An end of week recap
“It is the glistening autumnal side of summer. I feel a cool vein in the breeze, which braces my thought, and I pass with pleasure over sheltered and sunny portions of the sand where the summer’s heat is undiminished, and I realize what a friend I am losing.”
– Henry David Thoreau
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.
* Latest Ladies of Horror Fiction Happening *
The Ladies of Horror Fiction invite you to “mark your calendars” and join them in celebrating three years of the LOHF Readathon. Running throughout the entirety of September (beyond, should you wish) and co-hosted with Alex The Bookubus, this year’s event includes “a two-week readathon, two LOHF group readalongs, and an anniversary giveaway.” You are encouraged to “join in any time during the month”, read as many LOHF titles as you dare and use the hashtag #LOHFReadathon when posting your progress on social media. If this sounds like your gruesome brew, please hold your nerve and head over to LOHF Three-Year Anniversary Celebration!
* An Open Book on the Sea Library *
When you next take a restorative breather from your busy day, I have the perfect podcast item lined up for you. In a recently aired episode of BBC Radio 4’s Open Book, blogger Anna Iltnere talks to presenter Johny Pitts about her remarkable Sea Library in Jūrmala, a stunningly attractive Latvian coastal resort with mile-upon-mile of sandy white beach, sandwiched between the Gulf of Riga and the Lielupe River. She speaks passionately about first moving to the area, falling in love with the sea and taking over an “old wooden building” where her oceanic library is now located. As a fellow thalassophile, I have for some time followed Anna’s blog and dreamt of exploring these ever-evolving sea shelves, on which every title has a pelagic theme. I am sure you will feel the same after listening to this delightfully uplifting interview. The programme, entitled David Grossman, Richard Beard, The Sea Library will, according to the Open Book website, be “available for over a year”.
* 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 Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson – Simon Thomas of Stuck in a Book “really loved” The Gap of Time, Jeanette Winterson’s modern-day interpretation of The Winter’s Tale. This 2015 “cover version” was his first experience of the author’s fiction and it wasn’t at all “bitter and spiky and earnest”, as he had first suspected. On the contrary, he found it elegant and playful, and describes her “having fun with the task of updating Shakespeare but also borrowing his ability to make sentences both amusing and profound.” He preferred some parts of the book to others but nevertheless depicts it as “clever and engaging”. The “main mark of its achievement”, he says, is that he would recommend it even to those who have “never read or heard a word” of the Bard’s original comedy.
Work in Progress by Dan Brotzel, Martin Jenkins and Alex Woolf – a story told in emails of a writing group at work – If you are seeking something light and amusing to read during these trying times, Joules Barham from Northern Reader suggests Work in Progress: The untold story of the Crawley Writers’ Group, compiled by Peter, Writer, an “erratic collection of emails between eight members of a writing group”. It is, she says, a funny and clever novel, which “provides enormous entertainment from its characters with their idiosyncrasies and strange activities.” Indeed, she wholeheartedly recommends it “to those who have experience of [such] groups” as they will undoubtedly “recognise an exaggerated version of familiar events”.
* 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 selection of interesting snippets:
Eye On Design: The Endless Life Cycle of Book Cover Trends – “What you see on a cover is the product of intermingling cultural and economic forces”.
Literary Hub: An Unofficial Ranking of Publishing Colophons – “Dylan Brown on the fishes, kangaroos, and borzois that adorn our books”.
The New Yorker: Simone de Beauvoir’s Lost Novel of Early Love – “Her passion for a doomed friend was so strong that Beauvoir wrote about it again and again”, says Merve Emre in this piece on The Inseparables.
Vector: “Do we want that?” Mackenzie Jorgensen interviews Eli Lee – Mackenzie Jorgensen chats to Eli Lee about her sci-fi debut, A Strange and Brilliant Light.
Chicago Tribune: Column: There’s pain in junked books — but the Biblioracle explains why – John Warner’s first paying job involved ripping the covers off unsold mass market paperbacks, at one cent per cover. The bodies of the books ended up “in the dumpster behind the store”, he says. He explains why.
