An end of week recap
“Reading poetry is like undressing before a bath. You don’t undress out of fear that your clothes will become wet. You undress because you want the water to touch you. You want to completely immerse yourself in the feeling of the water and to emerge anew.”
– Kamand Kojouri
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:
The ‘loveliest’ book I’ve read this year – The Book of Pebbles by Christopher Stocks and Angie Lewin “is no dry geological survey,” promises Annabel Gaskell in her review of this “exquisitely designed” social history cum practical guide to the small stones found on our beaches, made smooth and round by the action of water and sand. She shares a selection of Lewin’s “lavish” illustrations in her post at Annabookbel and details its pebble-collector author’s “ten mostly short chapters” charting “different aspects” of these tactile rocks – ranging from “the Victorians’ obsession” with collecting them to the discovery of “pits full of pebbles” at Maiden Castle in Dorset. This 2019 book is, says Annabel, “a delight”, and she recommends it “wholeheartedly.”
Review: The Erasers by Alain Robbe-Grillet – Alain Robbe-Grillet, “one of the main proponents of the experimental Nouveau Roman”, holds “his reader’s attention […] almost effortlessly,” in this 1953 novel, The Erasers, in which Special Agent Wallas investigates eight “gruesome” murders – critiqued here by Diana at Thoughts on Papyrus. Set over a period of twenty-four hours “against a rather grim urban landscape”, there is always a hint of “conspiracy and bigger drama lurking”. The author “turns the concept of a murder mystery on its head” in a narrative that “mixes reality and fantasy” and “constantly puts its readers’ perceptions to the test”. Robbe-Grillet, she suggests, appears to be asking if “reality, facts or truth” can “be guessed by paying very close attention to certain seemingly innocuous objects”.
* 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:
Georgia Straight: UBC forest ecology professor among B.C. finalists for 2021 Banff Mountain Book Competition – Suzanne Simard’s book, Finding the Mother Tree: Uncovering the Wisdom and Intelligence of the Forest, is a finalist in the Mountain Environment and Natural History category of the 2021 Banff Mountain Book Competition.
The Paris Review: How a Woman Becomes a Piece of Furniture – “What you need to understand is how a woman can become a piece of furniture,” writes Kate Zambreno in her meditation on Maria Judite de Carvalho’s only novel, Empty Wardrobes.
Book Marks: C. S. Lewis’s 1937 Review of The Hobbit – “On the occasion of its 84th publication anniversary, a look back at the future Chronicles of Narnia author’s 1937 review of his old friend J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantastical debut novel.”
BBC Scotland: Wigtown Book Festival gets ‘show back on the road’ – “Scotland’s national book town is [welcoming] back visitors to its annual festival after it was staged entirely online last year.”
The American Scholar: At the Corner of Byron and Shelley – A. E. Stallings on “poetry and philhellenism at the Greek bicentennial”.
Independent: Liane Moriarty: ‘I’m sure my books are probably too white’ – “The Australian author of Big Little Lies is back on screen with the adaptation of her book Nine Perfect Strangers and another exploration of the dark side of suburbia in new book Apples Never Fall. She talks to Charlotte Cripps about Hollywood, writing roles for Meryl Streep and why her novels lack diversity”.
The Millions: The William Trevor Reader: An Introduction – O’Fallon Price plans to read and write about one story a week from the Irish novelist, playwright and short story writer William Trevor’s The Collected Stories. He invites others to join him.
Literary Hub: Sally Rooney’s new novel is now the most reviewed book of all time – Dan Sheehan reveals that “Sally Rooney’s all-conquering third novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, is the most reviewed book of all time.”
The Hindu: Home fires: Review of’ ‘Fifty-five Pillars, Red Walls’ by Usha Priyamvada, trs Daisy Rockwell – Jyoti Punwani makes the observation that Usha Priyamvada’s novel, Fifty Five Pillars, Red Walls, written 60 years ago, could easily be “the story of any young, urban, middle-class woman today”.
Publishers Weekly: Neal Stephenson’s ‘Shock’ Doctrine – “Climate change is real. It’s going to be devastating. It already is devastating, but it’s only getting warmed up,” says Neal Stephenson, author of the novel Termination Shock.
Penguin: Peter Rabbit: the design evolution of a blue-jacketed icon – “At nearly 120 years old, Peter Rabbit has been a household name for families around the world.” Kezia Newson “spoke to the designers refreshing his look for today.”
