An end of week recap
“Never stop paying attention to things. Never make your mind up finally. Do not hold beliefs.”
– A. S. Byatt
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.
* Tackle Dostoevsky’s Magnum Opus *
While contemplating The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s passionate philosophical novel published only four months before his death in 1881, Elizabeth Humphreys of Leaping Life wondered how she could possibly “find the time to get through a book which is 2 inches thick and nearly 1000 pages long?” The solutions, it emerged, were twofold. Firstly, the realisation that 2021 was a “significant anniversary” for this giant of Russian literature, but secondly, and of greater practical importance, discovering “little and often” is the way forward. Reading day-by-day, concluded Elizabeth, would be the best way to tackle this “masterpiece” and at the same time organize a literary challenge in which others could participate. And so was born the Karamazov Readlong. Commencing Tuesday 27th July 2021, the event gives those taking part the opportunity to read this monster novel at the rate of “a chapter a day, including the epilogue.” If you would like to be part of this “magnificent adventure”, please head over to Announcing The Brothers Karamazov Readalong #Karamazovreadalong and leave a comment.
* 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 ‘The Emporium of Imagination’ Tabitha Bird – Over at Thoughts Become Words, Gretchen Bernet-Ward shares her impressions on a “tale of love, loss, grief and healing wrapped in magical realism”. Set on the main street of Boonah – an actual town in Queensland, Australia – The Emporium of the Imagination is a highly unusual shop, which supplies “special ‘phones’, strange notes on scraps of paper and the ability to hear human grief in all its stages.” Gretchen detects a “dreamlike suspension of disbelief” running though the narrative but “the heartache is real”, though at times she has difficulty relating “to uncertain concepts.” Nevertheless, the novel is moving and “gently imparts the whys and wherefores of coping with grief.”
Book review – “Hot Stew” by Fiona Mozley – Set in London’s Soho district, this “stunning” second novel about wealth and property ownership is, according to Julia Rice of Julia’s Books, “ambitious in scope” and “broad” in content.” Mozley presents an “ensemble of diverse characters among whom she moves with dexterity”, and her keen “interest in history” enables her to seamlessly incorporate “information about the origins” of the area into the narrative. “The reader”, says Julia, “is invited to examine their preconceptions about sex workers and sexuality” as the author explores “different lifestyles” – indeed, at “300 or so pages”, there is “a huge amount going on” in this book. She concludes by praising it “highly” and declaring she will be greatly “surprised” if Hot Stew doesn’t appear on “some literary prize shortlists this year.”
Keli Cat’s Book Corner – As a lifelong ailurophile, I simply had to share with you Mallika Ramachandran’s splendid new page devoted to “cats and books”. The host of Literary Potpourri shares a list of titles in which “kitties play a significant role”, each entry accompanied by a review. Her catalogue (sorry, I couldn’t resist) of feline characters, which crosses genres, will be regularly updated and includes a selection of links to “cat pun book titles” and an introduction to the lovely Keli Cat, Mallika’s much-missed “five-year-old tabby” – to whom this page is a tribute.
* 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:
Brittle Paper: The 20 Best African Book Covers of 2021 (So Far) – Ainehi Edoro with a selection of stunning book covers from African publishers – which she describes as “colorful and adorned with inviting fonts, making them tantalizing to the readers.”
BBC News: Significant Edward Lear poems discovered – “Previously unseen poems and letters written by Victorian nonsense poet Edward Lear have been found hidden in a private collection.”
NPR: The Hot-Spot Library Was Born In Two Shipping Containers In A Cape Town Slum – A “ramshackle building of plywood and sheet metal set on a crime-ridden street corner in Cape Town” with “threadbare couches and mismatched carpets” is known as the Hot-Spot library.
The Mit Press Reader: The Silences Between: On the Perils and Pitfalls of Translation – “From literature to films and advertising, when it comes to translation, the opportunities for misinterpretation are rife”, says Mark Polizzotti.
The Paris Review: Shirley Jackson’s Love Letters – In the writer’s earliest surviving letters, she keeps in touch with her college love and eventual husband over the summer.
The Sydney Morning Herald: Meet the man who wants to turn the State Library Victoria into a giant escape room – Dr Owen Spear is developing a puzzle experience that would send visitors across the building, seeking hidden corners and treasures, solving their way out of an intricate story.
New Left Review: The Politics of Fernando Pessoa – Pessoa was one of the greatest and strangest poets of the 20th century, famous for the elusive profusion of his heteronyms. In light of a new biography, Nick Burns examines here his lesser-known but equally passionate political writings.
Interview Magazine: Jonathan Lee and David Goodwillie Rethink the New York Origin Story – To celebrate publication of The Great Mistake, the two authors sat down to discuss the perils of autofiction and their shared love of literary minutia.
Scroll.in: India’s national archives might go partly out of reach for writers. What happens to their holdings? – Narayani Basu asks: “What does the delay in archival access following the imminent demolition of the Annexe to the National Archives of India mean for publishers?”
