An end of week recap
“Let others brag about the pages they have written; I am proud of those I have read.”
– Jorge Luis Borges
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.
* Prepare For German Literature Month *
German Literature Month is a great fall favourite in the bookish blogosphere – and not merely with Liebhaber der deutschen literatur (please forgive me if I have just mangled the German language but I do like to have a go). 2021 sees the event roll into “its second decade with a new style badge, featuring the glories of Stuttgart City Library”, say co-hosts Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy Siddal of Lizzy’s Literary Life. What’s more, there are plans this year to run “two parallel programs”, Caroline focusing on “works set during the run-up to World War II, the war itself and its aftermath”, and Lizzy “touring German-speaking countries and more.” As ever, you are encouraged to “take up some or all of [the suggested] reading prompts or do your own thing entirely” – the main aim of this challenge is to “have fun.” Please head over to Announcing German Literature Month XI before “seeking out the literary treasures, originally written in German, on your shelves,” and preparing “your comfortable reading nook” where, the ladies hope you will “discover some great reads during the month of November.”
* Make a Skiline for the Nordics in New Year *
The latest literary challenge to make an appearance on the book blogging block will take place at Annabookbel’s from 3rd January to 6th February 2022. Creator, Annabel Gaskell, invites others to join her for Nordic Finds, a Nordic-themed reading month – FINDS rather inventively standing for “Finland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden, the five Nordic countries.” Reading Nordic literature started for Annabel in the 1990s, “when a few modern novels began to appear in translation in English and became bestsellers.” She therefore intends to “pick one such influential gateway novel for each of the countries from that time onwards” – indeed she is already busy tracking down likely novels from her own “shelfful” of such books. Potential participants should take a Scander-gander at the calendar of activities, which can be viewed at Nordic FINDS – Coming in Jan 2022.
* 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 Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan – Janet Emson at From First Page to Last thoroughly enjoyed travelling “back in time to an Edinburgh on the verge of a rebirth” in this recently published historical novel. Set in 1822, The Fair Botanists is the story of a newly opened botanic garden, a recently widowed woman “carrying the secret of her unhappy marriage” and the Agave Americana plant, which “blooms only once every thirty years”. Janet loves “the sense of place portrayed in the book” and says that its Edinburgher author, Sara Sheridan, creates the feeling of a city “on the edge”, as it transforms into the modern metropolis of today.
A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson – The latest novel by Canadian author Mary Lawson exceeds Claire McAlpine’s “expectations in so many ways”. A “character driven mystery”, A Town Called Solace “explores boundaries and trust” in a tale about a family in turmoil over a missing teenage daughter. The “characters […] are superbly portrayed” – their individual voices “pitch perfect” – says Claire in her review at Word by Word, and their “complex inner worlds” examined in closeup by the author. She concludes by describing this “superb and atmospheric” work as “brilliant”.
* 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:
The State Of The Arts: NFA Column: a chat with the BBC National Short Story Award 2021 shortlist – “Celebrating 16 years of the Award, the shortlisted writers have been influenced by a year of lockdown with a focus on kindness, memory, loss and longing.”
Hyperallergic: Two Books Rethink Publishing as a Radical Practice – “Books from Inventory Press, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, and b_books reshape our understanding of publishing and librarianship”, says Megan N. Liberty.
Evening Standard: Booker Prize 2021 shortlist unveiled as race for £50,000 prize hots up – Robert Dex comments: “A debut novelist dubbed the “poet laureate of Twitter” is in the running to win the Booker Prize after being shortlisted for the £50,000 prize.”
AP News: Jhumpa Lahiri book on translation to come out in the spring – “The next book [entitled Translating Myself and Others] from Jhumpa Lahiri, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction writer, will highlight her work as a translator.”
BBC Scotland: Dumfries poet Josie Neill publishes first full collection aged 86 – “One of Scotland’s ‘most neglected’ poets is set to launch her first full collection at the age of 86.”
The Atlantic: Ebooks Are an Abomination – “If you hate them, it’s not your fault”, according to Ian Bogost.
