Winding Up the Week #154

An end of week recap

There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight. Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought.”
Zora Neale Hurston

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.


* Lie Back and Listen *

Here I recommend engaging podcasts and other digital recordings I’ve come across during the week. Hopefully, you too will enjoy them.

/-\/\/\ (or Amam) is a multi-platform community celebrating and sharing the cultural creativity of Wales. Here you can catch up with Chippy Lane’s Podcast, which celebrates Welsh and Wales-based writers and their stories. Now into its second season, and entitled the Pictures / Lluniau Project, each episode “focuses on a new writer, a personal picture […] and a story”. You are invited to “sit back and enjoy” the programme, which is “generously supported by The Carne Trust, individual donations and the generosity of the creatives giving up their time and talents to make the series.” >> Chippy Lane’s Podcast Season 2 >> 


* Southern Cross Crime 2021 *

Kim Forrester of Reading Matters invites you to spend March “reading all things crime from Australia and New Zealand” for #SouthernCrossCrime2021. She thinks it will be a “fun way to celebrate the depth of talent [to be found] Down Under”, while from a personal perspective, it will enable her to work through an “ever-increasing pile of crime books”. There are, she says, “no shortage of writers” from this part of the world producing excellent true and fictional crime titles, psychological thrillers and suspense novels, so if you would like to take part in this reading challenge, please head over to Introducing Southern Cross Crime Month, March 2021, where you can share your reading plans with Kim and download the official image. 

* 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:

Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan: Devilishly good – Fagan’s latest novel is a “richly imaginative slice of gothic […], laced with a dark dry humour”, writes Susan Osborne at A life in books. Furthermore, she describes this tale of “a many-floored Edinburgh tenement” at No. 10 Luckenbooth Close as “[spinning] stories within stories”. It is, she says, heading straight for her “books of the year list”.

A Suspension of Mercy by Patricia Highsmith – This domestic noir is “enjoyable” if “not quite in the same league” as certain other Highsmith crime fiction titles, says Jacqui of JacquiWine’s Journal. She likes the “exploration of the characters’ psychology and motives” and finds it an “intriguing novel”, which she recommends “for fans of this writer’s work.”

Five things about Don Quixote – Eleanor Franzen of Elle Thinks has finally “conquered” her 982-page edition of Cervantes’ Don Quixote and therefore offers “a few scattered comments” in addition to several useful tips should you be “thinking of scaling this mountain yourself.” She describes this classic chivalric romance as “a serious investment of time,” containing “bittersweet moments of sanity” while not taking itself “too seriously”. In fact, she even confesses to finding it “fun”.

* 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 Believer: An Interview with Madeleine Watts – Jeannie Vanasco in Baltimore spoke to author Madeleine Watts in Berlin about her forthcoming novel, The Inland Sea.

Literary Hub: How to Read Ulysses By the Numbers – Eric Bulson, author of Ulysses By Numbers, breaks down “a surprisingly revealing technique”. 

Public Books: Dirty Essays, Clean Essays – Christy Wampole examines the ways in which recently translated essay collections underscore how sanitized ethical language has become in the last 60 to 70 years. 

History Extra: Your guide to the Domesday Book: the most important document in English history? – “What was the Domesday Book used for? What does it say about the impact of the Normans on England? And what more can we learn from it? Stephen Baxter considers the big questions about this pivotal work”. 

CBC: Bookworms support Hamilton’s independent bookstores during pandemic – “Customers made it their ‘mission’ to shop local, owners say”. 

London Review of Books: It’s not Jung’s, it’s mine – “Ursula Le Guin was able to direct a whole array of ‘what if? questions against the conventions of children’s fantasy”, says Colin Burrow. 

Moomin: Tove Jansson created illustrations also in color for her classical novel “Moominland Midwinter” – The Italian publication of Jansson’s book Moominland Midwinter has long included stunning four-colour images – they will soon be appearing other language versions of this much-loved book. For this bookseller of Kabul, the pandemic was a blip in a country afflicted by long-term war – “Shah Muhammed Rais of Shah M Book Company fame was inadvertently prepared for the pandemic.” 

Penguin: Famous books that almost had completely different endings – “There’s a fine line between a good book and a great book – and a satisfying conclusion is definitely one of the hallmarks of the latter. Yet these iconic novels almost had very different final chapters”, says Indira Birnie. 

