An end of week recap
“I try to avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward.”
– Charlotte Brontë
A profusion of apologies to one and all. I am disgracefully behind schedule this week due to protracted birthday celebrations – which, incidentally, were great fun but left me feeling distinctly fuzzy-headed. I do hope this post arrives in time for those of you intending to put your feet up and follow the links while enjoying a steaming hot cuppa (and perhaps a small slice of cake).
As ever, this is a 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.
* The Book Depository Readathon *
Worldwide bookseller, The Book Depository, has announced its first ever Readathon, which it describes as “a week-long reading marathon”, due to take place from 23rd to 30th August 2021. To participate, simply complete one or more of its seven challenges and post photos of your chosen books on social media using the hashtag #BDReadathon. You may opt to read a book inspired by women, or even the first title in an ongoing series, to name but two possible tasks from the list. Please head over to The Book Depository Readathon’s official page for all the details and plenty of suggestions.
* 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:
The Damage by Caitlin Wahrer – This “dark” but “moving” novel is, says Nirmala at Red Lips and Bibliomaniacs, “a visceral story of the aftermath of rape”, which “explores […] the lingering damage” inflicted on both the victim and his family. Although it is a painful story and the protagonist’s ordeal is “nauseating to read”, Wahrer “sensitively dissects the confusion about masculinity and conflicting feelings” precipitated by a violent sexual assault on a young man. All told, Nirmala finds it “a gripping debut” that ends on a hopeful note.
‘An explosive, swollen vitality’ [book review] – Waiting for the Waters to Rise, “the latest novel by [Guadeloupean author] Maryse Condé to be translated into English,” is a story of displacement and migration set in Haiti. Eleanor Updegraff at The Monthly Booking finds that its “main themes” of racism and bigotry “are woven so skilfully into the fabric of the narrative […] catching us out in our prejudices” – asking us to “question our own views”. From her “expert shaping of narrative to firm characterisation and a use of language that comes as a gift to her readers”, this book “has much to teach us.” She is “a truly remarkable writer.”
* 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:
SPICE: Micaela Alcaino Plays with Optical Illusions for Raybearer and Redemptor – Graphic designer, Micaela Alcaino “takes us through her process for designing Jordan Ifueko’s Raybearer and Redemptor.”
The Spinoff: A New Zealander emerges, changed, from lockdown in the UK – “Sophie Jackson reads Modern Nature, a diary written by film-maker Derek Jarman 30 years ago – and resolves that she, like him, will carve out a joyful life.”
Aeon: Literary prostitutes – “I self-published erotica to make ends meet”, reveals novelist Sam Mills. “Could I follow in Anaïs Nin’s footsteps or was I doomed to churn out filth?”
Axios: Women are leading the new Latin American literature boom – “Gone are the whimsical elements, and in come the suspense, the gothic and the noir”, says Marina E. Franco. “The new Latin American Boom is here, and it is being led by women.”
The Globe and Mail: All hail the return of the bookstore – Marcus Gee hails the reopening of Canadian bookstores following a lengthy lockdown.
Africa is a Country: The exilic geographies of the South – “Dugmore Boetie was part of a wave of South African writers who fled Apartheid. His exile and future literary notoriety, however, took a different path to some of the more classic refugee peregrinations.”
Publishing Perspectives: Richard Charkin in La France Profonde: A Market Assessment – “Examining booksellers in Puycelsi, Gaillac, Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, and Montauban, Richard Charkin finds mostly resilience and ringing cash registers in the provinces this summer.”
Time Out: The world’s most-Instagrammed bookstore is in L.A. – “The Last Bookstore and its labyrinth of books landed atop a list of photogenic shops”, finds Michael Juliano.
The Home of Agatha Christie: On Surfing: Christie’s Love of the Sea – The author’s passions were wide-ranging and occasionally unexpected. Here Christie’s love of the sea and her discovery of the joys of surfing are explored.
Real Homes: Reading nook ideas: 21 inspiring reading corner designs for book lovers – “These cozy reading nook ideas will instantly make you want to curl up with a good book and a comforting hot chocolate. Mmmmm…”
Strange Horizons: Plants in Science Fiction: Speculative Vegetation, edited by Katherine E. Bishop, David Higgins, and Jerry Määttä – Octavia Cade has mixed feelings about Plants in Science Fiction. She explains why in her review of this recently published title.
The Guardian: Revealed: the secret trauma that inspired German literary giant – “WG Sebald’s writing on the Holocaust was driven by the anger and distress he felt over his father’s service in Hitler’s army”, writes Donna Ferguson.
Nautilus: What Misspellings Reveal About Cultural Evolution – “Stable cultural forms do not have to result from close replication”, says Helena Miton. She believes “they can emerge continuously out of subtle changes.”
The New York Times: A Brief History of Summer Reading – “We rarely talk about spring books or winter reading. What is it about summer that inspired a whole genre of its own?”
