An end of week recap
Last weekend, an easterly wind took out our Internet and caused a fair bit of damage to the rear of our lodge. Only a short distance up the coast, friends and family were nonplussed by our predicament because they had merely experienced “a bit of a breeze”. Such is the peculiarity of our weather these days. In the past we have endured far worse storms without calamity but the sheer sledgehammer strength of the gusts walloping into our little home over the course of 48 hours left us with a tangle of splintered wood and twisted metal to clear away on the Monday morning.
The Internet was fixed with impressive rapidity, but we’ve had a deal of mither with repair people and insurance claims because of the current lockdown. However, having for the best part of our lives coped with running both business and small-holding, we are nothing if not resourceful (though, I readily admit, my partner is by far the more practical half of our relationship) – and so, sustained by regular cups of tea and a large tin of chocolate biscuits, we rolled up our sleeves and commenced patching and replacing. I feel sure Rosie the Riveter would have been impressed.
I will endeavour in this post to atone for last Saturday’s missing wind up.
As ever, 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.
* Dewithon with a Difference *
Regular followers of Book Jotter will be familiar with Dewithon, otherwise known as the Wales Readathon, which takes place throughout the month of March. This annual event will, of course, go ahead in 2021 and, as usual, participants will be encouraged to read, review, discuss and generally immerse themselves in the literature of Wales. This year, however, I realise it may be difficult for people to obtain certain titles in the short time remaining before #Dewithon21 begins. The pandemic has apparently caused delays in ordering books via libraries and bookshops, which is an issue I rather foolishly failed to consider until recently. For this reason, I won’t on this occasion invite others to join me in reading a specific piece of work, though in all other respects the event will continue as before. I hope you will join me from 1st to 31st March in reading literature by and about writers from Wales. Please look out for a detailed post before the end of this month.
* Reading Ireland 2021 *
“It’s that time again!” says Cathy Brown at 746 Books, in her recent post announcing Reading Ireland Month or “The Begorrathon”. (1st-31st March 2021). In the company of her “partner in crime,” Niall of The Fluff is Raging, she invites you to “celebrate the wealth and breadth and general awesomeness of Irish cultural life” in this “fifth annual celebration of all things Irish”. The event “will feature book and film reviews, poems, music, interviews, giveaways and much, much more.” Please head over to Announcing Reading Ireland Month 2021! for further information.
* 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 Fresh and the Salt: The Story of the Solway by Ann Lingard – In his review for Shiny New Books, Peter Reason describes The Fresh and the Salt as “a good-sized book, with thorough and detailed chapters describing the natural and human history [of the] sea and shoreline.” He doesn’t recommend you read it “cover to cover in one go” as “its scope is so broad” that it is “necessary to put it to one side [and] return afresh”. It is, however, “comprehensive”, “informed” and serves “not just as a book about Solway, but also as an exemplar for readers’ experience of their own estuary ecosystem”.
Kokoschka’s Doll by Afonso Cruz – David Hebblethwaite at David’s Book World finds Cruz’s 2010 novel, which is based on the true story of two Dresden families, challenges him “to work out why it takes the form that it does.” It “has several fluid layers of reality” and is “never less than compelling”. He looks forward to “reading more” by this author in the future.
Watershed by Doreen Vanderstoop – Vanderstoop’s dystopian novel is “about the climate crisis,” says Naomi MacKinnon from Consumed by Ink, “but it’s also the story of a family in crisis”. She declares it “the scariest kind of speculative fiction”, because it is “entirely plausible.”
* 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 Guardian: Fiction prize renamed in honour of Margaret Atwood and late partner Graeme Gibson – “The Writers’ Trust of Canada has relaunched its annual fiction award as the Atwood Gibson prize, which Atwood says would have left him ‘very tickled’”.
Smithsonian Magazine: The Extraordinary Disappearing Act of a Novelist Banned by the Nazis – “Driven into exile because of her work’s “anti-German” themes, Irmgard Keun took her own life—or did she?”
Nautilus: Who Said Nobody Read Isaac Newton? – “It’s a myth that legendary works in science aren’t read”, says Caleb Scharf.
The Bookseller: Darling Reads and Maldon Books named newcomers of the year – “Indie bookshops Darling Reads in West Yorkshire and Maldon Books in Essex have jointly won the National Book Tokens Newcomer of the Year award for 2021.”
Quadrant: The Enduring Prose and Poetry of Clive James – “You didn’t need to read Clive James’s books or poems to feel the impact he made on the English language”, writes Ian Shircore. “You only had to watch television or read the papers.”
