An end of week recap
“When the Day of Judgment dawns and people, great and small, come marching in to receive their heavenly rewards, the Almighty will gaze upon the mere bookworms and say to Peter, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them. They have loved reading.”
– Virginia Woolf
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.
* Shortlist for Wales Book of the Year 2021 *
Literature Wales has announced the shortlist for this year’s English-language Wales Book of the Year Awards. >> WALES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2021: The Shortlist >>
* 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:
Gulliver’s Wife – Set in London in 1702, Lauren Chater’s novel about Mary Gulliver, midwife and spouse of Lemuel Gulliver from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, ponders the question, “what did his family do without him” when he was away “exploring previously uncontacted lands”? Equally, what happened when he returned home “after years of being missing, presumed dead”? Gulliver’s Wife is “a meticulously researched book” about a woman of the era, says Angharad at Tinted Edges. Furthermore, the protagonist is “a fully rounded character” and there is a powerful “mother-daughter relationship” running through the story. She declares it a “creative take on a classic novel.”
A new Folio delight: Castle in the Air – Over at Entering the Enchanted Castle, one of Lory’s “bookish dreams” came true last year when The Folio Society issued a “splendid” illustrated edition of Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones’s tale set “in a land that owes its flavor to the fairy tales of Europe”. The sequel, Castle in the Air, has now appeared, complete with “another outstanding binding design” and “illustrations by Marie-Alice Havel” – and once again, the “tropes and trappings of traditional stories are given [the author’s] own inimitable twist”. Lory’s one remaining wish now is to see more Wynne Jones titles published by Folio.
Guest Review | Andrew McDougall | Forty Lost Years, Rosa Maria Arquimbau (trs. Peter Bush) | Fum d’Estampa Press – In his review of Forty Lost Years for BookBlast® Diary, Andrew McDougall shares his delight in discovering a “forgotten gem of twentieth century fiction”, soon to be republished by Fum d’Estampa Press. The story of a woman who becomes a high-fashion dressmaker in Barcelona during Franco’s dictatorship is, he says, “strikingly relevant” and offers “a fresh view on the effects of the Spanish Civil War”. Furthermore, he finds this Catalan novel “complex, bold” and “enlightening”, celebrating “a free-spirited, independent woman” at a time when such a person was still considered remarkable.
* 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:
49th Shelf: Most Anticipated: Our 2021 Fall Fiction – The folk behind 49thShelf.com pride themselves on having “the largest collection of Canadian books on the Internet”. In this feature they list their choice of the most exciting debuts making an appearance in the latter half of 2021.
iNews: The Year of the End by Anne Theroux, review: Hell hath no fury like a writer’s ex-wife – The Year of the End is a “wise and vivid memoir of a disintegrating marriage and a study of the role of the spouse in the life of a literary giant”, writes Fiona Sturges.
Tablet: Proust’s Madeleine Was Originally a Slice of Toast – “The publication by Gallimard of the earliest manuscript of what would become In Search of Lost Time lays bare the autobiographical origins of Proust’s key themes, including his ambivalence about his Jewishness”, finds Mitchell Abidor.
The Hedgehog Review: The Idiosyncratic School of Reading: And the guiding muse of Whim. – Richard Hughes Gibson believes Virginia Woolf and the Idiosyncratic School of reading teach us that self-knowledge and pleasure go hand in hand through the library.
Poets & Writers: Craft Capsule: The “Routine” of Writing With Chronic Pain – Anjali Enjeti, the author of The Parted Earth and Southbound, shares how chronic pain has forced her to challenge traditional notions of writing productivity.
The New Yorker: On the Trail of a Mysterious, Pseudonymous Author – “Late last spring, a strange, beguiling novel began arriving, in installments, in the mail”, says Adam Dalva. “Who had written it?” he wondered.
Bad Form: Reading into Exile, from Partition to Palestine – Xa White’s “hypothesis was that for the victims of collective trauma, the study of another group’s experience of a similarly traumatic event could help them develop a less personally laden understanding of their own relationship to experiences that were too distressing to explore on a personal level.”
The Paris Review: Reading Jane Eyre as a Sacred Text – “The Bible I carried around that busy summer was Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre”, writes Vanessa Zoltan.
CBC: Shaena Lambert wrote a novel about Petra Kelly, who was the face of the 1980s peace and ecology movement – Inspired by the original Green Party leader and political activist who fought for the planet in 1980s Germany, Canadian author Shaena Lambert has written Petra – a novel based on the way Petra Kelly changed history and transformed environmental politics.
