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.
PAUSE FOR A POD >>
* 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.
A big thank-you to Ian Skillicorn of Wyndham Books for drawing my attention to a splendid new literary podcast: Ursula Bloom: A Life in Words. It is a five-part series based on the autobiographical writings of the witty and entertaining British author Ursula Bloom (1892-1984), read by actor Lisa Armytage. Ian tells me the podcast is “part of a current revival” of her work, which will see his “independent publishing company [reissue] her novels (as ebooks, with paperbacks to follow)”. He describes her as “a fascinating figure, and a household name for most of her life” and says the podcast provides an excellent “insight into the world of publishing books, newspapers and magazines in the 1920s to 1940s.” You can freely access all five episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Tune-In and others. >> Youth at the Gate (Part 1) >>
* March Magics 2021 *
Over at We Be Reading, Kristen M. has posted details of March Magics 2021, a “celebration of the wit and wisdom of Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett”. She has chosen this year’s theme (All Together Now) for a several reasons, including the “fondness” she has for coming together with fellow readers and to acknowledge the love participants share for these two iconic authors. You are encouraged to join Kristen in this celebratory event, and she invites you to read, chat, utilize her bingo card, check out her Instagram stories, conduct readathons and possibly join “small sessions of reading aloud on Instagram Live throughout the month.” Please share your ideas and plans at Announcing #MarchMagics 2021: All Together Now.
* 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:
Book review: Kololo Hill by Neema Shah – Shah’s debut novel, Kololo Hill, which explores the plight of Ugandan Asians forced to leave their homeland, is “striking and heartfelt”, says Rachel of Book Bound. The “the female characters” in particular, “shone through” and she found their “story of displacement” and trauma “opened [her] eyes” to this shocking “episode in history”.
The genrefication of national literatures – In her post, Ann Morgan at A Year of Reading the World examines “the tendency of English-language publishers to make national literatures genres in their own right.” She questions the “the logic” of booksellers who believe they can predict her taste in novels by those she has read before, warning that “this sales technique” may be problematic when “applied too aggressively”.
‘O Último Voo do Flamingo’ (‘The Last Flight of the Flamingo’) by Mia Couto – The “Mozambican author [of this magical realism story has] mixed local superstitions and folklore with social and political denunciations”, finds Susana Faria from A Bag Full of Stories. Filled with “metaphors” and memories of the narrator’s family, she declares it an “incisive and occasionally funny political novel”.
* 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 Rumpus: What to Read When You Need to Get to Spring – Emily Franklin shares a reading list of books she hopes will tide us-over “until we can all head back outside, together.”
The Calvert Journal: 100 books to read from Eastern Europe and Central Asia – An assortment of writers, poets, translators, and academics pick their favourite books available in English from Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia.
Nautilus: Why Computers Will Never Write Good Novels – Angus Fletcher argues that the “power of narrative flows only from the human brain.”
The Guardian: Top 10 books about the Irish war of independence – “Novelist Ciarán McMenamin picks out histories and fiction by authors from Frank O’Connor to Roddy Doyle that best reflect the revolutionary conflict a century ago”.
Words Without Borders: #Russophonia: New Writing in Russian – A spotlight on new writing in Russian, in which authors “address identity, feminism, war, and the particular nature of post-Soviet existence in work that subverts traditional notions of Russian literature.”
TRT World: In photos: Turkey’s bookshelf-shaped library, an architectural marvel – “One of the most striking features of Turkey’s Karabuk province is a library that looks like a row of gigantic books lined up on a shelf.”
Literary Hub: 50 Great Classic Novels Under 200 Pages – Emily Temple helps get us through February.
n+1: A Breakup Letter to My Writing Career – In Rome Coronavirus Dispatch #8, Francesco Pacifico writes about breaking up with his writing career.
Publishing Perspectives: Wales’ 2021 Hay Festival Returns in an All-Digital Format – “With both internal staffing issues and the external pressure of the pandemic, the Hay Festival plans a second online iteration of its main program for May and June”, reports Porter Anderson.
