Winding Up the Week #180

An end of week recap

Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music-the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls, and interesting people. Forget yourself.”
Henry Miller

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.


* Lie Back and Listen *

Here I recommend engaging podcasts and other digital recordings I’ve come across during the week. Hopefully, you too will enjoy them.

At 38 minutes in length, this podcast from Code Switch is ideal for those who may be pressed for time. In this episode the host, Karen Grigsby Bates, discusses books that focus on what it means to be free – whether that is freedom from one’s past, from discrimination, from stigma, or freedom to be softer, to care for oneself and become lost in love. The team have made a list of five mixed-genre titles and the authors chat about their works. >> Words To Set You Free >>

Passa Porta, the international house of literature in Brussels, has produced Booktail, a “breezy podcast summer series” which its creators describe as “literature shaken and stirred!” In the first episode the Irish writer Maggie O’Farrell speaks to Belgian writer and journalist Annelies Beck about her most recent novel, Hamnet. “Set in Warwickshire in the 16th century and inspired by O’Farrell’s fascination with the story behind one of Shakespeare’s most enigmatic plays, [it] is written from the point of view of Agnes, the playwright’s wife, who recounts the death of one of their children.” The second Booktail podcast features the Scottish-American author Douglas Stuart talking about his 2020 Booker-winning novel, Shuggie Bain. >> Passa Porta Booktail: A Podcast with Maggie O’Farrell >>


* 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 two – both published over the last week or so:

Booker Prize 2021 – Longlist Prediction – “On 27th July, the longlist for this year’s Booker Prize will be announced”, reports Jo B of Jo’s Book Blog with undisguised delight. She endeavours in this post to “predict which thirteen titles will make up the so called ‘Booker Dozen’”. The list “always has a few surprises” but she has picked a number of favourites she suspects “may make it onto the longlist given the topics highlighted” by the authors. Included among this diverse selection of novels are Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia, Lean Fall Stand by Jon McGregor and Bewilderment by Richard Powers. Jo says she would love to hear your opinions on her picks and encourages you to share your thoughts in general on this year’s potential Booker line-up.

Fathoms by Rebecca Giggs – Over at booksaremyfavouriteandbest, Kate W is struggling to condense her thoughts into a structured review after reading Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Australian non-fiction writer Rebecca Giggs. She has “so much to say” about this “beautifully written” book but barely knows where to begin – being “constantly surprised by incredible whale facts” and the author’s “insight” into the subject. “Just when you think there’s nothing more that can be said about whales, Giggs offers a fresh perspective, a twist”, says Kate. She considers it “an astounding piece of 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:


The Christian Science Monitor: Two books to make you think differently about the ocean and the beach – “The Brilliant Abyss and The Lure of the Beach urge action to safeguard the world’s oceans and coastlines – along with the animal life found there.”

Bookforum: Cool Runnings – Johanna Fatemant on the “incisive long-form criticism of Jenny Diski” in her essay collection, Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told?.

The Nation: Utopia and Dystopia Are Twins—Both Are Born Out of Criticism – “But it is only Utopia that allows us to dream together”, says Jeet Heer.

Penguin: Are maths and literature opposites, or can they complement one another? – “In his book Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Absolutely Everything, author Jordan Ellenberg shows how maths can explain the world – and it has parallels with creative writing, too.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Classic Books or Diverse Books? – “That’s a false binary”, argues Roosevelt Montás.

Metropolis: Why the World Needs Literature – Eric Margolis speaks to award-winning author Yu Miri and translator Morgan Giles.

Medium: The Business Side of Being a Writer – Susan Orlean believes “taking care of yourself is the first, and maybe only, rule” of the writing life.

Granta: Notes on Craft – “Poet Oli Hazzard on writing his debut novel Lorem Ipsum, which is made up of one single 50,000-word sentence.”

High Country News: Climate change is the ultimate neo-noir subject – “The novel Something New Under the Sun treats a smoke-filled Los Angeles as its own genre”, writes Piper French.

The MIT Press Reader: A Century of Science Fiction That Changed How We Think About the Environment – “Even before the idea of climate change took hold, sci-fi began to think of the planet as something that preceded our species and could conceivably continue without us”, finds Sherryl Vint, author of the recently published Science Fiction.

The Guardian: Walking the Invisible by Michael Stewart review – following in the Brontës’ footsteps – “A walking tour of the north of England becomes a celebration of the Brontës’ work and a love letter to the wily, windy places that inspired them”, writes Anita Sethi in her review of Michael Stewart’s Walking the Invisible: Following in the Brontës’ Footsteps.

