“To understand the actual world as it is, not as we should wish it to be, is the beginning of wisdom.”
– Bertrand Russell
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.
* Week One of the Wales Readathon *
Wales Readathon kicked off on the 1st March (Saint David’s Day) with the first Dewithon post submitted by Chris at Calmgrove – plus a plethora of promotional plugs from fellow book bloggers. My heartfelt thanks to every one of you for your fabulous features and stupendous support.
We marked the first week of the event with a poem written by the current National Poet of Wales. >> A Poem by Ifor ap Glyn >>
I was happy to see that once again Google celebrated our patron saint on its home page with a delightful Google Doodle depicting a traditional red dragon curled up in the long grass. It was designed by the Welsh artist Elin Manon and relates to a Welsh myth about a Celtic king named Vortigen, who unintentionally attempted to erect a castle on a hillside above the lair of two snoozing dragons – one red, one white. He disturbed the dragons and they fought each other, with the red one ending victorious. Sadly, I believe this artwork was visible only to users in the UK.
There is now a dedicated page on which to display your Dewithon-related posts. Here you can share your reviews, features, interviews etc. with the book blogging community. >> Wales Readathon 2021 >>
* Lit Crit Blogflash *
I am going to share with you three of my favourite literary posts from around the blogosphere (this time with a distinctly Welsh flavour) – all of them published over the last two or three weeks:
Back home to me – Swan Song by Gill Lewis, a book “for older pre-teens and later readers”, is a “more affecting novella than [Chris Lovegrove of Calmgrove] was expecting.” Written “from the point of view of Dylan”, a boy “permanently excluded from his urban school” and sent by his “mother to stay with her estranged father in Wales”, it is a “credible and moving” tale – no “mere run-of-the-mill feelgood story” – more a “plea for understanding […] that school may not be for every child”. Learning, says Chris, “can happen in alternative ways”.
Llais Newydd: A New Welsh Poetry Press – “Llais Newydd is not your average poetry press”, says Rachel Carney from Created to Read. Translated into English, the name means ‘new voice’, which is apt because it was established “to provide a platform for marginalised voices.” Here she interviews Dee Dickens “to find out more about how this new poetry press came about”.
Flying The Flag For Independent Welsh Publishers – As part of Reading Independent Publisher’s Month Karen at BookerTalk highlights some of the “many wonderful small presses [that] have sprung up [in her] own part of the world.” From Honno, “one of the longest-standing women’s imprints in the UK” to Parthian, a company offering “strong support to writing and authors from Wales”, we should “buy direct from these publishers” and “help them keep discovering and bringing to light, new, unique and inspiring authors.”
* 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:
Wales Arts Review: Books | The Owl House by Daniel Butler – “Gareth Smith reviews The Owl House by Daniel Butler, an informative and immersive documentation of the nature surrounding the author’s mid-Wales home.”
The Guardian: Off with their heads! Why are Lewis Carroll misquotes so common online? – “Following a recent similar Royal Mint slip-up, the Westminster Collection’s new 50p coins have sent Carroll experts down an internet rabbit hole to source false quotes”, says Alison Flood.
BBC Wales: World Book Day: Is Covid lockdown giving reading a boost? – World Book Day looked completely different this year across Wales.
The New York Times: Reviewing the Book Review – “As the publication celebrates its 125th anniversary, Parul Sehgal, a staff critic and former editor at the Book Review, delves into the archives to critically examine its legacy in full.”
Brain Pickings: Great Writers on the Power of Music – “Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Aldous Huxley, Oliver Sacks, Walt Whitman, Virginia Woolf, Friedrich Nietzsche, and more.”
Literary Hub: On Obsessive Female Relationships in Literature: A Reading List – “Forsyth Harmon recommends Raven Leilani, Makenna Goodman, and more”.
The Irish Times: Monica McInerney: Stranded by the pandemic with my mother and a cat – The internationally bestselling novelist, Monica McInerney, writes about being separated from her Dublin-based husband during the pandemic and living with her mum in Adelaide.
The New York Review: Awful But Joyful – “In her autobiographical Copenhagen Trilogy, Tove Ditlevsen asks us neither to condemn nor to forgive—only to look”, says Deborah Eisenberg.
Vintage: Vintage debut novels to look out for this year – “As the days start to lengthen,” Vintage shares “a brilliant range of debut novels to look forward to this year.”
International Prize for Arabic Fiction: Longlist, judges and dates announced for 2021 International Prize for Arabic Fiction – The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) has revealed the longlist of 16 novels in contention for the 2021 prize.
The Paris Review: Showing Mess: An Interview with Courtney Zoffness – The Brooklyn-based writer explains to Lynn Steger Strong how her memoir, Spilt Milk helped her to remember how intimate books can feel, at a time when intimacy feels so hard to come by.
Vogue: The Best Books to Read in 2021 – A “curated guide to the best new books of the coming months.”
The Connexion: Bookshops in France now classed as essential businesses – “It means they can stay open in case new lockdown measures are introduced, such as in the case of Alpes-Maritimes and Dunkirk”.
Ssense: Picture Books: Imagine The Library Of Your Dreams. Find It In The Palm Of Your Hand. – “The books in my library can be roughly separated into four categories: books I love, books I hate but can’t seem to get rid of, books I want to read, and books I’m paid to read and write about”, reveals Lovia Gyarkye.
Wired: Teaching Classic Lit Helps Game Designers Make Better Stories – “Are you game?” asks Cindy Frenkel. “See how Homer, Faulkner, and Ibsen can help.”