Xtra: The troubled golden age of trans literature – “Despite recent successes, a growing chorus of trans writers are asking tough questions, like where’s the nuance and context in literary criticism, and who’s holding the publishing industry to account?” finds Eli Cugini.
The Spinoff: An ecstatic review of the new essay collection by Nina Mingya Powles – “Books editor Catherine Woulfe reads Small Bodies of Water”, Nina Mingya Powles’ collection of interconnected essays exploring the bodies of water that separate and connect us.
Scroll.in: Taking a chance in Afghanistan: A Bengali traveller goes to Kabul in the 1920s – “An excerpt from In A Land Far From Home: A Bengali in Afghanistan [by] Syed Mujtaba Ali’, translated from the Bengali by Nazes Afroz.”
The Nation: The Climate Apocalypse According to Joy Williams – “With her first novel in 20 years, Harrow, the radical environmentalist envisions an uncompromising politics necessary for defending the natural world.”
Eye on Design: When Did the Book Become a Brand? – “It’s not just about the book anymore. It’s about the experience”, inveighs Alana Pockros.
Literary Hub: 22 Novels You Need to Read This Fall – Emily Temple shares recommendations from the Lit Hub staff.
The Week: Let science fiction be weird again – In Samuel Goldman’s opinion, “the genre has become technically accomplished, deeply serious, and utterly boring”.
Gulf Today: Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi calls for diversity and cultural dialogue at the 37th IBBY Congress in Moscow – “Bodour Al Qasimi, President of the International Publishers Association (IPA), has stressed the importance of promoting a strong reading culture among children and young people”.
Dead Good: Vera Kurian: a look back at The Talented Mr Ripley – “Never Saw Me Coming author Vera Kurian takes a look at Patricia Highsmith’s iconic novel on page and screen, exploring the character of Tom Ripley – one of the inspirations for her own thriller’s charismatic and beautiful protagonist.”
Haaretz: Antisemitic Author’s Manuscripts, Worth Millions, Are Setting France’s Literary Scene on Fire – “6,000 recently discovered manuscripts by Louis-Ferdinand Céline are roiling both admirers and detractors of the antisemitic French writer. The controversy over his estate is a continuation of the scandal-filled life of the author who collaborated with the Vichy regime”, writes Gaby Levin.
Irish Examiner: ‘Watch this space’: New bookshop to add to Cork’s literary landscape – Denise O’Donoghue thinks Irish bibliophiles “will be thrilled to see a Wicklow-based bookstore open its newest shop in Cork next month.”
Toronto Star: Ian Williams, Tomson Highway on all-male short list for $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust non-fiction prize – “Memoirs, men and Indigenous writers dominate the short list for the 2021 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust non-fiction prize,” finds Deborah Dundas.
Guardian Australia: Fiona Foley wins Premier’s literary award for ‘significant truth-telling account’ of Queensland’s history – “The Badtjala artist and academic has won the Queensland Premier’s Literary award for Biting the Clouds”.
Polygon: Evangelicals saw their foes in Harry Potter and themselves in Lord of the Rings – “Harry Potter was bad, but Tolkien was good in the wake of 9/11”, recalls Rev. Tom Emanuel.
Gladstone’s Library: Rewriting a Novel in the Theatre of Listening by Katie Hale – Katie Hale, Writer in Residence at Gladstone’s Library throughout September and October 2021, writes about the art of listening.
Review 31: The Biographer as Detective – Nina Ellis isn’t “the first person to think of the biographer as a sort of detective”, as a brief search of Google instantly proves. She does, however, intend to “acknowledge [her] own presence” in her book about the American short story writer, Lucia Berlin.
Jewish Book Council: Moshkeleh the Thief: A Rediscovered Novel – “Moshkeleh the Thief isn’t quite a rediscovered novel, as its subtitle claims”, says Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler, but it is “the first time this particular story has been rendered in English.”
Belfast Telegraph: New TV miniseries of classic English novel to be filmed in Belfast – The team behind Poldark are “bringing Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones to small screen”.
