An end of week recap
“Books and doors are the same thing. You open them, and you go through into another world.”
– Jeanette Winterson
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.
* Plan a Group Visit to Narnia *
Chris Lovegrove of Calmgrove has dreamt up a splendid new reading challenge for lovers of The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of fantasy novels written by C.S. Lewis and published between 1950 and 1956. He proposes a Narniad readalong – hopefully to be announced in early August. However, before the fun can commence there are numerous questions to be answered, such as “what form should it take? When should it start? Which of the Chronicles of Narnia should a readalong begin with? And would any bloggers be interested in joining in?” So, it is time for all you Narnianists to clamber out of your closets (or should I say wriggle out of your wardrobes) and head over to Chris’s post, Are you up for a Narniathon? – where you can share your thoughts, discuss the best way forward and generally show your enthusiasm for this exciting new reading jolly.
* Lit Crit Blogflash *
I am going to share with you a couple 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:
Hidden Spring: A Journey to the Source of Consciousness, by Mark Solms – In his latest work, South African psychoanalyst and neuropsychologist, Mark Solms delves into the secrets of the brain and examines the ways in which the mind connects to the body. Hidden Spring is “a demanding book to read”, says Terence Jagger in his review of this “fascinating” title for Shiny New Books, but it comes closer than anything he has previously read to “shining a light on a central facet of our humanity”. He “hugely enjoyed the experience” and intends to explore the subject further.
Guest Review: Rachel Carson’s Sea Trilogy – Rachel Carson’s classic sea trilogy, comprising Under the Sea-Wind (1941), The Sea Around Us (1951) and The Edge of the Sea (1955), has been newly republished by Canongate. “Combining acute observational skills with an analytic mindset,” the revered marine biologist sets out her theory that “all things in nature are inherently interconnected and in fragile balance” and calls to attention “the harm being done to the ecosystem”. In a review for Sea Library, Jennifer Edgecombe describes these “beautifully-produced paperbacks”, which include “a full set of integrated illustrations and a pertinent new introduction by Margaret Atwood”, as a “celebration of the sea told through poetic nature writing”.
* 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:
Center for the Art of Translation: What We’re Reading This Summer – “Thirteen books to add to your summer reading pile, recommended by the staff at the Center for the Art of Translation”.
The Calvert Journal: Olga Tokarczuk to auction destroyed copies of her books in support of LGBTQ+ charities – “Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk is fighting back against Polish nationalists who destroyed copies of her works by auctioning torn books to support LGBTQ+ charities”, says Paula Erizanu.
Prospect: Summary judgement: a brief history of the book blurb – “Jeanette Winterson’s hatred of her jacket copy is nothing new—over the centuries blurbing has always been a grubby business”, finds James Riding.
The Moscow Times: The 2021 Russian National Bestseller Award Goes to Alexander Pelevin – The winning novel, Pokrov-17, “is a dystopian mystery,” says Galina Stolyarova. Here she introduces us to this year’s finalists, none of which appear to have been translated into English – yet!
The New Criterion: The cooling of John le Carré – Michael J. Lewis disapproves of the late British spy novelist’s political opinions finding their way into his novels.
Brittle Paper: 10 Writers Longlisted for the 2021 James Currey Prize for African Literature – Chukwuebuka Ibeh names the recently revealed longlist for the James Currey Prize for African literature for “the best unpublished work of fiction written in English by any writer, set in Africa or on Africans in Africa or in Diaspora.”
The Hollywood Reporter: Cannes: Kunal Nayyar, Christina Hendricks, and Lucy Hale Join ‘The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry’ – “Hans Canosa (‘Conversations with Other Women’) will direct the adaptation of Gabrielle Zevin’s bestseller about a cantankerous bookstore owner who finds a baby left on his doorstep.”
Lapham’s Quarterly: Reply Guy – Pat Rogers invites us to meet “an eighteenth-century pirate, troll, and nemesis of Alexander Pope.”
Pledge Times: Marguerite Duras and her Chinese lover: 30 years after one of the most relevant erotic novels in literature – The North China Lover “is one of the most outstanding works of the French novelist Marguerite Duras, published 30 years ago, on June 13, 1991, by Gallimard publishing house.”
BBC Culture: The hidden gay lives finally being uncovered – “In the past, the amazing stories of LGBTQ+ people were actively suppressed – which is why fiction writers are now diving into queer history and filling in the gaps, writes Matt Cain.”
Brain Pickings: Sylvia Plath and the Loneliness of Love – Plath experienced the “hollowing loneliness of unbelonging, of never feeling fully and completely seen”, which she placed at the centre of her poetry “before she perished by that loneliness”, observes Maria Popova.
