An end of week recap
“A public library is the most democratic thing in the world. What can be found there has undone dictators and tyrants.”
– Doris Lessing
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:
The Lettuce Nights by Vanessa Barbara – Is there something strange in Otto’s neighborhood? – Picked up from a bookstore“on a whim”, Les Nuits de laitue (The Lettuce Nights) by Brazilian journalist and author Vanessa Bárbara is, according to Emma at Book Around The Corner, a “witty” and “entertaining” French novel, which she describes as a “clever blend of eccentricity, tenderness and mystery”. It would, she believes, “make a great French comedy film.”
To cut a tale short – In this first of two posts, Chris Lovegrove of Calmgrove explores the reasons why he finds short story collections “tricky” to review when “compared to a solid novel or longish novella.” He shares his reasons for coming to this conclusion and looks back, “with a realist slant”, at several of his past critiques.
Things That Bounded by Fiona Graph – a novel of suffragettes and London after the First World War – “This well written book makes many revelations about the real lives of suffragettes, beyond the perception of them simply breaking windows”, writes Joules Barham from Northern Reader. Indeed, she recommends Graph’s “moving” historical novel, which throws into relief the “relationships between […] women united in a common cause.”
* 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 Paris Review: No Walk Is Ever Wasted – “What are the politics [and poetics] of walking in the city?” asks Matthew Beaumont in this piece on André Breton.
Evening Standard: Jan Morris: Tributes paid to writer, traveller and trans pioneer after death aged 94 – Robert Dex reveals the prolific travel writer, journalist, soldier and novelist Jan Morris has died at her home in Wales aged 94.
Independent: Booker Prize 2020: Scottish-American author Douglas Stuart wins for ‘Shuggie Bain’ – Clémence Michallon finds Stuart is the second Scot to win this “literary honour” with his Glasgow-based debut novel, Shuggie Bain.
Arc Digital: Rising Above a Flood-Tide of Writers – L.D. Burnett on “monetizing old publishing models in the 21st-century fame machine”.
Australian Book Review: Thinking in a regional accent: New ways of contemplating Australian writers – “One of the notable features of Australian English is that it is not strongly marked by regional accents”, says Tony Hughes-d’Aeth. Yet, when he speaks about Australian literature, he finds himself wanting “to preface [his] remarks by noting the fact that [he’s] speaking as a Western Australian.”
The Guardian: Harlan Ellison’s The Last Dangerous Visions may finally be published, after five-decade wait – A “sci-fi anthology stalled since 1974 will be produced by executor, screenwriter J Michael Straczynski, adding stories by today’s big-name SF writers”, finds Alison Flood.
The Atlantic: The Many Lives of Adrienne Rich – “Praised by W. H. Auden as neat and modest, she vowed to be passionate and radical instead.” Stephanie Burt on Hilary Holladay’s new biography, The Power of Adrienne Rich.
3:AM Magazine: A glass house in the age of criticism – “In his third novel, Canadian writer Jeff Bursey places readers in a glass house and arms them with stones”, writes Chris Via in his review of Unidentified man at left of photo.
O, The Oprah Magazine: These Are the Best Books of 2020, According to O, The Oprah Magazine – “From Zadie Smith’s quarantine musings to Raven Leilani’s incendiary debut, 20 of the best this year had to offer.”
The Calvert Journal: The Lost Soul: Olga Tokarczuk’s next work is an illustrated book about finding fulfilment for adults and children – Lucía de la Torre shares illustrations and reveals details about Olga Tokarczuk’s next book, The Lost Soul.
The Conversation: Marcus Rashford’s book club couldn’t come at a better time – children’s reading is at a 15-year low – Research shows action is needed to get more kids reading for pleasure – especially those from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds. Melanie Ramdarshan Bold finds England international footballer and child poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford is launching a book club.
NPR: 2020’s National Book Awards Strive For Inclusivity – This year’s National Book Awards were announced on Tuesday in a first-ever virtual ceremony – and the theme of the evening was diversity and inclusivity.
The Week: 6 books that inspired author Kiese Laymon – “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America is indebted to at least six books.” Kiese Laymon recommends works by James Baldwin, Jesmyn Ward and others.
The Bookseller: SelfMadeHero launches Draw Your Bookshop lockdown campaign – “Graphic novel publisher SelfMadeHero is launching a social media campaign calling for artists to support bookshops with a drawing of their favourite store.”
Deadline: ‘Modern Austen’ Anthology Series Reimagining Of Jane Austen’s Novels In Works At The CW From Producer Stephanie Allain – The CW is set to reimagine the novels of Jane Austen in an anthology series set in the modern era.
BBC News: Ted Hughes & Seamus Heaney: Will Gompertz reports on a previously hidden treasure trove – “A recently discovered archive of previously unseen letters, drawings and poems by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney – two of the great post-war poets – has been acquired by Pembroke College, Cambridge, which will put them on public display. Will Gompertz spoke to the man behind the find.”
TLS: Uncanny Elizabethan autofiction – Katharine Craik shares her thoughts on Paper Monsters: Persona and Literary Culture in Elizabethan England by Samuel Fallon: “Two ways of understanding early modern personhood”.
The Nation: Useful Books – Jennifer Wilson explores the “past and present of self-help literature.”
