An end of week recap
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
– Anne Frank
Having grumbled to Caz from Invisibly Me about my exceptionally poor memory (in the comments’ section of WUTW #191 last week), I was mortified to realise I had neglected to mention Karen and Simon’s 1976 Club, which ran from 11th October and finishes tomorrow. Curses and eternal damnation for my absent-mindedness, not to mention profuse apologies to the diligent hosts. They never ask to be mentioned but deserve all the support I can muster for their unflagging commitment and good humour while jointly coordinating and contributing to this much-enjoyed biannual reading event. Thank you both.
With this in mind (or not, as the case may be), I will from hereon forward include a request in the Chatterbooks segment of this post for those hosting literary happenings to alert me if they would like a shout-out. Just in case…
As ever, 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.
If you are planning a reading event, challenge, competition or anything else likely to be of interest to the book blogging community, please let me know. I will happily share your news here with the fabulous array of bibliowonks who read this weekly wind up.
* Nonfiction November 2021 *
“Nonfiction November is happening again this year!” reveals Rennie Sweeney of What’s Nonfiction?, and she is thrilled to welcome “some wonderful new nonfiction-loving hosts” to the regular team. From 1st November to 3rd December, you are called upon to participate in this lively reading event via your blogs and on Instagram. There is a fresh topic for 2021, plus giveaways, daily photo challenges, a fabulous selection of graphics to use in your posts and “five whole weeks” of stimulating tasks. So, prepare to get real by perusing the tantalizing calendar of suggested activities at Nonfiction November is Coming!
* Announcing Rumer Godden Reading Week *
Born on 10th December 1907, Rumer Godden was an English author of more than 60 fiction and non-fiction books (nine of which were made into films) – most notably the hugely successful Black Narcissus, first published in 1939. In honour of her birthday this year, Bronwyn of This Reading Life (aka Brona’s Books) plans to host “a Rumer Godden reading week from Saturday 4th December to Sunday 12th December 2021.” She hopes others will join her in reading one or more of Godden’s works and has helpfully listed all her published titles from 1936 to 1997. If this sounds like your sort of reading jolly, please amble over to Rumer Godden Reading Week to check out the details and follow a few suggested links.
* 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:
Beacon Hell – C.J. Cooke’s latest gothic fantasy novel in which two sisters go missing on a remote Scottish island, only for one of them to reappear twenty-two years later, isn’t “exactly a hair-raising read” for Will Byrnes of Coot’s Review, but he does find “some scenes in the book pretty scary” – not so much “for the magical terror involved, but for the willingness of people to do terrible things in the name of insane beliefs”. In this meticulous and intriguing critique, he reveals that The Lighthouse Witches offers “nice chapter-ending cliff-hangers to sustain our interest from one strand to the next” and “has the magic needed” to keep the pages turning. He declares himself enchanted.
Book Review: Salt by Catrin Kean – You may recall me mentioning Catrin Kean’s historical novel in a post about Wales Book of the Year 2021 when it became the Wales Arts Review People’s Choice and the overall winner of the prize back in July. I was therefore delighted to discover Rachel Carney of Created to Read has written an interesting review of this “true story”, set in Cardiff in the late 1800s, in which a young domestic worker meets and marries “a ship’s cook from Barbados” despite “the disapproval of some”, and together they run away to sea. “[T]here is something quite beautiful about the style of writing in this short novel,” says Rachel. It is “poetic and succinct” – “painting miniature pictures in the reader’s mind” – but it is also an immensely “powerful tale that will tear at your heartstrings.” Despite the Welsh capital’s reputation for being “a welcoming, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural port”, the uncomfortable truth is that many people down the years “have suffered due to the racism and xenophobia that simmers below the surface.” Salt, she says, “makes you feel like you’re right there, in the moment.”
* 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:
Irish Examiner: Book interview: Declan Murphy on empathising with wildlife and encouraging conservation – “A lifelong ‘birder’, Declan Murphy’s passion has taken him across Ireland, and to Australia, Asia and Africa”. The author of The Spirit of the River: A Quest for the Kingfisher speaks to Sue Leonard.
BBC Africa: How Somali women are breaking tradition to write novels – In the BBC’s series of letters from African journalists, “Ismail Einashe considers how Somalia’s story-telling tradition has changed since the civil war.”
The Japan Times: Why is the Nobel Prize so elusive for Haruki Murakami? – “‘Harukists’ once again held their collective breath, and once again they were left disappointed”, writes Tomohiro Osaki. Over the years, critics have cited several possible reasons why he continually misses out, with the most prominent suggestion being the lack of political statements in his work.
iNews: Christmas books: Buy presents today to beat paper shortage publishers warn – “Books have joined fuel, vinyl and turkeys as the latest commodity facing a supply chain squeeze”, warns Adam Sherwin.
