Winding Up the Week #144

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.


* 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:

La Passione: How Italy Seduced the World by Dianne HalesLa Passione, Hales’ 2019 celebration of Italian culture, gave Mark Curnell of Maphead’s Book Blog “an insightful perspective on life in Italy”. The author, he says, examines the “sensual and artistic aspects” of the country and expresses adoration “for the things it’s given the world.” Mark read this book for Rose City Reader’s 2020 European Reading Challenge

Review: The Birds That Do Not Sing by Steve Gay – Gay’s “writing really shines” in this “compelling family drama”, says Ellen Lavelle in her piece for Nothing in the Rulebook. “Based on the wartime experiences of [the author’s] own father”, this debut novel, published by Rook Abbey Press, is “meticulously-researched” and “warmly-written”. 

Desdemona, If Only You Had Spoken! – Christine Brückner (1983) – Lizzy Siddal of Lizzy’s Literary Life declares Brückner’s collection of monologues the “German version” of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads. Her “favourite pieces were from the women” she knew best, such as Effi Briest “talking to her deaf dog, Rollo”, which she describes as “nuanced” and “well-informed.” Some voices “weren’t so successful,” indeed it is a “mixed bag”, though she is “glad” she read it. 

* 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:


Book Marks: The Best Reviewed Books of the Week – A round up of some of the best reviewed books this week, featuring new titles from Rachel Joyce, Nicole Krauss, David Sedaris and others. 

Far Out: The reason why Stanisław Lem was furious about Andrei Tarkovsky’s adaptation of his novel ‘Solaris’ – Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 film, based on Stanisław Lem’s novel, Solaris, is considered ground-breaking in many sci-fi circles. Why then, wonders Swapnil Dhruv Bose, did the author dislike the adaption so much? 

The Guardian: ‘This is revolutionary’: new online bookshop unites indies to rival Amazon – Alison Flood reports: “, which launched in the US earlier this year, has accelerated UK plans and goes online this week in partnership with more than 130 shops”. 

History Today: What’s in a Name? – Sam Hirst looks at the way women writers have been erased “in the name of uplifting them.” 

NPR: For Fall, 4 Literary Escapes — Worldly And Otherworldly – NPR’s specialist in translated literature, Lily Meyer, rounds up two novels and two story collections that will help the reader take a short break from this world — and return re-energized. 

Penguin: What if famous characters from literature were social media influencers? – Stephen Carlick takes a tongue-in-cheek “glimpse into a world where Dorian Gray has TikTok, Jo March has Twitter, and Captain Ahab’s gone viral twice without even knowing it.” 

The Nation: When Raving Was Radical – “Rainald Goetz’s 1998 novel captures both the complicated politics of the German electronic music scene and the chaotic experience of a night lost to dancing”, writes Rachel Hahn. 

Sunday Times ZA: ‘I’m intentional about provoking empathy’ – Sue Nyathi – “‘I believe fiction is a great way of tackling somewhat heavy subjects,’ says the author of A Family Affair.” 

Prospect: Has 2020 vindicated the doomsday prepper? – “Zadie Smith considers herself to have no survival instinct. I stock survival guidebooks on my bookshelf. But are we really that different?” wonders Scottish author Cal Flyn. 

The Spectator: Sybille Bedford — a gifted writer but a monstrous snob – “Her books are much admired,” writes Sara Wheeler, “but she was impossibly arrogant, and exploited her friends mercilessly, according to Selina Hastings”. 

CBC: Here’s everything you need to know about the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize finalists – Five titles have been shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize – the winner will be announced on Monday 9th November. 

The Hindu: A gallery of bad feminists: Review of Nisha Susan’s ‘The Women Who Forgot to Invent Facebook and Other Stories’ – “You see yourself in Susan’s messy, faltering and politically incorrect heroines says Pragati K.B.” 

iNews: The Japanese cucumber conundrum — and other fiendish lockdown puzzles for language lovers– Alex Bellos’s book, The Language Lover’s Puzzle Book, “is not just a puzzle collection, but an introduction to the science of distilling regularities from the weird ways in which languages behave”. 

BBC Culture: The best books of the year so far 2020 – “From candid memoir and unsettling dystopia to the Booker-shortlisted novels, Lindsay Baker rounds up BBC Culture’s reading recommendations.” 

