An end of week recap
“My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.”
– Adrienne Rich
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.
* Novellas in November 2020 *
“Lots of us make a habit of prioritizing novellas in our November reading”, says Cathy Brown from 746 Books in a post announcing her latest reading jolly, Novellas in November – though, she’s aware that in recent months you may well have found it difficult to “focus on books with all the bad news around, and your reading target for the year [will probably seem] out of reach.” Therefore, if you are “beset by distractions,” and feel “short books can be a boon”, you will almost certainly be delighted to learn that she and Rebecca Foster at Bookish Beck are co-hosting a “month-long challenge with four weekly prompts”. The opening post will appear on 1st November and the ladies will “take turns introducing a theme each Monday.” Please check out the official pages for details, including where to leave your links and the definition of a novella. >> Announcing Novellas in November! >>
* 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:
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – review – Janet Emson at From First Page to Last declares Harrow’s historical fantasy a “fantastical trip of the imagination” and an “ode to the art of story-telling”, containing “some lovely turns of phrase”. It is a book she recommends.
Elizabeth Gaskell’s house, Manchester – As Julia Rice wrote this post, Greater Manchester was on the verge of being “placed in the highest, Tier 3, level of [COVID-19] restrictions”. She therefore took herself off “last week to one of [her] favourite places” in the region – namely, “the former home of Elizabeth Gaskell in Plymouth Grove, Rusholme”. Please head over to Julia’s Books to read her thoughts on “a very interesting exhibition about John Ruskin”, the pervading “sense of dedication, to the memory of the author and her remarkable achievements”, and current “work underway to restore what is believed to have been Elizabeth’s bedroom”.
Being a mother: Elizabeth Strout, Amy & Isabelle – Over at Tredynas Days, Simon Lavery shares his thoughts on Elizabeth Strout’s 1998 debut novel about a teenager’s alienation from her distant mother. He finds the prose in Amy & Isabelle “shows signs of the precision and incisiveness that developed so well” in her later works, and the “free indirect style gives us insight into the turmoil and guilt in [the protagonist’s] mind.” She is “a writer of great maturity and sensitivity”.
Incredible, Innovative and Infernal Bookmarks through History – Spanning “more than one millennia”, the history of bookmarks proves readers have long tried “every little trick in the book not to lose their place [and have come] up with some of the most innovative place-marks.” Point your browsers towards Books By Patricia Furstenberg to discover many fascinating facts and find out why “a well-chosen bookmark can enhance one’s reading experience”.
* 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 Guardian: Thirty books to help us understand the world in 2020 – “The climate crisis, gender, populism, big tech, pandemics, race… [The Guardian’s] experts recommend titles to illuminate the issues of the day”.
Literary Hub: Sylvia Plath… Nature Writer? – “Marlena Williams on the poet’s fraught relationship with the wild”.
BBC News: Milkman author wins €100,000 literary award – Robbie Meredith reports: “The Belfast-born writer Anna Burns has been awarded one of the world’s most valuable literary prizes.”
Vulture: Don DeLillo and Martin Amis’s New Books Are Lazy Versions of Their Greatest Hits – Hillary Kelly didn’t think much of the latest offerings from DeLillo and Amis.
Hindustan Times: Interview: Maaza Mengiste, author of The Shadow King – “Maaza Mengiste talks [to Nawaid Anjum] about her Booker-nominated novel, The Shadow King, a story about women at the forefront of war during Benito Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935”.
Los Angeles Times: Here are four thrillers you won’t forget. The best crime books of fall 2020 – Paula L. Woods selects a “rich crop” of “outstanding novels” appearing this autumn.
Aeon: Hate reads – “The Western canon has no shortage of fascists. But can the far-Right make ‘literature’ worthy of the name?” asks Andrew Marzoni.
The Conversation: Dylan Thomas: ‘lost’ fifth notebook reveals how the great Welsh poet changed his style – John Goodby on Dylan Thomas’s fifth notebook, which shows how the poet’s creative process developed.
New Statesman: Hermione Lee on how to write a life – “Lee is known for her landmark biographies of writers such as Virginia Woolf and Edith Wharton”, says Anna Leszkiewicz. “Now, she has taken on her first living subject: Tom Stoppard.”
3:AM Magazine: Future Directions of Australian Literature: Ceridwen Dovey, Julie Koh, and Nic Low in profile – Kiran Bhat explores three multi-national narratives from Australia.
Penguin: Dolly Alderton on fiction, friendships and life in your 30s – After a decade of dating columns, hit podcasts and a bestselling memoir, the author of Everything I Know About Love is turning her sights on fiction with new novel Ghosts”, finds Sam Parker.
Esquire: The Age of the Whimsical Indie Literary Adaptation Is Upon Us – “Ben Wheatley on Rebecca, Armando Iannucci remixing David Copperfield – when did the stuffy classics become sought after material for cutting edge directors?”
i News: Jeoffry: the poet’s cat — the nine lives of Christopher Smart’s purring feline muse – “A new book, Jeoffry: The Poet’s Cat, recounts the imaginary adventures of an 18th century feline companion”.
Prospect: You have misunderstood the relevance of Hannah Arendt – “The thinker has been pillaged by those seeking to denounce Trump. They overlook her most vital insight”, says Samuel Moyn.
Harper’s Magazine: Making Meaning – Garth Greenwell – “against ‘relevance’ in art”.
Tonic: From Farming To Fiction – Rachelle Unreich asks Australian author Fiona Palmer how she combines working on the land with writing a new novel every year.
Penguin Random House: Penguin Random House Launches Book the Vote to Combat Disinformation and Increase Voter Turnout This Election Season – Ahead of the US elections, “Penguin Random House, PEN America, Out of Print (OOP), and When We All Vote are launching Book the Vote, a nonpartisan initiative to protect free speech and ensure every voter’s right to participate in elections.”
