An end of week recap
“Accuse not Nature, she hath done her part; Do thou but thine…”
– John Milton
In my post-celebration fug last week, I forgot to mention Book Jotter passed 100,000 all-time views in July. I know this because a jolly pink 100K graphic appeared in my notification stream. I’m unsure if it should be considered a noteworthy achievement – many of you no doubt exceeded this figure long ago – but it made me feel absurdly smug, so I thought it worth mentioning.
As ever, 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.
* Wales Book of the Year Winners *
Catrin Keanis has been declared the overall winner of the 2021 Wales Book of the Year Award. >> WALES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2021: The Winners >>
* 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:
BOOK REVIEW Before and after the water crisis hits the Earth: The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde (book review) – A “climate fiction story centered around the future global shortage of water”, The End of the Ocean is, says Georgiana from Readers’ High Tea, a “terrifying” novel about climate change from the perspective of a father and daughter, as they “face extreme droughts and try to reach Northern territories in search of water.” This “heartbreaking yet hopeful book” – the second in “the Climate Quartet series by Maja Lunde” – would make an ideal gift for loved-ones along with the first title in the sequence, The History of Bees.
Village Life; #WITMonth #20booksofsummer21 – JD Cunningham of Gallimaufry Book Studio has been reading Swallowing Mercury for Women in Translation Month – an “excellent” coming-of-age story from the Polish poet and writer Wioletta Greg. This 2014 novella (translated into English by Eliza Marciniak) is the author’s “first work in prose” and “is based on her own experiences of growing up in [late Communist] Poland”. Told in “short, episodic chapters that often take an unexpected turn and can convey a complex world with an anecdote of a few words”, Greg’s “storytelling” is “an exquisite example” of “show, not tell.” Julé was greatly impressed by her ability to “open up” readers’ imaginations.
Dreams become simpler: Tove Jansson and The Island – I absolutely must draw your attention to a delightful two-parter by Josie Holford over at RattleBag and Rhubarb, on The Island, a piece of writing “originally published in 1961 in a travel magazine, Turistliv i Finland.” Penned by rara avis Tove Jansson, and translated into English by Hernan Diaz, in both posts we are treated to excerpts from a remarkable short story cum essay (republished in the 2017 Swedish-language collection, Bulevarden och andra texter). A thoroughly mesmerizing text, complemented by a selection of well-chosen Jansson seascapes, it focuses on the Moomin-creator’s much celebrated love of island life. I thank Josie for bringing this powerful composition to our attention.
* 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 Guardian: Pat Barker on The Silence of the Girls: ‘The Iliad is myth – the rules for writing historical fiction don’t apply’ – “The Booker-winning novelist knew when she read the Iliad that she would write about Briseis one day”. Barker continues her visceral recounting of the Trojan war from the perspective of its female victims in The Women of Troy.
Australian Book Review: Unheeded prophecies – Benjamin Huf discusses “Cassandras in the age of Covid” in his review of Niall Ferguson’s history of catastrophes and their consequences, Doom: The politics of catastrophe.
BBC News: Booker Prize: Novel inspired by last hanging at Cardiff prison – Mahmood Mattan’s wrongful conviction has inspired The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed – a novel longlisted for the Booker Prize.
The Paris Review: Authenticity and Apocalypse: An Interview with Alexandra Kleeman – Cornelia Channing talks to the author of the dystopian novel Something New Under the Sun on topics ranging from the question of genre to the drama of the natural world.
N+1: Critical Attrition – The Editors ask a rhetorical question: “What’s the matter with book reviews?” They believe they have the answer.
Women’s Prize for Fiction: 10 Women in Translation to Discover Now – The people at Women’s Prize for Fiction have curated ten “brilliant women writers” to celebrate Women in Translation Month.
Prospect: Four hundred years of melancholy—why Robert Burton’s masterpiece speaks to our pandemic age – “Admirers [of The Anatomy of Melancholy] including Samuel Johnson and Nick Cave have sought solace in a work that covers madness, demons, erotic obsession and the benefits of bathing”, finds Angus Gowland.
Global Policy: Book Review – The New Climate Activism: NGO Authority and Participation in Climate Change Governance – Charli Carpenter examines The New Climate Activism: NGO Authority and Participation in Climate Change Governance by Jen Iris Allan.
Electric Literature: An Indian Muslim Family Is Torn Apart by Religion, Homophobia, and Politics – “Nawaaz Ahmed, author of Radiant Fugitives, on the expectations placed upon immigrant writers”.
New Zealand Herald: Local Focus: New owner for popular book store – Georgie Ormond finds that with funding from NZ On Air, Patrick’s Bookshop in Whanganui has changed hands.
The London Magazine: Essay | The Joys of Depression, The Glamour of Gloom: Bishop and Larkin by Jeffrey Meyers – “Though Elizabeth Bishop (1911-79) and Philip Larkin (1922-85) have many personal and poetic qualities in common, none of the many books about them discuss their striking similarities”, observes Jeffrey Meyers.
Evening Standard: The Country of Others by Leïla Slimani review: Multi-layered Moroccan saga – In the Country of Others is the first title in a planned trilogy from Slimani and has Susannah Butter “eager to read more”.
The Bookseller: Raven Books owner Cameron wins O’Brien Press Bookseller of the Year – Ruth Comerford reports: “Louisa Cameron has been named this year’s winner of The O’Brien Press Bookseller of the Year Award, in recognition of her contribution to the book trade.”
Georgia Straight: Book excerpt: Confessions of an Animal Rights Terrorist – “Being questioned by CSIS is a rite of passage in the animal protection movement”, reveals Canadian writer and researcher Karen Levenson in Confessions of an Animal Rights Terrorist. She once thought it “glamorous” but now she’s “not so sure.”
