An end of week recap
“A great many people now reading and writing would be better employed keeping rabbits.”
– Edith Sitwell
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.
PAUSE FOR A POD >>
* Lie Back and Listen *
Here I recommend engaging podcasts and other digital recordings I’ve come across during the week. Hopefully, you too will enjoy them.
In preparation for #MARM2021 (see below), fellow Atwoodites may enjoy listening to Margaret Atwood in discussion with Holly Firfer on topics ranging from “her latest work of fiction, Two Scorched Men, her seminal novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, and writing in the time of dystopia.” Running at just over 58 minutes, this episode of Binah (first aired on 9th September), which features creative voices from the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, is part of a series presenting “remarkable artists and thinkers who’ve come to speak at the JCCSF as part of their Arts & Ideas program.” You can read more about the author’s newly digitized short story (available exclusively on Scribd.com) at KALW 91.7 FM’s website. >> Binah: Margaret Atwood On Writing In The Time Of Dystopia >>
* Margaret Atwood Reading Month 2021 *
“It’s hard to believe that it’s already time for another Margaret Atwood Reading Month”, says Marcie from Buried in Print, as she prepares once again to host this hugely enjoyable literary jolly, commencing 1st November. As ever, there is an open invitation for everyone and anyone to participate in any way they choose: “Whether you’ve always meant to read her work, but haven’t begun, or you’ve read it all and enjoy rereading: find your way, with company.” You could read one piece of work or more by the author and share your thoughts in a post. Alternatively, you may prefer chatting with others about the author’s work or perhaps spectating from the sidelines. If “MARMing” sounds like the ideal diversion for autumn (spring, of course, in other parts of the world), then please make your way over to Margaret Atwood Reading Month November 2021 #MARM2021 for more details.
* 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:
‘After Story’ by Larissa Behrendt – Australian writer, filmmaker and Indigenous rights advocate Larissa Behrendt’s latest book is, says Kim Forrester from Reading Matters, “a charming novel about a mother and daughter embarking on a tour of England’s most revered literary sites.” Nevertheless, After Story is “much more than a simple travel tale”, containing as it does “unexpected depths”, “big themes and painful issues” – not least, grief, sexual abuse and “what it is to be an Aboriginal Australian”. There is, however, “plenty of light relief” and the story, which is told from two differing viewpoints, “slips down like hot chocolate”. Indeed, Kim feels sure that book groups will “have a fun time” with this “bookish” title.
All for Nothing – Walter Kempowski’s final novel, published in 2006, is simply “the best book [Josie Holford of Rattlebag and Rhubarb has] read all year”. Set on a “neglected estate in East Prussia” in the “bitter winter of 1945”, the German forces are in retreat from the advancing Red Army and “a steady stream of visitors” carry “rumors and anxieties” to the family’s manor house. The von Globig’s are to some extent “insulated from the war by status and wealth” but “the front is moving inexorably closer.” The German author has created “a rich cast of characters”, each one bringing “emotional and historical depth” to a story that “is unsparing” – though Kempowski handles it with a “light touch.” All for Nothing, concludes Josie, is a “compelling” and “hopeful” book.
* 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:
Hungarian Literature Online: Hungarian Books in Translation: The Year so Far – “New Miklós Bánffy, György Dragomán, and debuts from Andrea Tompa, Márton Simon, and Anna T. Szabó” – Here is hlo.hu’s list of “Hungarian books published in English translation so far in 2021.”
Guardian Australia: Voices from Australia’s Covid frontline: the shop owner and the customer – “A children’s book seller and a mother of two have developed a strong sense of community during Melbourne’s long stretches in lockdown”, finds Caitlin Cassidy.
Forbes: 3 Translators On Good Translations, Royalties, Book Cover Credit And The Business Of Translation – For National Translation Month, Rachel Kramer Bussel spoke to three freelance translators who work in various languages: Jennifer Croft, Anton Hur and Arunava Sinha.
Texas Monthly: Brutally Suppressed in Her Lifetime, Gertrude Beasley Is Finally on Our Bookshelves – “A searingly feminist 1925 memoir of life in small-town Texas rises from the dustbin of patriarchy” is the way Michael Agresta describes My First Thirty Years.
Public Books: To Read against Ferrante—or alongside Her? – “Despite using a pseudonym, Ferrante has made clear how readers should understand her work. Should critics listen?” asks Victor Zarour Zarzar.”