The Guardian: No one got Angela Carter like Corinna Sargood – Susannah Clapp finds the “illustrator’s vivid depictions of her annual visits to Mexico reveal why she was the author’s kindred spirit”.
The Paris Review: Diving into the Text – Emilio Fraia introduces the Uruguayan writer, Juan Carlos Onetti – a kind of Zen master of opacity, a diving instructor who takes the reader to spots where little can be seen.
The Washington Post: Why bother organizing your books? A messy personal library is proof of life. – As the French writer Georges Perec wisely put it, book arrangements are “hardly any more effective than the original anarchy.”
Guardian Australia: ‘Most of Australia’s literary heritage is out of print’: the fight to rescue a nation’s lost books – “When they realised even Miles Franklin winners can be sent to the pulp pile, authors, librarians and academics began building a digital ark for bereft books”, finds James Shackell.
Mental Floss: When Abraham Lincoln Tried His Hand at Being a True Crime Writer – “Prior to taking office and navigating the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was trying his hand at something a little more unique—true crime”, finds Jake Rossen.
Middle East Eye: Review: Reclaiming Syrian prison literature – “In Readings in Syrian Prison Literature, Iranian-American academic Shareah Taleghani asks the international community to rethink human rights through the writings of Syrian prisoners”.
Ploughshares: Revisiting The Oasis – “Mary McCarthy’s 1949 novel is not just a story about personal failings and internecine squabbling—it’s also a stark warning about intellectual capture, about what can be lost if you don’t approach politics with a healthy dose of skepticism,” writes Rob Madole.
Book Marks: 5 Reviews You Need to Read This Week – This week’s “feast of fabulous reviews” includes John Paul Brammer on Brandon Taylor’s Filthy Animals in addition to titles from James Ellroy, Natalia Ginzburg, Jon Grinspan and Alex DiFrancesco.
The Bookseller: A bruising from Brexit – Lynn Michell, the founder and director of Linen Press, discusses the problems she faces following Brexit.
The New York Times: For Literary Novelists the Past Is Pressing – “Historical fiction was once considered a fusty backwater. Now the genre is having a renaissance, attracting first-rank novelists and racking up major prizes.”
Oprah Daily: 55 LGBTQ-Owned Bookstores You Can Be Proud to Support – “From Alabama to Wisconsin,” Michelle Hart suggests you “shop these queer-run” bookstores across the USA.
Metropolis: 6 Japanese Mystery Novels to Read in 2021 – “Honkaku, thrillers and crime sagas — Japan’s got it all”, says Narumi Imayuki.
RTÉ: Anjelica Huston among actors calling on State to save house where Joyce story The Dead was set – “Anjelica Huston is among a host of actors calling on the Irish government to preserve the historic Dublin house that was the setting for James Joyce’s famous short story The Dead.”
CBC: Canisia Lubrin is the Canadian winner of $65K Griffin Poetry Prize for The Dyzgraphxst – “Belarusian poet Valzhyna Mort won the international award”.
Oxford Review of Books: Real Love, Real Agency, Real Femicide – “Has Daphne du Maurier been Chick-Flicked?” asks Anna Weber.
Refinery29: 7 Crime & Thriller Books That Aren’t About Women Being Murdered – Jess Commons with a selection of favourite “whodunnits, mysteries, psychological thrillers and crime books out this summer which found something else to focus on than women being murdered.”
Literary Hub: Activist, Naturalist, Teenager: From the Diaries of Dara McAnulty – An extract from the Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty – the chronicles of a 15-year-old naturalist over a year in his home patch of Northern Ireland.
AIGA Eye On Design: Six Great Book Covers and the Stories Behind Them – “Insights from the winners of this year’s 50 Books 50 Covers competition”.
DW: Maria Stepanova: Russia experiencing a ‘hijacking of history’ – “Nominated for the International Booker Prize, the star Russian author and poet tells DW how the authorities’ intimidation tactics are affecting the country.”
The Baffler: Miraculous Feelings – William Giraldi explores the “varieties of literary obsession”.
Kent Online: Campaign for Aphra Behn statue in Canterbury launched – Campaigners are hoping to raise £125,000 for a statue of trailblazing author Aphra Behn to be erected in Canterbury.”
National Post: Chilean author Isabel Allende fired up in the ‘solitude’ of lockdown – “Isabel Allende has been busy during the pandemic”, says Lucila Sigal. “The 78-year-old Chilean author, feminist and national treasure says the tranquility helped her publish a book”.
The Rumpus: What to Read When You’ve Made it Halfway Through 2021 – The Rumpus editors share forthcoming books they can’t wait to read.
Book & Film Globe: Authors Warn About Content Warnings in Books – “Carmen Maria Machado, Silvia Moreno Garcia, and others take to Twitter to decry censorship”.
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