An end of week recap
“Life has a practice of living you, if you don’t live it.”
– Philip Larkin
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.
* New Welsh Writing Awards 2021 *
Jasmine Donahaye has won the 2021 New Welsh Writing Awards: Rheidol Prize for Prose with a Welsh Theme or Setting with the manuscript of her memoir, Reading the Signs. >> NEW WELSH WRITING AWARDS 2021: Winner Announced >>
* Indigenous Literature Week *
“This year ANZ LitLovers will again be hosting Indigenous Literature Week to coincide with NAIDOC Week, from Sunday July 4th to Sunday July 11th”, says organizer and chief contributor, Lisa Hill. 2021 is the 10th anniversary of this reading challenge and, as ever, Australians are encouraged “to read and learn from Indigenous authors and to celebrate all forms of Indigenous Writing.” However, “participants are welcome to join in reading indigenous literature from anywhere in the world, from Canada to Guyana, from Native American to Basque to Pashtun or Ixcatec.” If you would like to get involved, please leave a comment for Lisa, letting her know what you intend to read. Head over to Announcing 2021 Indigenous Literature Week at ANZ LitLovers for a wealth of reading suggestions and to discover the NAIDOC 2021 theme. You are requested to please use the #IndigLitWeek hashtag when posting on Twitter.
* 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:
Review – Still Life by Sarah Winman – Sometimes you don’t know you need “a particular book in your life” until you start reading it, says Sissi of Sissi Reads. This was so obviously true for her with Still Life, Sarah Winman’s forthcoming historical novel from 4th Estate, which “follows a cast of characters (and even a parrot!) from 1944 during WWII to [the] 1970s.” She describes the writing as “charming and visceral” and the story as a “tender examination of humanity and art” tinged with humour. What’s more, it has become one of her favourite reads of 2021, causing her heart to sing with “happiness and joy.”
A Book Tour of Brittany – Over at Bon Repos Gites’ Bonjour From Brittany blog, you can read a fascinating post about the many authors – “locals and visitors alike” – who have been inspired by this wonderful old Celtic nation in western France. From “the English poet Robert Browning”, staying “near Dinard for three months in 1861”, to the French novelist Honoré de Balzac publishing Béatrix in 1839 and the Orientalist Ernest Renan penning the paean to his homeland, The Breton Soul, “almost 530 years of Breton literary inspiration” are covered in this piece.
Book Review: This is how we are human by Louise Beech. – The premise of this book, in which the mother of a 20-year-old autistic man hires a call girl to make him happy, had Rachel of Bookbound “hooked” from the outset. She says Beech’s forthcoming novel, with its “cast of three dimensional, sympathetic and beautifully flawed human beings” tackles “complex and little discussed [issues] head on” with “skill and compassion”. It was for her a story that surprised her in “every way.”
* 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:
Los Angeles Review of Books: Gardens in a War Zone: A Conversation with Gian Sardar – Gian Sardar discusses her new novel about Kurdish American immigrants, Take What You Can Carry.
PinkNews: Five amazing, UK-based, queer independent bookshops you can support this Pride month – “It’s officially Pride Month, and what better way to celebrate than reading some important books by LGBT+ people from one of the UK’s excellent queer bookshops?”
The Guardian: His fair lady: how George Bernard Shaw’s wife played a vital role in his masterworks – “Charlotte’s influence has been downplayed, says a new book on how women are written out of history”.
Penguin: Could ‘green noise’ be your secret weapon to reading – and writing – more? – “Zadie Smith swears by it. Reluctant readers say it turned them into bookworms. Amelia Tait investigates the YouTube ambient videos that help some people be at their most productive.”
TLS: Sinister, sublime, exhausting, hungry – “Hay Festival 2021: Writers recall formative encounters with the natural world”.
HLO: László Krasznahorkai: “Before you call me an elitist, let me call myself one” Part 1 of 2 – An interview with the Hungarian author Márton Jankovics, known for his difficult, postmodern novels.
The New Yorker: The Women Who Preserved the Story of the Tulsa Race Massacre – Victor Luckerson looks back at two pioneering Black writers who “have not received the recognition they deserve for chronicling one of the country’s gravest crimes.”
Publishers Weekly: Doubleday to Publish Margaret Atwood Essay Collection – “Doubleday will publish a new collection of Margaret Atwood’s essays, Burning Questions: Essays 2004-2021, on March 1, 2022.”
Independent: International Booker Prize winner announced: Read this year’s crowned novel and the previous top titles – At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, translated from the French by Anna Moschovakis, has won the 2021 Booker International Prize.
Vintage: 12 Vintage books to celebrate Pride – To celebrate Pride 2021, Vintage recommends “reading some great LGBTQ+ books” this summer – ranging from “a groundbreaking anthology to a revelatory LGBTQ+ modern dictionary, covering fiction, non-fiction, memoir and poetry”.
49th Shelf: On the Road Again: Literary Road Trips – “Road trips and national identity have always been a popular theme for Canadian writers”, says Christina Myers. She shares “a few titles, both fiction and nonfiction that go exploring”.
Maverick Life: I Am A Girl From Africa: a powerful memoir by Elizabeth Nyamayaro – “‘When women lead, the lives of women and girls dramatically improve,’ says Elizabeth Nyamayaro, author of I Am a Girl from Africa, whose near-death experience sparked a dream that changed the world.”
JSTOR Daily: Sophia Thoreau to the Rescue! – “Who made sure Henry David Thoreau’s works came out after his death?” According to Matthew Wills, it was his sister.
Star Tribune: Glide into these novels for a relaxing summer – “Wherever you go, be sure to take a book”, advises Laurie Hertzel. In this summer reading list, she highlights over thirty titles for “’tweens, teens and adults, lovers of mysteries, novels or any good story well told.”