The British Book Awards: Small Press of the Year – “In a strong showing for the United Kingdom and Ireland’s grassroots publishing scene, more than 40 publishers have been listed in the regional and country shortlists of The British Book Awards’ prize for Small Presses”.
JSTOR Daily: Lydia Maria Child and the American Way of Censorship – “Facing ostracism by literary elites and attacks from pro-slavery mobs,” Matthew Wills examines how “an abolitionist blunted her politics.”
Penguin: Why your inner voice is causing your reading slump – and how to fix it – “Psychologist Ethan Kross, author of Chatter: The Voice in Our Head and How to Harness It, on the best ways to silence your mind before delving into a book.”
The Guardian: My favourite Ishiguro: by Margaret Atwood, Ian Rankin and more – “Authors choose the Kazuo Ishiguro novels closest to their hearts, including Never Let Me Go, The Buried Giant and The Remains of the Day”.
The Atlantic: The Librarian War Against QAnon – “As ‘Do the research’ becomes a rallying cry for conspiracy theorists, classical information literacy is not enough”, finds Barbara Fister.
The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction: 2021 Walter Scott Prize longlist revealed – As the 250th anniversary of Scott’s birth approaches on 15th August, the Walter Scott Prize announces its 2021 longlist.
Nikkei Asia: Acclaimed Chinese-born writer tackles feminism and sex – “From Chinese slums to London’s literary circles, Hong Ying’s themes remain universal”, says Humphrey Hawksley.
Image: Go Back and Fetch It – Crystal Wilkinson, author of the novel The Birds of Opulence and the forthcoming poetry collection Perfect Black, speaks to Kenagy Mitchell about nature, descriptions of food and Black rural life.
InsideHook: Are Crossword Puzzles the Key to Saving Print Media? – “Online games are the new frontier of old media, but”, says Alex Lauer, “that didn’t stop The New Yorker from introducing a print-edition crossword.”
The Yale Review: Olga Tokarczuk’s Radical Tenderness – “The Nobel lecture and each of Tokarczuk’s novels offer us a new way to understand literature and our world”, says Marek Makowski.
Publishers Weekly: Everything Old Is New Again: Backlist Backbones 2021 – “Publishers share their latest backlist efforts” with Rachel Kramer Bussel.
The Oprah Magazine: These Afro-Latina Writers Want to See More Voices like Theirs in Publishing – “If we do not tell our stories, we’re always going to be fighting the way in which we are represented.”
CBC: A space of her own: How Natalie Zina Walschots found a way to center her writing — and herself – “The Hench author and Canada Reads finalist on how she found the beautiful writing space she needed”.
Global Citizen: 10 of the Best Books for All Global Citizens, According to Instagram’s Biggest Readers – “From love stories to science fiction,” Khanyi Mlaba helps you “choose your next read from these Bookstagrammers’ picks.”
Literary Hub: New and Noteworthy Nonfiction to Read This March – “Remaking the World, Remembering Black Excellence, Wandering Mexico City, and more”.
Prospect: Arthur Conan Doyle and the case of the wronged Parsee – Emily Lawford explains how “the Sherlock Holmes creator helped a victim of racial injustice”.
Beyond Russia: How Soviet poets performed in football stadiums in front of thousands – “Soviet poets were public figures like rock stars”, says Valeria Paikova. They “were rewarded with public recognition for what they did best – inspire hope and change in the USSR.”
The China Post: Eslite opens stunning bookstore in Chiayi Art Museum – Taipei Walker reports that Eslite Bookstore has opened a new bookshop on the first floor of the Chiayi Art Museum in Taiwan.
CBS News: Colson Whitehead: The only writer to win fiction Pulitzers for consecutive works speaks with 60 Minutes – The two-time Pulitzer-winner opens up to John Dickerson about his writing process, his wide variety of interests, getting rejected and “the space of very little hope” he found himself working in when he wrote The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys.
MSN: Rent hike could force Mile End’s S. W. Welch bookstore to close – The “venerable independent bookstore S. W. Welch” in Montreal is being threatened with closure.
BBC News: Sir Kazuo Ishiguro warns of young authors self-censoring out of ‘fear’ – “Young authors may be self-censoring because they worry they will be ‘trolled’ or ‘cancelled’, according to celebrated writer Sir Kazuo Ishiguro.”
The American Conservative: Howling In Unison – According to Gary Saul Morson, Carol Any’s new book, The Soviet Writers’ Union and Its Leaders: Identity and Authority Under Stalin, “is a cautionary tale as much as a remarkable history.”
Vox: The delicate relationship between grief and fanfiction, explained by a psychologist – “Fandom offers many fans a crucial respite from the pandemic. But it’s complicated”, says Aja Romano.
FMT: Malaysian’s bookstore-van a bestseller in New Zealand – Based in Queenstown, Natasya Zambri and her business partner Annie Buscemi are founders of Bright Ink, a bookstore on wheels.
Protocol: Libby is stuck between libraries and publishers in the e-book war – “Readers love the Libby app,” says Anna Kramer, “but its newfound popularity is costing librarians more than they can afford.
Publishers Weekly: London Book Fair Still Weighing Plans; Jaipur Draws Big Online Crowd – Ed Nawotka reveals that many “book fairs and festivals typically scheduled for the month of March have either been cancelled […] or moved ”.
Tehran Times: Masumeh Abad’s “I’m Alive” published in German – “I’m Alive, the memories of the young Iranian woman Masumeh Abad during her long captivity in Iraq in the 1980s, has been published in German in Austria.”
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