An end of week recap
“The world is not to be put in order. The world is order. It is for us to put ourselves in unison with this order.”
– Henry Miller
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.
* 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 – Poonachi Or The Story Of A Black Goat | Perumal Murugan – Over at What’s On Sid’s Mind, Siddhartha Krishnan examines “a political novel that takes a look at society, its abuse of power, gender inequities, greed, surveillance and the resultant subjugation of the weak.” Set in “a nondescript village in Tamil Nadu” and “written from the perspective of a goat,” Poonachi Or The Story Of A Black Goat is tender, mesmerizing and makes us “look at ourselves and our contribution to an unequal world.” In conclusion, Sid describes Murugan as a “truly gifted writer”.
The Butterfly Lampshade by Aimee Bender – Bender’s 2020 magical realism novel, The Butterfly Lampshade, is a “slow-paced, thoughtful, and moving examination of family relationships and mental illness”, says Simon Thomas of Stuck in a Book. In fact, he goes on to describe this tale of broken love between mother and daughter as “a very good book” and suspects it may be “even better a second time around.”
* 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:
Penguin: My Policeman: The unlikely literary inspiration behind the new Harry Styles film – “Styles seems perfectly cast as Bethan Roberts’ quietly charismatic policeman caught in a complex love triangle with his wife and another man. But did you know the story is also based on the life of E. M. Forster?” asks Alim Kheraj.
The Guardian: How women conquered the world of fiction – “From Sally Rooney to Raven Leilani, female novelists have captured the literary zeitgeist, with more buzz, prizes and bestsellers than men”, says Johanna Thomas-Corr. “But is this cultural shift something to celebrate or rectify?”
Literary Hub: Symbiosis and Psychedelics: An Exploratory Conversation Between Edward St. Aubyn and Merlin Sheldrake – “The author of Double Blind and the author of Entangled Life talk scientific inquiry”.
The Drift: Personal Hell | The Climate Anxiety Novel – “In March of 2017, the American Psychological Association officially announced that […] climate anxiety is real.” Rithika Ramamurthy talks Cli-Fi and “chronic fear of environmental doom”.
TIME: Colson Whitehead and Margaret Atwood Discuss The Underground Railroad, The Handmaid’s Tale and the Challenges of Adaptation – As one show debuts and the other enters its fourth season, the acclaimed authors discuss the experience of having their novels adapted for the screen.
The Yale Review: On Rereading – Victor Brombert on how he remade the world by reading masterpieces during his “pandemic confinement”.
Literary Review of Canada: Consider the Snark – Kyle Wyatt on how Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem The Hunting of the Snark may one day help historians understand how Canadians navigated the pandemic’s “third wave without a map”.
Poetry Foundation: Pacific Islander Poetry and Culture – “Contemporary poets, poems, and articles exploring the history and aesthetics of the Pacific.”
World Literature Today: “Silence Became My Mother Tongue”: A Conversation with Sulaiman Addonia – Anderson Tepper interviews Sulaiman Addonia, an Ethiopean Eritrean writer whose second novel Silence Is My Mother Tongue was recently shortlisted for the Firecracker Award for Independently Published Literature.
Scroll.in: Is there such a thing as Indian Science Fiction? This book tries to identify some common elements – “Although it covers works in only four languages, Suparno Banerjee’s Indian Science Fiction: Patterns, History and Hybridity is certainly a milestone”, says Sumit Bardhan.
NPR: Paris Bookstores Are Designated Essential — But These Landmarks Struggle To Survive – Paris’s iconic bookstores are under threat. Eleanor Beardsley talks to people impacted by the closing of the Gibert Jeune outlet in the City’s Latin Quarter.
The First News: Kapuściński’s crumbling childhood home to get 2 mln PLN makeover and be turned into a ‘Centre of Reportage’ – “Located in Warsaw’s Pola Mokotowskie district, Ryszard Kapuściński lived in the house between 1946-1955 with his parents and sister until he was 23.”
Vogue: Inside Adanne, the New Brooklyn Bookstore Celebrating African-American Culture – Carmen Rosy Hall reports on the new Black-owned bookstore in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighbourhood.
The Irish Times: ‘That didn’t scare me’: understanding horror fiction – “Good horror is rarely just a single note; it is a symphony, argues editor Brian J Showers”.
NBC News: Beloved Gaza bookshop becomes a casualty of Israel-Hamas conflict – “‘If I compare it to what’s happening, this is minimal, but destroying the main bookshop we have is something serious,’ Refaat Alareer, an academic, said.”
The New Yorker: Mary Beard Keeps History on the Move – “For Beard, change has always been a part of classics: we need to expose the field’s flaws to understand how we’ve inherited them.”
iNews: How to Love Animals in a Human-Shaped World by Henry Mance, review: A new window on the climate emergency – Clea Skopeliti finds “Mance intertwines animal welfare considerations with the reality of our climate emergency” in How to Love Animals: In a Human-Shaped World.
The National News: ‘The Book Smuggler’: a literary celebration of Arab thinking translated into English – Nourhan Tewfik finds “Saudi writer Omaima Al-Khamis’s novel [The Book Smuggler] won critical acclaim when it was originally published in Arabic in 2018”
Public Books: Public Picks 2021 – “Each May [Public Books sends its readers] into summer with a curated list of the titles that dazzled, challenged, and inspired” its writers over the previous twelve months. Here are the current favourites.
