An end of week recap
“We lose ourselves in what we read, only to return to ourselves, transformed and part of a more expansive world.”
– Judith Butler
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.
Our very own Simon Thomas of Stuck in a Book and the Tea or Books? podcast can be heard discussing Dorothy Baker’s “fourth and final novel”, Cassandra at the Wedding, alongside Andy Miller, John Mitchinson and Alexandra Pringle in the latest episode of Backlisted. He comments on his Twitter feed that he started listening to the series “more or less when it began” and goes on to reveal, “it has always been a dream” of his to be a guest on the show – so it is hardly surprising he is “thrilled to be on this ep[isode], discussing a novel [he adores]”. First published in 1962, Baker’s tragicomic novella is a “darkly funny tale of two devoted sisters that continues to appeal to generations of readers”. Also, rather excitingly (to me, at least), John talks about Tove Jansson and Tuulikki Pietilä’s Notes from an Island, which has been “newly reissued by Sort of Books”. >> Listen to: 148. Dorothy Baker – Cassandra at the Wedding >>
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.
* MCMLIV and All That *
Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim, Simone de Beauvoir’s The Mandarins, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring and James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain. Can you scan this list of celebrated books and identify the year in which they were published? Here are a few more clues, though I suspect I may have been rumbled. In this same year Ernest Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature, Dylan Thomas’s radio play Under Milk Wood was first broadcast in the UK, Kazuo Ishiguro was born, and the Australian novelist Miles Franklin passed away. I am sure by now you are muttering, “it’s 1954, silly” (or words to that effect) – and you would be quite correct. It was a twelve-month period rich in innovative and inspirational works. It also happens to be the year selected by bloggers Karen Langley and Simon Thomas for their next Club outing. From 18th to 24th April 2022, you are invited to join them in reading (and sharing your thoughts on) any title/s of your choice from this bountiful mid-20th century moment in literature. Karen says she is “already mentally gathering piles of possible reads” and Simon declares his shelves “heaving” with likely books, so I would urge you to head over to Announcing the next club… for the official #1954Club communiqué.
* 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:
Book Review: The Dust Never Settles by Karina Lickorish Quinn – Over at Mallika Ramachandran’s Literary Potpourri, Karina Lickorish Quinn’s debut novel is found to be “absorbing” but unsettling. “Opening with mythology/origin stories” that later “tie in […] wonderfully”, this tale of a Peruvian-British woman returning to Lima to sell her ancestral home (“the yellow house on the hill”), so it can be demolished to make way for luxury flats, is, says Mallika, “complex and rather strange […] with many layers.” She finds the writing “quite beautiful”, sometimes “raw”, with a narrative that blurs the line “between the real and imaginary”. However, the protagonist’s “dreamy” state of mind and inability to “function in real world terms” are at times challenging and make her feel “a little lost”. Nevertheless, there is much the reviewer likes in The Dust Never Settles, especially “the use of the time–space notion (time and space as one)”, and she awards it a respectable four stars.
“Profound and engrossing” – The Dawn of Language by Sverker Johansson – This “wide-ranging, scholarly book” on the origins and evolution of language is “accessible to anyone who has an interest in the subject”, says Lucille Turner in her review for Bookmunch. The Dawn of Language: Axes, Lies, Midwifery and How We Came to Talk is a “wide-ranging” appraisal with “moments of humour”, and she is intrigued to discover why humans are “the only animals that can speak a complex language”. Johansson’s eloquent volume is the ideal way for readers to further their “understanding of anthropology and linguistics” says Lucille, and it would make a “great addition to any non-fiction reader’s bookshelf.”
* 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:
Nature: Climate lessons from COVID, and the end of paperwork: Books in brief – “Andrew Robinson reviews five of the week’s best science picks.”
ALTA 44: Announcing the Winner of the 2021 National Translation Award in Prose: No Presents Please – ALTA announces the winner of the 2021 National Translation Award (NTA) in Prose: No Presents Please: Mumbai Stories by Jayant Kaikini (translated from Kannada by Tejaswini Niranjana).
