An end of week recap
“The stupidity of people comes from having an answer for everything. The wisdom of the novel comes from having a question for everything.”
– Milan Kundera
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.
* 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:
Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Velvet Was the Night (2021) – Set in “the simmering danger of 1970s Mexico,” Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Velvet Was the Night “is a surprisingly political book, depicting violent actions of increasingly more desperate, more ruthless factions of an internal conflict”, says Ola G of Re-enchantment Of The World. While it can be “depressing”, this story of two very different protagonists is also “weirdly satisfying”, containing a “bitter-sweet nostalgia cut with abrupt horror”. It is, she concludes, “the best” book published so far by this “highly versatile, talented author”, and she declares it “a well-crafted, intriguing historical political noir”.
‘Call of the Curlew’ by Elizabeth Brooks – I was drawn by the title of another historical novel reviewed last week by Kirsty, one half of the The Literary Sisters – only in this instance the story is set in England during the Second World War. Call of the Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks tells the tale of an orphan named Virginia, “whose parents passed away when she was just an infant.” She is taken to “the ‘mysterious’ grand house, Salt Winds, to begin a new life with her adoptive parents”, and it is here she realises “she is as embroiled in war as anyone else.” Brooks’ narrative is “wonderfully beguiling”, her prose radiates a “comforting warmth”, and her descriptions are “vivid”, says Kirsty. Indeed, she finds the book “wholly absorbing”, highly recommending it to “anyone looking for a historical fiction fix.”
* 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:
Full Stop: A Good True Thai – Sunisa Manning – Though the action takes place nearly a half-century in the past, the novel’s core theme – resistance to entrenched power – could hardly be more relevant.
Prospect: Herat is the cultural heart of Afghanistan. Can it survive the Taliban? – “A city of poets and artists, Herat once challenged Florence for splendour. In defiance of the Taliban, Heratis have tried to keep that spirit alive”, writes C.P.W. Gammell, author of The Pearl of Khorasan.
BBC Scotland: ‘Hybrid’ is the future says Edinburgh International Book Festival chief – “The director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival has said the future will see online audiences continue to play a crucial role.”
Brain Pickings: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Opaque to Ourselves: Milan Kundera on Writing and the Key to Great Storytelling – Maria Popova delves into the brilliant 1986 classic, The Art of the Novel, by the great Czech-French novelist Milan Kundera.
Words Without Borders: Marina Jarre’s Stunning Memoir, “Distant Fathers,” Maps Its Author’s Peripatetic Search for Herself – Hannah Weber reviews the late actress Marina Jarre’s memoir, Distant Fathers – set in her adopted home, Turin, and her native land, Latvia, in the 1920s and 30s.
CrimeReads: The Rise of Welsh Crime Fiction – “A country of just over three million people is producing a good deal of the world’s most addictive crime fiction”, finds Paul French.
Bustle: Did The Pandemic Kill The Book Tour? – According to Lily Herman, “publishers’ go-to marketing strategy has been upended in the age of social distancing.”
European Literature Network: LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain by Alice Banks. Las Sinsombrero – “Spain’s Generación 27 was a group of experimental artists and writers who pushed boundaries and changed the way Spain saw art and literature.” Here, tribute is paid to Las Sinsombrero – the “wrongly forgotten Spanish women of the Generación 27”.
TLS: Back from the wilderness – In her review of The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym by Paula Byrne, Claire Lowdon discusses the ways in which the English novelist “became a victim of her own caricature”.
The Guardian: The new award from the Women’s prize should scrap its age limit – “Literary prize culture favours young and marketable writers – and the new Futures scheme is simply adding to the problem”, warns Joanna Walsh.
Book Riot: The Ethic of Selling Advanced Readers Copies – “Influencers and booksellers are sent advanced readers copies for promotion by publishers. Is it legal (or ethical) to sell these books?” asks Katie Moench.
Sierra Magazine: 4 Must-Read Books for Your Summer Reading List – “These stories illuminate all we have to gain in a troubled world”.