Activist Post: Militaries Plunder Science Fiction for Technology Ideas, But Turn a Blind Eye to the Genre’s Social Commentary – Science fiction “provides military planners with a tantalising glimpse of future weaponry” but “the relationship between military planners and science fiction is a troubled one”, says Will Slocombe.
Lapham’s Quarterly: Summer, Glorious Summer! – B.D. McClay rethinks “the friendship plot.”
The Scotsman: ‘We’re taking women’s writing much more seriously’ We speak to Rachel Wood, the owner of female fiction shop, Rare Birds Books, opening in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge. – “The new shop is an addition to this business’s online subscription service”, finds Gaby Soutar.
1843 Magazine: Why Satan should chair your meetings – James Surowiecki with a “literature lover’s guide to office politics”.
Publishers Weekly: New Directions: Travel Books 2021 – Daniel Lefferts discovers “guidebook publishers [have emerged] from 2020 with new approaches to travel”.
Arrowsmith: Poetry and Power – “Where do poets’ verses, their poems, and they themselves stand in relation to power?” asks Nidia Hernández.
Nation Cymru: ‘It was all flipping difficult’: The challenges of translating a work deeply embedded in Welsh culture – “Llŷr Gwyn Lewis’ novel Rhyw Flodau Rhyfel [Flowers of War] has been translated into English and will be published by Parthian next month.
Public Books: On Our Nightstands – A behind-the-scenes look at what Public Books editors and staff read last month.
TIME: How to Write a Romance Novel in 2021 – Despite “long-standing systemic inequities, a growing set of authors has recently found success with swoony love stories featuring characters from backgrounds that reflect the diversity of the world we live in”, finds Annabel Gutterman.
The National News: Pakistani authors challenging patriarchal conditions respond to recent femicide cases – “Hafsa Lodi speaks to the Pakistani authors who are challenging patriarchal conditions and responses to the nation’s recent femicide cases”.
The Age: Tasmanian authors dominate line up for Age Book of the Year award – “Tasmanian authors dominate the seven-book shortlist for the Age Book of the Year, as the prize makes its return after a nine-year hiatus”, reports Jason Steger.
CrimeReads: Sophie Hannah on the Literary Side of Agatha Christie: ‘Her style is not simplistic but, rather, beautifully simple’ – “Agatha Christie wasn’t just an ingenious plotter and entertainer. She was a great writer. Full stop.”
Times of India: Most beautiful libraries in India – Kartikeya Shankar presents photographs of India’s “most beautiful libraries”.
Penguin: Siren call: How fiction reclaimed the mermaid’s tale – “After centuries of entrapment, the mermaid is finally getting to tell her own story”, says Charlotte Newman. “From Monique Roffey to Rivers Solomon, contemporary writers are offering new, feminist retellings of a favourite fable.”
Hungarian Literature Online: A Fugitive of Apocalyptic Times: Miklós Bánffy – Mihály Benedek reviews the two most recent translations of Count Miklós Bánffy’s works, The Monkey and Other Short Stories and The Remarkable Mrs Anderson.
Good Housekeeping: The 10 best books to read this month – “From gripping thrillers to literary gems,” Joanne Finney suggests “some brilliant reads out this month.”
Literary Hub: (Ursula K. Le Guin’s) blogs are back, baby! – Jessie Gaynor is excited to discover Ursula K. Le Guin’s blog – which went offline after her death – is available again.
Ploughshares: The Varieties of Black Liberation in The Heart of a Woman – In Maya Angelou’s 1981 memoir, The Heart of a Woman, she travels to New York, London, Cairo and Accra. Everywhere she goes, she meets people who look like her but do not necessarily think like her, finds Marisa Coulton.
New Frame: How Leon Trotsky birthed a bookshop – “Borrowing one of the Marxist revolutionary’s books sparked a love of political reading for the owner of Surplus in Cape Town, where a huge collection can be found.”
Quill & Quire: Marie-Claire Blais – One of the Canada’s “most lauded writers,” Marie-Claire Blais, “reflects on her 10-book novel cycle”.
Electric Literature: As My Vision Deteriorates, Every Word Counts – Alice Mattison on how gradually losing her eyesight changed how and what she enjoyed reading.
Stylist: Lockdown Secrets: the pandemic’s most addictive Instagram account is now available as a book – “Lockdown Secrets is the hit Instagram account that thousands of people turned to in the 2021 lockdown,” says Hollie Richardson, “and it’s now being turned into a beautiful new book.”
The Verge: Amazon’s older Kindles will start to lose their internet access in December – “Devices that can’t connect to Wi-Fi will be out of luck”, reports Ian Carlos Campbell.
BBC News: Hay director Peter Florence quits as gross misconduct claim upheld – “Hay Festival’s co-founder and director Peter Florence has resigned after its board of directors found his actions amounted to gross misconduct.”
The First News: Academic creates Stanisław Lem Lego set to teach youngsters about author’s works – Nick Westerby reports that a literature academic, “has created six Lego sets dedicated to sci-fi writer Stanisław Lem.”
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