An end of week recap
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.
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE TBR >>
* Warwick Prize for Women in Translation *
Sixteen titles have been longlisted for the fourth annual award of the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation and I have a favourite. >> The Warwick Prize for Women in Translation Longlist >>
PAUSE FOR A POD >>
* Lie Back and Listen *
Here I recommend engaging podcasts and other digital recordings I have come across during the week. Hopefully, you too will enjoy them.
The latest episode of Unbound’s popular podcast, Backlisted, makes ideal Hallowe’en listening. It focusses on “the Old English poem, Beowulf, composed somewhere in England more than a thousand years ago.” The presenters, John Mitchinson and Andy Miller, describe this epic work as an “atmospheric tale of supernatural monsters and human heroes”, which “has inspired scores of translations over the centuries”. They discuss several versions, including those by: “Seamus Heaney, J.R.R. Tolkien, Michael Morpurgo, Edwin Morgan” and, of course, Maria Dahvana Headley’s “powerful new translation”.
The boys are joined by “regular Backlisted Hallowe’en guest Andrew Male, the senior associate editor of MOJO magazine,” as well as Daphne Du Maurier expert, “Dr Laura Varnam, who first appeared [in their 2019] Hallowe’en episode” This podcast was recorded on 26th October. >> 123. BEOWULF >>
* AusReading Month 2020 *
AusReading Month “has grown from a few bloggers sharing their latest Aussie book reviews to […] a host of bloggers around the world sharing their year-long love of Australian literature”, says Brona, host of this much-enjoyed reading event. For 2020 (its eighth year), she has come up with “three new ways” for you to make lists and talk about the books you have read, and “will include a linky with the Master Post on the 1st November where all [your] responses and reviews can be collected in one place.” Please head over to Brona’s Books to pick up the new badge and find all you need to know in order to take part in #AusReadingMonth2020 throughout the month. >> AusReading Month – Celebration, Anticipation & Promotion >>
* Lit Crit Blogflash *
I am going to share with you three literary posts from around the blogosphere with a Hallowe’en theme. 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:
13 Must Read Witchy Books – Over at Madison’s Inkwell, the focus is on “witchy books” for Hallowe’en. From the “dark, potent and uncanny” Hag, bursting with “untold stories of our isles, captured in voices as varied as they are vivid”, to Katherine Howe’s “spellbinding” The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Madison’s selection of scarifying novels and chilling histories will make the hairs on your neck bristle with trepidation.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James – Amanda at Simpler Pastimes likes “something appropriately seasonal” on her nightstand and therefore opted to read James’ 1898 gothic ‘ghost’ story over Hallowe’en. Subject to wildly differing interpretations, this classic novella “works, no matter how it is read”, she says. Indeed, it is “a suspenseful page-turner,” and “one that doesn’t shy away from the concept of evil.”
Classic Gothic Books by Women Authors – For Top Ten Tuesday, Juliana Brina of The [Blank] Garden names the “ten Gothic titles (by women)” she is most looking forward to rereading this season. She begins with Eliza Parsons’ 1793 classic, The Castle of Wolfenbach: A German Story, which Jane Austen designated one of the seven ‘horrid novels’ in Northanger Abbey, and ends with Eleanor Sleath’s atmospheric 1798 work of fiction, The Orphan of the Rhine. Juliana says all her suggestions “would make great Halloween reads” and, I must agree – she has come up with a thoroughly chilling assortment of tales.
* 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:
Electric Literature: Carmilla Is Better Than Dracula, And Here’s Why – “Forget that dusty undead count”, says Annabelle Williams, “here’s the sexy vampire we need right now”.
BBC News: My search for novelist Rumer Godden’s famed French summer – “In the summer of 1923 the novelist Rumer Godden, then a girl of 15, came with her mother and three sisters to a hotel in the town of Château-Thierry, near the Great War battlefields of the Marne”, writes Hugh Schofield.
The Guardian: Unquiet spirits: the lost female ghost-story writers returning to haunt us – “We know the heyday of the ghost story mostly as the province of men like MR James and Charles Dickens. But archivists are finding that some of the finest exponents were women”, says David Barnett.
Lit Reactor: Paying Respects to Ursula K. Le Guin: The Queen of Spec-Fic – “There is only one Ursula in the sci-fi/fantasy writing world”, says Jessica Marie Baumgartner. She reminds us that the influential American novelist would have celebrated her 91st birthday this month.
Vox: How bookstores are weathering the pandemic – Bryce Covert finds “independent bookstores [in the US] are doing everything they can to stay in business.”
TLS: Saving Russia – “Dostoevsky’s life and times illuminated by his great critic”.
The Sydney Morning Herald: Australian books may ‘wither on the vine’, authors warn – “When Helen Garner started writing it ‘probably looked like bludging’ but without government grants she couldn’t write anything worth reading, she says.”
Penguin: The 50 greatest horror villains in fiction – “From bloodsuckers to sea-monsters, cannibals to serial killers, vengeful ghosts to politicians, [Matt Blake discovers] fiction has offered us plenty of blood-curdling antagonists.”
Aeon: Pippi and the Moomins – “The antics in post-war Nordic children’s books left propaganda and prudery behind. We need this madcap spirit more than ever”, writes Richard W Orange.
Georgia Straight: How Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia predicted 2020 – “Canadian film critic Adam Nayman, author of [Masterworks,] a monumental new book about the filmmaker, explains how the 1999 movie anticipated the men’s rights movement”.
The London Magazine: Interview | ‘Stories don’t protect us, but they do prepare us’ – Kirsty Logan on why we return to horror – “In Kirsty Logan’s writing the worst can, and does, happen.” Kate Simpson speaks to the author of Things We Say in the Dark 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.”