Why The Classics?: Daniel Mendelsohn on the Odyssey – A fascinating interview with noted classicist, memoirist and critic Daniel Mendelsohn, author of An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic.
The Moscow Times: Pushkin House Announces Short List for 2021 Book Prize – This prestigious award has been bestowed to the best non-fiction titles about the Russian-speaking world since 2013.
Image: A God Who Wails and Dances: A Conversation with Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor – Kenyan writer Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor on auditing colonialism’s books, coffee as sacrificial offering, the sea as sacrament and finding her way back to the church.
Global Citizen: 8 Inspirational Books About How to Live a Green Lifestyle – Helen Lock discovers these books “show that lowering your environmental impact can be both fun and rewarding.”
The Calvert Journal: Anton Chekhov: where to start with his literature – “Anton Pavlovich Chekhov is somewhat of an outsider in the 19th century Russian literary canon”, says Diána Vonnák. “There are many places where you could explore one of Russia’s greatest humorists”, she continues, “but here’s what I’d recommend to set you off on your Chekhov journey.”
The Sydney Morning Herald: Lockdown closes the book on this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival – “The extension of lockdown restrictions makes it impossible to hold about 150 live events”, reports Jason Steger.
The Millions: The World Is All That Is the Case – Ed Simon claims that Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by the Austrian-British philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, “is less the greatest philosophical work of the 20th century than it is one of the most immaculate volumes of modernist poetry written in the past hundred years.”
The Guardian: ‘No one wanted to read’ his book on pandemic psychology – then Covid hit – “Australian psychologist Steven Taylor published what would turn out to be a prophetic book, and it has become like a Lonely Planet guide to the pandemic”. Edward Helmore on The Psychology of Pandemics.
Deadline: Jack Kerouac Podcast In The Works From Dave Wedge & Casey Sherman After Deal With Beat Icon’s Estate – “The Jack Kerouac Estate has partnered with authors and podcast hosts Dave Wedge and Casey Sherman to produce a new podcast series based on his writings.”
Vintage: Where to start with Yan Lianke – “Yan Lianke’s literary career has been one of impressive breadth and versatility. Whether you’ve already read some of his writing or you’re new to his work, this is [Boyd Tonkin’s] essential guide on which of his books to pick up next.”
Maverick Life: A harrowing tale: Escape From Lubumbashi – ‘A Refugee’s Journey on Foot to Reunite her Family’ – Estelle Neethling’s Escape From Lubumbashi is “a painful story about forced migration, global displacement, conflict, refugees, gender violence, ethnic persecution, xenophobia and human rights”, says Carol Allais.
Bookforum: Manifesto Destiny – Lidija Haas on a form of writing that “demands change now”.
Gawker: The Intellectuals Are Having a Situation – Christian Lorentzen reviews Critical Attrition, “the n+1 review of reviews” (featured last week in WUTW #183).
NPR: ‘The Lorax’ Warned Us 50 Years Ago, But We Didn’t Listen – Dr. Seuss’s environmental classic The Lorax turned 50 the same week as the UN released an urgent report on the dire consequences of human-caused climate change. Elizabeth Blair talks to scientists, environmentalists and educators about the book’s legacy.
Catapult: A Memoir Should Be a Conversation, Not a Monologue – “It’s about suggesting, right there on the page, that the writer is no more important than the reader”, argues Beth Kephart.
World Economic Forum: Pandemic and staycationing lift Swedish book sales to record levels – “Book sales in Sweden have hit an all-time high in the first half of 2021 as people travelled less and entertained themselves at home more.”
AP News: Pandemic fiction: Fall books include stories of the virus – “Near the end of 2020, the pandemic had lasted long enough for author Jodi Picoult to try something that seemed unthinkable for novelists in its early stages — turn it into fiction”, says Hillel Italie.
iNews: Checkout 19, by Claire-Louise Bennett, review: glittering debut spins the mundane into magic – “The plethora of unspooling and untethered anecdotes” in Checkout 19, Claire-Louise Bennett’s new novel, “may seem remotely linked, but they are stitched together by one crucial thread: reading.”