The Calvert Journal: 9 radical Polish books to add to your reading list – “From classics such as the sci-fi writer Stanislaw Lem, the celebrated reporter Ryszard Kapuscinski, and Nobel Prize winning author Olga Tokarczuk, to contemporary queer and feminist writers, see [Joanna Kozlowska’s] picks of the Polish novels and non-fiction writings that have charted new boundaries and challenged literary norms.”

The Atlantic: The Rise of Must-Read TV – “How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction”. 

Atlas Obscura: Eat Like Jane Austen With Recipes From Her Sister-In-Law’s Cookbook – “Including dishes straight from her novels.”

Prospect: Tsitsi Dangarembga’s trials of freedom – “The Zimbabwean novelist is today admired worldwide but hounded at home—and by the very regime whose postcolonial pathologies she has spent a lifetime documenting”, writes Catherine Taylor.

BBC Manchester: Elizabeth Gaskell: The Victorian author feeling the Bridgerton effect – “It is 170 years since Elizabeth Gaskell first published her most popular work Cranford”, says Rumeana Jahangir, “but thanks to more recent period dramas, the author’s novels are seeing a surge of interest from new, young fans.”

The Conversation: Gender-ambiguous author Eve Langley is ripe for rediscovery. A new biography illuminates her difficult life – Donna Mazza reviews Eve Langley and The Pea Pickers by Helen Vines, a forthcoming biography about the Australian-New Zealand poet and novelist. 

Baillie Gifford: Desert Island Discovery. – Theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli speaks to Scottish author Kate Clanchy about his latest book Helgoland and the unstable state of the universe, as first understood on a bleak North Sea island a century ago.

CLMP: A Reading List for Disability Pride Month – “For Disability Pride Month, observed annually during the month of July, [CLMP] asked the many independent literary presses and magazines that make up [its] membership to share with [them] some of the literature they have published by writers who identify as people with disabilities.”

CBC: Bertrand Bickersteth’s The Response of Weeds poetically explores the Black Canadian experience in full bloom – The Calgary poet, playwright and educator spoke with Shelagh Rogers about writing a poetry collection which focuses on the legacy of Black history in Canada.

Literary Hub: Dispatches from a Microlanguage: An Icelandic Reading List – “Thora Hjörleifsdóttir on the art thriving in a nearly lost language”.

Full Stop: A Beast in Paradise – Cécile Coulon – According to Erin Bloom: “A Beast in Paradise is far less a rural book, let alone a small-town book, than a farm book.”

Africa is a Country: Makeshift modernity – Marta Mboka Tveit discovers the “rise of African Speculative Fiction and other exciting cultural production indicates that modernity is not an exercise in ‘catching up’ with Europe, but an entirely new condition.” 

Electric Literature: The Acknowledgments Are My Favorite Part of a Book – “I read them before anything else because they tell the story behind the story”, says Ayden LeRoux.

Five Books: The Best Science Fiction of 2021: The Arthur C Clarke Award Shortlist – “The 2021 crop of the best science fiction books features a ‘deliciously pulpy’ space opera, a time travel story for young adults, and a cacophonous tale of talking animals. What they all have in common is that they are by debut authors, says Tom Hunter: they represent a new generation of sci fi writing.”

The London Magazine: Essay | ‘An Era of Maximum Foment’: How Reading My Great-Great-Grandfather’s Prison Diary Initiated Me into the World of Gulag Literature – In 1944, during the Soviet Occupation of Romania, Andreea Scridon’s great-great-grandfather was imprisoned for ‘anti-Soviet’ activity. He took “an empty notebook with him.” 

Catapult: On Writing (with a Day Job) – “There are many kinds of writing lives, and yours includes a day job.” 

CrimeReads: Villains and Victims: The Role of Animals in Crime Fiction – “Why it’s time to do away with literary taboos and confront violence against animals.”

N+1: On Janet Malcolm – “From that point on she was fully formed, and she could write about whatever she liked”, says Richard Beck.

iNews: Comedy Women in Print Prize 2021 longlist announced with Dolly Alderton and Naoise Dolan leading the nominees – “Witty women were not represented – let alone celebrated – in publishing, so Helen Lederer launched an award to change that. She announces this year’s selection of brilliant books”.

The Critic: Vanishing Worlds – “Round-up: what do these books tell us about literary culture in 2021?” asks Alexander Larman.

Books + Publishing: Melbourne City of Lit meets Edinburgh’s Typewronger Books – “In this series, run in partnership with the Melbourne City of Literature Office, we get to know some of the bookstores in the UNESCO Cities of Literature network.”

The Hindu: Say it out loud: Translating sounds and signs – “The success of translations depends on how the voices of the writer and the translator mix to become a powerful hybrid charged with the force of both languages”, writes Mini Krishnan.

Poetry Foundation: Yesterday Never Existed – Sophie Pinkham finds that “Osip Mandelstam’s tender nostalgia ran counter to an era of ruthless modernity.”