Vox: The word “Orwellian” has lost all meaning – Constance Grady believes “the right made the word ‘Orwellian’ an empty cliché.” 

JSTOR Daily: In The Gay Cookbook, Domestic Bliss Was Queer – Erin Blakemore discover that “Chef Lou Rand Hogan whipped up well-seasoned wit and served a gay take on home life during the early-1960s craze for camp.” 

Brain Pickings: Toni Morrison on the Body as an Instrument of Joy, Sanity, and Self-Love – Maria Popova reflects: “Beloved remains the rare sort of masterpiece that gives the English language back to itself and your conscience back to itself.” 

The Guardian: ‘If the aliens lay eggs, how does that affect architecture?’: sci-fi writers on how they build their worlds – “Authors including Nnedi Okorafor, Kim Stanley Robinson and Alastair Reynolds reveal what does, and doesn’t, go into creating their worlds”. 

Zocalo Public Square: The Writer as Witness – Daisy Hernández explains “why we need literature to document atrocities—at home and abroad”. 

Fine Books & Collections: Arsenic and Old Books – In the spring of 2019, while working to restore an old book, Dr. Melissa Tedone noticed the cloth cover was flaky and “began to wonder if it was made with a toxic pigment rather than a dye.” 

Harper’s Bazaar: Spy Novels Made Me a Better Black Woman Writer – “How novelist Aya de León challenged the James Bond trope and found her voice.” 

Columbia Journalism Review: Our year of pandemic words – Merrill Perlman discusses some of 2020’s words of the year, according to various entities and organizations. 

O, The Oprah Magazine: Melinda Gates Is Donating $250,000 to Fund a Literary Award Just for Women – Gates opens up [to Leigh Haber] about the impact she hopes the Carol Shields Prize has for women in fiction. 

NL Times: Bookstores urge government to let them reopen – “Bookstores [in the Netherlands] want to re-open their doors as soon as possible.” 

Russia Beyond: 5 reasons you should know genius anti-Stalin poet Osip Mandelstam – Alexandra Guzeva looks back at the life of “one of the greatest poets of the Silver Age of Russian poetry” and recalls “why his legacy is so important.” 

Publishers Weekly: Writers to Watch Spring 2021 – “In these ten profiles, the authors share the stories behind their work and what they hope to accomplish with fiction.” 

Avidly: Dickinson Variations – As the second series of Dickinson gets underway, three English professors offer their own variations on “the poems, the show, and each other’s readings.” 

Vanity Fair: A 1965 Novel About an Unhinged President Seems Awfully Familiar Now – “In the thriller Night of Camp David, a volatile POTUS loses control. He’s cold to the son named after him too”, says Anthony Breznican. 

Slate: “Don’t Fall Into the Plath Trap” – Rumaan Alam finds “Heather Clark’s new biography of Sylvia Plath corrects the record on the great American writer.” 

The Spectator: The life and loves of Mary Wollstonecraft – “Sylvana Tomaselli reveals how much the passionate, impulsive ‘mother of feminism’ achieved before her tragic death at the age of 38”. 

TLS: Fifty twists of the tongue – Eric Ormsby discovers a “remarkable version of a remarkable Arabic classic”. 

The Nation: Opulent Doom – Dustin Illingworth explores the “intricate fictions of Shirley Hazzard.” 

Unison: Library staff ‘scared and stressed’ about working through lockdown – “UNISON calls for libraries [in the UK] to stay completely closed, to protect library workers and their families”. 

Japan Forward: Bookshops Make First Comeback in Four Years With Manga Boom – “The upbeat tendency for the book market is also due to the fact that people are spending more time at home due to restrictions under COVID 19”, finds Rui Ebisawa. 

Publishing Perspectives: CBC’s 20th Season of ‘Canada Reads’: Five Books and Their ‘Champions’ – “Discovering ‘which books matter most to Canadians’ is a goal of the annual ‘Canada Reads’ program, now opening its new season”, says Porter Anderson. 

Guernica: Back Draft: Lisa Dillman – “The translator on selecting her subjects, discovering the work of Andrés Barba, and the dangers of cultural hegemony.” 

Guardian Australia: Shelter by Catherine Jinks review – frenetic outback thriller from a masterful storyteller – “Tension and terror from a prolific author who’s demonstrated she’s just as comfortable penning picture books as mapping the terrain of vicious killers”. 

