Winding Up the Week #159

An end of week recap

The great and recurrent question about Abroad is, is it worth the trouble of getting there?
~ Rose Macaulay

We are inching ever-closer to March, which can mean only one thing: Dewithon 2021 is about to begin. Look out for my introductory post to our month-long celebration of literature from and about Wales, and please do consider taking part in this reading jolly.

In the meantime, this is, as ever, 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.


* Moomins and the Power of Words * 

I share a few thoughts on a new Moomin initiative, which was launched at The National Museum of Finland in Helsinki on 18th February. >> Reading, Writing and the Moomins >> 

* Reading the Theatre * 

Lory at Entering the Enchanted Castle is preparing to celebrate “a month of Reading the Theatre”, which, she says, is the perfect “way for us all to get out of the house,” if only “in our imaginations”. She invites you to join her in reading and posting about plays, productions, stage-to-screen adaptations, theatre-related fiction, memoirs – in fact, anything theatre related from the past, present and future. This reading event will be “free-form” (thus doubly exciting) and Lory hopes those of you taking part will “inspire each other with [your] armchair appreciations of the lively arts, even if life is constricted right now.” Please nip over to Coming attractions: Reading the Theatre for all the gen and to share your plans. 

* 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:

Creatives in profile: interview with Samantha ShannonThe Mask is Falling, the fourth book in The Bone Season series, “combines the hallmarks of dystopia with the scope of epic fantasy”, says Samantha Shannon in her interview with Nothing in the Rulebook. The “world opens up on a whole new level, finally taking the reader out of Britain and into mainland Europe”, which, she feels, has enabled her to show “the tyrannical Republic of Scion from a new, Parisian perspective.”

“…one has to think fearlessly…” – Over at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings, Karen Langley features Renard Press in her latest Reading Independent Publishers Month post, with a special emphasis on the “recent release” of a “lovely set of Orwellian pamphlets” (‘paperbacks with flaps’ according to the publisher), which she describes as “beautiful objects”. She was delighted to discover that reading his essays in this format works “quite brilliantly” and at no point has she been “overwhelmed by the vast amount of his wisdom waiting to be discovered”. It is the perfect way to visit “the great man’s works,”– plus, these hand bound beauties “look pretty” on her “Orwell shelf”.

Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink – Simon Thomas of Stuck in a Book finds Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books is “a memoir of reading life”, which offers a “fun” and “fascinating look behind the [bookselling] curtain”. There is “a warmth to Rentzenbrink’s writing” and she has a “passion” for “encouraging others in their reading lives.” Simon declares her book “a delightful read.”

* 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: 


New Welsh Review: Secret Britain: Unearthing Our Mysterious Past – “Amy Aed discovers worlds and wonders right beneath her feet” in Mary-Ann Ochota’s Secret Britain: Unearthing Our Mysterious Past

The New York Review: The Wanderer – “Jan Morris wrote that her constant travels were ‘an outer expression of my inner journey,’ ‘fired by patriotism, inhibited by upbringing, inexhaustibly in love’”, writes Hermione Lee. 

Literary Hub: Nicola Barker is Our Great Post-Punk Novelist – “Brian Castleberry Profiles the Author of Thirteen ‘Baffling Innovative’ Novels”. 

The Japan Times: Stephen Snyder: Distilling the essence of a literary work – “In recent years, Japanese literature has earned a reputation abroad for its edgy, socially-conscious fiction, which translator Stephen Snyder, 63, has had a hand in encouraging”, finds Kris Kosaka. 

The Guardian: Writer’s blockdown: after a year inside, novelists are struggling to write – “A spell at home is surely a good opportunity to write, so why are so many authors struggling? William Sutcliffe, Linda Grant and more share how the pandemic has stifled their imaginations”. 

TNR: The Polite Rage of Shirley Hazzard – “Her newly reissued masterpiece The Transit of Venus gestures at vast and intricate political problems”, says Jo Livingstone. 

GQ: HIV Ruined My Sex Life. Then I Met My Match – “Poet Danez Smith on the relationship that reignited their fire.” 

Publishers Weekly: Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Peerless Poet-Publisher, Dies at 101 – Bookseller, publisher and one of the most prominent poets and free speech advocates of his generation has died at 101. 

The Conversation: How reading aloud can be an act of seduction – “Where solitary reading drives us into ourselves, reading aloud can be a deeply sensuous experience”, says Kiera Vaclavik. 

NPR: ‘We Run The Tides’ Pulls You Into The Rough Seas Of Female Adolescence – Maureen Corrigan expects to reread and spend “a lot of time thinking about” Vendela Vida’s We Run the Tides Over the coming months. 

Publishers Weekly: Bookselling Spotlight: Talk Story Bookstore – Talk Story Bookstore in Hanapepe, Hawaii, is the talk of the town for a reason. 

The Conversation: My favourite detective: Claire DeWitt’s personal loss and blackout hours make her weirdly compelling – “Just when you think you’ve had enough of detectives behaving badly, along comes Claire DeWitt. She is, frankly, a beautifully written mess”, says Australian author Peter Doyle. 

i News: Six literary pilgrimages in the UK to plan for – “As we wait for news about when we might be able to visit other parts of the country, Penguin literary podcast host Henry Eliot offers six ideas”. 

The Point: The Other Woman – “Jealousy ushers eros into its own; jealousy makes the invisible visible”, writes Agnes Callard in this piece about the ‘Unhappily Married Woman’. 

Metropolis: Japan’s Lost Tradition of Wild Food – Margherita Pitorri reviews Eating Wild Japan: Tracking the Culture of Foraged Foods, with a Guide to Plants and Recipes. 