Llangollen International Eisteddfod: Dylan Thomas’s 1953 Llangollen Notebook – “There are few stories from the 75 years of the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod which excite supporters more than the visit of Dylan Thomas in July 1953”, writes Professor Chris Adams. Here he discusses a recently digitized archive of the poet’s literary life and work, which includes three items relating to the event.
CrimeReads: 6 Cozy Mysteries Told From a Cat’s Purr-Spective – “In these series, cats are the real sleuths, and humans are just there to do their bidding”, finds Codi Schneider.
The Observer: Anthony Doerr: ‘Rather than write what I know, I write what I want to know’ – “The Pulitzer winner on why his new novel [Cloud Cuckoo Land] is partly set in medieval Constantinople, the Netflix adaptation of All the Light We Cannot See and his childhood love of the Narnia books”.
Russia Beyond: This jailed priest kick-started Russian literature in the 17th century – “The Life Written by Himself, authored by Archpriest Avvakum is hardly the most famous work of Russian literature”, says Alexandra Guzeva. Nevertheless, “this unique autobiography found favour and interest among Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and other great Russian authors.”
SLJ: As Banned Books Week Approaches, the Fight Against Censorship Intensifies – Kara Yorio finds that books are being challenged across the USA – in particular, districts in Pennsylvania and Texas dominating the news over decisions to remove materials.
The Irish Times: The Hound of the Baskervilles: A personal view by illustrator Jonathan Barry – Jonathan Barry explains why we should read Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic story, The Hound of the Baskervilles.
New Left Review: The Sorcerer – The Italian writer and publisher, Roberto Calasso, “died this summer at the age of eighty.” Francesco Pacifico describes him as one of the “unpindownable Italian erudites” whose “hybrids gained worldwide traction in the cosmopolitan eighties and nineties”.
The Hedgehog Review: Field Notes of a Sentence Watcher – “To the making of good sentences there is no end”, says Richard Hughes Gibson.
Bomb: Rabih Alameddine by Kara Walker – “In order to write about his existential experiences among Syrian refugees […], Alameddine created a boundary-crossing narrator for his new novel, The Wrong End of the Telescope.”
The Jakarta Post: Oei Hiem Hwie: The guardian of Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s banned literary tetralogy – Oei Hiem Hwie, a former political prisoner and a close friend of author Pramoedya Ananta Noer, “quietly smuggled the Buru Quartet, a series of novels banned under Soeharto’s rule, past the regime’s ideological enforcers.”
NPR: Make This ‘Fortnight in September’ Your Pandemic Escape – Maureen Corrigan recommends Fortnight in September, R.C. Sherriff’s recently reissued 1931 novel, which follows a British family on their two-week holiday. It is, she says, “a reflection on how time changes shape in periods like a vacation — or even a pandemic.”
The Calvert Journal: Be beguiled and bewitched by Dubravka Ugresic’s novel Fox – Paula Erizanu says Fox, by the Croatian literary giant Dubravka Ugrešić, “abounds in surprises and carefully-crafted deception.”
TLS: Weeding – When she retires at the end of the academic year, Mary Beard will have “two offices’ worth of books to be accommodated at home.” She is tormented by the prospect of weeding out those surplus to requirements.
The Rumpus: What to Read When You Hunger for Innovative Newly Released LGBTQIA+ Voices – Liz Asch shares a reading list to celebrate the publication of Your Salt On My Lips, a queer collection of literary erotica.
The New York Review: Dickens’s Multitudes – Ruth Bernard Yeazell looks at two new books, The Artful Dickens: Tricks and Ploys of the Great Novelist and The Mystery of Charles Dickens, which “examine the novelist who produced some of the greatest multivoiced fiction in all of English literature.”
Public Books: How to Read Like a Translator – Joshua Sperling believes that to work as a translator is to encounter a text with an active desire in mind, a desire that both constitutes and modifies the way that text is experienced.
Sydney Review of Books: Finding Myself in Kylie Tennant’s Lost Haven – “Reading Kylie Tennant’s 1946 novel Lost Haven, makes Julian Croft reflect on the nature of documentary realism, the intellectual traditions of the early twentieth century and the way in which the women writers of that time constructed their position as writers.
