Winding Up the Week #145

An end of week recap

All human wisdom is contained in these two words: wait and hope.”
Alexandre Dumas

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.


* Warwick Prize for Women in Translation * 

Seven titles have been shortlisted for the fourth annual award of the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation and my favourite is still in contention. >> The Warwick Prize for Women in Translation Shortlist >>


* 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:

The Book Collectors of Daraya, by Delphine Minoui, translated by Lara Vergnaud – An “inspiring story, about the power and necessity of words” is the way Lisa Hill of ANZ LitLovers LitBlog describes this newly published “bio-memoir” set in the besieged Syrian town of Daraya. Minoui, a Middle East correspondent for Le Figaro, made contact with “an amazing group of young rebels who had created a secret library”, and recounts their incredible narratives in a way that “emphasises the fragility of the men’s existence”.

Surfacing – Margaret Atwood (1973) – Ali Hope at Heavenali opted to read this “beautifully written” book for Margaret Atwood Reading Month. She discovered “a subtle complexity” to this detective novel cum psychological thriller, with “several layers to be explored”. Ultimately, she says, it is a story “about human behaviour, identity, […] grief, loss and memory.”

Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark – Over at Volatile Rune, Frances Spurrier is “three-quarters of the way through” this 900-page biography of Sylvia Plath and “thoroughly enjoying” it thus far. She “firmly [believes…] Clark’s book will turn out to be a definitive biography” of the poet. Indeed, she declares it a “remarkable achievement”.

* 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 Star: Margaret Atwood ‘Dearly’ feels the passage of time in her first new book of poetry in more than a decade – Deborah Dundas speaks to Margaret Atwood about Dearly, her first collection of poetry in over a decade. You may also like to read Ghost Cat, a poem from this new collection, which appeared on Friday in Literary Hub

The Observer: A new chapter in the evolution of Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens – “The historian and author on adapting his phenomenal bestseller into graphic format, why science needs storytellers, and how Covid fuels threats to humanity”. 

Global News: Souvankham Thammavongsa wins 2020 Giller Prize for fiction debut ‘How to Pronounce Knife’ – Toronto writer and poet Souvankham Thammavongsa has won the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her short-story collection How to Pronounce Knife, her first work of fiction. 

Words Without Borders: The Discreet Strength of Mercedes Barcha – Best known for her long marriage to Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez, Felipe Restrepo Pombo feels Mercedes Barcha’s “often-underrecognized contribution to her husband’s work” is well worth remembering. 

Electric Literature: 7 Literary Translators You Need to Know – “From Indonesian to Brazilian Portuguese, here are the translators who are making contemporary world literature accessible to English readers”. 

BBC News: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie voted best Women’s Prize for Fiction winner – “Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Half of a Yellow Sun has been voted the best book to have won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in its 25-year history.” 

Penguin: What the size of your book collection says about you – “Are you a minimalist or a mini-librarian? Do you let your books pile up around your home, or do you treat your collection like a carefully curated gallery of your best self? Time to find out” with Matt Blake. 

The New York Times Style Magazine: How ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ Foretold Our Era of Grifting – “On the eve of yet another screen adaptation, Patricia Highsmith’s mordant 1955 tale of calculated self-invention feels as relevant as ever.” 

The New Criterion: One hundred years of “We” – Jacob Howland on the legacy of We, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s seminal dystopian novel. 

The Hollywood Reporter: ‘Enola Holmes’ Producers Blast Copyright Infringement Suit from Conan Doyle Estate – “Producers behind Netflix’s 2020 film Enola Holmes say the writer’s estate is unfairly trying to prevent creators from using the iconic detective character in original works.” 

The Paris Review: The Brilliance of Ann Quin – In Ann Quin’s daring second novel, three is the loneliest number. Joshua Cohen on Three, a “brilliant and enigma-ridden” work “published before [the author drowned] off the coast of Brighton in 1973”. 

The Hindu: Queer Muslim Futures: a book made of hopes and daydreams – Meghna Majumdar explains how “a string of workshops helped put together the aspirations of the LGBTQIA community in the form of an open-access story”. 