Russell Kirk Center: On Ian Fleming as Craftsman – Jordan M. Poss examines the thrillers of Ian Fleming for the University Bookman.
The Atlantic: The Dark Reality Behind ‘Cozy Mysteries’ – “The genre’s popularity can feel like a relic of a bygone era”, says Alyse Burnside, “but these books share DNA with today’s bloodier thrillers.”
The New York Times Style Magazine: These Literary Memoirs Take a Different Tack – “Rather than prioritizing confession and catharsis, today’s authors are focusing on the question of who gets to share their version of things and interrogating the form, along with themselves.”
Literary Hub: A Spooky, Witchy Reading List to Kick off Scary Season – Fire Lyte recommends the classics in magic and covens and spells”.
Nippon.com: Kawabata Yasunari: Finding the Harmonies Between Literature and Traditional Art – “Kawabata Yasunari won the 1968 Nobel Prize in Literature for works written with narrative mastery and sensibility. Academic Taniguchi Sachiyo explores the connections between art and Kawabata’s literary world.”
Penguin: The untold origins of ‘the unhinged woman’ – “Vera Kurian, the author of Never Saw Me Coming, examines the trope of ‘crazy ex-girlfriends,’ the culture that creates them and pushing back.”
NPR: ‘NPR’s Book of the Day’ Podcast Debuts Wednesday – You are invited to “start the day with a 10- to 15-minute author interview” with NPR’s Book of the Day.
Center for the Art of Translation: New African Literature to Read this Fall – Kelsey McFaul highlights “eight newly published and forthcoming works from African and African descent writers to add to your fall reading list.”
Independent Book Review: Book Review: Out Front the Following Sea – “Out Front the Following Sea by Leah Angstman is a sweeping tale of intrigue, romance, and feminist power amidst the tumult of colonial North America”, writes Genevieve Hartman.
BBC Culture: What happened when Gen X grew up – “In the recent coming-of-age stories about mid-life, it’s the adults doing the growing up. Lindsay Baker talks to the authors who are exploring the ups and downs of ageing.”
It’s Nice That: “A prayer to the future”: The process behind the handmade recycled book designed to be read in 1000 years – “The Ho Chi Minh City-based agency Ki Saigon takes us through Letters to the future, a series of letters to our great-great-great-grandchildren as told through recycled plastic.”
History Today: Sir Gawain: Patron’s Place – “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a masterpiece of Middle English literature, which narrowly escaped destruction in the 18th century. Nicholas Mee examines the poem to discover both its secret benefactor and the location in which its drama unfolds” in this feature from the archives.
Slate: How Much Can You Change Little Women Before It Stops Being Little Women? – “A twist on the classic novel imagines the Marches as Black women—and becomes something completely new”, finds Rachelle Hampton.
Guernica: Teaching Poetry in the Palestinian Apocalypse – “Towards a collective, lyric ‘I’”.
National Review: Russian Souls – Richard Brookhiser explores the reasons why the Russians loom so large in our imagination.
ARTNews: Mexico Recovers 16th-Century Manuscripts Looted from National Archives – The archive contains historically important documents, such as a letter written by Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés.
Lapham’s Quarterly: The Gradual Discovery of Glasses – In this excerpt from In the Blink of an Eye: A Cultural History of Spectacles, Stefana Sabin considers “prehistory of spectacles.”
Independent: Black History Month 2021: 10 best books by Black authors to put on our list – October is Black History Month in the UK and the rest of Europe. “From poetry to romance novels, these tomes capture the full range of the Black experience”, promises Mariette Williams.
Salon: Why we still need the Women’s Prize for Fiction – “What makes a winning book?” asks Stacy Gillis.
Rest of World: Books from everywhere: Rest of World’s 2021 reading guide – Meaghan Tobin shares a selection of international titles recommended by ROW staff.
Electric Literature: How Do We Make a Life with Art at the Center? – “Shruti Swamy on her novel The Archer about a young Indian woman’s coming of age as a Kathak dancer”.
Maverick Life: Should we burn ‘Jock of the Bushveld’? – “A re-reading of this South African ‘classic’ shows that it is politically and environmentally obnoxious.” Drew Forrest offers a 21st century take on J. Percy FitzPatrick’s 1907 Jock of the Bushveld.
