An end of week recap
“Long stormy spring-time, wet contentious April, winter chilling the lap of very May; but at length the season of summer does come.”
– Thomas Carlyle
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.
* Reading Thirkell’s Barsetshire *
Starting in June, Kay at What Me Read is intending to read every title from Angela Thirkell’s Chronicles of Barsetshire, which were first published between 1933 and 1961. She has previously picked up the books “randomly” but feels “there would be some benefit to reading the series in order,” not least to help her better understand the relationships between various characters. She invites fellow Thirkellites to join in her quest. Please head over to Reading Thirkell’s Barsetshire Series for a complete list of the books, of which, if I’m not mistaken, there are 29. Should you mention this reading challenge on Twitter, it would be very much appreciated if you could include the #ThirkellBar hashtag in your posts.
* 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:
The Evenings by Gerard Reve (tr. Sam Garrett) – A “brilliant, strangely compelling novel”, Reve’s The Evenings, “first published in the Netherlands in 1947”, revolves around ten “interminable” December evenings in the life of Frits van Egters, an office worker living with his parents in Amsterdam. Although Jacqui of JacquiWine’s Journal finds this bleak and darkly humorous book “difficult” to describe, it is, she declares, “savage, hilarious, poignant and biting.”
‘The war didn’t seem much like a war’ [book review] – Tiago Miller’s translation of Raül Garrigasait’s “coolly immersive and thoughtful novel”, The Others, is “graceful in tone and structure,” writes The Monthly Booking‘s Eleanor Updegraff. She finds this “quiet but assured” Catalan tale, set in 1837 at the height of the Carlist Wars, blurs “the bounds between fiction and reality” and “offers an unusual perspective” on the period. It is, she says, “an absolute pleasure to 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:
BookPage: Reader’s choice: Your favorite books of 2021 (so far) – BookPage presents its readers’ favourite books of 2021, which it describes as” spanning family saga and satire, epic fantasy and memoir, taut thrillers and heartwarming historical fiction.”
Creative Review: Inside the mind-bending world of Alice in Wonderland – Aimée McLaughlin is taken down the rabbit hole of Lewis Carroll’s iconic children’s book at the V&A’s new blockbuster exhibition in London.
CrimeReads: Why Crime Fiction Is The Perfect Expression of Slavic Melancholy – According to Yelena Moskovich: “Every Russian literary work is a crime novel”.
Guernica: In Touch With the Breath of the World – “Roland Rugero talks about living the literary life in a country of orality, writing across three languages, and upending the Eurocentrism that still decides which African voices get heard.”
JSTOR Daily: Settlements and the Israel-Palestine Conflict: Background Reading – “Scholarship about Israeli settlement in occupied Palestinian territories provides historical context for recent violence in the region”, says Eric Schewe.
Catapult: Writers Who Eat: T Kira Mahealani Madden in Conversation with Bix Gabriel – “Food, writing, they’re both offerings of building community and communication.”
InsideHook: My Conversation With Haruki Murakami Never Really Ends – “Sean Wilsey chats with the prolific novelist about music, racism and a writing process that never stops evolving”.
The Spinoff: Fiona Farrell: Library books were our way out, our way up – “We resurrected a library that was shaken to pieces. Surely we can repair one that’s showing its age”, writes New Zealand author Fiona Farrell.
The Japan Times: ‘Things Remembered and Things Forgotten’: History, memory and cultural identity – Kyoko Nakajima’s latest collection of translated short stories, Things Remembered and Things Forgotten, explores the ties connecting Japan’s past to its present. Ghosts are involved in more ways than one.
The New Criterion: All is Orwell – “It is the contradictions in Orwell’s character that provide the key to understanding the enduring fascination with his thought and work.” Gerald Frost on “George Orwell in Spain.”
Glamour: The Best Books to Read on Your First Post-Vax Vacation – “Need a quick read, a moving novel, an addictive mystery, or a great nonfiction book?” Jenny Singer has a few suggestions.