Ssense: Book Publishing Beyond the Margins. Thomas Gebremedhin’s Literary Kinship – Thessaly La Force interviews Thomas Gebremedhin, the Eritrean-American executive editor at DoubleDay Books.
Smithsonian Magazine: The Secret Codes of Lady Wroth, the First Female English Novelist – “The Renaissance noblewoman is little known today, but in her time she was a notorious celebrity”, says V.M. Braganza.
The Mit Press Reader: “A Veil Was Broken”: Afrofuturist Ytasha L. Womack on the Work of Science Fiction in the 2020s – “The Afrofuturism movement within sci-fi may be equal to this moment, in part because it grows out of a history of displacement, atrocity, and instability”, says Wade Roush in this interview with Ytasha L. Womack, excerpted from Make Shift: Dispatches From the Post-Pandemic Future.
Evening Standard: The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz review: Part thrilling page-turner, part literary satire – Katie Rosseinsky says The Plot is “a compulsive read full of sly bookish references”.
The Guardian: A new start after 60: ‘I always dreamed of being a writer – and published my first novel at 70’ – “In her thirties, Anne Youngson wrote a book in her lunch breaks at work. It stayed in a drawer. Then she retired, wrote her debut and was shortlisted for a major award” for Meet Me at the Museum.
Virago: Introducing Attia Hosain – Despite writing only two books, Attia Hosain’s work has been hugely influential – her compelling classic novel, Sunlight on a Broken Column, and her powerful collection of short stories, Phoenix Fled, have now been republished by Virago.
The Bookseller: Government releases advice for retailers to cut their carbon footprint – “The [UK] government has released new advice for retailers ahead of COP26 to help businesses cut their carbon footprint.”
Gawker: George and Ann – “John le Carré wrote one of the strangest marriages in fiction”, finds Rosa Lyster.
Daily Hive: Western Sky Books: Inside the cozy bookstore in the Tri Cities inspired by Wicked – “Based in Port Coquitlam, Western Sky Books is an award-winning used and new bookstore but has a gallery space for local visuals artists.”
Terribleminds: Emily Wenstrom: Why We Need ADHD Representation In Fiction – Fantasy writer Emily Wenstrom discusses ADHD representation in fiction.
Slate: Wired Magazine’s 1996 Style Guide for Writing in the Digital Age Is an Artifact in Amber – Annie Howard takes a wry look back at the print edition of Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age – “a spiral-bound, lime-green-and-black bible of emergent nerd speak” – edited by linguist and journalist Constance Hale.
Observer: Ghost Sex: On Amy Sohn and Anthony Comstock – Grace Byron shares her misgivings about Amy Sohn’s The Man Who Hated Women, a narrative history of Anthony Comstock, an anti-vice activist and US Postal Inspector, and the women who opposed his war on women’s rights at the turn of the twentieth century.
Prospect: The story of Cuba’s difficult relationship with revolutionary writers – Daniel Rey discovers that “Fidel Castro welcomed writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Allen Ginsberg—but eventually most of the literati sought to distance themselves from the Cuban leader”.
CrimeReads: Can We Talk About Caroline Blackwood, Please? – According to Virginia Feito, “Caroline Blackwood was much more than a muse. She was one of the greatest, darkest writers who ever lived.”
The Irish News: Debut writers of Lote and A Ghost in the Throat win 2021 James Tait Black Prizes – Shola Von Reinhold has won the James Tait Black Prize for Fiction with debut Lote, while Doireann Ní Ghríofa has taken the biography award for A Ghost in the Throat.
Publishers Weekly: The Strange Language of Diane Williams – In her new story collection, How High? — That High, one of the grande dames of American experimental fiction shows she’s not letting up—or holding back.
Columbia University Press: Mongolia’s Women Writers – Simon Wickhamsmith, author of Suncranes and Other Stories: Modern Mongolian Short Fiction, discusses the work of three Mongolian women writers.
BBC Culture: Epic Iran: Ancient objects that reveal writing’s roots – “An exhibition about Iran traces how some of the world’s earliest scripts developed. They were as much about images as text, writes Kelly Grovier.”