Alta: Excerpt: ‘Fox & I: An Uncommon Friendship’ – “Catherine Raven’s first book [Fox & I] tracks an unlikely relationship—between the author and a fox who begins to visit daily at her cottage in an isolated mountain valley.”
Book Riot: The Winners of the 2021 Indigenous Voices Awards Have Been Announced! – Started in 2017 “to celebrate Indigenous authors in lands claimed by Canada”, The Indigenous Voices Awards this year “had their highest number of submissions to date”.
Craft: Writing the Complete Character: Frank Budgen on James Joyce – “There remains no better introduction to Joyce and his craft than Frank Budgen’s 1934 James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses,” says Mark David Kaufman.
DW: The fairy-tale world of Hans Christian Andersen – “H.C. Andersen House: Fans of the Danish fairy-tale master can now visit the Hans Christian Andersen museum in Odense and experience the stories for real.”
Guernica: Anjali Enjeti: Politics and Possibility – The author talks to Jenny Bhatt about “the need for structural change in publishing, and why we should all be archivists of our family histories.”
Lorcan Dempsey: Libraries and the Curse of Knowledge – “It is important to know what you know, so that you can avoid the curse of knowledge and communicate effectively”, writes librarian Lorcan Dempsey.
Slate: “Cat Person” and Me – “Kristen Roupenian’s viral story draws specific details from my own life. I’ve spent the years since it published wondering: How did she know?” asks a perplexed Alexis Nowicki.
Los Angeles Times: Rodrigo Garcia’s memoir wrestles with the death of his father, novelist Gabriel García Márquez – In A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes, filmmaker Rodrigo Garcia writes about losing both parents – and the one event his renowned father couldn’t record: his own death.
The Spinoff: The book that freed me to put my story into the world – The Mirror Book by New Zealand author Charlotte Grimshaw “emboldened an instinct for connection at a time when darkness threatened to overwhelm,” says Polly Lang.
Firstpost: Clare Sestanovich’s debut collection of short stories explores issues around abandonment, isolation – The short story collection, Objects of Desire, tackles the difficulties of female yearning amid the mess of urban life.
Fine Books & Collections: Bright Young Booksellers: Zubairul Islam – FBC’s Bright Young Booksellers series continues with Zubairul Islam, proprietor of The Guy with the Books in Toronto.
The American Scholar: Future Fears – How 19th-century writer and polymath, Edgar Allan Poe, “anticipated the modern world”.
The Baffler: Shitty Men du Jour – Madison Mainwaring takes a close look at France’s literary #MeToo.
The Cut: The Sound of My Inbox – “The financial promise of email newsletters has launched countless micropublications” and, according to Molly Fischer, “created a new literary genre.”
Literature Hub: In Praise of the Great Rats in Literature. Literally. – “Austin Ratner on the most maligned animal in the history of art”.
The Yale Review: The Heart of Fiction – Hernan Diaz on storytelling, experience and truth.
Independent: Books of the month: From Lucy Ellmann’s Things Are Against Us to Olivia Petter’s Millennial Love – In his monthly column, Martin Chilton reviews five of July’s biggest releases.
The Bookseller: Booksellers keep Covid-19 measures and urge ‘responsible’ shopping – “Booksellers are planning to continue some level of Covid-19 safety measures, despite the government’s scrapping of all mandatory precautions in England, including face masks, from 19th July.”
Electric Literature: The Many Lives of Jewish Lore’s Favorite Monster – “How the meaning of the golem has changed since the 16th century”.
Oxford Review of Books: Another Mode of Concealment – “Our definition of ‘literary fiction’ needs to be interrogated: the marketplace should not determine what is ‘original’”, argues Nicole Jashapara.
NBC News: TikTok is taking the book industry by storm, and retailers are taking notice – Conor Murray reports that BookTok “has sent old books back to the top of bestseller lists and helped launch the careers of new authors.”
STV News: Line-up revealed for ‘hybrid’ Edinburgh International Book Festival – “Authors Kazuo Ishiguro, Salman Rushdie and Bernardine Evaristo are among those who will be taking part” in the first “hybrid” version of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
Russia Beyond: ‘Didn’t read Pasternak, but condemn him’: What’s behind the Soviet phrase – “How could it happen that people criticized a novel they didn’t read?” Alexandra Guzeva explains “the phenomenon that turned into a popular idiom,” which hasn’t lost its relevance since the Soviet era.
Vox: How Twitter can ruin a life – “Isabel Fall’s sci-fi story I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter drew the ire of the internet.” Emily VanDerWerff explains what happened next.
Daily Dot: ‘The books are free’: Police department trolled after tweeting about ‘thefts’ from ‘Little Free Library’ – Kahron Spearman explains the concept of ‘Little Free Libraries’ – making the point that it isn’t necessary to share a book in order to take one.
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