BookPage: 6 debut novelists for the last days of summer – Based on other novels enjoyed by BP readers, here are six “hot titles”, which, according to these contributors, “deserve a spot at the top.”
It’s Nice That: Linn Fritz illustrates the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2021 – “The illustrator’s blocky, two-dimensional characters are gracing the campaign for the festival”.
New Frame: New Books | Women fighting for their power in SA – “The Federation of South African Women was founded at a time when women were not considered important participants in politics – then 20 000 of them marched on the Union Buildings”, writes Gugulethu Mhlungu in this excerpt from You Have Struck a Rock: Women Fighting for their Power in South Africa.
Book Riot: Hopepunk Featuring Creative Solutions to the Climate Crisis – Emily Wenstrom suggests “eight hopepunk novels with an environmental edge and creative solutions that really could prove useful in the fight against climate change.”
iNews: Val McDermid on her new novel 1979: ‘A lot of people have to die before I can write my memoir’ – “Val McDermid talks to Susie Mesure about the misogyny of 80s journalism and how she made lesbian fiction mainstream”.
Global Citizen: South Africa’s Indigenous People in a Land Dispute Against Amazon Over New Africa Headquarters – “The near $300 million development is set to be built on South African indigenous land.”
The Rumpus: What to Read When You Need to Recover a Sense of the Sacred – Shin Yu Pai shares a reading list to celebrate her new poetry collection Virga.
Hauser & Wirth: The Artist’s Library: Matthew Day Jackson on J.A. Baker’s ‘The Peregrine’ – In this installment of ‘The Artist’s Library,’ Sarah Blakley-Cartwright speaks with artist Matthew Day Jackson about J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine.
Words Without Borders: 11 Translated Books by Asian Women Writers to Read This #WITMonth – WWB celebrates Women in Translation Month with eleven works by Asian women writers secreted in its archives.
Guardian Australia: The Airways by Jennifer Mills review – deeply vivacious and arresting ghost story – “Following her Miles Franklin-shortlisted Dyschronia, Jennifer Mills’s most recent novel revels in the ‘consciousness of the body’, says Fiona Wright.
Humanities: Suburban Dwelling – “John Cheever was the bard of the backyard”, writes Peter Tonguette.
The Washington Post: Physical books are alive with memories. Has the pandemic pushed them into the ether for good? – Mark Athitakis argues that Zoom book clubs and e-books are no match for physical books and the experience of sharing them with friends in person.
BlogTO: The History of the World’s Biggest Bookstore in Toronto – Doug Taylor shares his memories of one of Canada’s first book superstores, which closed in 2013.
Metropolis: So You Thought You Didn’t Like Manga? – Eric Margolis takes “a dive into the English-language side of Japan’s alternative manga world”.
TLS: Out on a limb – D. J. Taylor looks at “what happens when a well-known novelist deviates from a well-trodden path”.
Penguin: 12 times Virginia Woolf understood the millennial condition – “Existential crises, a longing for experience and a fascination with the self(ie), Virginia Woolf may have died in the 1940s but [Alice Vincent is convinced] she would have made an excellent millennial.”
The Art Newspaper: August’s book bag: from Polaroids and chats with trailblazing women artists to new insights into Indigenous Australian treasures – Gareth Harris with a “roundup of the latest art publications”.
Scroll.in: A new anthology brings together poetry of dissent from all over India – “The strident tones and images draw the attention of the complacent middle class and the privileged.”
Bomb: The Persona is Political: Laura Albert Interviewed by Lindsey Novak – “On the new audiobook recordings that bring JT LeRoy to life.”
NPR: All Might Not End Too Well In Mona Awad’s New Novel – In All’s Well, a theatre professor in chronic pain, ignored by doctors, believes putting on one of Shakespeare’s least popular plays will renew her – then three mystery men offer her a cure.
The Polish Book Institute: Bedside table #64. Michał Cetnarowski: Readings of the pampered brain – The writer, Michał Cetnarowski talks about “practising reading zen, gliding across the surface of cultural texts, the books that have recently impressed him most, the role of Tolkien and Nowa Fantastyka monthly in his life, as well as the condition of contemporary speculative fiction.”
Tor.com: Maybe You Can Have Too Many Books in Your TBR Pile – Molly Templeton admits that one title on her unread bookshelf “has been there for almost twenty years.” Should she finally attempt to “clear the slate”, she wonders?
The Guardian: Siân James obituary – Tony Curtis mourns the passing of a novelist “known for exploring the lives of women and their relationships who had a deep commitment to her native Wales”.
Publishers Weekly: Censorship on the Rise Worldwide – Ed Nawotka finds there has been a worldwide rise in government censorship of LGBTQ and dissident group books since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Irish News: Lonely Passions festival celebrates Brian Moore’s centenary in Belfast this month – “A new festival will celebrate the life and work of Belfast author Brian Moore this month.”
NIKKEI Asia: For Belgian author, Thai comics are no laughing matter – “History of graphic tales honors forgotten heroes of local pop culture”.
//Stack: An ode to Scottish literature – Extra Teeth on the peculiar brilliance of Scottish writers, and why it’s important to pay them.
DW: How Jewish women fought the Nazis – “They smuggled weapons, sabotaged German railways and died in combat: Historian Judy Batalion recovers the important stories of Jewish female resistance” in her important new history, The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos.
Independent: Who will spare us from the actor’s novel? – “Tom Hanks, Hugh Laurie, David Thewlis – everywhere you look there’s a screen titan turning to literary fiction. If only their books were as good as their acting, says Louis Chilton”.
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