Polygon: How the new diversity is transforming science fiction’s future – “A panel of editors discuss how the field has already changed, and what’s coming next”. 

NPR: Amid Violence And Tragedy, A Library Brings Hope In ‘The Book Collectors’ – Journalist Delphine Minoui tells the true tale of a young man who refused to escape the terrors of Assad’s regime in Syria, instead working with friends to make a library a beacon of hope. 

New York Post: Book publishers ready to hit pause on political titles after the election – Blockbuster political books may have “powered to the top of bestseller lists throughout this year,” says Keith J. Kelly, but they may now be paused “in the wake of the combative presidential race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.” 

Pledge Times: Three Nobel laureates head the virtual edition of the Hay Festival in Arequipa – According to Bhavi Mandalia:Three Nobel laureates stand out among the invited authors and thinkers” at this year’s Latin American book festival. 

Tehran Times: Peter Ackroyd’s “Poe: A Life Cut Short” comes to Iranian bookstores – “Published by Aftabkaran, [Ackroyd’s] book has been translated into Persian by Shahab Shokravi.” 

Observer: Toni Morrison’s Library Is for Sale, and It Reveals the Range of the Author’s Tastes – Following her death in 2019, the Nobel Prize-winning author left behind a “valuable bibliography” of works that illuminate “truths about the Black American experience”, says Helen Holmes. According to Galerie magazine, the collection is now available for purchase. 

Vogue: The Instagram Poet for People Who Don’t Like Instagram Poets – When Chloe Schama “came across Baer’s poems on Instagram no less,” she “felt a jolt” and recognised “a depth of emotion more cutting than the spare, self-help word-art characteristic of so many social media–propelled poet phenomena.” 

The Calvert Journal: Young in the 90s: in her debut novel, director Nana Ekvtimishvili explores a decade most Georgians want to forget – “Award-winning director Nana Ekvtimishvili talks to The Calvert Journal about turning her obsession for the post-Soviet 90s into a literary debut.” 

Literary Hub: Desert Stories, Clean Energy Transition, and Other Climate Readings for November – “N. Scott Momaday, Robert Macfarlane, and more recommendations from Amy Brady”. 

Harper’s Bazaar: Toyin Ojih Odutola and Yaa Gyasi Talk Making Art and Opening Doors – “The artist and the novelist discuss the freedom and fraughtness of being firsts in their fields”. 

The New York Times: Shirley Hazzard’s Stories Observe Pain and Disappointment With a Witty Intelligence – Dwight Garner discovers the award-winning Australian-American writer’s Collected Stories includes pointed observations about the natural world and human nature. 

Guernica: Nairobi Rising – “Is Kenyan fiction experiencing a renaissance after decades of authoritarianism?” asks Nanjala Nyabola. 

Electric Literature: Where Is Hong Kong Literature When We Need It Most? – “Books about Hong Kong are almost never written by people who were born and raised there”, says Evelyn Fok. She strongly feels that in this “time of upheaval,” a Hong Kongese “perspective is necessary”. 

Sydney Review of Books: Tell-all – The Turkish-Australian writer and researcher Eda Gunaydin on confession – or put it another way, “over-sharing”. 

Document Journal: Fish, Pole: on crises, change, and the American condition – “On the eve of the 2020 Presidential Election,” the American poet and essayist, Brian Blanchfield considered “change in the absence of divine intervention”. 

The National: What the Sharjah International Book Fair looks like on the ground: ‘Virtual book fairs pale in comparison’ – “More than 1,000 publishers from 73 countries are participating in this year’s iteration of the fair, which is being held in a hybrid format”. 

Book Riot: Winners of the 2020 World Fantasy Awards Announced – “The World Fantasy Awards have announced their winners for the most outstanding fantasy books and works published in 2019.” 

Vintage: 10 Vintage non-fiction books to prepare us for a new world – “As the world undergoes a pivotal transformation, these 10 books, written by experts on politics, the economy and the environment, will help us prepare for what comes next.” 

The Conversation: ‘The Earth was dying. Killed by the pursuit of money’ — rereading Ben Elton’s Stark as prophecy – It was considered funny at the time — but rereading Ben Elton’s 1989 bestselling satirical novel Stark today is profoundly unsettling. 

The Guardian: The First Woman by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi review – coming of age in Uganda – “A girl longs for her absent mother in this frank, witty tale about power and gender roles from the author of Kintu”, writes Alex Clark. 