Comma Press: The Book of Reykjavik – Q&A with translator Larissa Kyzer – An interview with Larissa Kyzer, the acclaimed Icelandic translator of Comma Press’s latest city anthology, The Book of Reykjavik.
Topaz Editing & Literary: Janet Dailey and the Curious Case of the Missing Author – Lindsay Hobbs talks “classic enigmas” and “real life mysteries involving books and authors.”
The Age: The places that inspire me: Helen Garner, Marcia Langton and others – Authors including Helen Garner, Marcia Langton, Sophie Cunningham and Gideon Haigh discuss the locations in and around Melbourne that have inspired their prose.
Los Angeles Review of Books: The Bookseller as Humanist: A Conversation with Ross King – Nick Owchar talks with Canadian novelist and non-fiction writer Ross King about The Bookseller of Florence, his book about the Italian bookseller who spurred the Renaissance.
Hyperallergic: Writers’ Organization Issues Dire Warning After Members Reportedly Murdered by Taliban – Valentina Di Liscia reports: “PEN America is calling for urgent protections to writers, journalists, and other creatives in Afghanistan following the government’s collapse.”
Nation Cymru: Experiencing the world of Raymond Williams’ Border Country for the first time – In the second of article marking Raymond Williams’ centenary, “Gaynor Lloyd visits Border Country for the first time.”
Vulture: The Spine Collector – “For years, a mysterious figure has been stealing books before their release. Is it espionage? Revenge? Or a complete waste of time?” wonders Reeves Wiedeman.
Lambda Literary: “Let it bother me? Not so’s you’d notice.” Three Queer Women of Color Writers Talk Crime Fiction – “Queer women of color are strikingly underrepresented in the crime fiction genre”, reports John Copenhaver. Here he presents three writers who “address a variety of subgenres, breadth of subject matters, and richness of themes.”
Mashable: 10 free audiobook sites for discovering your next literary obsession – “These digital libraries offer every title your bookworm heart desires”, predicts Tricia Crimmins.
The Washington Post: In ‘Hell of a Book,’ an author and his imaginary friend go on a book tour – Jason Mott’s novel, Hell of a Book, starts out as a relatively straightforward story – then reality and fantasy blur.
Poets & Writers: Endless Work: The Responsibilities and Pleasures of Translation – Lily Meyer examines her personal relationship to the professional work of translation, forms of responsibility unique to the genre and the complex notion of translation as a labour of love.
The National: Lebanese author Charif Majdalani’s latest book chronicles everyday life in Beirut – The French-Lebanese writer “decided to turn his project into a diary after the August 4 explosion”. Beirut 2020: Diary of the Collapse is the result – and has now been translated into English by Ruth Driver.
GQ: Horror Manga Legend Junji Ito On His New Book Sensor, Getting Older and Cockroaches – Tres Dean declares Sensor “a wholly unique installment in Ito’s oeuvre.”
Columbia Journalism Review: The Book-Rights Ticket – Feven Merid discovers that “after signing a freelance or even a staff contract, writers can be rendered powerless over their work.” He “learned later, the best (or only) alternative has often been to write a book.”
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
Enjoyed, as always, and, again as always, found several things of interest to check out (the TLS Barbara Pym article; the Daniel Mendelsohn interview & Brooks’ Call of the Curlew). I’ve seen lots of buzz as well on Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s new novel, so I may check that out as well. Thanks for the round-up!
Thank you, Janakay. I’m so glad you enjoyed this week’s wind up.
Fab links Paula (although that picture of a burning book gave me the heebie-jeebies…) Definitely agree that hybrid festivals are the way to go – I’m attending several Edinburgh ones remotely and I never would have been able to attend in person!