Yorkshire Live: Vigil star Suranne Jones meets Gentleman Jack icon Anne Lister’s ‘extraordinary’ sculpture – The actress unveiled a sculpture of the English diarist – dubbed ‘the first modern lesbian’ – in Halifax, West Yorkshire.
Frieze: Joshua Cohen on Truth and Half-Truths in Fiction – “The author of The Netanyahus speaks with Lincoln Michel about his latest work and how his definition of ‘truth’ changes with every novel”.
26: Author Q&A: Elise Valmorbida – Elena Bowes speaks to the Italian Australian author of The Happy Writing Book about her forthcoming guide to becoming a better writer.
Politico: France goes after Amazon’s books business – “A French bill would set minimum rates for book deliveries, raising prices from near-zero for companies like Amazon.”
TIME: Poet Tracy K. Smith on Finding Joy During an Unbearable Year – “Poetry can reveal to us what we know, and what we need to know in the moment”, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet tells Cady Lang.
3:AM Magazine: 60 Years of the London Drug Novel – Stewart Home reviews Terry Taylor’s reissued Baron’s Court, All Change and Tice Cin‘s newly published Keeping the House.
Publishers Weekly: Publishing in Canada 2021: Booksellers and Publishers Evolve and Adapt – Ed Nawotka looks at Canadian publishing, which has undergone positive changes in response to the pandemic.
The New York Review: The Storyteller – In his review of Speak, Silence: In Search of W.G. Sebald by Carole Angier, Ben Lerner makes the point that Sebald’s books “suggest that we are powerless to remember adequately and powerless to forget.”
The Paris Review: Three Letters for beyond the Walls – Published for the first time in English (excerpted from Cuíer: Queer Brazil) is the Brazilian writer Caio Fernando Abreu, whose influential work was set in and published during Brazil’s military dictatorship and AIDS epidemic.
The Asian Age: Book Review | A great river’s stories that inquire, inform – Mahanadi, says Sucheta Dasgupta, is a “classic example of realist eco-fiction, it effortlessly straddles the domains of geography, sociology, cultural history and anthropology”.
The Counter: Why’s it taken so long for foreign-language characters and words to make it into English cookbooks? – “In the past, printing technology was a hurdle. But it’s also about publisher buy-in and the author’s wishes—and willingness to do extra labor”, finds Rachel Baron.
BBC Scotland: JK Rowling table saved from cafe gutted by fire – Angie Brown reports that a “cafe table where JK Rowling wrote sections of her Harry Potter books has been salvaged from a huge fire, which devastated the building.”
City Journal: John Updike and the Politics of Literary Reputation – Over a decade after the death of one of America’s “greatest literary stylists”, Jonathan Clarke shares his thoughts on the reasons why Updike has fallen into critical disfavour.
The Missouri Review: “On Voice” by Amitava Kumar – “In his craft essay […] Kumar explores voice by taking his readers on a sprawling journey that winds through his home state in India, the words of his literary influences, and the worlds of his novels.”
National Review: Return to Middle-earth – According to Bradley J. Birzer, The Nature of Middle-Earth is an “expertly edited collection of J. R. R. Tolkien’s writing on his elaborate mythology”, which “reminds us of its greatness.”
The Millions: It Has to End Now: The Millions Interviews Dave Eggers – The American author, editor and publisher, whose latest book, The Every, is about “a near-future mega-monopoly clearly based on Amazon, Facebook, and Google”, speaks to Rachel Krantz on a range of subjects.
Pew Research Center: Who doesn’t read books in America? – “Roughly a quarter of American adults (23%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year.”
The Bookseller: Guardian Review bids farewell after nearly 20 years – “The Guardian Review section, home of its books coverage, has closed a year after a shake-up of the Saturday edition was announced.”
Chicago Tribune: Column: Nothing wrong with big, splashy promotions for Sally Rooney’s ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’ – John Warner has been following the promotional activities surrounding this book with some interest, including a London pop-up shop and “literary status merch”.
Netherland News Live: Bookstore system hacked: 130 Dutch stores cannot access the database – “The French company Titelive, which arranges the software for many Dutch bookstores, has been shut down, allegedly due to a ransomware attack”, reports Christopher Cloutier.
BuzzFeed: Here’s Why I’m Ditching Goodreads And Switching To Storygraph — And Why You Should Too – “Goodreads isn’t your only option”, says Farrah Penn.
