An end of week recap
“Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?”
– Henry Ward Beecher
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.
* The Return of du Maurier Reading Week *
Over at Heavenali, Ali Hope has notified her followers that Daphne du Maurier Reading Week will take place from 10th to 16th May 2021, a period incorporating the author’s 114th birthday. Since “du Maurier seems to have a special place in the hearts of many readers”, she is prompted to call on everyone to “break open the books, settle down with tea and cake and for one week celebrate the life and work of a unique writer.” I would encourage you to peruse Announcing Daphne du Maurier reading week 2021 for inspiration and to keep up with all that is happening during this popular reading jolly. Furthermore, Ali says novels, short stories, biographies, letters – indeed, “anything goes.” So, dig out those du Maurier’s and prepare for some Daphneesque indulgence.
* Take a Leap from ‘36 to ’76 *
Many congratulations to superhosts Karen and Simon for organizing yet another first-rate reading challenge. The 1936 Club produced a great many literary gems and, as Simon acknowledges in a recent post, it was fabulously “fruitful”. Karen puts it perfectly when she describes 1936 as “a bumper year” that could so easily have filled a “fortnight with books!” Anyhow, the announcement we have all been enthusiastically awaiting has been made: the next event in the series is to be the 1976 Club. From 11th to 17th October 2021, you are invited to read, discuss and review books first published during this period – a year in which Agatha Christie left the crime scene, Alice Walker gave us Meridian, Christopher Isherwood issued his memoirs, Marge Piercy published Woman on the Edge of Time and Saul Bellow won both the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In the meantime, please start making plans and share your thoughts with the head honchos.
* Lit Crit Blogflash *
I am going to share with you two 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: The Glitter in the Green – Though tiny, “hummingbirds are among the most fascinating of birds”, says Kim from Traveling in Books. She was therefore delighted to discover that The Glitter in the Green: In Search of Hummingbirds by the acclaimed natural history writer Jon Dunn is not merely a book about these striking birds but also a travelogue detailing the author’s journey from “subarctic Alaska to the southern reaches of South America” and “a compelling and elegantly written cultural history”. It also, she reveals, acts as “a stark reminder that humanity has a complex relationship with the natural world”.
A Story About Idiots: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman – Linda of Pages and Papers finds this “carefully crafted” mystery novel is “written in such a way that it’s impossible to put the book down without wondering what will happen next.” Full of “twists and turns”, Backman has apparently created a “heartbreaking tale about love, friendship, compassion and death” with a “surprising” ending. It is “hands-down” one of Linda’s favourite books this year.
* 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: The Plague within a Plague: Ethel Rohan’s In the Event of Contact – In this Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Prize-winning book, Joe Kapitan discovers Ethel Rohan is re-evaluating her heritage and exploring “the literal edges of the human experience”
The Guardian: ‘A true work of art’: Evie Wyld wins $50,000 Stella prize for The Bass Rock – “The author’s third novel spans three eras to give voice to the ‘collective grief’ of violence against women. In 2021, it couldn’t be more timely”, says Rafqa Touma.
The Bookseller: Choosing bookshops – “One of the best opportunities [Nels Abbey has] been granted this year simultaneously turned out to the be one of the most challenging: judging the trade categories of the British Book Awards.”
Lapham’s Quarterly: Scattered Exhausted Voices – Annie Howard talks “limits, possibilities, and futures in the archive of queer activism.”
BBC Culture: The Shakespeare tragedy that truly speaks to us now – “Drunken knight John Falstaff is no-one’s idea of a tragic hero. But in our pandemic age of increasing inequality, the sadness of his story hits harder than ever, writes Sally Bayley.”
Public Books: When the Writing Takes Over the Writer – Louise Fitzhugh, author of Harriet the Spy, and the poet James Merrill were joined by friendship, craft and graphomania: the compulsion to write.
iNews: ‘Comedic genius’ Victoria Wood’s unseen work is to be published – “Writer Jasper Rees discovered the previously unused material while carrying out research to write the comedian’s biography”.
The Markaz Review: Tales from the City of Galéjades – Longtime Marseille resident and crime novelist François Thomazeau describes his French city of choice.
The Age: The 11 Australian books everyone should read now – “From a Booker Prize-winning classic to an urgent call to arms on domestic violence, these are the books our top authors are turning to.”
Firstpost: The Forest Beneath the Mountains: Read an excerpt from Ankush Saikia’s book where fiction meets history and Assam’s ecology – Weaving in local elements in its language and texture, Saikia examines issues that do not often appear in Indian fiction, says Ankush Saikia.