The New York Times Magazine: He Wants to Save Classics From Whiteness. Can the Field Survive? – “Dan-el Padilla Peralta thinks classicists should knock ancient Greece and Rome off their pedestal — even if that means destroying their discipline.”
New Statesman: How Yevgeny Zamyatin shaped dystopian fiction – “While Wells, Huxley and Orwell invented flawed worlds, the Soviet writer was living in one”, says John Gray.
Document Journal: Writing as exorcism: Chris Kraus on the art of confessional literature – “The alt-intellectual icon shares five books that couldn’t not be written, from William S. Burroughs’s Queer to Great Expectations by Kathy Acker”.
The Believer: Reading and Writing in an Egyptian Prison – “Imprisoned for the publication of his third book, a young Cairene novelist found himself wondering: Was any of it worth it?”
The Bookseller: Indie booksellers ‘hanging in there’ as lockdown stretches towards April – “Indie booksellers remain generally optimistic they can “weather the storm” of the latest lockdowns, despite fears England’s shop closures could last until April.”
WAtoday: Author who gave voice to animals in a pandemic wins $100,000 prize – “Laura Jean McKay has scooped Australia’s biggest literature prize for The Animals in That Country.”
Slate: What Stories of Transition and Divorce Have in Common – “In writing her new novel, Detransition, Baby, Torrey Peters found inspiration from a different group of women navigating change.”
The Guardian: Page refresh: how the internet is transforming the novel – “Doom scrolling, oversharing, constantly updating social media feeds – the internet shapes how we see the world, and now it’s changing the stories we tell, writes author Olivia Sudjic”.
Zocalo Public Square: The Theatrical Concept Powerful Enough to Break a Trumpian Spell – Oliver Mayer argues that “the great German playwright Bertholt Brecht knew how to jolt an audience out of narrative complacency”.
BBC News: Costa Book of the Year: ‘Utterly original’ Mermaid of Black Conch wins – “The Mermaid of Black Conch, a dark love story about a fisherman and a mermaid torn from the sea, has won the Costa Book of the Year award.”
Electric Literature: 10 Climate Change Novels About Endangered and Extinct Species – “Julie Carrick Dalton recommends books on how the loss of species affects the future of life on Earth”.
Asymptote: Fictional Notes toward an Essay on Translation – Anton Hur with an essay followed by a translation into the Korean by Bora Chung.
Sports Illustrated: Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman to Perform at Super Bowl 55 Pregame Show – Michael Shapiro reports that American poet and activist, Amanda Gorman will recite during the Super Bowl LV pre-game show on 7th February.
WIRED: A 25-Year-Old Bet Comes Due: Has Tech Destroyed Society? – “In 1995, a WIRED cofounder challenged a Luddite-loving doomsayer to a prescient wager on tech and civilization’s fate”, writes Steven Levy. “Now their judge weighs in.”
The Nation: Does Christopher Hitchens Need an Authorized Biography? – David Nasaw thinks “attempts by the former Nation columnist’s widow and literary agent to police a biography are both futile and short-sighted.”
Pioneer Works: 13 Ways of Looking Dantiel W. Moniz – “Ahead of her stunning debut collection [Milk Blood Heat], Dantiel W. Moniz shares 13 images that informed her stories, which are set mostly in and around the Jacksonville area and focus on resilient young Black women.”
Vanity Fair: Madeleine L’Engle’s Private Correspondence With Ahmad Rahman – “When the prolific author of A Wrinkle in Time began exchanging letters with a Black Panther imprisoned for a murder he didn’t commit, neither could have imagined what the relationship would yield.”
The Irish Times: Danielle McLaughlin: ‘I’m anxious and an introvert. That can be helpful when making fiction’ – The Cork writer speaks about her heralded debut novel (The Art of Falling), self-doubt and writing with autism.
Prospect: The rise of the internet novel – “Patricia Lockwood and Lauren Oyler’s new novels grapple with the pathologies and pleasures of the internet—and remind us of the profound importance of life away from the screen”, writes Imogen West-Knights.
Ploughshares: This Land Made You – “Melissa Faliveno’s 2020 essay collection’s genius,” says Claudia McCarron, “and tenderness, comes from a deep understanding of the language of home: the haunting, often unacknowledged pull place has on us, and how leaning towards and pushing against this pull shapes our identities.”
Lapham’s Quarterly: Finding an Audience – Rafia Zakaria on “the laws that kept Saadat Hasan Manto’s stories—and the work of his successors—out of readers’ reach.”
Jacobin: The Many Lives of Ignazio Silone – “Inspired by the hardships faced by peasants in his native Abruzzo, Ignazio Silone’s Fontamara was one of the great anti-fascist novels of the twentieth century”, finds Anne Colamosca.