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
Thank you Paula as always for the delicious comments and invaluable links. And thank-you too for mentioning my post on Walter Kempowski’s extraordinary novel “All For Nothing”.
It’s a pleasure, Josie. Thank you. 😊
Enjoyed the article about the cozy mystery genre!
I don’t know about you, Becky, but I’ve been reading far more cosy mysteries since the start of the pandemic.
Yes, that seems to be true, Paula.
Thanks Paula, in particular for all the Atwood content! Hope to join in this year!
Have you decided on an Atwood book, Kaggsy?
Not yet – I may try Lady Oracle if I don’t get to it for 1976!
I just read Sir Gawain for a class so many thanks for your link!
It wasn’t a new article and I almost didn’t include it – so glad that I did! 😀
I am too! I sent it to my professor.
This class is so connected with the world. We read Beowulf and there was a recent movie. We then read lais by Marie De France and she is the subject of Lauren Groff’s new book. Just in time for Sir Gawain, there is a movie. Next we read The Canterbury Tales and there is a forthcoming book about The Wife of Bath.
I really enjoyed reading the article. Thanks again.
It sounds an exciting class, Joyce. 😀
Thanks, kindly, for putting your megaphone to work reminding everyone about MARM coming this November. I’ll have to listen to that interview, too: it sounds lovely and current. Also, I notice how vibrant and bold the colours are, on your covers selected for this issue. We could all use a little extra pizzazz I’m sure! (Well, maybe just speak for myself. LOL)
You are most welcome, Marcie. I always associate vibrant colours with early autumn – plus, as you say, we could all do with a dash of vivacity in our lives at the moment. I suppose I should opt for varying shades of MARMalade next month! 🎨🍂😊
Thank you for another excellent selection of articles, Paula. I too was tempted by Josie’s review of All for Nothing.
Thank you so much, Anne. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. 😊
An especially nice selection of links Paula, thank you. There are a few new additions to my TBR.
Thank you, Julé. Happy link hopping! 🔗🦘
As always Paula, enough enticing links to fill my reading time for a week 🙂 – particularly liked the article about what happened when Gen X grew up (because that’s me). The bit about Deborah Levy’s banana plant stopped me in my tracks – have I told you about my avocado plant?!
Thank you Kate. I’m glad you found plenty of links to follow. 😊
I only just fall into Gen X – one year earlier and I would have been a Boomer. I can’t say I’ve ever felt compelled to own a banana or avocado plant but I fear I may be living my second teenhood. Way back in 1979 I went to see ABBA performing live (fabulous!). Last week I purchased tickets for the ABBA Voyage concert in London next September. Not actually the real thing but I’m beyond myself with excitement. My partner finds this a rather worrying development but I’m content to pretend those 40-odd years never happened! 🎵 👱♀️🧑🧔👩 🎵
Fab selection, Paula, thank goodness J K Rowling’s table is okay!!!!!
Thank you, Gretchen. 😊 Very true. That table is a piece of history! 🧙♂️
A wonderful roundup, Paula. I was attracted to Josie’s post too … That’s a book I’d like to read. Am also drawn to reimagining Little Women, and to the history of spectacles. How disabled I would be without them!
Thank you so much, Maria. Oh, I know what you mean about spectacles – I would be useless without my readers! 🤓
Just grabbed a copy of All for Nothing. Thanks for the recommendation!
I hope you find it an enjoyable read, Mark. 😊
Wonderful as always Paula! Like Joyce I really enjoy Sir Gawain so that article is a real treat. And like Kate I’m (just about) Gen X so that will be interesting. But mainly I want the statue unveiling to act as impetus towards the second series of Gentleman Jack for which I am very impatient 😀
Many apologies, Mme B. I’ve only just spotted your message. Thank you for your kind words.
Suranne Jones is magnificent in the role of Anne Lister and like you I’m looking forward to the next series of Gentleman Jack. She plays the part with just the right amount of humour – but never takes the rise out of the character, which would have spoiled everything. I read Lister’s diaries when they were first published and remember feeling astonished and hugely impressed in equal measures that such an extraordinary woman existed in 19th century West Riding. Wonderful! 😀
I especially like that list of new African Literature. The book cover with the hippos is so great!
And I’m happy to see Marcie’s post about MARM! 🙂
Thank you, Naomi. The moment I spotted the hippo cover I knew it was a must! 🦛