Words finds Fforde’s leporid fantasy: “wry” but “with a twist” – vaguely similar” to George Orwell’s Animal Farm, though with an “edgy kind of intimacy” – and better still, it features a “strong female character” in Connie Rabbit.
Abergavenny Small Press: A New Welsh Publisher – Rachel Carney of Created to Read has “written for as long as [she] can remember”, finally turning “professional in the Spring of 2019” – so she knows only too well the difficulties of approaching a publisher. In this post she discusses her very own Abergavenny Small Press, which was launched in July “for [the benefit of] other authors in the same boat”.
‘An Ode to Darkness’ by Sigri Sandberg – This “series of five short essays” in which the author makes a trip “alone to her family’s isolated cabin in Finse,” express “quite beautifully, why we need the darkness in our lives”, says Kirsty from The Literary Sisters. “An Ode to Darkness is highly readable, and faultlessly translated.”
* 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:
Slate: What Is the Purpose of Literary Criticism? – “For writer and critic Charles Finch, it’s about describing the feelings that books evoke”, says Rumaan Alam.
The Believer: Bookselling in the End Times…Again – “During the COVID-19 crisis, […] reopening a bookstore—or any place people gather—could be fatal”, observes Stephen Sparks.
The Guardian: 25 years of His Dark Materials: Philip Pullman on the journey of a lifetime – “When Pullman began to write Lyra’s adventure in 1993, the world was a very different place. He looks back on the creation of his alternative Brytain”.
The New York Times: How Bob Dylan Turned David Remnick on to Serious Reading – “’He’d mention Allen Ginsberg and I’d discover Howl for a nickel at a secondhand sale,’ says The New Yorker’s editor (and co-editor with Henry Finder of the new anthology The Fragile Earth). ‘He’d mention T.S. Eliot and I’d discover The Waste Land.’”
Book Riot: Bookshops Battle Bigotry with Bravery and Grace – “Whether it’s competing with large wholesalers who are able to offer books at much lower prices or dealing with skyrocketing rents and lower footfall, indie bookshops have faced financial challenges that have caused many to close their doors”, finds Alice Nuttall.
Prospect: The hidden pleasures of book hunting – Rosalind Jana reports on the new lockdown trend: books being discarded outside homes.
CBC: Catherine Hernandez’s latest book is dystopian fiction that feels frighteningly real – The Toronto author wrote Crosshairs, a fictional near-future novel featuring themes of oppression, violence, hope and a queer Black performer named Kay.
The Japan Times: Settle in for an autumn of reading at Tokyo’s book cafes – Leo Howard suggests you “grab a mask and check out some of these book-themed eateries around Tokyo while it’s still warm enough to sit in a room with open windows.”
Publishers Weekly: PRH Partners with Black Women’s Health Imperative on New Edition of ‘The Cancer Journals’ – To highlight the publication of the new edition of The Cancer Journals, Penguin Random House “is partnering with the Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI) to connect the real-world impact of author Audre Lorde’s work with the community that influenced it”, says Zoe Christen Jones.
Literary Hub: The Accidental Hobby: On the Books That Made Me a Birder – “How Julia Zarankin found herself in Franzen territory”.
DW: Indigenous voices add diversity to Canadian literature – “In focus at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Canada showcases the ‘singular plurality’ of its literature — a diversity indigenous authors definitely contribute to.”
CrimeReads: The Agatha Christie Centennial: 100 Years of The Mysterious Affair at Styles – “Christie’s debut novel was famously rejected by a host of publishers. Many, many editions later, it’s an iconic mystery”, says J. Kingston Pierce.
The Mainichi: Original ‘Moomin’ sketches on display at Ginza department store in Tokyo – An exhibit of original Moomin comic strip sketches were put on display at a department store in Tokyo.
Penguin: How to conquer your to-be-read pile – Matt Blake offers some useful tips on scaling your TBR mountain.
Scroll.in: ‘World was made for women also’: How a US doctor set up India’s first literary society for women – “A doctor and reformer, Emma Brainerd-Ryder spoke up on child marriage and founded Bombay Sorosis for middle-class women of all castes”, writes Anu Kumar.
The Irish Times: Irish Book Week: writers on their favourite bookshops – “Sebastian Barry, Sarah Webb, Hazel Gaynor, Patricia Forde and others share their stories”.
The Walrus: How Do You Write about Your Community’s Hard Truths? – “In her new novel, Farzana Doctor defies a long-standing culture of silence around female genital cutting”.
Evening Standard: Heywood Hill bookshop in Mayfair launches prize to give a pandemic hero free hardback books for life – “Mayfair bookshop Heywood Hill launches an altruistic prize draw for book lovers to shine a light in the midst of all the gloom”.