The Hollywood Reporter: Spotify Tests Audiobooks With ‘Frankenstein,’ ‘Jane Eyre’ and Other Literary Classics (Exclusive) – “Nine classic audiobooks — including Cynthia Erivo’s narration of Persuasion and Hilary Swank’s reading of The Awakening — are now available on Spotify”, finds Natalie Jarvey.
Tor.com: Six Stories for Fans of Beautiful Australian Gothic – Kathleen Jennings looks at some “remarkable” stories that offer “intriguing new contexts for the Australian Gothic.”
Literary Hub: What Fiction Can Teach Journalists: A Reading List From Maurice Chammah – “Using literary techniques to write true—and urgent—stories”.
Penguin: Why setting a daily routine could be the self-care tool you need in lockdown – “Authors and wellness experts Sarah Crosby and Adrienne Herbert explain why ‘a semblance of certainty’ – whether it’s walking your dog, doing a bit of gardening or making coffee in the morning – can be crucial to our mental health.”
The New York Times: A YouTuber Shoots to Literary Fame in France, Ruffling Feathers – “The social media star known as Léna Situations, 23, had a pretty eventful 2020. She racked up millions of followers, became a best-selling author — and attracted criticism from the Paris book world.”
BBC Culture: What Jane Austen can teach us about resilience – “Her novels may be mischaracterised as romantic escapism, but at their core, they have a lot to say about perseverance – and it makes them perfect reading for now, writes Heloise Wood.”
Forbes: How It Feels To Be A Debut Novelist In 2021 – Rachel Kramer Bussel finds the experience of being a debut novelist in 2021 “is indelibly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic”.
CBC: 58 Canadian works of fiction coming out in spring 2021 – “Here are the Canadian novels and short story collections [CBC journalists] are excited to read in the first half of 2021!”
Penguin: Virginia Woolf’s (not so) secret lesbian relationship – in her own words – “Who to write better love letters than two wordsmiths? A new collection of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West’s letters contains hidden depths and joys, says its editor Lily Lindon.”
The Hudson Review: The Perils of Fame: Sylvia Plath and Seamus Heaney – “One could argue that Sylvia Plath was destroyed by fame even before she became famous, though her most enduring fame was achieved after she committed suicide”, writes David Mason.
The New York Review: To Err Is Poetic – “The poetry canon is dotted with mistakes large and small; why do some critics seem attached to reading these errors as intentional?” asks Evan Kindley.
Wales Arts Review: Nostalgia Bug: Books Go Back to the 70s – “There is a nostalgia bug going around and after film and TV it looks like it’s now hit books. Miriam Balanescu shares her thoughts on why we’re all going back to the 70s.”
Words Without Borders: On Sestinas and Literary Translation – May Huang discovers “the sestina is a useful form through which writers and translators can probe nuances in word choice”.
History Books: The Business of Books – Andrew Pettegree on the “high-stakes world of pirate publishing.”
The Sydney Morning Herald: The urgent need for committed nature writing – Jane Sullivan finds that towards the end of his life, Barry Lopez adopted an increasingly urgent tone in his writing about nature.
The New York Times: Harold Bloom Is Dead. But His ‘Rage for Reading’ Is Undiminished. – “Robert Gottlieb considers the celebrated Yale critic on the occasion of his last, posthumously published book, The Bright Book of Life, which revisits the novels that inspired his passion and awe.”
Nikkei Asian: In praise of Southeast Asia’s independent booksellers – The region’s “struggling community of quirky bookstores keep cultural creativity alive”.
Soft Punk: “I’m Going to Put This in My Fucking Book” — Lauren Oyle – “Lauren Oyler on her novel Fake Accounts, writing in the age of Twitter, and whether contemporary fiction is ‘fake and embarrassing’.”
Moomin: Tove Jansson’s first biopic TOVE is heading to the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom – “The first ever bio-pic drama about Moomin creator Tove Jansson, TOVE, has been sold to over 50 territories across the world and is heading to the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom amongst others.”
The American Conservative: E.E. Cummings In Love And At War – Micah Mattix finds a new biography “offers insights into the early years of a valuable, albeit minor, 20th-century poet.”
InsideHook: It’s Time for Men to Start Reading More Erotica – Kayla Kibbe believes “erotic literature offers a more mentally stimulating alternative to porn that just might be more stimulating overall.”
MEL: The Women Who Read ‘Bad’ Male Authors Are Sick of Your Stereotypes – “Contrary to a persistent meme, not everyone who reads Hemingway is a toxic bro”, says Hannah Williams.
The Drift: Strong Female Leads – Marella Gayla on “the Reese Witherspoon literary canon”.
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.