Winding Up the Week #177

An end of week recap

Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.”
William Shakespeare

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.


* Spend August with Austen *

Austen In August is officially back at its home site,” says Roof Beam Reader” A.W. Burgess in his introductory post for this “annual reading event celebrating one of literature’s greatest writers”. Participants are invited to read and blog about Jane Austen’s works, biographies, audiobooks, spin-offs etc. during the month of August and, likewise, Adam will post content on a variety of subjects relating to this madly popular 18th century English novelist. All submissions, he says, “will help you qualify for prizes” and he asks that you “sign-up to join as a reader” by leaving a comment on The Return of Austen In August! (#AustenInAugustRBR) Call For Guest Posts And Giveaways by 15th July at the latest. He is “currently looking for people who would like to host/sponsor a giveaway or provide a guest post” – please fill out this form if you wish to do so.

* 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:

Book of the month: Ayu Utami – Over at A Year of Reading the World, Ann Morgan is enthusiastically endorsing Saman, Ayu Utami’s 1998 (now translated) novel, which dares to “deal with sex and politics in a way that was previously off-limits for female authors.” This “groundbreaking” Indonesian writer, she says, has produced an insightful, challenging, “strikingly funny” work – though, “some passages are more successful than others.” Indeed, Ann describes the book as something of “a collection of interlinked short stories (written in markedly different registers)” while also praising Utami for having “the knack of getting us on the side of her characters.”

‘What is Korean Literature?’ by Youngmin Kwon and Bruce Fulton (Review) – Tony Malone of Tony’s Reading List regularly devours Korean literature and was therefore keen to pick up a copy of this “behind the scenes” guide, which examines the subject “as a whole entity” rather than focusing on “a specific genre or era”. While he doesn’t recommend What is Korean Literature? to “anyone new to the country’s writing” – since it is “more a book for a student than for the casual reader” – he does, however, find it “useful” for reference purposes. Furthermore, he declares the addition of “actual literature” an “added bonus”.

* 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:


iNews: Elizabeth Macneal on writing Circus of Wonders: ‘I was definitely blocked by imposter syndrome’ – “The bestselling novelist talks about the internet, second book panic and delving once more into the world of Victorian London” in Circus of Wonders.

Kirkus Review: Ali Smith Wins Orwell Prize for Political Fiction – The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction 2021 has been awarded to Summer by Ali Smith, the fourth and final book in her Seasonal Quartet.

Hungarian Literature Online: The Penny Truth Hungarian-English Print Magazine Launches in Budapest – “The Penny Truth, a new journal launched in Budapest May 2021, features original prose, poetry and essays in English and Hungarian.”

The Walrus: Life in the Stacks: A Love Letter to Browsing – “Algorithms are integral to how we find and consume art. But old-fashioned browsing still has its benefits”, says Canadian author Jason Guriel.

The Irish Times: I ask each guest which books they’d save from the flames if their house was on fire – “Ruth McKee on her lifelong love affair with radio which inspired her new books podcast”. The History and Politics of Wuxia – Wuxia, says Jeannette Ng, “is a genre about martially powerful heroes existing in a world parallel to and in the shadows of the Chinese imperial history.”

Literary Hub: Trust the Text: On Translating the Autobiographical Novel of Linda Boström Knausgård – “Saskia Vogel considers the role of writing as memory in October Child”.

The Public Domain Review: Vergilius Vaticanus and the Puzzle of Ancient Book Culture – “How did Virgil’s words survive into the present? And how were they once read, during his own life and the succeeding centuries? Alex Tadel explores Graeco-Roman reading culture through one of its best-preserved and most lavishly-illustrated artefacts.”

//Stack: Zine-y, messy, fantastically provocative – “One of the most electric publications to launch in recent years, Worms is a zine-y, messy, fantastically provocative magazine about books and the women who love them”, says Kitty Drake.

Foyles: The Book of Echoes by Rosanna Amaka – Read an exclusive Q&A with the south London author Rosanna Amaka and enjoy an extract from her new novel The Book of Echoes.

