An end of week recap
“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
– George Eliot
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:
A reversed story of slavery where Africans enslave Europeans: Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo (book review) – Bernardine Evaristo’s “brain-flexing” 2008 “what-if” story is built on “the foundation of an alternative world” where “Africans [are] the masters and Europeans their slaves”. Blonde Roots, says Georgiana from Readers’ High Tea, is something of a “roller coaster” – at times intriguing, amusing in an ironic way and occasionally “really scary” – but it is a “game well played” by this Anglo-Nigerian award-winning author. In fact, it’s more than mere fiction, she discovers it is also “a captivating exercise of turning what you know upside-down.” Ultimately, it is a novel she recommends.
Alec by William di Canzio – Roof Beam Reader, Adam W Burgess, is much impressed with di Canzio’s “inspired tribute” to Maurice, E.M. Forster’s 1971 “iconic gay novel”, in which he gives the lovers, “not only riveting back stories, but a beautifully articulated origin for their romance”. Forster wrote the original book in 1913, before “significantly revising” it twice, however, “due to censorship” (not to mention homosexuality still being illegal in the UK), he “chose not to publish the work” until after his death – something Adam describes as “one of the most heartbreaking events in literary history”. Alec, he says, is “a superb accomplishment in its own right”, and declares it “one of the best books [he’s] read this year.”
* 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:
Times of India: ‘As a Muslim woman I do have enough intelligence to grasp the world’ – Nuzhat Aziz speaks to Bangladeshi-born-British author and Liberal Democrat Councillor, Rabina Khan, about her recently published book: My Hair is Pink Under This Veil.
Penguin: How to be a better non-fiction reader – “Want to read more non-fiction, but struggle to retain all those fantastic facts?” asks Alice Vincent. “Penguin editors who do it for a living share their top tips.”
Prospect: Christopher Ricks: the artful noticer – John Mullan reads Ricks’ latest collection of essays, Along Heroic Lines, and explains why he is “the most gifted and ingenious—sometimes over-ingenious—literary critic of his generation”.
Nation Cymru: Review: Speak Not is a lucid and timely account of languages under threat around the world – “You might be surprised to see how prominently the Welsh language features in this lucid and timely account of languages under threat”, says Jon Gower in his review of Speak Not: Empire, Identity and the Politics of Language by James Griffiths.
Brittle Paper: “The Nobel Returns Home”: Wole Soyinka on Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Nobel Prize Win – The 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah – the seventh African writer to receive this honour.
The Observer: Akala, Bernardine Evaristo, Ben Okri and more pick 20 classic books by writers of colour – Kadish Morris introduces twenty contemporary writers who “recommend overlooked novels, essays and poetry that deserve to sit alongside the classics on our bookshelves.”
The New Yorker: The Book Club That Helped Spark the Gay-Rights Movement – “In the nineteen-fifties, the Cory Book Service quietly connected a community. Then it was forgotten”, finds Michael Waters.
Chicago Tribune: Young Adult and Marvel comic writer Samira Ahmed has characters who go on wild journeys — or punch through ceilings – Christopher Borrelli finds Samira Ahmed “spinning fantastic tales of Indian American Muslim children who become pioneers.”
Fine Books & Collections: Landmark Rare Book Collection Focuses on Climate Change – “Put together by London rare book dealers Peter Harrington, One Hundred Seconds to Midnight focuses on the literary and scientific history of climate change.”
Guernica: Ordinary People – No. 91/92: A Diary of a Year on the Bus is a book comprised of observations from Lauren Elkin’s daily Parisian bus commute, in which, says Apoorva Tadepalli, “she considers the line between the everyday and the exceptional.”
New Frame: Sharp Read | Zimbabwe’s faithful literary son – “Charles Mungoshi did not work in exile and paid the price in bans and relative obscurity at home. Now many of his beautifully spare stories have been gathered in a fresh anthology.”
Open Book: 2021 Scotiabank Giller Shortlist Announced – Five Canadian books have made the shortlist for $100K Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Russia Beyond: Victor Pelevin, Russia’s most mysterious modern writer – “Victor Pelevin, author of the 1999 novel Generation P, is often referred to as one of the most important writers in modern Russian literature. But, while his wildly imaginative books are a fusion of fantasy, realism and adventure, the writer himself remains a mystery to his readers”, says Valeria Paikova.
The Guardian: Arguments, anticipation and carefully encouraged scandals: the making of the Booker prize – “Its knack for creating tension and controversy has helped it remain an energising force in publishing for more than 50 years – but how do writers, publishers and judges cope with the annual agony of the Booker?”
BBC Scotland: Dani Garavelli wins Anne Brown prize at Wigtown Book Festival – “Journalist Dani Garavelli has won the inaugural edition of a national essay prize in honour of former Wigtown Book Festival chairwoman Anne Brown.”
Entertainment Weekly: The Conversation: Christine Pride and Jo Piazza wrote the interracial friendship they wanted to read – “Their joint novel We Are Not Like Them follows two lifelong friends navigating a ripped-from-the-headlines tragedy.”
The New Yorker: The Myth of Oscar Wilde’s Martyrdom – “He cast himself in a dazzling array of roles, both on and off the page.” Clare Bucknell wonders if history can “restore the full measure of Wilde’s complexity”.