Poetry Foundation: Memory Tricks – Jennifer Wilson on Maria Stepanova, one of Russia’s greatest living poets, coming to America.
Book Marks: 50 of the Best New Nonfiction Books About the Natural World – “Olivia Rutigliano recommends 50 of the best new nonfiction books about the natural world.”
Vanity Fair: Barry Jenkins on Bringing The Underground Railroad to TV Form – Camonghne Felix discovers that “while the Moonlight director was turning Colson Whitehead’s award-winning novel into an Amazon Prime Video series, he learned new things about himself.”
49th Shelf: Fighting for the Planet: Inspiring Books for Earth Day – Kerry Clare with “an eclectic list of inspiring books about fighting to protect the planet.”
Smithsonian Magazine: Before He Wrote a Thesaurus, Roget Had to Escape Napoleon’s Dragnet – “At the dawn of the 19th century, the young Brit got caught in an international crisis while touring Europe”, writes Claudia Kalb.
Sunday Times ZA: Reading marathon to drive African readers to African authors – “YouTube has launched its first YouTube Africa Reading Challenge, an online reading marathon featuring authors, influencers and key opinion leaders across Africa.”
Slate: Enough With Literature as Self-Improvement! – “In his dispiriting literary survey Wonderworks, Angus Fletcher reduces centuries of passionate art into the stuff of self-help videos”, finds Laura Miller.
Counter Craft: Novels and Novellas and Tomes, Oh My! – Lincoln Michel on “the long and short of novel lengths”.
Aeon: Coleridge the philosopher – “Though far more often remembered as a poet, Coleridge’s theory of ideas was spectacular in its originality and bold reach”, writes Peter Cheyne.
Image Journal: Reading and Writing for the Life Outside Our Own – Randy Boyagoda on the autobiographical experience in literature.
Tor.com: Ten Eco-Fiction Novels Worth Celebrating – Many readers are now seeking “fiction in which the environment—or one aspect of the environment—plays a major role”, finds Nina Munteanu.
CBC: 55 Canadian poetry collections to check out in spring 2021 – Since April is poetry month, CBC celebrates with “a look at some great Canadian poetry that is being published in the first half of 2021.”
Lapham’s Quarterly: Compiling the Canon – Megan Heffernan on the “story of a surprisingly influential sixteenth-century English poetry anthology.”
Wales Arts Review: Crime Cymru | First Novel Prize – “Katherine Stansfield announces the launch of Crime Cymru’s Gwobr Nofel Gyntaf / First Novel Prize, which will champion the best new crime writers in Wales.”
Publishers Weekly: How Bookishness Affects the Book Biz – Michael Seidlinger discusses Jessica Pressman’s Bookishness: Loving Books in a Digital Age and the ways in which ‘bookishness’ affects the publishing industry.
Russia Beyond: Why you should read ‘In Memory of Memory’ by Maria Stepanova – “It’s a rare thing that a Russian book is shortlisted for the International Booker Prize. So what’s so special about this novel?” asks Alexandra Guzeva.
Al-Jazeera: Turkish writer Ahmet Altan released from prison: Lawyer – “Turkish writer and journalist Ahmet Altan has been released from prison, his lawyer said, after the country’s top appeals court overturned a verdict against him.”
Evening Standard: Bear by Marian Engel review – “Hailed as an erotic masterpiece when it was first published in the 1970s, this Canadian feminist tale, published in the UK for the first time, about a woman having sex with a bear in the wilds of northern Ontario, is a completely nutty but oddly beguiling fantasy, says Katie Law.”
Catapult: Actions Must Have Consequences: An Interview with A. E. Osworth, Author of ‘We Are Watching Eliza Bright’ – A. E. Osworth, author of We Are Watching Eliza Bright, tells Calvin Kasulke: “I take real issue with the idea of ‘in real life’ versus on the internet. That’s not a distinction that exists. It’s not honest.”
LA Review of Books: What They Wrote About the War – At the start of the First World War, two future Nobel laureates wrote essays on the conflict. Robert Minto examines why the response to both these pieces so troubled the authors.
The Hindu: Bengaluru’s itinerant bookseller PuVyaSri passes away – The paper’s Special Correspondent reports on the death of U.S. Srinivasan – better known as “PuVyaSri (Pustaka Vyapari Srinivasan or ‘bookseller Srinivasan’)”.
Vox: The rape allegations against Philip Roth’s biographer are a damning condemnation of publishing – Constance Grady believes the “Blake Bailey story shows publishing’s institutions once again working to protect men.”
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