One Zero: Eight Works of Visionary Fiction That Help Us Imagine — and Realize — Better Futures – “From Parable of the Sower to Sorry to Bother You, these works of visionary fiction will help you conceptualize and create a more just world”, writes Walidah Imarisha.
CNN Travel: At this bookstore in Taiwan, visitors shop in the dark – “Wuguan Books is an experimental bookstore where readers shop in extreme darkness except for the dim spotlights on each of the book covers and reading lights on some desks.”
The Conversation: Rebecca and beyond: the creative allure of gothic Cornwall – “Wild coastlines, rich folklore and a sense that it’s a place unto itself, at once England and not, has made Cornwall the ideal setting for Gothic tales”, says Joan Passey.
Literary Hub: What Passes For Love: On the Marriage of Leonard and Virginia Woolf – “Beth Kephart: Most writers could use an in-house editor, business partner, and legacy builder”.
The Baffler: Grin and Bear It – Hettie O’Brien writes of the renewed appeal of books about philosophy and the “rise and rise of neo-Stoicism”.
Wales Arts Review: Let’s Talk About Books, Baby – “In light of the Welsh Government’s recent firebreak guidelines and associated restrictions, Esyllt Sears considers the reaction of the public to the classification of books as ‘non-essential’ items.”
The Walrus: The Author Who Shaped the Way We Represent Disability – “Mainstream entertainment rarely allows people with disabilities to exist as we are. Jean Little’s work taught me there’s no shame in writing about our experiences”, says Meagan Gillmore.
The Age: Can Melbourne’s Jane Austen fans crack the mystery of Mr Darcy? – Among the offerings at this year’s Austen Con is a neurodivergent revisiting of Pride and Prejudice”, finds John Bailey.
The Paris Review: Cooking with Gabrielle Wittkop – Just in time for Halloween, Valerie Stivers summons a meal inspired by the transgressive French writer Gabrielle Wittkop.
Tor.com: Cast a Spell This Halloween With Nine Literary Witches and Warlocks – Rachel Brittain with a selection of “witchy reads” for Hallowe’en.
Design Week: David Pearson: “We can be braver with book design in the UK” – “The former Penguin in-house designer talks typographic tips, avoiding apologetic design and why authors care so much about how their books look today.”
The First News: Polish National Museum in Rapperswil celebrates 150th birthday – Earlier this month the Polish National Museum in Rapperswil, Switzerland – the home of cultural testimonies from Polish diaspora around the world – celebrated its 150th anniversary.
Hazlitt: ‘Despair is a Second Contagion’: An Interview with Elisa Gabbert – Elle Nash talks to the author of The Unreality of Memory about “predicting disaster, criticism of self-contemplation, and a post-truth world.”
Litro: A Name is What You Want it to Be – Zainab Onuh-Yahaya on surviving chaos while reading and writing.
The New Republic: Can a Black Novelist Write Autofiction? – Tope Folarin on “why the hottest literary trend of the last decade is so blindingly white”.
BBC News: Coronavirus: People ‘rediscovering books’ as lockdown sales jump – “People have ‘rediscovered the pleasure of reading’ in lockdown, publisher Bloomsbury has said, after reporting its best half-year profits since 2008.”
Literary Hub: The Best Dog Poems Reveal the Good and the Mischievous in Our Canine Friends – “Duncan Wu goes deep on a blessed genre”.
Penguin: Bernardine Evaristo rediscovers six novels by Black writers for Black Britain: Writing Back series – “The Booker Prize-winner says she is ‘very excited to introduce these books to new readers who will discover their riches.’”
Calvert Journal: Dynamic, reflective, provocative: 6 poems to discover contemporary Czech poetry – Sylva Fischerová introduces six Czech poems that “reflect the multitude of styles and themes that characterise contemporary Czech poetry”.
Public Books: Longing for the Writer’s Space – Deborah Lutz examines the ways in which readers and scholars look on the tangible traces writers leave behind.
The Guardian: Not the Booker prize 2020: Richard Owain Roberts wins with Hello Friend We Missed You – “The judges have agreed with the public vote and crowned [Hello Friend We Missed You] this year’s daring, funny winner”, says Sam Jordison.
The Seattle Times: A Bainbridge Island children’s book author bought Liberty Bay Books. One month later, the pandemic hit – Paul Constant talks to children’s author, Suzanne Selfors, about buying a bookstore shortly before the coronavirus pandemic struck.
Book Riot: The Longest Book Series to Get You Through Winter 2020, AKA The Longest Time of All Our Lives – Winter always makes Emily Wenstrom “want to curl up and hibernate” – especially with the pandemic keeping us at home. She suggests there’s “no better time “to hunker down […] and escape into a great story.” In particular, “a series”.
PsyPost: Reading literary versus popular fiction promotes different socio-cognitive processes, study suggests – Beth Ellwood reports on a study published in PLOS One, which suggests that “the type of fiction a person reads affects their social cognition in different ways.”
The American Scholar: Skeletons in the Closet – Amanda Parrish Morgan with six literary haunted houses to visit this season.
Inc.: The 3 Most Toxic Business Books of All Time – “These authors meant well,” says Geoffrey James, “but their books, in practice, have created a world of suffering.”
The Paris Review: How Horror Transformed Comics – Grant Geissman chronicles the origins of EC Comics’ horror titles, including the gruesome, bone-chilling Tales from the Crypt.
Architectural Digest: A Surreal New Bookstore Has Just Opened in China – “Up top, there are mirrored ceilings—while gleaming black tile floors reflect the bookcases for a serious M.C. Escher effect”.
Literary Review of Canada: Bathroom Reading – “Too many still aren’t sitting comfortably”, says Rose Hendrie.
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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