Catapult: Publishing Your Debut Book Is Like Baking Croissants—Messy, But Worth It – Pyae Moe Thet War, author of the forthcoming essay collection You’ve Changed: Fake Accents, Feminism, and Other Comedies from Myanmar, argues that outside the publishing industry we don’t “spend enough time discussing the labor behind writing a book.”
The Conversation: William Morris – how a great thinker and poet was overlooked for his wallpaper – Remembered for his flowery designs, many forget that William Morris was also a highly successful and skilled poet.
Fiction Writers Review: A Story Is a House: An Interview with Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry – Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry talks with Ian Singleton about her debut collection: What Isn’t Remembered.
The Smart Set: Close Encounters with Tolstoy – “War and Peace through a different lense.” Rhoda Feng on collective criticism.
Bookforum: Retail Therapy – An excerpt from Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon by Mark McGurl.
Israel Hayom: Adventures in Israel’s science fiction scene – “Experts in a genre often overlooked in Israel explain what makes Israeli sci-fi unique.”
Publishers Weekly: The Madrid Book Fair Returns, Smaller but with Style – The city’s just-concluded book fair was one of the first in-person industry events since the pandemic began.
The Irish Times: Ann Ingle: ‘People don’t think about older people as exciting’ – The author “talks about her memoir, Openhearted, and defying expectations as she gets older”.
Words Without Borders: Voices on the Verge: Writing from Southeast Asian Creole Languages – WWB’s October issue is devoted to poetry and prose written in five contact languages, or creoles, of Southeast Asia: Melaka Portuguese, Sri Lanka Portuguese, Zamboangueño Chavacano, Chetti Malay and Patuá.
The Atlantic: Writing Should Be a Visual Art – Amitava Kumar is keen to point out that “picture books aren’t just for children”.
TNR: Nobel Committee Chair Anders Olsson on the “Renovation” of the Prize for Literature – “Years after scandal rocked the committee, there’s a new commitment to broadening the prize’s horizons”, says Alex Shephard. “But ‘literary merit,’ Olsson insists, remains ‘the absolute and only criterion.’”
Evening Standard: Hilary Mantel interview: ‘Monarchy is a trap — but I was sorry Meghan Markle left us’ – “As her novel The Mirror and the Light hits the stage, Hilary Mantel talks breaks with Europe, Afghanistan and why there is still mileage in Thomas Cromwell”.
The First News: Harrowing diaries of Katyń massacre victims translated into English – “Personal diaries written by Polish officers before they were murdered in the Katyń massacre have been published in English for the first time.”
Japan Forward: [Hidden Wonders of Japan] Accessible from Smartphones, Online Libraries on the Rise – “Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, ‘It is convenient to borrow books without visiting the library so e-books are becoming more popular,’ said Chiyoda Public Library’s public relations officer, Atsushi Sakamaki.”
The Paris Review: Dodie Bellamy’s Many Appetites – “’At the time of my first reading, I didn’t have the patience to sift. It had not yet occurred to me that the pile itself could be the treasure,” writes Emily Gould in a new introduction to The Letters of Mina Harker, Dodie Bellamy’s imagined ‘sequel’ to Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Metro: Nine books to read for Black History Month that don’t centre trauma or pain – Europe is celebrating Black History Month, so Natalie Morris considers it “the perfect time to add some books by brilliant Black writers to your reading list.”
Variety: 1212 Entertainment, Anonymous Content Team to Adapt Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘The Dispossessed’ as TV Series – Joe Otterson reveals that Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1974 novel, The Dispossessed, is to become a TV series.
Lapham’s Quarterly: Whose Homer Is It Anyway? – “Creating a composite character out of depictions of the ancient poet.”
Gizmodo: Never Fear, Here Are 63 New Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Books to Ease You Into Spooky Season – Cheryl Eddy suggests a long list of new sci-fi, fantasy and horror books for October”.
The Age: This ‘very strange’ book will fascinate the literary seeker – “Peter Craven declares Nicolas Rothwell’s latest novel, Red Heaven, “exotic” and “open to the charge of being precious.”
PRINT Magazine: The Daily Heller: The Oldest Working Illustrator in Bulgaria – “At 98, Lyuben Zidarov is the oldest book illustrator in Bulgaria—and to mark this milestone, he is having an exhibition at a relatively small private art gallery in Sofia”, writes Steven Heller.
BBC News: Booksellers hope soaring sales will continue as we read more – “Not exactly one hundred years of solitude, to use the title of a well-known novel, but the long coronavirus lockdowns gave many of us a lot more time to read”, says Jonty Bloom.
The Canadian: Are we men afraid of ‘women’s literature’? – Philosopher, Manuel Ruiz Zamora, poses the question: “Are we men afraid to read what women have written?”
Book Marks: October’s Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books – Leah Schnelbach’s list features a queer fantasy novel, a story of a monstrous baby, a terrifying haunted house tale and more.
Mental Floss: 11 Books That Were Banned For Ridiculous Reasons – Tasia Bass shares a few examples of books banned “for completely ludicrous reasons”.
Creators Hub: What I Learned About My Writing By Seeing Only The Punctuation – Clive Thompson, author of Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World, has created “a web tool that lets you spy your hidden literary style”.
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