CNN Business: New York’s Strand bookstores received 25,000 orders in one weekend after asking for help – “New York’s most famous bookstore may have a shot at staying open,” reports Alaa Elassar, “and it’s all thanks to fans who placed orders on their website or waited in long lines to support the business.” 

Vice: Bryan Washington, How Are You So Hot? – Maggie Lange talks to the author of Memorial about “patterned socks, long silences, hot pot, and other attractive parts of his life.” 

Bloomberg: France May Reverse Bookstore Closures Amid Lockdown Anger – Supermarket bookshelves in France closed “to quell shopkeeper ire”, however, according to ministers, small stores may see restrictions lifted early following a review. 

Deadline: ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ Lawsuit Over Rights To Truman Capote Novella Names Paramount Pictures – According to Bruce Haring, the “rights to Truman Capote’s novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the subject of a Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit.” 

The Baffler: White-Hot Furies – Niela Orr on “the ‘unhinged white woman’ genre, from the 1990s to today”. 

Wales Arts Review: Support Independent Bookshops in Wales – “Wales Arts Review has compiled a list with links to independent bookshops in Wales that are still doing business and taking orders for books during the pandemic months. Just because the world is on pause, doesn’t mean your reading needs to be.” 

Fast Company: What an accurate presidential library for Donald Trump would look like – Nate Berg discovers “the model features an Autocrats Gallery, a Felon’s Lounge, and a Wall of Criminality.” 

TechCrunch: ByteDance to pump $170 million into e-book reader Zhangyue – Rita Liao reports that “ByteDance will invest in one of China’s largest e-book readers and publishers, Zhangyue.” 

DW: A giant of modernist literature: Robert Musil, born 140 years ago – “Robert Musil almost chose an officer’s career. But he turned to literature instead, and wrote a key 20th century modernist novel, The Man without Qualities.” 

Slate: An Interview With the Author of a Fan Fic in Which Trump and Biden Fall in Love – “Also,” finds Marissa Martinelli, “Biden is a French professor.” 



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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19 replies

  1. Such a great set of links, Paula. Isn’t a wonderful initiative? 😀

  2. Great links as normal. I wouldn’t have seen the piece on Bedford otherwise. The article has no empathy for someone who had a very difficult time in her early life. The awkward relationship with her mother must have had a lifelong impact on her personality. As for Bedford’s ‘mistaken’ feeling that she was poor, she was used to economic insecurity in her youth and clearly associated money with stability (it is understandable that she could turn feelings of uncertainty into worries about cash). She had to be more frugal than her mother because of the latter’s addiction (in Jigsaw, the mother values her drug more than anything else).

  3. Dorian Gray on Tiktok is a particularly funny idea, and the whole piece is well written. Thanks!

  4. sounds amazing!

    I love the thought of Capt. Ahab going viral twice 😀

  5. More excellent content, Paula. That Tarkovsky/Lem article is interesting. I’ve read the book and loved it. I haven’t watched the Tarkovsky film, though I think it’s buried on our groaning HDR somewhere. I did watch the Soderbergh version, thankfully after reading the book, or I might have been put off the novel – Lem didn’t like Soderbergh’s version, either! I get why – the protagonist of the book is the sentient planet.

    The review of the Brückner essays imagining the right to reply of wronged women has persuaded me to look for a copy once secondhand book browsing is possible again.

    I also enjoyed Sam Hirst’s research into the use of pseudonyms and the position of female writers in the long 18th century.

    Thanks for pointing me in their direction!

  6. These round-ups can be a bit of “embarrassment of riches!” but at least they insure that I read at least 2-3 pieces that may not have come up on my radar. Thanks, Paula!

  7. I have a feeling someone pretending to be Jo March must be on Twitter but I’d love to meet the one with the blue tick. Thanks as always, Paula, for an amazing round up.

  8. Once again, thanks for all your kind words. Glad you enjoyed my recent piece on La Passione: How Italy Seduced the World. My goodness your weekly post is such an amazing resource! I don’t know where to begin! Keep up the great work!!!

  9. Thanks for another great set of links, I enjoyed the famous characters on social media. 🙂

  10. Haha, re: Captain Ahab going viral. (Even though I’ve not read Melville!) It’s also a lovely idea, to imagine being able to see/visit/own?! Toni Morrison’s library…wow. And even though I don’t have any personal experience with the desert landscape, I am intrigued.

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