Medium: Every Book Lover Should Fear This Graph – Andy Hunter believes those of us who purchase books from Amazon should examine this graph before immediately changing the way in which we buy books.

BBC News: Lee Child: Why Forsyth’s Day Of The Jackal was a game-changer for thrillers – “Author Lee Child knows a thing or two about thrillers”, says Rebecca Jones. “He has published 25 of them, featuring Jack Reacher, which have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide.”

The Nation: The Novel Solutions of Utopian Fiction – Kim Stanley Robinson suggests: “Climate catastrophe has transformed a minor literary genre into an important tool of human thought.”

The Paris Review: Re-Covered: Barbara Comyns – With eight of her eleven books now back in print, Lucy Scholes wonders if Barbara Comyns still qualifies as a neglected author.

Mail Online: Big-hearted bookstore boss who had to shut his business during lockdown digs into his own pocket to pay laid-off workers who don’t qualify for government financial help – Mark Rubbo, the managing director of Readings Bookstores in Melbourne, decided to look after staff who found themselves in dire financial circumstances.

The Asahi Shimbun: Saved from tip, library ship in Hiroshima gets Heritage status – A library ship named Himawari (Sunflower), which once sailed around the islands of the Seto Inland Sea in Hiroshima Prefecture, has been designated a Heritage Ship by the Japan Society of Naval Architects and Ocean Engineers.



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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22 replies

  1. Lots of fascinating treats as always Paula – I’m going to start with the Tsitsi Dangarembga article 🙂

  2. Lovely post, Paula – thanks so much for including my Booker predictions! 🙂

  3. Thanks Paula – lots of great stuff there! Off to explore the Mandelstam piece.

  4. Heh heh, I always read the Acknowledgments too! Glad to know I’m not alone.

  5. Having just gotten back from the beach, I read the article about the two books on ocean and beach with more than usual interest. And yes, it’s important to read the acknowledgments (with satire it can actually be a clue to meaning).

  6. Lots of particularly interesting links this week to explore, thank you Paula.

  7. I loved the Jordan Ellenberg article, especially this bit: “The methodical process by which an essay, poem, or book is assembled out of tiny lexical pieces, carefully arranged in the right narrative order, is not so different from the way an intricate mathematical argument is built out of smaller logical steps.”

    I’ve always loved maths. Learning different languages over the years has confirmed for me that maths is a language, too.

    Coincidentally, I just commented on one of Chris’s posts at his Calmgrove site about how nonsensical the push to separate the arts from science and to funnel people into single specialisms is, which is part of that restrictive left brain/right brain, good at x/not good at y thinking. We’ve evolved to have a wonderful, creative, artistic, thinking machine in our heads, and making people think they can’t or shouldn’t use all of it is ridiculous.

    I’m adding Ellenberg’s book to my wishlist.

    • I wish I could claim to love maths. It was always my weakest subject at school and, sadly, unlike the proverbial good wine, I haven’t improved much with age. I’m pretty rotten at languages, too. 🤯

      • Ah, Paula, that’s not uncommon. I think maths is taught poorly in school, in a way that doesn’t work for everyone. With the right teacher, who loves the subject and can communicate it well, I really believe people who think they are bad at it would find that they weren’t.

  8. Thank you for the link 🙂

    I’m enjoying the Booker prediction posts – as was the case last year, I’m not really in a position to make my own predictions, but lots of the books appearing are ones I have in my reading stack.

    I’m interested in Ellenberg’s ideas about maths and literature. Not sure I want a whole book about it, but I will have a more in-depth look.

    • As I said to Jan, maths isn’t really my thing. In fact, I scarper in the opposite direction at the mere mention of long division. 😨 Anyhow, I’m glad you found Ellenberg’s article of interest. 😊

  9. I nearly always enjoy the Code Switch podcasts (they’re on my auto-download list!) but was especially interested in this one and found it quite enjoyable. Their bookish discussions have the right balance of easy chatter and information and substance to suit me. Enjoy whatever else you’re listening to and reading and watching these days, Paula!

    • Thank you, Marcie. I agree, Code Switch is short but sweet. Do you have any other favourites? I’m listening to a real muddle of podcasts at present – I must try to share a few more. 😊

      • Another similar to Code Switch is Still Processing which is from the NYT (one of the hosts just won his second Pulitzer, Wesley Morris, and Jenna Wortham recently published Black Futures); they have a great relationship that comes through in the podcast and there is sometimes more room for nuance in their discussions than I find in Code Switch (which I enjoy for different reasons) but for that same reason it might take more than a single listen to figure out if suits you. I’ll look forward to hearing more about your other faves and will be sure to add a few more of time in exchange! 🙂

      • Much appreciated, Marcie. I will definitely check out Still Processing. 😀🎧

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