Brain Pickings: The Unwinding: An Uncommonly Enchanting Painted Poem Celebrating the Wilderness of the Imagination and Our Capacity for Love, Trust, and Hope – Maria Popova describes The Unwinding by Jackie Morris as “a small, miraculous book that belongs, and beckons you to find your own belonging, in the ‘Library of Lost Dreams and Half-Imagined Things’.”
Pledge Times: Vargas Llosa: “I have made an effort so that the Nobel did not bury me” – In a tribute at the Cervantes Institute in Madrid, Vargas Llosa paid tribute to Louise Glück, the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize, while recalling the moment he received the prize himself ten years ago.
Inside Hook: New Evidence Suggests Soviets Surveilled George Orwell During Spanish Civil War – “It may change how you read Homage to Catalonia”, warns Tobias Carroll.
Mental Floss: 11 Women Horror Writers You Need to Read – Anna Green with “some delightfully spooky reading” for Halloween.
BBC News: Shakespeare First Folio fetches a record $10m at auction – “A copy of William Shakespeare’s First Folio has been sold for a record $9.98m (£7.6m) at auction in New York.”
The Age: The enduring legend of E.W. Cole and his magical bookshop – Cole’s Book Arcade in Melbourne may have closed nearly 90 years ago, but its appeal – and that of its creator – lives on, finds Jane Sullivan.
Tatler: The romantic story of Menabilly – the real life inspiration for Manderley in Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ – Rebecca Cope writes: “Just as the sprawling house of Manderley cast a spell over the second Mrs de Winter, so too did its real life inspiration, Menabilly, which Du Maurier eventually lived in after the novel’s publication”.
The Paris Review: The View Where I Write – “My sighted friends tell me that the panorama outside my home office windows is wonderful”, says John Lee Clark. He smiles politely.
The Calvert Journal: Read Romania’s best contemporary writers in a special issue of literature magazine The Riveter – “The latest issue of literary magazine The Riveter is dedicated entirely to Romania’s contemporary literature, in a first for a British publication”, finds Paula Erizanu.
Electric Literature: A Definitive Ranking of Tana French Novels – “How does the detective novelist’s new book measure up to the rest of her work?” Self described “superfan”, Emily Hughes, “weighs in”.
The London Magazine: Interview | ‘Stories don’t protect us, but they do prepare us’ – Kirsty Logan on why we return to horror – Kate Simpson speaks to Kirsty Logan “about the universality and adaptability of horror, and why, after publishing six titles, she still chooses to scare herself – to wallow in ghosts and monsters.”
Creative Review: The Look of the Book celebrates cover design “at the edges of literature” – “The often subversive story of book cover design is retold in a new title [The Look of the Book] from Ten Speed Press, which celebrates and explores the many methods publishers have used to grab readers’ attention”, writes Emma Tucker.
The New Criterion: War as an art form – James F. Penrose on “the Australian war correspondent and writer Alan Moorehead.”
The New Republic: The Anti-Social Novelist – “A celebrated chronicler of human suffering, John Steinbeck could not abide other people”, says Vivian Gornick.
Spine: Penguin Celebrates 85 Years with Original Artworks – Vyki Hendy examines “fine art prints themed around the transformative power of books and reading”, created by five of Penguin’s most talented designers, illustrators and authors.
Publishers Weekly: ABA Kicks Off New Marketing Campaign – The American Booksellers Association has launched the ‘Boxed Out’ marketing campaign bringing fourteen indie bookstores together in order to divert revenue in their direction and away from Amazon.
The Guardian: Want to read in silence? Or just about black heroines? There’s a book club for that – “From a group where no one speaks, to an all-male club for romance novels, [Will Higginbotham speaks] to reading groups finding new members online during the pandemic”.
Aesthetics for Birds: James Wood on How Criticism Works – Becca Rothfeld speaks to the writer and literary critic, James Wood, about his “aesthetic commitments and what he thinks criticism amounts to.”
Kyodo News: Japan author Mariko Hayashi’s long-running essays recognized by Guinness – “A decades-long series of essays by award-winning Japanese author Mariko Hayashi have been recognized by Guinness World Records as the most essays published in the same magazine by an individual”.
Black Ballad: How Somali Literary Traditions Preserve Culture And Identity Throughout The Diaspora – “Somalia is known as ‘the nation of poets’ and it is this literary history that helps the diaspora connect with its heritage and identity.”
ProPakistani/Lens: This Camel Library is Bringing Books to Underprivileged Kids in Balochistan – “How amazing is this?” says Ummara Sheraz
Time: Why a Children’s Book Is Becoming a Symbol of Resistance in Hungary’s Fight Over LGBT Rights – Suyin Haynes discovers Meseorszag mindenkie, or A Fairy Tale for Everyone, “is an anthology of retellings of traditional fairy tales, updated with more diverse, inclusive and LGBTQ characters in contemporary settings.”
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