The Calvert Journal: Two Jewish writers captured the spirit of interwar Romania. What can they teach us about the rise of fascism? – “In their literature, Mihail Sebastian and Ludovic Bruckstein portray two different facets of the Jewish experience in the lead-up to the Second World War.”
Boston Review: Autofiction’s First Boom Was in Turn-of-the-Century Japan – “Newly translated into English, Minae Mizumura’s An I-Novel is a vivid portrait of immigrant displacement and the ironies of our global cultural ecosystem”, says Houman Barekat.
Stack: “There’s something comforting about the weight of it.” – Kitty Drake examines the fifth issue of a pocket-sized literary magazine from the UK.
The Sydney Morning Herald: Big-name authors miss out as new voices dominate Miles Franklin longlist – Early-career writers have dominated the $60,000 Australian literary prize.
Next City: San Francisco’s Filipino Cultural District Keeping Hope Alive After a Tough Year – Arkipelago Bookstore in San Francisco, one of only two Filipino specialty stores in the USA, survived a “rough” year by “talking with customers” and focusing on “online sales”.
The Art Newspaper: Chez Victor Hugo: author’s former Paris home reopens after revamp – “Closed for five months longer than planned, the renovated house-museum can finally unveil expanded spaces, restored treasures and new acquisitions”, reports Sarah Belmont.
Book Riot: Authors, Seriously: Please Don’t Talk to Us … – Namera Tanjeem is firmly of the opinion that authors should not respond to reviewers.
Guardian Australia: Never too late: ‘In my late 40s I realised writing a novel had become like Everest’ – “Amanda Hampson always dreamed of writing, but it wasn’t until age 50 after a complicated life and ‘all sorts of jobs’ that she was able to publish her first novel”.
Words Without Borders: 10 Translated Books from Haiti to Read Now – Nathan H. Dize suggests a variety of titles for English-speaking readers of Haitian literature.
NiemanReports: Keeping the Abolitionist Press Alive in Pre-Civil War America – “Ken Ellingwood examines the life of abolitionist journalist and newspaper editor Elijah Parish Lovejoy in his new book, First to Fall: Elijah Lovejoy and the Fight for a Free Press in the Age of Slaver.”
The Rumpus: What to Read When Your Are Visited by Grief – “As we emerge from a year that so many others did not survive, what can we read to be with grief, the powerful and profound visitor of the living?” wonders Annie Connole.
The Critic: Re-building a library – “Confessions of a bibliomaniac in the South Atlantic”.
BBC News: The Passenger: Lost German novel makes UK bestseller list 83 years on – The Passenger, a “novel written about the persecution of Jews in Germany in 1938”, was “forgotten about for 80 years” but has now “made it onto a UK bestsellers list.”
Brain Pickings: Love Is the Last Word: Aldous Huxley on Knowledge vs. Understanding and the Antidote to Our Existential Helplessness – “Generations after Thoreau and generations before neuroscience began illuminating the blind spots of consciousness,” Aldous Huxley explored this concept in ‘Knowledge and Understanding’ – “one of the twenty-six uncommonly insightful essays collected in The Divine Within: Selected Writings on Enlightenment”.
The Walrus: What We Lose When Literary Criticism Ends – “With mainstream media uninterested in books coverage that doesn’t get clicks,” Steven Beattie fears “writers and readers are being left out in the cold”.
Fast Company: Meet the mystery woman who mastered IBM’s 5,400-character Chinese typewriter – “Lois Lew operated the improbable, ill-fated machine with aplomb in presentations from Manhattan to Shanghai”, says Thomas S. Mullaney. “70-plus years later, she’s telling her story.”
Los Angeles Review of Books: Peripheral Visionaries: On C. P. Rosenthal’s “The Hammer, the Sickle and the Heart: Trotsky and Kahlo in Mexico” – Karen Kevorkian on The Hammer, the Sickle and the Heart, a new novel by C. P. Rosenthal about revolutionary politics and the seductions of art in 1930s Mexico.
4Columns: The Underground Railroad – “Barry Jenkins adapts Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer-winning novel as a limited series.”
Gothamist: What Is The Best New York Book Of All Time? – Gothamist teamed up with the NYPL for a Big Apple Book Ballot, which allows New Yorkers to practice ranked-choice voting ahead of the June primary.
The Paris Review: Over Venerable Graves – Maria Stepanova considers W. G. Sebald’s essay “Campo Santo” and questions the history we bury with the dead in cemeteries.
Oxford Review of Books: Dissociation, Baby – In her review, Alex Chasteen explains why Torrey Peters’ Detransition, Baby and Raven Leilani’s Luster offer different takes on what it means when the self fails to cohere.
Pledge Times: Did you know that Saimaa ringed seals sleep underwater? Illustrator Pinja Meretoja wanted to do a good deed in her life, and so a non-fiction book about an endangered animal was created. – The illustrator, Pinja Meretoja’s Pullervo’s new book “tells the story of Finland’s only native mammal, the endangered Saimaa ringed seal.”
Places Journal: The Filing Cabinet – Craig Robertson discovers that the filing cabinet “was critical to the information infrastructure of the 20th-century” and “like most infrastructure, it was usually overlooked.”
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