BBC News: Emily Brontë: Lost handwritten poems expected to fetch around £1m – “A “lost library” of British literature, including rare handwritten poems by Emily Brontë and works by Robert Burns, is to be auctioned off at Sotheby’s.”
The Irish Times: Ethel Colburn Mayne (1865-1941): reviving a forgotten Anglo-Irish writer – Elke D’hoker on an “author marginalised by a hyphenated identity and straddling of literary traditions”.
Midnight Breakfast: How to Tell A Trauma Story – Bethany Marcel tells a difficult story.
Vulture: 35 Books We Can’t Wait to Read This Summer – “Featuring climate-change noir, time-travel romance, and a lot of furious women.”
New Welsh Review: Skomer Island: Its History and Natural History – In his review of Mike Alexander’s Skomer Island, travel writer Chris Moss concludes that it is “a truly comprehensive picture of this tiny spot on the map”.
Electric Literature: 8 New and Forthcoming Books by Writers from the Indian Diaspora – “From a queer Indo Guyanese poet to Tamil Muslim sisters,” Anita Felicelli suggests a selection of “stories about people of Indian descent around the world”.
AudioFile: Celebrating the Audiobooks of the Women’s Prize for Fiction – Aurelia C. Scott suggests you start listening now to the books shortlisted for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction, so “you’ll be able to hear the audiobook versions before the winner is announced on July 7.”
Bustle: 30 Fantasy Series Written By Women That Will Give You A New Perspective – K.W. Colyard recommends you lose yourself in “magical worlds dreamt up by the likes of Madeleine L’Engle and N.K. Jemisin.”
Words Without Borders: Translating the World Undone: An Interview with Translator Nicholas Glastonbury – Anton Hur speaks to Turkish and Kurdish translator, Nicholas Glastonbury, about “the failings of the publishing industry when it comes to translated literature.”
Brittle Paper: Radical Books Collective: Virtual Book Club For Radical Readers – “The Radical Book Collective (RBC) is an initiative founded by Bhakti Shringarpure, Editor-in-Chief of Warscapes magazine, and Suchitra Vijayan author of Midnight’s Borders.”
World Economic Forum: Book sales are up: this is what we’ve been reading during the pandemic – Sales of fiction books in the UK in 2020 grew by 16% despite bookshops being closed during COVID-19 lockdowns. Kate Whiting reveals some of the bestselling books from the past 12 months.
Vintage: 12 Vintage short story collections to sink into – Sarah Shaffi suggests short fiction collections to “sate your narrative appetite” when you “don’t quite have time for a novel”.
The Guardian: ‘Without books, we would not have made it’: Valeria Luiselli on the power of fiction – “The Mexican author won the Dublin literary award last week for Lost Children Archive. She reflects on how reading and writing have helped her through the pandemic”.
Polygon: ‘The miracle is Wakanda’: Ta-Nehisi Coates says goodbye to Black Panther – In an interview with Evan Narcisse, the “writer reflects on his half-decade run in the Marvel universe and the choices he made along the way”.
Boston Review: Queer Shoulders at the Wheel – “John Wieners was one of the most important gay poets of his generation, but subsequent decades have seen him all but forgotten. A new collection of his letters vividly returns him to readers.”
Salon: In the latest wave of science fiction, authors of color take space to imagine multiple new societies – “The Rock Eaters, Alien Worlds and Terminal Boredom turn critical and humorous eyes toward immigration and more”, finds April Yee.
BBC News: Franz Kafka: Manuscripts, drawings and personal letters go online – “A collection of documents by the author Franz Kafka is now publicly available online, following intensive restoration, cataloguing and digitisation.”
Literary Hub: Seeking a Connection to My Grandmother in Alice Munro’s Queer Characters – “B. Pietras on the old women and queer men of Munro’s fiction”.
Medievalists.net: New Medieval Books: Monks and Mongols – “Five newly published books, that take us from a tenth-century monastery to a physician in thirteenth-century Egypt.”
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