First Things: Poet of Loneliness – What, wonders Gary Saul Morson, makes Chekhov unique?
Sahan Journal: ‘So many stories I didn’t know’: Kao Kalia Yang started out writing her family’s refugee memoir. Now she’s sharing the journeys of others. – “The Minnesota author’s new book, Somewhere in the Unknown World, began when she collected her uncle’s story about fleeing Laos”, before morphing into “a collective refugee memoir.”
JSTOR Daily: How Trumbull Park Exposed the Brutal Legacy of Segregation – Frank London Brown’s 1959 novel, which presents a powerful story of white supremacist hatred, has been selected for the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, reveals Kathleen Rooney.
The Atlantic: How a Great Crime Writer Came to Imitate Himself – “Over the past decade, John Banville has frankly apprenticed himself to the masters, including Henry James and Raymond Chandler. With his new novel, he’s come full circle”, finds Paul Franz.
KSL.com: Weller Book Works ‘We are a survivor’: Local indie bookstore Weller Book Works scrapes by through pandemic – Weller Book Works in Utah “has survived 91 years of shifting values and economies, and now they are scraping by during the COVID-19 pandemic that has put other indie bookstores in danger of closing.”
Boston Globe: Author photos of a different sort – Mark Feeney discovers, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk has joined “a long line of distinguished writers who have doubled as photographers”.
Refinery29: 20 Terrifying Books For When You’ve Already Read All The Spooky Season Classics – Shannon Carlin suggests some creepy reading for “spooky season” that will “scare the bejeezus out of you.”
The Irish Times: YA fiction: Witches, goddesses and cheerleaders for Halloween – Plus, Claire Hennessy shares “new thrills from Finbar Hawkins, Ayesha Harruna Attah, Bill Konigsberg and Nikita Gill”.
The Critic: “An ark to save learning from the deluge”: Duke Humphrey’s Library in the Bodleian, Oxford. In defence of knowledge – “Richard Ovenden’s new book is a passionate defence of the sanctity of knowledge expressed through literature”.
Financial Times: Cult Shop: a cultural gem in Harlem – Charlene Prempeh discovers the indie bookstore, The Schomburg Shop, “is a New York institution within an institution”.
Lambda Literary: Oscar Wilde is Still Alive! The Best Books About Oscar Wilde – Tom Cardamone “put a call out to writers […] asking them to chime in on some of the books about Wilde that have graced their shelves.”
Book Marks: The First Major Novel of WWII: On Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls – “A 1940 New York Times review of Hemingway’s Spanish Civil War epic”.
The Times: Gulf minister of tolerance in ‘sex assault’ on Hay books festival worker – “Caitlin McNamara, the organiser of Hay Abu Dhabi, has waived anonymity to tell of her alleged ordeal at the hands of Sheikh Nahyan, the UAE’s minister of tolerance”.
Grist: With the world on fire, climate fiction no longer looks like fantasy – “You don’t have to read a novel to picture what climate change looks like anymore”, says Kate Yoder.
The Star: Indigo signs diversity pledge, commits to make room for minority authors – Josh Rubin reports on Canada’s biggest bookstore chain signing a pledge “committing itself to stocking more books by authors who are Black, Indigenous or people of colour.”
Al-Fanar Media: Digital Archive Collects Arabic Book Covers of the 20th Century – According to Lynx Qualey, the Arabic Book Cover Archive project focuses on book cover designs from the 1940s to 1990s. However, the goal isn’t to collect pretty images but to provide the raw material for research.
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” writes Katie Law.
Boston Review: The Obligation of Self-Discovery – “Simone de Beauvoir’s relationship with her readers was a mutually demanding collaboration,” finds Vivian Gornick in her review of Sex, Love, and Letters: Writing Simone de Beauvoir by Judith G. Coffin
Novel Suspects: Agatha Christie’s Best Poirot Mysteries Other than Orient Express – Liberty Hardy with ten book that “best represent Agatha Christie’s Poirot.”
The Guardian: Controversial plans to develop James Joyce house into hostel approved – “Plans to convert the Dublin home in Joyce’s 1914 story The Dead provoked a swift backlash from writers including Sally Rooney and Colm Tóibín”, says Sian Cain.
Post Bulletin: Daniel Ma: High schoolers should read more bad books – What Daniel Ma “learned from Ayn Rand’s Anthem”.
Longreads: The Power of a Judith Krantz Sex Scene – “A ‘90s romance novel offers a glimpse of queer possibility and illuminates the complications of writing about queer love.”
Russia Beyond: Alexander Blok: A great Russian poet killed by the revolution – “Alexander Blok was a true star of St Petersburg in the early 20th century. Galvanized by the revolution, he even worked for the new government for a while but died utterly disillusioned by the new order.”
Publishers Weekly: RPG? Puzzle? Parlor Game? Escape Room? This Game Is All Four and More – You will soon be able to play Mother of Frankenstein, a 15-hour tabletop game based on the life of Mary Shelley.
Faber: What we’re reading this autumn – Autumn is here, bringing colder weather and a whole load of new books to covet. If you’re wondering what to add to your TBR pile next, Phoebe Williams asks Faber staff what they’re reading and recommending this season.
The Paris Review: The Lesbian Partnership That Changed Literature – Co-editors of The Little Review, the two women were as passionate about art as they were about each other, says Emma Garman.
Standpoint.: Greater—not wiser – “John Mullan elucidates the genius of Charles Dickens”.
The Bookseller: The Bookseller announces the Diagram Prize 2020 shortlist – Discover the six titles shortlisted for the 42nd Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year.
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