CRAFT: Art of the Opening: What Is It Like to Be a Protagonist? – Albert Liau “considers the openings in Alexander Weinstein’s short story collections.”
McSweeney’s: Short Conversations with Poets: Kathleen Ossip – Jesse Nathan speaks to Kathleen Ossip about July – quite possibly her most ground-breaking and politicized poetry collection to date.
The Nation: ‘What Would It Mean to Think That Thought?’: The Era of Lauren Berlant – “Four writers on the legacy of Berlant’s thinking both in the academy and in public life.”
ABC News: The best new books to read in July as selected by avid readers and critics – “Just in time for [Australia’s] latest lockdown, ABC Arts is trialling a monthly book column.” For July, Declan Fry and Khalid Warsame share their recommendations.
LARB: The Quiet Mysticism of Almanacs – Jess McHugh celebrates the “wonderfully freeing randomness” of the almanac.
Elle: A Big Long Time – “In this essay by acclaimed memoirist Melissa Febos, the author examines why meeting her wife, Donika, broke a long cycle of love interrupted.”
The Conversation: Tasmanian author Amanda Lohrey wins prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award for The Labyrinth – The Tasmanian writer has won the ‘Wimbledon’ of literary awards for her seventh novel, The Labyrinth.
Art in America: The Art of the Con – Rachel Wetzler argues that in recent fiction, the art world has come to represent the worst impulses of the world at large.
Observer: Sylvia Plath’s Family Album, Wedding Ring and Letters to Ted Hughes Are Being Sold – Helen Holmes reports that “a trove of letters, photographs and miscellaneous personal items that belonged to or were crafted by Sylvia Plath” have been sold at Sotheby’s.
City Journal: Escaping Only So Far – Tanner Greer asks: “Why do Americans gravitate to young-adult literature—stories of heroes vanquishing the shadowy forces governing their dystopian worlds?”
CrimeReads: The Most Ridiculous ahem, Memorable Serial Killers in Literature – “Grady Hendrix reads an unhealthy number of murder books. Here are some of the most absurd(ly entertaining).”
Literary Hub: Matt Bell on Heeding the Dire Climate Warnings of Our Best Literary Prophets – “The Author of Appleseed recommends work by Octavia Butler, Rebecca Roanhorse, Paolo Bacigalupi” and others.
The Calvert Journal: ‘Maidan was the best time of my life:’ meet Andriy Lyubka, Ukraine’s rising literary star – “Many of Lyubka’s books are inextricably tied to the harsh reality of modern-day Ukraine”, says Kate Tsurkan.
Brittle Paper: Understanding Late President Kenneth Kaunda’s Impact on African Literature – The late Kaunda brought much “insight into the anti-colonial cause and complimented the growing body of writing on political philosophy and literary fiction exposing the injustices in colonial rule and calling for end of imperialism”, writes Chukwuebuka Ibeh.
TNR: The Failures That Made Ian Fleming – “The creator of James Bond had an unremarkable career in intelligence and considered his own books ‘piffle’”, writes Scott Bradfield.
Atlas Obscura: The 18th-Century Cookbook That Helped Save the Slovene Language – “With 300 decadent recipes, a relentless priest united regional dialects and preserved a common tongue”, writes Kaja Seruga.
Penguin: ‘My biggest fear? Not paying enough attention to people I love’: 21 Questions with Sunjeev Sahota – “The Booker Prize-nominated author of China Room on his passion for running, the power of J.M. Coetzee, and wishing he was funny.”
Asymptote: All the Violence It May Carry on its Back: A Conversation about Diversity and Literary Translation – A conversation between professional translators, Gitanjali Patel and Nariman Youssef.
The Millions: Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2021 Book Preview – The Editor says MM has novels and memoirs and stories galore. “There are just so many exciting books headed [your] way.”
Book Riot: Everything we know about the Ursula K. Le Guin stamp – The United States Postal Service is to issue an Ursula K. Le Guin postage stamp on 27th July.
Entropy: Literacy Narrative: Lessons on Object Permeance – “We keep watching the people we love, never really sure if they’ll come back”, observes Clare Welsh.
Guardian Australia: If I wasn’t autistic, would my encyclopaedic knowledge of dinosaurs be a problem? – Clem Bastow, the author of Late Bloomer: How an Autism Diagnosis Changed My Life, says “some models of autism frame special interest as something unsettling and obsessive.” This, she feels, “is an unfair double standard”.