TIME: TIME and Legendary Bookstore Partner on New Cover Exhibit – “TIME and one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores are joining together for a new exhibit, celebrating the greatest authors of the 20th and 21st centuries. The ‘What Makes a Nobel?’ exhibit, which opens June.”
Advocate: An Essential Reading List on Police and Pride – “Some so-called experts say police belong at Pride, but this law librarian believes they need to do their homework,” writes Nicholas Norton.
Tablet: Against Politics – “Communists and fascists are very often the same unpleasant people, wrote Thomas Mann—literary champion of the German bourgeois.” David Mikics thinks he was right.
Indy100: Author burns her own books because she didn’t like the blurbs – Jeanette Winterson says her republished works were presented as “wimmins fiction of the worst kind”.
Lapham’s Quarterly: House Warning – Daniel Elkind revisits The Red House, Else Jerusalem’s “critique of bourgeois hypocrisy and exploitation.”
Wasafiri: Reading in Antarctica – In April 2019, Charne Lavery and Isabel Hofmeyr took a ship to the Antarctic peninsula for a scientific conference. In this collaborative, reflective essay, they discuss their shared experiences of reading in Antarctica.
Wales Arts Review: Death Drives an Audi by Kristian Bang Foss | Books – “Glen James Brown reviews Death Drives an Audi, a darkly comic story of two unlikely friends written by Kristian Bang Foss and translated by Caroline Waight.”
The Point: Electric Outlets – Rhian Sasseen on the “linguistic confrontations of Elfriede Jelinek”.
The Sydney Morning Herald: Is Orwellian the most ill-used adjective in our vocabulary? – Orwellian is used to describe webcams, robodebt, deepfake videos, big government and vaccine passports. But which is it, wonders David Astle? They can’t all be right.
Mental Floss: The Strange Story of the Vril-Ya Bazaar and Fete, the ‘World’s First Sci-Fi Convention’ – Alex Palmer discovers the Vril-Ya Bazaar and Fête was inspired by a popular Victorian science fiction novel – and introduced the world to Bovril.
The Guardian: Authors to earn royalties on secondhand books for first time – “AuthorSHARE, a royalty fund set up by two used booksellers with support from industry bodies, is calling for more retailers to participate”.
Bookforum: U Mad? – Lauren Oyler on “how to troll book people and other gullible romantics”.
Book Riot: Announcing the Winners of the 2021 Lambda Literary Awards – On the first day of Pride Month, the Lambda Literary Awards were announced. Leah Rachel von Essen has the full list of winners.
Prospect: Two minutes to midnight: how humanity copes with disaster – In his review of Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe by Niall Ferguson, Peter Frankopan examines the reasons why “fears of an imminent apocalypse have haunted our imaginations for millennia”.
Hedgehog Review: More than a Matter of Taste – Joshua Hren argues that Henry James’s fiction shows how aesthetic misjudgements can be connected to moral vice in this piece about “the danger of relegating beauty to the trivial pursuit of pleasure.”
Brittle Paper: Ghanaian Novelist Ayesha Harruna Attah Opens Ice Cream Shop in Popenguine, Senegal – Ayesha Harruna Attah has “teamed up” with her friend Nathalie Mangwa” to open Sur La Plage – a “concept store” selling ice-cream and clothing alongside the author’s books.
Shondaland: John Green Is Finally Writing for Himself – Green talks to Scott Neumyer “about his latest book, The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet and staying creative during the pandemic.”
Scroll.in: Interview: Does a literary jury need to think differently in the year of a pandemic? – “The five members of the JCB Prize for Literature jury weigh in.”
The Irish News: Oscar Wilde swallows a golden opportunity for year-round literary tourism on the streets of Enniskillen – “David Roy chats to Arts Over Borders man Seán Doran about how the new Wilde Island Town project is creating an innovative year-round link between Enniskillen’s literary heritage and tourism…”
Polygon: Read an excerpt from The Hidden Palace, the sequel to the decade’s best fantasy novel – Hidden Palace, the “story of The Golem and The Jinni resumes on June 8”, writes Tasha Robinson.
Longreads: Judge a Book Not By its Gender – “Lisa Whittington-Hill suggests there’s a distinct gender bias in celebrity memoirs. Where female celebrities are expected to expose all, male writers get to write about whatever they want.”
Metro: Mirrored illusion creates ‘never-ending’ palace of books – Dujiangyan Zhongshuge, a new bookstore in Chengdu, China, “uses gleaming tiled floors and mirrored ceilings to transform into a ‘never-ending’ palace of books.”
The Baffler: Old Master: Thomas Bernhard’s victory in defeat – Dustin Illingworth discusses the legacy of the Austrian novelist, playwright and poet, Thomas Bernhard.
ABC News: Publisher removes Anne Frank passage from Hilderbrand novel – “Elin Hilderbrand has asked that a reference to Anne Frank in her new novel be taken out after numerous online readers alleged the passage was insensitive and anti-Semitic”.
Kyodo News: Wife of Japan journalist who vanished in 70s Cambodia writes memoir – “The wife of a Japanese journalist who went missing in Cambodia after entering an area controlled by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s has self-published a memoir chronicling her attempt to find out his fate and come to terms with his disappearance.”
Vox: The unstoppable, villainous glamour of Cruella de Vil – “Cruella de Vil has been a style icon since she first set foot on the page”, says Constance Grady.
Melville House: Boris Johnson accused of missing COVID crisis meetings to write a book about Shakespeare – Nikki Griffiths reports on “ugly rumours suggesting the Prime Minister’s mind was more on The Bard than on the COVID pandemic in early 2020.”
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