World Literature Today: The World (Is a Book) According to Peter LaSalle – “A seasoned translator and prolific author of short stories, LaSalle has created nothing short of a gem in The World Is a Book, Indeed”, writes Ellie Simon.
Publishers Weekly: True Crime 2021: What Makes Them Tick? – Clare Swanson recommends three forthcoming true crime titles.
Virago News: Supporting GFS: For Girls. For Friendship. For Society. – Buy Virago’s iconic green spines and new releases direct from its online bookshop and, in honour of International Day of the Girl, the publisher will donate £1 from every item purchased to the Girls Friendly Society (registered charity number 1054310) until 10th November.
The Washington Post: How Oscar Wilde evolved from poet and playwright to symbol of martyrdom and individualism – Michael Dirda finds Oscar: A Life, by Matthew Sturgis, delivers a thorough assessment of Wilde what would have been his birthday this month.
Bustle: Goodbye To Goodreads – “After negative Goodreads reviews started to affect author Jessica Goodman’s editing process, she decided to stop reading the site. Other authors have come to the same conclusion.”
Study Hall: Ghostwriting – “When you buy into the myth of the singular genius, it becomes unseemly that a brilliant writer might need an equal partner in an audio producer to coherently package and adapt their thoughts for a new medium”, says Alex Sujong Laughlin.
Bomb: Make a List of Everything You Have Lost: Claire Vaye Watkins Interviewed by Madelaine Lucas – I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness is a “transgressive novel that careens through the desert landscapes of a childhood fraught with addiction, climate collapse, ties to the Manson family, and more.”
Current Affairs: Adventures in 19th Century Socialism – Nathan J. Robinson argues that “H.M. Hyndman was a buffoon and bigot who nevertheless left behind a fascinating account of the early decades of radical politics.”
Bad Form: The Dragonfly Sea – Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor – “Moving, epic and transcendent, The Dragonfly Sea is a glorious tale that spans two continents, multiple cultures and the lives of endearing characters.” Esha Chaman on a coming-of-age novel by “Kenya’s most exciting writer”.
Open Country: Your Guide to Nobel Prize Winner Abdulrazak Gurnah’s 10 Novels – “He is the first Black writer in 28 years, the second Black African, and the first East African laureate in literature.” Here Emmanuel Esomnofu shares “the Tanzanian’s 10 novels.”
Strange Horizons: Islam, Science Fiction and Extraterrestrial Life: The Culture of Astrobiology in the Muslim World by Jörg Matthias Determann – Islam, Science Fiction & Extraterrestrial Life “blends together theology, history, cultural studies, and literary studies to arrive at a comprehensive vision of its chosen field”, says Prema Arasu in this review of a book examining the way Muslim societies and Islamic theology have interacted with Sci-Fi.
Georgia Straight: Bestselling thriller writer Linwood Barclay thinks that Pet Sematary is Stephen King’s scariest book – According to Steve Newton, King is also a huge fan of Barclay’s.
1843 Magazine: The curious incident of Sherlock Holmes’s real-life secretary – “Thousands of fans have written letters to the great detective, believing him to be real. One man answered them.”
The Age: Novelists are told not to include dreams. This writer argues differently – Into the dreamworld: Australian novelist, Charlotte Wood, on bucking the rules.
Curbed: A Bookstore in a Bus in the Bronx – Readers are now boarding at Bronx Bound Books.
Dissent: Belabored: Toward a Liberatory Unionism, with Eve Livingston – According to Sarah Jaffe and Michelle Chen, “Eve Livingston’s new book, Make Bosses Pay, aims to get young people connected to unions and to push unions to engage more with the working class as it is today: diverse, precarious, and perhaps on the brink of rebellion.”
Lambda Literary: Vita & Virginia: “A Longing Far Beyond The Sexual” – Alison Bechdel’s Love Letters: Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West contains curated letters between Woolf and Sackville-West in addition to “snippets from both of their diaries and letters from Vita to her husband, Harold Nicolson.”
The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction: Shortlist announced for the 2021 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction – “A sweeping, panoramic shortlist that ranges over post human futures and post-war Germany, post-communist Albania, hubris and greed in the empires of the Sackler family and Robert Maxwell; and intimate reflections on everyday racism and discrimination.”
The Paris Review: Never Prosthetic: An Interview with Chi Ta-wei – Chi Ta-wei on the high of writing, androidism and queer online hangouts in nineties Taiwan.
Guardian Australia: Michelle de Kretser turns the novel upside down: ‘My aim was to play with form’ – “The two-time Miles Franklin-winner’s new book, Scary Monsters, is in fact two books, with two front covers – and no clues as to where to start”. Michael Williams interviews Michelle de Kretser about her exciting new novel.
AARP: 26 Works of Fiction to Read This Season – Christina Ianzito highlights an “unusually awesome” selection of autumn releases.