Rain Taxi: To Break the Silence: An Interview with Kim Echlin – Canadian author Kim Echlin discusses her recent novel Speak, Silence, a fictionalized account of the Bosnian women who testified at The Hague about their experiences of crimes against humanity.
Women of China: Beijing Bookstores to Benefit from New Incentives – Mazi, the bookshop run by bibliophile Li Suwan, is located on Hepingli North Street in Beijing.
Lapham’s Quarterly: No Thanks to the Academy – “Why isn’t there an English Academy?” asks Dylan Byron. Apparently, we should “blame the plague.”
Milkweed Editions: Announcing Multiverse and Hannah Emerson’s The Kissing of Kissing – “Multiverse is a literary series devoted to different ways of languaging, curated by neurodivergent poet Chris Martin”. The first book in the series is The Kissing of Kissing by Hannah Emerson, which is due to be published April 2022.
The Nation: Web of Connections – “Can one tell the story of a country through one family?” asks David A. Bell in this review of Emma Rothschild’s An Infinite History: The Story of a Family in France Over Three Centuries.
Scroll.in: How the decades-old Japanese honkaku murder mysteries are making a comeback in English translation – “Seishi Yokomizo’s novels, published by Pushkin Vertigo, are all the rage among crime fiction fans in the English-reading world.”
Vanity Fair: The State of the Literary Jonathans – “Novelist Emily Gould takes a hard look at today’s literary landscape—and at how things have changed since Lethem, Franzen, and Safran Foer first appeared on the scene.”
The Local: Why one of Sweden’s most famous children’s book series is still so relevant – “Gunilla Bergström’s beautiful children’s books about Alfons Åberg send a powerful message that even adults would do well to heed, writes journalism professor Christian Christensen.”
NPR: We Asked, You Answered: Your 50 Favorite Sci-Fi And Fantasy Books Of The Past Decade – Petra Mayer reveals the results of the 2021 Summer Reader Poll celebrating the past ten years of science fiction and fantasy.
State Library NSW: “Vivid and complex” portrait of Truganini wins nation’s richest prize for life writing – Cassandra Pybus’ portrait of a “remarkable First Nations woman”, Truganini: Journey through the apocalypse, has won this year’s National Biography Award, Australia’s “richest prize for biographical writing.”
Literary Hub: JRR Tolkien Invented the Term “Eucatastrophe.” What Does It Mean? – Jonathan Walker, author of The Angels of L19, examines “the consequences of Christian narrative”.
Refinery29: Life Lessons To Be Learned From A 91-Year-Old Activist – Selma James’ new book, Our Time Is Now: Sex, Race, Class, and Caring for People and Planet, “immortalises her greatest hits throughout her illustrious career and is packed with riveting speeches and interviews”, writes Gabrielle Dixon.
Penguin: ‘It would be fun to take Emily Dickinson for shots’: 21 Questions with Shon Faye – “The author of The Transgender Issue on the power of Toni Morrison, the best book she’s ever read, and singing along to Liza Minnelli.”
TNC: Denis Donoghue, 1928–2021 – Adam Kirsch on the Irish literary critic.
Outside: A New Book Examines What We Lost in the Camp Fire – Journalist Lizzie Johnson, author of Paradise: One Town’s Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire, “provides a comprehensive post-mortem of how the notorious 2018 inferno came to destroy Paradise, California—and what it means for the future of wildfires”.
Metro: Author Jojo Moyes says we need to stop dissecting texts and bring back the love letter – “In 50 years’ time, who’s going to look at an aubergine emoji they got when they were young?”
The Critic: A fully-packed bookcase – John Shelf with “three books that each offer a traditional holiday-reading pleasure”.
In These Times: Abolitionist Library Workers Want Library Access for All. That Begins with Getting Cops Out. – Jason Christian reports: “Library staff work to remove the need for police officers within libraries and focus on de-escalating training.”
Real Homes: Home library ideas: 15 beautiful designs for bibliophiles and bookworms – “Beautiful home library ideas will display your most notable novels and thrilling finds in the best way”, says Christina Chrysostomou.
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