Kyodo News: Taiwan-born novelist Li Kotomi wins prestigious Japanese literary award – Li Kotomi has won the Akutagawa Prize for up-and-coming authors with her novel Higanbana ga Saku Shima (An island where red spider lily blooms).
Penguin: How Southgate, Rashford and Saka showed the importance of storytelling – in football and beyond – “As Terry Pratchett wrote, football is not just about football. Martin Chilton reflects on the stories that have imbued this year’s tournament with such deep meaning.”
Counter Craft: Maybe It’s Time to Admit People Just Like Books? – “Print book sales continue to rise”, says Lincoln Michel. “Did the publishing industry actually get the streaming era right?” he wonders.
Brittle Paper: What is Africanjujuism? – Ainehi Edoro describes Africanjujuism as “a term coined by the Nigerian-American novelist Nnedi Okorafor” for “a sub-category of fantasy centred on African life as lived on the continent.”
AP News: Hong Kong book fair sees self-censorship and fewer books – “Booksellers at Hong Kong’s annual book fair are offering a reduced selection of books deemed politically sensitive,” reports Katie Tam.
Humanist UK: New book on humanist pastoral care sent to every UK hospital, hospice, and prison – A ground-breaking new book explores non-religious pastoral care and provides an accessible and practical introduction to the subject.
Paperback Paris: Debut Books We’re Excited to Read This Month – Paris Close seeks out the “most promising debut books” to share with readers of her book community blog.
Apartment Therapy: I Read 32 Books Last Summer — Here Are 5 Rules I Live by to Finish as Many as Possible – Kara Nesvig offers some basic advice on “simple hacks” to help your reading routine.
Newsweek: Library Book 300 Years Overdue Returned With Note From Woman – “A 1704 edition of the 1688 book The Faith and Practice of a Church of England-Man has found its way back to Sheffield Cathedral in England around 300 years after it was checked out of the cathedral’s library—and 200 years after the library itself was dismantled, officials said.”
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
Thank you so much for featuring my review, Paula!
You are very welcome, Angharad. I enjoyed reading your excellent review. 😊
Gulliver’s Wife sounds excellent
Doesn’t it just. Yet another addition to my rather wobbly TBR pile! 📚
Mine too; mine’s wobblier than usual these days since I’ve been reading more or less only from my NetGalley pile and so the ones I’ve been buying are sitting there, glaring at me.
Thanks for these Paula. I must admit to feeling very conflicted about the sale of all Plath’s personal goods – I would have preferred to see them in some kind of archive rather than dissipated all over the place for big money. As for the Idiosyncratic School of Reading – that’s my kind of school!!
It’s a great pity there isn’t some sort of Plath museum – perhaps there is but I can’t find anything on Google. A single space in which to display this sort of thing would be ideal. Once memorabilia, personal papers etc. get into private collections they are effectively lost to the rest of the world. Such a shame. 🙁
Loved the opening quote from Virginia Woolf and totally agree with Lincoln Michel about the abiding love for the physical book rather than an electronic version.
A toast to the longevity of readers and real books. 🥂
You can always rely on Woolf for something amusing if not mordacious. 🤣
Yes, I’ll definitely drink to the longevity of readers and real books. Chink! 🥂
Gosh, had to look up ‘mordacious’. Nothing like a reply with bite. 😁
Idiosyncratic reading – that’s me! Another feast of rich pickings. Thanks, Paula, hope you’re enjoying the sunshine!
Thank you, Sandra. It is certainly a warm one. The sea looks rather inviting – a brief swim before lunch would be nice. 😎
Lovely to see Angharad featured here, Paula.
And again, some intriguing posts, including a couple as always from Australia. I’m always impressed at how much you get around!
I am definitely going to read Five rules to live by to finish as many as possible because I need help!
Thank you, Sue. I always enjoy Angharad’s reviews – she has such an eclectic taste in books. Hope you find something useful in those five rules. 😊
Thanks for the links Paula, especially the post on the forgotten Catalan novel and the article about just liking physical books.😊
It’s a real pleasure, Julé. I enjoy link truffling! 🐽
Gullivers Wife does sound brilliant, like most people reading Gullivers Travels, I expect, I spent a lot of time wondering about her and her family!
Please do share your thoughts if you read Gulliver’s Wife at some point in the future, Jane – I would love to know if you find it enjoyable. 😊
Like many others here, I am so struck by the idea of Gulliver’s Wife. Margaret Atwood thought of Penelope and Sena Jeter Naslund thought of Ahab’s Wife…why not? I love it.
I’m so glad I included a link to Angharad’s review – it obviously appeals to many people! 😊