First Things: Publisher’s Bind – Why are respectable presses issuing “fake” hardbacks? Joshua P. Hochschild discusses tight budgets, paper shortages and cutting corners in book publishing. 

Literary Hub: Want to Feel Better? Stop Reading New Books. – During difficult times, Emily Temple strongly recommends you read “old books” that are “new—to you.” 

BBC Culture: Why the funniest books are also the most serious – “The fiction that makes us laugh the most is, paradoxically, often the most profound and intelligent, argues John Self. So why isn’t it being rewarded?” 

CrimeReads: The Most Unusual Murder Weapons in Crime Fiction – “A leg of lamb, an exploding cow, and an enormous bottle of champagne…” 

The First News: Romantic reading: long-lost travel diaries of Juliusz Słowacki finally published – The long-lost travel notebooks of Juliusz Słowacki, one of the great 19th century Polish poetry, have been published in three volumes. 

Evening Standard: The Londoner: Stanfords ‘ecstatic’ after crowdfund plea pulls in £95k – “Stanfords, London’s iconic travel bookshop, has been ‘completely overwhelmed’ by the response to its crowdfunder, which may save it from going under.” 

JSTOR Daily: Black Americans in the Popular Front against Fascism – “The era of anti-fascist struggle was a crucial moment for Black radicals of all stripes”, says Mohammed Elnaiem. 

Global Citizen: A Statue to British Feminist Mary Wollstonecraft in London Is ‘Long Overdue,’ Says Artist – The monument to the English writer, philosopher and advocate of women’s rights “comes amid a debate over the cultural significance of public statues”, writes Emma Batha. 

Global English Editing: World Reading Habits in 2020 [Infographic] – “How did coronavirus change our reading habits? Which countries read the most this year? And what books were we reading?” asks Isabel Cabrera. 

Book Riot: Why I Still Use — and Like — Goodreads – “There’s been so much ink typed up on the internet about Goodreads”, says Kelly Jensen but, as a reader, it is still one of her favourite “tools”. 

The Irish Times: M John Harrison wins Goldsmiths Prize for tale of broken life in Brexit Britain – Frances Wilson describes The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again as: “A literary masterpiece that will be read in 100 years, if the planet survives that long”. 

The Japan Times: The publishing industry can’t get enough books on supernatural Japanese stories – “The popularity of Japanese pop culture abroad has contributed to the emergence of books in English on Japan’s myths and the supernatural, such as ghosts, monsters and folklore”, says Eric Margolis. “A Second Rabadash” — C.S. Lewis and Dangerous Leaders – “In The Horse and His Boy we get an interesting and rather detailed look at Lewis’ ideas of the dangerous political leader”, finds Matt Mikalatos. 

The Guardian: A woman of colour as US vice-president: three writers on what Kamala Harris means to them – “In 244 years of US politics, Harris will be the first woman to serve in one of the country’s two highest offices. But what might she do in the White House?” 

SWI: Young author beats out favourites to win Swiss Book Prize – “Anna Stern has been awarded the 2020 Swiss Book Prize for her novel about coming to terms with the death of a close friend.” 

Fine Books & Collections: UK Post Office Issues New Dickens Stamps – Arguably the most famous novelist of the Victorian era has been celebrated in a new set of Isle of Man stamps featuring Charles Dickens. 

The Hedgehog Review: Heavenly Geometries – Nathan Goldman on the “first appearance in English of George Eliot’s translation of Spinoza’s Ethics.” 

Time: The 100 Must-Read Books of 2020 – “The fiction, nonfiction and poetry that deepened our understanding, ignited our curiosity and helped us escape”. 

Vintage: Roddy Doyle: ‘Getting old is comical, really’ – “His brilliant new novel Love is about what happens to friendships when time takes its toll. As he shares with Sam Parker, it was written in a time of grief – but also deep creative satisfaction.” Kerry Parnell: What I’ve learned after finally reading The Hobbit – “Who knew (apart from every teenage boy on the planet), J.R.R. Tolkien can really spin a story. After finally reading The Hobbit, Kerry Parnell reveals what she’s learned.” 

Smithsonian Magazine: A Brief History of Presidential Memoirs – “Barack Obama’s new autobiography joins a long—but sometimes dull—tradition”, says Livia Gershon. 