Autostraddle: No Adam for Eve: The Quiet History of Lesbian Pulp Fiction – Chloe Maveal delves into books that gave “sapphic pulp fans” from the ‘50s and ‘60s “a chance to explore a side of themselves that was otherwise deemed lurid and distasteful.”
Recommend Me a Book: Next Book – This website supplies the first page of a book without revealing the title or author, which allows the reader to judge the book based purely on the writing.
The Age: French without tears: Translator untangles Crossed Lines – An Australian translator and publisher has been recognised for her work.
The Critic: Very Amis, very Hampstead – “Joseph Connolly treasures his friendship with his literary hero”.
BBC News: Africa basks in Booker boost for female writers – “Two African women are in the running for the 2020 Booker Prize, in a historic first for the UK’s most prestigious literary prize – and a major boost for storytellers on the continent.” (The winner of the Booker was revealed on Thursday).
Aeon: Humanity at night – “A violinist plays in a concentration camp. A refugee carries a book of poetry. Art sustains us when survival is uncertain”, writes Sarah Fine.
Jewish Review of Books: Who Doesn’t Love Roald Dahl? – Like “a modern Charles Dickens, except instead of social justice and spiritual redemption, [his] books offer only revenge” – Dara Horn wonders if she has been “trolled by Roald Dahl.”
Lambda Literary: Remembering Writer and Publisher Joan Drury – Joan Drury, the former publisher of Duluth-based Spinsters Ink, died earlier this month aged 75. Susan Stinson shares her memories of a “mover and shaker” in the world of feminist and lesbian writing, who loved reading “more than anything else.”
Libro.fm: Libro.fm’s Top 10 Audiobooks of 2020 – Jenna Homen brings us Libro.fm’s Top 10 Audiobooks of 2020, based on sales through its 1,300+ independent bookstore partners.
The Guardian: Unseen JRR Tolkien essays on Middle-earth coming in 2021 – Alison Flood reveals “The Nature of Middle-earth will cover topics including Elvish immortality, the geography of Gondor – and which races could grow beards”.
Literary Hub: A Literary History of the Writerly Love Affair with Bookstores – “Good bookshops are questions without answers”, says Jorge Carrión.
The End of the World Review: I Feel That I Am Being Made Crazy By the Distortion; an interview with Lauren Oyler – Writer, Lauren Oyler, tells Sam Jaffe Goldstein: “You read the book, and you realize it’s not anything like what all these people said. It’s almost disturbing.”
Locus: Women’s Prize Controversy – Locus looks at the controversial eligibility requirements for the Women’s Prize.
The Paris Review: Feminize Your Canon: Forough Farrokhzad – “Few poetic debuts can have exacted as high a price as Forough Farrokhzad’s.” Joanna Scutts suggests she could have been killed for her transgression and her killers barely punished.
FSG: The Details of What It Feels to Be Alive – Long before he became one of the most renowned literary critics of our time, Dwight Garner started the practice of keeping a ‘commonplace book’ of literary quotations that spoke to him. His new book, Garner’s Quotations, is a reflection of that lifelong attention”, says Jonathan Galassi.
Outside: Two Books Show the Good and Bad of Everest Obsession – Eva Holland writes: “The Moth and the Mountain, by Ed Caesar, and Shook, by Jennifer Hull, examine expeditions that took place in different time periods, but both demonstrate how the mountain can bring out the best and worst in people”.
TVO: Long overdue: Why more Ontario libraries are going fine-free – “A growing number of libraries are turning a new page”, says Kieran Delamont, “and ditching the late fees that can act as barriers to marginalized and lower-income patrons”.
Live Science: 200 more copies of Newton’s ‘Principia’ masterpiece found in Europe by scholar sleuths – “Hundreds more copies may still be out there”, says Mindy Weisberger.
The Point: The Fleshly School – Regina Marler on sex writing in recent fiction.
Culture Trip: Colombian-Caribbean Cooking in the Spirit of Gabriel García Márquez – In this online cookery class, you’ll learn how to make three authentic Colombian-Caribbean dishes – all pulled straight from the pages of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez’s novel Love in the Time of Cholera.
ASAP Journal: On Poets and Prizes – Juliana Spahr and Stephanie Young on reciprocal scratching of backs when it comes to poetry awards.
Los Angeles Times: 8 books you should read instead of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ – Lorraine Berry suggests a number of novels and non-fiction titles that offer an “honest approach” in their depictions of America’s “ethnically and politically diverse” working class communities.
Town & Country: The Etiquette of Defeat: What Donald Trump Can Learn From History’s Biggest Losers – “From ancient Macedonia to recent Emmy Awards,” Daniel Mendelsohn discovers numerous literary and historical examples of “good and bad” [ways] to handle not winning.”
BookTrust: 5 storytellers getting to the heart of conservation – Blue Planet II author Leisa Stewart-Sharpe reflects on the activists and storytellers who have inspired her love of nature, and the stories she now shares.
Metropolis: Scientific Literature About an Unscientific World – “Kanji Hanawa divulges society’s absurdity in two translated novellas”: Backlight and The Chronicles of Lord Asunaro by Kanji Hanawa, now translated into English.
The Wrap: Bret Easton Ellis Bypasses Book Publishers for Podcast Launch of Serial Killer Story ‘The Shards’ – “American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis is bypassing book publishing houses and debuting his new story, The Shards, on his podcast — because he didn’t think anyone would publish it given the graphic details”, says Beatrice Verhoeven.
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