The New Yorker: Olga Tokarczuk on the Power of Words – “The author discusses Yente, her story from the latest issue of the magazine.”
Ploughshares: Women’s Bodies and Constellations: Reflections from Life – “The portrayal of women’s bodies in Irish literature, and in wider society, has created an impossible contradiction.” Irish author and critic Sinéad Gleeson’s debut essay collection, Constellations: Reflections from Life, chronicling life in the human body as it experiences illness, love, grief, and motherhood, marks a contribution that will widen our understanding.
Salon: Beyond “girl gone mad melodrama” — reframing female anger in psychological thrillers – “Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train has sold 23 million copies, and the film adaptation was a box office smash”, says Liz Evans.
The Paris Review: The Novels of N. Scott Momaday – “Momaday offers readers a beguiling mixture of sacredness and irreverence”, writes Chelsea T. Hicks in her article celebrating the work of Kiowa novelist, N. Scott Momaday, recipient of the 2021 Hadada Award.
Wales Arts Review: Leanne Rahman on The Culture of Creativity – “With Parthian’s upcoming publication – Seventy Years of Struggle and Achievement: Life Stories of Ethnic Minority Women Living in Wales – due to be released in October, Wales Arts Review [shares] an essay from […] Leanne Rahman, on the culture of creativity and the story of her personal history moving from Barbados to Wales in childhood.”
Quartz: New books will be hard to come by for the rest of the year – “Book buyers, beware: New books will be in short supply for the rest of 2021”, warns Hope Corrigan.
Readings: Extract from Questions Raised By Quolls – “This is an edited extract from Questions Raised by Quolls by [Australian author] Harry Saddler, [a] compelling work of local non-fiction [and] an eloquent examination of extinction and conservation set against the backdrop of global climate change.”
Tehran Times: “The Cats of Copenhagen” housed at bookstores in Iran – Irish novelist James Joyce’s The Cats of Copenhagen has been published in Persian.
CBC: The most exciting Canadian books coming out in fall 2021 – An invitation to “check out all the amazing Canadian books arriving in the second half of 2021!”
Orion: When Nature Breaks the Law: An Interview With Mary Roach, Author of Fuzz– “Mary Roach’s new book, Fuzz, explores the management of human-wildlife conflicts”.
Al Jazeera: Cameroon’s new literary generation is asserting itself globally – “More publishing options at home and abroad, as well as broader opportunities thanks to online exposure, are catapulting the country’s young writers to fame.”
Variety: Patricia Highsmith’s Diaries Among Titles Up for Grabs at Venice’s Book Adaptation Rights Market – Liza Foreman reveals that the diaries of Patricia Highsmith are among the various titles available at the 6th Book Adaptation Rights Market in Venice.
TechCrunch: With sales momentum, Bookshop.org looks to future in its fight with Amazon – Bookshop.org has “captured the imagination of a lot of readers”, says Danny Crichton, becoming “the go-to platform for independent local bookstores to build an online storefront and compete with Amazon’s juggernaut.”
AV Club: Why turning books into movies is such a challenge – Katie Rife and A.A. Dowd on “the tricky art of adaptation and moving a story from page to screen”.
The Yale Review: Suicide in Fiction, Reconsidered – Morgan Thomas on “why we need stories about living after a suicide attempt”.
Sunday Times ZA: Winners of the 2021 Sunday Times Literary Awards announced – Jennifer Platt reveals: “Andrew Harding and Marguerite Poland have been announced as the winners of the [South African] 2021 Sunday Times Literary Awards”.
Preply: Most translated books by country – “The world is a wonderland of fantastic literature, with hundreds of authors from all across the globe having their works translated into different languages every year. But which country and author has the most translated book ever?”
High Country News: Why investing in libraries is a climate justice issue – Sarah Sax argues that “for vulnerable communities, libraries are increasingly becoming a refuge in times of disaster.”
Just Collecting: Spider-Man comic book sells for world-record $3.6 million – A near-perfect copy of Spider-Man’s very first appearance on the printed page has sold for a record $3.6 million at Heritage Auctions in Dallas.
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