The National Wales: New book celebrates Wales 34 Carnegie libraries – “Some of Wales’ most historic and architecturally stunning libraries carry the name ‘Carnegie’ above their doors, but many readers pass beneath these ageing inscriptions without any knowledge of the role played by Scots-American entrepreneur and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in funding their existence”, writes Dylan Moore in this piece about Ralph A. Griffiths’s Free and Public: Andrew Carnegie and the Libraries of Wales.
CrimeReads: Lee Child on the Invention of Fiction – In this excerpt from The Mysterious Bookshop Presents the Best Mystery Stories of the Year: 2021, the British thriller novelist, Lee Child writes: “The first humans to make up stories may just have saved us all. Or not. It’s hard to know for sure.”
The Korea Herald: Seoul International Writers’ Festival to shed light on literature’s role in post-pandemic era – “Thirty-three writers from 16 countries [are participating] under the theme, ‘Awakening’”.
The Express Tribune: The ‘F’ Factor in Urdu Literature – Shazia Tasneem “delves into a discussion about feminism in Urdu literature with poet Dr Nuzhat Abbasi”.
The Irish Times: Sally Rooney blocks Israeli edition of her new novel in support of Palestinian-led boycott – The author, Sally Rooney is at the centre of a controversy after refusing to allow her new book to be translated into Hebrew by an Israeli company.
BBC Newsbeat: Keisha the Sket author says she felt shame at her viral story – “When Jade LB was given a laptop for her 13th birthday, she sat in her home in Hackney, north-east London, and began writing a story. Her main character was 17-year-old Keisha, a black girl from inner city London whose life was full of sex, violence and alcoholism.”
Canada Council for the Arts: The Canada Council for the Arts Reveals the Governor General’s Literary Awards Finalists – The Canada Council for the Arts has announced the 2021 finalists in the prestigious Governor General’s Literary Awards.
Alta: Biography and Memoir: How Octavia E. Butler Wrote – In A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky, “Lynell George collects the ephemera of Butler’s life, piecing it together visually on the page to study and reveal the process by which Butler fashioned herself and her fiction.”
National Centre for Writing: NCW Book Club: recommended reads for fans of Sarah Hall – If you enjoyed reading Sarah Hall’s Sudden Traveller, NCW think you’ll love these books.
El Mundo: The Planeta Prize surpasses the Nobel with an endowment of one million euros – “The group celebrates the 70th anniversary of the literary award with an increase in the amount of the prize, which exceeds that of the Nobel Prize in Literature and becomes the best endowed in the world”, reports Leticia Blanco.
Aaharq Al-Awsat: Al Mada Foundation Organizes the International Basra Book Fair Exhibition – “The city of Basra is preparing to host the Basra International Book Fair, which is organized by the Al Mada Group for Media, Culture and Art.”
Geographical: A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth: 4.6 Billion Years in 12 Chapters by Henry Gee, book review – A (Very) Short History of Life On Earth “plunges us back in time” and “casts us back to a juvenile state of wonder”, writes Jacob Dykes.
Gawker: Oh, So Being a Supportive Girlfriend is a Crime in France? – Jenny G. Zhanga on scandal involving a literary prize juror, her boyfriend’s book, and some “jealous haters”.
Nippon.com: After K-Pop, K-Lit? Why Young Korean Writers Are Creating a Stir in Japanese Publishing – “Following the explosive popularity of Korean television dramas and “K-pop” music, “K-lit” is the latest Korean export to enjoy a surge of popularity in Japan, as illustrated by a recent succession of novels and essay collections by Korean writers that have become bestsellers.”
Medievalist.net: An unrecoverable reality? Recent interpretations of post-Roman Britain – 2021 has seen a flurry of books published about early medieval Britain.
Penguin: How Susan Ogilvy unravelled the lost story of birds nests – “Despite the rise of nature writing, there hasn’t been a book about birds’ nests for nearly a century. It took grief and curiosity for Susan Ogilvy to write [Nests].”
3:AM Magazine: From Writing Rebellion, With Love – Susana Medina on the writers responding to Extinction Rebellion.
Entertainment Weekly: Joan Didion’s backlist is getting a facelift — the first look at her new book covers – Next year, Vintage will republish Joan Didion’s complete backlist with newly designed covers.
France 24: Afghan librarian hopes to reopen library for women despite Taliban rule – “A female librarian in the city of Lashkar Gah, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, hopes to revive the only library for women that was shut down amid the Taliban’s return.”
Deadline: Hope Davis, Michael Gandolfini, Liza Koshy & Others Round Out Cast Of Studiocanal & New Yorker Studios’ ‘Cat Person’ – The controversial short story, ‘Cat Person’, is being adapted for Hollywood by Susanna Fogel.
IGN: A New Star Wars Novel Will Once Again Try To Make Sense Of Rise Of Skywalker – “Three other upcoming novels will tell new stories of Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and many more”, reveals Adam Bankhurst.
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