Sorry about that, Kaggsy, but a burning book seemed so appropriate in view of recent events. 😟
There are now so many remote happenings that I can barely keep up. 🤣 Nevertheless, I think they are a marvellous idea and, as you say, it gives people the opportunity to attend events they would never normally reach.
Hi I was scared by the burning book. Am in love with some on your listI so thank you. just finished ‘Where The Crawdads Sing’ and it blew me away, so much so that I purchased the audio from Audible and magic happened. If you haven’t … you surely must.
As I commented to Kaggsy in the previous message, the burning book seemed apt but I apologise if you found the image distressing. I normally select far more aesthetically pleasing book pictures.
Thank you so much for the recommendation, Ellen. I haven’t yet read Where The Crawdads Sing but it is definitely on my TBR list now! 😃
😉 No permanent damage done 🤣
Lots to follow up on but my eye was particularly caught by the mention of The Lorax, such a prescient book though I heartily wish it wasn’t.
I have vague recollections of one of my mum’s friends sitting with me reading The Lorax (I think it may have been a gift), which would have been in the very early ’70s – possibly when it was first published. The warnings were there all along, weren’t they, Chris?
Many lovely links to check out but I did enjoy visiting Wales remotely through its crime fiction! I love that events are keeping on with remote access – it’s wonderful since I’m over here and so many are over there. As you say, so many to choose from.
Thank you, Julé. I like to include the odd Welsh literary link when something piques my interest. 😀
I am so, so sad about the Melbourne Writers Festival. Yes, there will be online events but I miss the incidental interactions with other readers at Festivals – the standing in queues, the Festival bookshop browsing…
It is a very sad state of affairs, Kate. You seem to be going through a bad patch with the virus at present. Numbers are also creeping up on a daily basis in the UK – not that this deters our government from continuing to relax restrictions. I know what you mean about standing in queues at book festivals. I’ve chatted with some fascinating folk over the years while hanging about waiting for an event to begin. 😊
I always end up taking a whole week to read all your links, so thank you for always having such a great selection. Particularly enjoyed the article about translation – it conveys both the joy and challenge of it so well.
Thank you so much, Marina.
I’m not quite sure if that is a good thing or not – I know you’re a very busy lady! 🤣
At least you provide me with all the info in one place…
Thank you for the shout-out, Paula! 😊 And thanks for so many interesting links, as always!
It’s an absolute pleasure, Ola. Thank you! 😊
Another great haul, Paula. I am totally incensed by the age limit on the new award Women’s prize. I think it should be scrapped. There are many and varied reasons, well documented in the article, but I believe a prize with the title “Futures” needs to embrace all women regardless of age. What is this? Primary school hierarchy, boys there, girls over here, grouped by age and height… sorry, this is one of my hobby horses because publishers apparently don’t think mature writers have plans for the future. < >
Shuffle up on that soapbox, Gretchen, so I can clamber on next to you. This issue infuriates me, too. There are vast numbers of mature readers in the world, so why not support older writers? To imply female authors are over the hill after the age of 30 would be laughable if it weren’t so depressing. Every generation has something important to contribute to literature and, as you imply (and for a range of reasons), many don’t start writing seriously until their middle or later years. Sadly, not all women have a room of their own, even in the 21st century. Mutter, grumble… [Steps off soapbox] 😠
I bet you and I would have made formidable suffragettes! 🤣
Too right, Emmeline, we would have given them what for!
Here, I’ll hand you a placard and help you up onto that soapbox.
I agree with everything you’ve said, Paula. I think I am both hurt and outraged that women have imposed the age limit on other women for a reason that doesn’t really hold water.
From time immemorial women have had no voice and now things are beginning to free up, along comes a new writing award to squash our enthusiasm.
I shall leave this quotation then quietly go to smoulder in the corner:
“We are always the same age inside.” – Gertrude Stein.
Well said, Christabel!
What a great list of links! Thanks for including me. 🙂
Thank you, Lindsay. A fascinating article! 😊