Public Books: Why Write? Toward a Style for Climate Change – Maxwell Saters asks: What should climate-change writing be and what is its ambition as it moves forward?
Vintage: Where to start reading Richard Mabey – “To mark the 80th birthday of nature writer Richard Mabey,” Tim Dee looks back “at the work of the man who birthed a generation of writers fascinated by place, botany and the outdoors.”
The Week: The popular bookshelf trend that may have gone too far – Arati Menon wonders when books as “as color-coded décor” became “a thing?”
The Bookseller: Hatchards launches first transactional website – Hatchards, the oldest bookshop in London, has launched its “first transactional website”, reports Ruth Comerford.
The Irish Times: ‘An expert analyst of female fury’: recalling Caroline Blackwood on her 25th anniversary – Dawn Miranda Sherratt-Bado believes “Blackwood deserves to stand as a northern counterpart to her contemporary Edna O’Brien”.
Zora: Toni Morrison as an Editor Changed Book Publishing Forever – “Her talent as a novelist is evident, but her nurturing of Black authors cannot be overlooked”, says Arielle Gray.
Bomb: Language as Pure Magic: Karin Tidbeck Interviewed by Lincoln Michel – “The Swedish writer on their bloody, darkly comedic speculative fiction.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education: Queer Theory and Literary Criticism’s Melodramas – According to David Kurnick, “recent debates suffer from a strange amnesia.”
Quill & Quire: 2021 Spring Preview: Fiction – “Escape from the real world with the season’s most provocative novels, short stories, and poetry” from Canada.
Russia Beyond: If you are into SLAVIC studies you must know ‘Iron Woman’ Nina Berberova – “With her stunning looks, charisma and sex appeal, Nina Berberova could doubtless have become a silver screen siren. But a different scenario unfolded [when she finally] moved to the United States, where she became one of the most successful writers of Russian literature in the west”, says Valeria Paikova.
Sunday Times ZA: Lwando Xaso on writing ‘Made in South Africa’ – Lwando Xaso discusses her collection of essays, Made in South Africa: A Black Woman’s Stories of Rage, Resistance and Progress.
Vulture: Patricia Lockwood’s Infinite Scroll – Joanne McNeil discovers the “Twitter-famous poet’s first novel”, No One Is Talking About This, “moves between the body in space and the mind online.”
Medievalists.net: Love and Marriage in Old Norse Literature – “Many proverbs throughout history illuminate an idea which forms a particular facet of Norse-Icelandic culture”, finds Beth Rogers.
Rolling Stone: The Secret Life of H.G. Carrillo – “A celebrated writer and professor, he challenged his students to take hold of their own narrative. But the truth came out — his life story, like his works, was a work of fiction”.
CrimeReads: Maternity Leave Noir – “A surprising number of crime-writing careers begin during maternity leave. Think about how many more there would be if that leave was longer and guaranteed to all”, says Molly Odintz.
The Guardian: Unseen work by Proust announced as ‘thunderclap’ by French publisher – “The Seventy-Five Pages, out next month, contains germinal versions of episodes developed in In Search of Lost Time and opens ‘the primitive Proustian crypt’”.
BBC News: Hunt for owner of 1943 Peter Pan book found in France – “A woman is hoping a sprinkling of pixie dust will help her trace the owner of a 1943 copy of Peter Pan she found in a railway station in France.”
Tablet: Tea With Martin Amis – “How to write? With love, says the author.”
Poets & Writers: New Ways of Surviving: Writing Through a Global Pandemic – The poet and essayist, Tiana Clark, reflects on writing during the pandemic and its impact on her creative life and relationship with the writing community.
Scroll.in: Sci-fi novel ‘Lagoon’ challenges long-held ideas of how sexual identities are considered in Africa – Nnedi Okorafor’s rich body of work matters when it comes to the representation of black lives.
Tribune: The Radical Politics of Oscar Wilde – “Oscar Wilde is known today for his satirical wit,” says Donal Fallon, “but he maintained a lifelong interest in political affairs – one which would lead him to Irish nationalism, women’s suffrage and the fight against capitalism.”