The Atlantic: The Soft Radicalism of Erotic Fiction – “Jackie Collins sold half a billion books, taught women to demand power, and told the truth about Hollywood, yet she’s never gotten her due”, writes Sophie Gilbert.

Los Angeles Times: Elizabeth ‘Betita’ Martínez, prolific author and pioneering Chicana, dies – The American Chicana author, feminist and activist, Elizabeth Martínez, passed away last Tuesday at the age of 95.

3:AM Magazine: The Unknown Writer – Andrew Gallix interviews C. D. Rose about his new novel, The Blind Accordionist.

Vintage: Retreat, by Nat Segnit – “Is isolation a means of engaging more fully with reality, or evading it? In this extract from Retreat, author Nat Segnit explores neuroscience, psychology and history to reveal why humans seek solitude, what we get out of it, and what is going on in our brains and bodies when we achieve it.”

Catapult: The Impossible Ideals of the “Writer’s Life” – “This was the pact I made with my now and future self: to become the most successful writer that it was possible to be”, recalls Tabitha Blankenbiller.

Vice: ‘The Service’ Captures the Messy and Mundane Realities of Sex Work in the UK – “Writer and activist Frankie Miren discusses her debut novel and the need for more complex accounts of what it feels like to be a sex worker.”

Publishing Perspectives: From London Book Fair: European Booksellers on Brexit – “The pandemic’s effects on bookselling have been mingled with those of Brexit, as booksellers from Uppsala and Galway tell the European and International Booksellers Federation.”

World Literature Today: 21 Books for the 21st Century: The Results of Our Readers’ Poll – Earlier this year, WLT “invited twenty-one writers to nominate a single book, published since the year 2000, that has had a major influence on their own work, along with a brief statement explaining their choice.” They then invited readers to vote on their favourites. Here are their choices.

Books + Publishing: Australian Book Design Awards 2021 winners announced – “The winners of the 2021 Australian Book Design Awards, presented by the Australian Book Designers Association (ABDA), have been announced.”

Evening Standard: Testosterone: The Story of the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us by Dr Carole Hooven review – “Dr Carole Hooven has written the definitive book on testosterone”.

Harper’s Bazaar: 5 Formerly or Currently Incarcerated Writers on What Freedom Means to Them – “In partnership with PEN America’s Prison Writing Program, the women reflect on finding community behind bars, seeking refuge in the arts, and the liberating power of language.”

Bookforum: Alt That’s Fit to Print – Gene Seymour shares a few thoughts on the “dangers and rewards of speculative fiction”.

The Guardian: ‘At first I thought, this is crazy’: the real-life plan to use novels to predict the next war – “Three years ago, a small group of academics at a German university launched an unprecedented collaboration with the military – using novels to try to pinpoint the world’s next conflicts. Are they on to something?” wonders Philip Oltermann.

The Quietus: Hajar Press: The Indie Publisher With Anti-Racism At Its Core – “Hajar Press is an independent political publishing house run by and for people of colour,” with anti-racism “embedded in the fabric of everything” it publishes, says Tope Olufemi.

The Johannesburg Review of Books: ‘Putting myself in those blood-soaked shoes was the most difficult thing to contend with’—Robert Jones Jr talks to Efemia Chela about his debut novel The Prophets – Efemia Chela spoke to Robert Jones Jr about his debut novel, The Prophets.

Ploughshares: The Monolithic, Unforgiving Group Narrator – “A Rose for Emily, by William Faulkner, and The Little Widow from the Capital, by Yohanca Delgado, both feature the first-person-plural point of view. In both stories, the group narrator is insular, one-directional, one-dimensional, monolithic, and unforgiving in judging a woman”, says Dedria Humphries.

Radio Prague International: Prague’s Municipal Library marks 130th anniversary – The Municipal Library of Prague marked its 130th anniversary last Thursday. Ruth Fraňková explores its history.

TNR: How to Spot a Cult – “According to Amanda Montell’s new book, Cultish, the jargon and technical language of fanaticism is surprisingly common”, finds Jennifer Wilson.

n+1: The Afterlife: Revisiting Roth’s promise – “My own sense of Roth is that the motive behind his books, his drive and ambition as a writer, has everything to do with his unceasing energy as a seducer—a seducer of readers as well as of living people, friends and lovers”, says Daphne Merkin.