Vulture: Why the End of Atonement Is a Triumph for Unreliable Narrators – When Ian McEwan’s book came out, the final twist infuriated many readers. Twenty years later, it’s a classic of the form. 

3: AM Magazine: zahir: desire and eclipse – Oscar Mardell reviews the Zahir: Desire and Eclipse anthology edited by Christian Patracchini. 

Evening Standard: Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro review: can artificial life ever be worth more than a human life? – “With its hushed intensity of emotion, this fable about robot love and loneliness confirms Ishiguro as a master prose stylist, says Ian Thomson”. 

Bookforum: Now or Never – Leanne Betasamosake Simpson spotlights a “constellation of books that teach us to reimagine the present”. 

Yale Climate Connections: New books, reports on environmental and climate justice – “This month’s bookshelf highlights writings illustrating the ‘inconvenient truth’ that communities of color suffer most, and most severely, ‘when disaster strikes.’” 

Electric Literature: 7 Stories About Mermaids, Selkies, and Sea-Wolves – “Aimee Ogden, author of Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters, recommends short stories and novellas about mythical sea creatures”. 

Inside Higher Ed: Just 1 Book – “Christopher Schaberg describes how he learned to slow down and enjoy learning with his students.” 

The Nation: The Lies We Tell Ourselves – Jennifer Wilson on “Elena Ferrante’s class fictions.” 

Prospect: What fiction reveals about the Algerian War – “Joseph Andras’s Tomorrow They Won’t Dare to Murder Us stunned France when it was released – and also remains strikingly relevant to the national debates on colonialism today”, says Rebecca Liu. 

The New Yorker: Alena Smith’s Subversive “Dickinson” – “The show seemed like a modern riff on a beloved poet. After two seasons, it looks more like a radical reading of the poems themselves,” says Katy Waldman of Apple’s “breakout” TV programme. 

The Age: The long and winding road for women writers – A virtual festival celebrated 50 years of the Victorian branch of the Society of Women Writers. 

iNews: Rebecca Solnit: ‘The desk I sit at was given to me by a woman a man tried to murder’ – “In an exclusive extract from her memoir Recollections of My Non-Existence, the essayist tells the story behind her Victorian writing desk and explains how it has shaped her career”. 

The Critic: Heroes, but not trans heroes: How two female artists defied the Nazis – “Jeffrey Jackson’s lively and compassionate account plunges readers into the depths of the Occupation and the Channel Islands’ resistance movement”, finds Alexander Adams. 

National Post: Barbara Kay: Finding hope in the unlikeliest ways – “Timely stories of loss and trauma that offer hope for the future”. 

The Paris Review: The Storyteller of Tangier – Mrabet was friends with Paul Bowles and, it’s assumed, lovers too, but they were also artistic collaborators. However, his memoir, Look and Move On, began long before they met. 

Fine Books & Collections: Lindisfarne Gospels to go on Display in 2022 – The Lindisfarne Gospels, the most spectacular surviving manuscript from Anglo-Saxon England, will go on display” in Newcastle in 2022. 

Atlas Obscura: Now Online: A Free Library Devoted to West Africa’s Food Heritage – “A new internet archive is making the region’s culinary history more accessible than ever.” 

The Week: Elizabeth Kolbert recommends 6 books about people and the planet – “Elizabeth Kolbert’s new book, Under a White Sky, explores climate engineering and other bids to address humanity’s impact on nature.” She “recommends six other books about people and the planet.” 

Travel + Leisure: This Palm Beach Hotel Has a Book Butler to Curate Your Perfect Literary Escape – Stacey Leasca recommends you “let the book butler find you the perfect novel and literary-themed snack.” 

BBC Bristol: ‘Books saved my mental health,’ says online reviewer – “A Waterstones employee turned professional book reviewer says the pandemic has helped him to find his ‘purpose’.” 

Quizzical: Which Academic Press Are You? – “We don’t judge books by their covers, but we do sort people based on which academic presses match their personality types.” Mary Zaborskis invites you to take a quiz to find out which press represents your fundamental self. 



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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24 replies

  1. I enjoyed several of the articles and then really enjoyed the quiz about which academic press!

  2. Can’t wait for Dewithon – in fact I need to get my two books out and photograph them ready for my State of the TBR post on Monday! And I have read two of the three blog posts in your first section already – a record for me!

  3. Intrigued by Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt mysteries! Thanks for the tip, Paula!

  4. I’ve scheduled my first Dewithon review for March 1st you may be pleased to know! Also liked the piece about the Waterstone’s employee, especially as he was from the Bristol housing estate Lawrence Weston which is where I used to teach at one of the secondary schools!

  5. Thanks for sharing my post Paula, and for all the excellent links!

  6. Love that academic press quiz! Adding that Palm Beach hotel to my dream travel destination list (or maybe I should add being the book butler to my dream job list?!)

  7. How interesting, Paula. Mary-Ann Ochota’s book has been on my tbr for a while – thanks for the reminder. That some writers are feeling stuck because of the conditions imposed by the pandemic made me wonder. After an initial panicky freeze I have enjoyed escaping into writing. My difficulty remains taming my imagination long enough to fulfill the promise of an idea in a work longer than a short story. I comfort myself with the thought that if the well dries up I can revisit several projects and slog my way to the end if necessary.

  8. Thanks for sharing Reading the Theatre – just one of many exciting events to enjoy in March, along with Dewithon! It may cause some TBR traffic jams but perhaps some cross-pollination to occur.

  9. A particularly interesting crop of links to explore, Paula, thank you. But I’m ready for the time when going to see actual exhibits and places can happen!

  10. Dewithon…. I really hope I make it! there’s still plenty of time! 🤞😊

  11. The book I’ve requested is either at the library or on its way there, so I’m working on it! *whispers* Nevermind that it’s almost the middle of March.

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