Publishers Weekly: Looking for Love with Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro – Louisa Ermelino speaks to Kazuo Ishiguro about his new novel Klara and the Sun – his first since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017 – in which he tells the tale of an artificial intelligence longing for human connection. 

The Root: Read, Write, Revolt: The Root Launches the It’s Lit! Podcast With Inaugural Guest Nikole Hannah-Jones – According to Maiysha Kai, this is where “all things literary live at The Root”. 

Alta: Searching for Mary Austin – “Life for the author of The Land of Little Rain was as hard as the inhospitable region she wrote about”, says Joy Lanzendorfer. 

The Bookseller: BA calls for bookshops to be classified essential retailers – “The Booksellers Association (BA) has written to key government ministers and Lords calling for bookshops be classed as essential retailers, allowing them to reopen during lockdown in England”, Mark Chandler reports. 

The Nation: The Limits of the Viral Book Review – “Why are literary critics fixating on one quality nowadays?” asks Larissa Pham. 

History Today: Lesbian ‘Obscenity’ Suppressed – “The publishers of Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness were prosecuted for obscenity on 9 November 1928.” 

Vanity Fair: Simon & Schuster Sold Just About Everything in 2020—Except Itself – “The publishing behemoth, which hit the market just before lockdown, racked up best sellers from Woodward, Bolton, and Mary Trump. Amid speculation about potential buyers—one of the “Big Five” houses? French media conglomerate Vivendi? A private-equity firm?—ViacomCBS is keeping quiet”, speculates William D. Cohan. 

Melville House: A history of book prohibition—and survival – Jessie Stratton explores the “many reasons why one might want to ban a book” and “the great men and women responsible for preserving literature, culture, and heritage all around the world.” 

Mel Magazine: Here’s What 2020 Looked Like to the Sci-Fi Writers of 1974 – “In the early 1970s, eight science-fiction writers tried to imagine what the far-flung year of 2020 would look like. They ended up being both wrong and right”, finds Keith Phipps. 

Eastern Daily Press: Reading addict with 1,000 books converts his garage into public library – “A self-confessed book addict from west Norfolk has taken his passion for paperbacks to house his plethora of novels inside a converted double garage.” 

Pajiba: Twitter Makes Four Seasons Total Landscaping A Literary Meme – Kristy Puchko with a “hilariously highbrow meme” doing the rounds on Twitter. 



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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8 replies

  1. The “book collection” article doesn’t go above 500 “plus.” Really? We estimate we have 500 books just in our living room, with one tall shelf and one built-in bookshelf. We have 10,000 or so books downstairs, where each wall is lined with shelves.

    • Yes me too: I’m not a 500+ book tsundoku master because I’ve actually *read* most of my thousands of books. (I can prove that with my reading journals which run to 42 A4 hardbacks, and I’ve only been keeping them since 1997).
      We have a library in our home which was overflowing as soon as I brought the books out of storage once it was built, and I always say that we need to build a second storey to be our branch library upstairs…
      PS Thanks for the mention, yes, The Book Collectors of Daraya is an amazing book on many levels.

  2. A wonderful selection as always Paula! I went to an online event for Dearly this week and its definitely rekindled my love of poetry (my love of Margaret Atwood is permanently kindled 😀 )

  3. Thank you so much for the mention. And for the post with great publishing news. A new Kazuo Ishiguro book is a cause for celebration although no doubt it will be unbearably sad. I thought maybe he had decided to take a well earned retirement, but apparenty not.

  4. Isn’t the cover of Dearly entrancing? (Thanks, again, for the mention of #MARM…very kind.) And I love the sounds of The Book Collectors of Doraya too. I wonder how booksellers feel about being potentially declared essential workers; I’m guessing it depends on the bookshop and the working conditions. But I know many of the indies here have been having a tough time (in an industry where profit margins are slim to begin with). Kazuo Ishiguro always writes such interesting books; I’ve not read the description of this one but would definitely be interested in his take on the theme of AI.

    • It is, Marcie. Those feathers obviously have great significance for MA. Have you obtained a copy yet? I’m a bit slow off the mark but have every intention of immersing myself in it over the Christmas period. 😊

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