The Guardian: Voices of the Lost by Hoda Barakat review – migrant stories – “A chain of letters links five refugees in the Lebanese writer’s searing prizewinner”, writes Madeleine Thien in her review of Voices of the Lost.
Open Culture: 4,000 Priceless Scrolls, Texts & Papers From the University of Tokyo Have Been Digitized & Put Online – “Thanks to cooperation between the University of Tokyo General Library and the Internet Archive, we can access thousands more primary sources previously unavailable to ‘outsiders’”, writes Josh Jones.
Slate: The New Zealand Author Behind the First Great Fantasy Epic of the Year – A conversation with Elizabeth Knox, author of The Absolute Book.
The Rambling: Love Under These Conditions – “In a world where tomorrow is not promised, we may have to make hard choices between the texts we love and the texts our students need now”, writes Erin A. Spampinato.
Hazlitt: ‘There’s Been a Kind of Erasure of the Pervert’: An Interview with Jeremy Atherton Lin – “Talking to the author of Gay Bar about the complexities of queer spaces, the relationship between capitalist culture and liberation, and the thrill and privilege of engaging with risk”, writes Ilana Masad.
TNR: Can Historians Be Traumatized by History? – James Robins finds historians second-hand “experience of past horrors can debilitate them.”
Popula: I Became a Literary Arts Activist in Ilorin – “A watering hole of sorts, that was all I wanted.”
Vanity Fair: Roxane Gay on How to Write About Trauma – “In a candid interview, the novelist, essayist, and professor talks to Monica Lewinsky about finding a way to write about terrible things, doing double duty on therapy, and handling all forms of criticism.”
American Libraries: Tarnished Legacies – “Presidential libraries grapple with the histories of their subjects”.
The Paris Review: Corona Porn – An amusing feature by Jessi Jezewska Stevens, in which she reminds us that “when Shakespeare was quarantined, he definitely masturbated.”
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.
Categories: Winding Up the Week
Thanks for mentioning my review!
It’s a pleasure, Susana. Thank YOU! 😊
These were interesting and I enjoyed poking through the list, as I usually do. Thanks! The list of “what to read when you need to get to spring” was not a good one, though, as far as I’m concerned. Spring is still more than a month away where I live, and I’m out of fortitude.
I’m so glad you continue to find my weekly wind ups of interest, Jeanne. I know what you mean about Spring – it seems like months away here, too! 🥶
Thank you as always Paula for all this wonderful info. I definitely worry about the algorithm-ification of our book choices. I hope the Storygraph model will gain traction over the goodreads model in using other ways of analysing previous reads other than just by plot elements.
Thank you for taking the time to comment, Frances. 😊
No, I’m not at all keen on this algorithm malarkey when it comes to books. It certainly won’t benefit those of us with wide-ranging reading tastes!
Hooray for March Magics, those authors are always able to cheer me up.
Have you any reading plans for this event, Lory?
I have an unread copy of Pyramids (Pratchett) and I’ll see what I may feel like rereading by DWJ. Maybe read along with Power of Three.
A bumper collection, Paula – that’ll keep me quiet for a while!
Thank you, Kaggsy. Hope you find something of interest. 😊
Historians’ second-hand experience of horror can certainly be very traumatising. It was also interesting to read about the search for the owners of a Peter Pan signed 1943. I have a book (The Woman in White) which I bought in an antique shop and it is dedicated to someone in ink and signed 1942. I wonder if I shall start my search for its owners, too, then? 🙂
Wouldn’t that be exciting. It would make for a fascinating post at the very least – possibly a book! 😀
At first I thought that all the cover images were going to be birds: did you try? LOL
Glad to hear that the bookish world is keeping you well entertained even while still under lockdown. Take care and stay safe!
LOL! No I didn’t – I just happened to like the covers – but now you mention it I definitely should have done! 🐦🦢🦜🐧
You take care too, Marcie.