Global Citizen: I Can Get a Vaccine But My Grandma Can’t. Is Her Life Less Worthy Than Mine? – “British author Chine McDonald is seeing global vaccine inequality lived out in her own family.”

The Sewanee Review: A Conversation About Trees – Michael Robbins concludes that he doesn’t believe his own thesis, which suggests “the composition of poems about nature constitutes, in the present moment, a political act.”

Commonweal: The Inimitable Orwell – John Rodden discusses “Politics and the English Language at seventy-five”.

Melville House: 82% of British school children surveyed report never studying Black, Asian, or minority ethnic authors – New research conducted by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education finds children from ethnic minorities in the UK are “more likely to read a book with an animal protagonist than a human one of their own ethnicity”.

New York Post: Substack signs ex-Forbes writer as it seeks to disrupt book publishing – Keith J. Kelly reports that Substack, the online subscription platform for popular writers, “appears to be setting its sights on disrupting the book publishing world.”

Interview: Taylor Jenkins Reid Makes the Case for “Chick Lit” – Juliana Ukiomogbe talks to the author of Malibu Rising about her ideal writing atmosphere. Matthew Benns on his favourite character in The Dying Diplomats Club: the dog – “Baxter the beagle has been a constant companion in Matthew Benns’ life. But he next expected him to take this new step.”



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.

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17 replies

  1. My eye was caught by your lead item on Austen. I’ve a study on Austen and the clergy to finish, a short book of poems and games by the extended Austen family, also the second notebook with her juvenilia, the three volumes of which I’m sure inspired Cassandra Mortmain’s three notebooks in I Capture the Castle. So, yes, very tempted!

    Also did you see the piece by Alison Flood in the Guardian where our PM, who otherwise has precious little else to do, reportedly canvassed an academic to bounce his ideas off any time of the day for his yet to be completed biography of Shakespeare? The ‘study’ which he received a massive advance on a few years ago and which it was claimed he was working on instead of attending some crucial COBRA meetings at the start of the pandemic?

    • I expect Adam’s Austen challenge will be really popular. Interest in her work never wanes – as seems to be the case with so many other classic novelists (with a few obvious exceptions), who drift in and out of fashion.

      I didn’t spot the Guardian piece about the PM and his Shakespeare bio (many thanks for the link) but I posted something on this subject from Melville House in WUTW #173 ( Nothing surprises me with Boris any longer! 🙄

      • Our scarecrow PM and his cronies are like Nero and his court now, fiddling while Rome burns or perhaps, in saying Covid will be everybody’s personal responsibility after 19th July, like Pontius Pilate washing his hands. (But we all know that, like Lady Macbeth, they have blood on their hands.)

        Sorry, enough of politics: Austen in August is definitely something to look forward to.

      • I did have to chuckle at your fiddling comment, Chris, especially in view of Matt Hancock’s recent shenanigans! 🤣

  2. Oh good, Austen in August is back! It was one of my first and favorite blog events.

  3. I’m reading Cultish right now. It’s outstanding!

  4. Very tempted by Austen, although August is also WIT and All Virago/All August. I wonder if I have an Austen in a Virago edition… ;D

  5. So glad to see Ali Smith getting an award for Summer. I thought it was a wonderful end to a great series.

  6. How I love to browse. Remember the days in which browsing was the main way to find something to read? Browsing’s just not the same as it used to be even if we can find time for it. But there’s also something to be said for that ‘holds request’ button! 🙂

  7. Even more than usual of these links appeal to me this time. Or, maybe I’m just even more interested in NOT working? Nah, that can’t be it! Heheh But it is nearly the weekend, so maybe.

    Plastic-free? Yes, indeed. We’re steadily trying to reduce our packaging, month by month. And gradually eliminate the plastic that comes in, even if it is recycle-able. Because I don’t know what it’s like in the UK but here very little of what goes in our recycle bins finds a buyer now, so it’s no longer the solution it was once believed to be. How’s Wales for that?

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