The Mainichi: Kyoto bookstore takes stand against discrimination following YouTuber backlash – In response to a vociferous Japanese YouTuber’s criticisms of homeless people, Books Ogaki has curated a display of titles highlighting social welfare, the unhoused and the history of eugenics.
The Smart Set: What Yeats has to do with it – “WB Yeats is shunned and neglected now but could he be a source of insight for a techie world?” wonders Frances McCue.
The Drift: Dead Poet Anxiety – David Schurman Wallace discusses “John Ashbery in the age of social media”.
Fine Books & Collections: Bright Young Things: Emma Balch – FB&C’s Bright Young Booksellers series continues with Emma Balch of Hay-on-Wye in Wales, proprietor of The Story of Books, “a former bookshop that has transitioned into an incubator for a variety of bookish projects and productions in the UK”.
Big Think: How China’s Monkey King changed Western literature – “Journey to the West is rightly considered one of the most influential novels ever written, but the real reason for its success may be its charismatic poster-boy: The Monkey King.”
Los Angeles Magazine: L.A.’s Best Used Bookstores Are a Bibliophile’s Dream – If you are looking “for shops where John Steinbeck is still a best-seller and you might rub elbows with James Ellroy”, then Andy Lewis suggests you “read on”.
The New Statesman: Inside the rise of influencer publishing – “Many bestsellers of the last few years originated outside ‘traditional’ publishing houses. But are influencers good for books?” questions Ellen Peirson-Hagger.
Asharq Al-Awsat: Damascus’ Iconic Nobel Bookstore Closes its Doors – “The news that Damascus’ iconic Nobel bookstore was shutting its doors has shocked the residents of the Syrian capital as the store has been a staple since the 1970s.”
Women Writers, Women’[s] Books: Writing Lemons in the Garden: Not Famous Enough – “Forty years ago, I had a dream in which Blanche Ames told me to write her autobiography”, recalls Ames Sheldon in this piece about her recently published historical novel, Lemons in the Garden of Love.
TNR: The Afterlives of E.M. Forster – Alexander Chee writes: “For decades, Forster could not publish his novel of gay love, Maurice. Its importance in his work and to the writers he nurtured is only just becoming clear.”
iNews: Netflix snaps up rights to Roald Dahl’s children’s books in £500m deal, with ‘new universe’ of content planned – “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory series already on the way as company makes its biggest acquisition ever to hold ground in streaming wars”, reports Nick Duffy.
BBC Culture: Seven Brothers: The book that shaped a Nordic identity – A story about living in nature – and the value of culture captures the spirit of Finland. Lizzie Enfield explores the remarkable legacy of Seven Brothers.
DW: Nadia Wassef’s bookshop memoir is a chronicle of Egypt’s upheaval – “Egyptian author Nadia Wassef speaks about opening the first independent bookstore in her home country; and her latest book [Shelf Life] in which she celebrates books and booksellers.”
Nation Cymru: Review: The Long Field is a rich meditation on the meaning of hiraeth and memory – “‘This book is about the forces that have created long fields in Wales and in me, and beyond us both,’ says Pamela Petro of The Long Field, a rich mixture of memoir, travelogue and meditation on the meaning of hiraeth and memory.”
The Guardian: First edition of Frankenstein sells for record breaking $1.17m – “An ‘exceptionally rare’ first edition of Mary Shelley’s gothic classic has broken the world auction record for a printed work by a woman”, selling for £856,000.
New York Press Room: New York Media to Triple Books Coverage Across Sites Including Vulture and The Cut – “New York Media is greatly expanding and reimagining its books coverage,” says Lauren Starke.
Kyle Chayka Industries: Essay: The digital death of collecting – Kyle discusses the ways in which “platforms mess with our tastes.”
Print: Behold, the Book Blob – Why are blobby, colourful book covers everywhere? R.E. Hawley blames the logic of algorithms.
Los Angeles Times: ‘At long last, Idunit!’ Wole Soyinka on his first novel in nearly 50 years – Anderson Tepper speaks to the Nobel-winning Nigerian writer about the recent publication of Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth – his first novel in nearly 50 years.
BlogTO: Toronto’s beloved cookbook store that closed in 2018 has surprisingly reopened – Amy Carlberg reports: “A Toronto cookbook store that people loved is abruptly back open again after being closed for years, officially shutting its doors in 2018.”
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