Bomb: Adventures in Sadness: Lucie Britsch Interviewed by Rebecca van Laer – According to Laer, Sad Janet is “a novel that scrutinizes the commodification of emotions with humor and subversion.” 

Literary Hub: On Discovering Zimbabwean Literature as a Zimbabwean Writer – Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu “charts the path to her debut novel”, The Theory of Flight

Atlas Obscura: Why 1920s L.A. Went Wild for an 18th-Century Scottish Novelist – “Walter Scott wrote fantasies about medieval Saxons—just the thing for Jazz Age Angelenos.” 

CrimeReads: Every Mystery Writer Knows, You Can Kill Anyone But The Dog – “Sulari Gentill on crime fiction’s most unbreakable rule”. 

Yahoo! Life: Amazon Just Quietly Shut This Beloved Feature Down Today – John Quinn reports that “Amazon has quietly shut down its Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) service that allowed readers to borrow digital books.” 

OneZero: The Wikipedia Story – Tom Roston with an oral history of Wikipedia, the web’s encyclopaedia, on the occasion of its 20th birthday. 

Wired: Zoom Book Tours: 5 Authors on Publishing in a Pandemic – Kate Knibbs asked five writers to describe the experience of releasing a book during Covid-19. 

Vice: People Are Reading So Much Fanfiction It’s Crashing the Biggest Fanfic Website – “Don’t worry Heat Wave fans—it’s not just you”, says Gita Jackson. 



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 is an excellent description on Urban Dictionary.

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32 replies

  1. Thanks for the link, Paula. Luckenbooth is a superb novel – perfect winter reading! Hope your year’s started well.

  2. So many reading challenges, Paula 🙂
    ‘Read Indie’ was mentioned not so long ago. ‘The European Reading Challenge. is still on my mind…

    This week I thank you for the link towards ‘The Writer as Witness’ – something I realize I grew up with while reading Romanian authors.

    And also for Publishers Weekly: Writers to Watch Spring 2021 – it motivates and awes me to discover the reasons behind how some books came to be, especially when they “asked” to be written 🙂

    Thank you, Paula 🙂

    • Thank you, Patricia. There certainly are a fair few reading challenges taking place, which is no bad thing for all the readers in lockdown at the moment. I’m delighted you found those links of particular interest – I always try to include a good mix of features in the hope that there will be something to please everyone. 😊

  3. Got my coffee, now I’m off to surf the links! ☺️

  4. Oh, my; where to start?!

  5. Wait, the ending of Picnic at Hanging Rock was originally going to be “a hole in space” that transforms them into crabs?!!! That’s great!

  6. Another tasty smorgasbord to tempt the reading palate, Paula 🙂

    “Every Mystery Writer Knows, You Can Kill Anyone But The Dog” says Sulari Gentill on crime fiction’s most unbreakable rule. Ironically I have just finished “Consolation” by the inimitable rural crime writer Garry Disher in which protagonist Constable Hirsch tells his off-sider not to shoot a dog which is about to attack them. Phew!

    Also, really enjoyed “Spy Novels Made Me a Better Black Woman Writer” by Aya de León who challenged the James Bond trope. I remember reading my father’s 007 books and thinking it was all pretty boring stuff for the women involved.

  7. Thanks for the link, Paula – very kind. Wishing you all the best for 2021.

  8. Always glad to see an article about Ursula K. Le Guin. I liked the conclusion, “Civilisation isn’t about conquering planets or travelling faster than the speed of light. It’s about keeping going even when you think you’re lost, recognising that living means keeping children alive, growing fruit trees, watching things change and tending the goats. I just reviewed the novel Malafrena, a first-time read for me, and was impressed all over again with her subtle genius.

  9. Woohoo, what a smorgasbord! How do you keep up with all this? I can barely manage two or so of these pieces before wanting to start reading the titles they talk if, and then paralysed into mental stasis!

  10. Thanks Paula – so many riches! Very exciting news about the Moomin illustrations!

  11. A wonderful selection this week! I have many to go, but have particularly enjoyed the LRB on Le Guin and of course the Moomin illustrations. And I do hope ‘Luckenbooth’ gets published in the States, it definitely looks intriguing.

  12. I keep seeing articles about the boom in bookstore sales and it makes me so happy!

  13. Yay, you found an article for your Tove Trove project! And I always enjoy reading about how other people are reading Ulysses, because I’m not sure I’ll ever read it, so reading ABOUT it is the next best thing I figure. LOL

    Take care and stay safe!

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