Interview: Colm Tóibín Knows What Moves the Heart – The Irish author talks to his friend, the American artist Kiki Smith, about their creative impulses and how art gets made when you leave the ego out.
Lilly Library: IU is America’s Dictionary Destination – “Acquisition of Kripke Collection makes [Indiana University’s] Lilly Library North America’s Dictionary Destination”, reports Michelle Crowe.
Wales Arts Review: Jonathan Edwards on the Poetry of Tôpher Mills – “Award-winning poet Jonathan Edwards recounts his personal relationship to the poetry of Tôpher Mills to mark the release of Sex on Toast: Selected Poems, a collection curated from Mills’ best-known work as well as new and uncollected material.”
Metropolis: Osamu Dazai – “Osamu Dazai (1909-1948) is one of the best-known authors in Japanese literature, especially for his soul-crushingly depressing novels”, says Eric Margolis. “His writing”, he says, “is defined by relentless self-examination and constant estrangement.”
National Review: P. D. James’s Still-Haunting Vision in Children of Men – Children of Men: After nearly three decades, John J. Miller wonders how this modern classic of dystopian literature holds up?
The New York Times: When William Faulkner and Langston Hughes Wrote Children’s Books – “You might think that celebrated adult authors writing for kids is a new trend. It isn’t.”
The Marginalian: Becoming the Marginalian: After 15 Years, Brain Pickings Reborn – “Notes from the odyssey of ongoingness, notes for the symphony of aliveness”, by Maria Popova. Brain Pickings is no more.
DW: Tsitsi Dangarembga: ‘There is no freedom of expression in Zimbabwe’ – “The Zimbabwean author and filmmaker receives the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. She told DW about the issues affecting literature in her home country.”
Guardian Australia: 10 years of the Stella: how Australia’s women’s writing prize changed a nation’s literature – “Publishers speak of the profound effect the prize has had on Australia’s book industry in the decade since its establishment”.
Split Lip: Millennial Unemployment, Television’s Influence on Writing, and Viral Videos: An Interview with Elizabeth Gonzalez James – Shelby Hinte chats to the U.S. author of Mona at Sea.
The Critic: Lessons from life – Christopher Bray on “[h]ow the facts of Hannah Arendt’s life read like fiction”.
The New York Times Magazine: The Man Who Finally Made a ‘Dune’ That Fans Will Love – “How Denis Villeneuve broke the curse.”
The Observer: Interview Penelope Lively: ‘I was a traumatised teenager’ – “The Booker-winning author on starting late as a writer, her clear recall of growing up in Cairo, and the TV programme that kept her going during lockdown”.
Los Angeles Times: The Black Mountain Institute will cease publishing venerable Believer literary magazine – Months after the departure of director Joshua Wolf Shenk, UNLV’s institute has announced it will stop producing the Believer next spring.
PRINT: Dave Eggers’ Latest Novel Has 32 Book Covers, With Even More On the Way – The Every by Dave Eggers has 32 different covers and is only available for purchase at independent bookstores.
Smithsonian: Singer and Artist Solange Debuts Free Library of Rare Books by Black Authors – “Readers in the U.S. can borrow 50 titles, including collections of poems by Gwendolyn Brooks and Langston Hughes and a sci-fi novel by Octavia Butler”, finds Nora McGreevy.
The Nation: John Keats’s Politics of Pain and Renewal – “Anahid Nersessian’s Keats’s Odes: A Lover’s Discourse, “offers a radical and unforgettable reading of the British writer’s odes—one that upends our sense of his poetic project”, says David B. Hobbs.
CrimeReads: 10 New Horror Novels Perfect For Crime Fans – “We’re not so different, you and I…” Molly Odintz looks at 10 new horror novels that are ideal for fans of crime fiction.
The MIT PRESS Reader: The Architect as Tragic Hero – “Artist and writer Justin Beal explores the way in which a literary and cinematic archetype has influenced the cultural role of the modern architect.”
The Conversation: With Devotion, Hannah Kent gives us empathically drafted portraits of love in all its forms – Author Hannah Kent’s new novel, Devotion, is a beautifully crafted look at the 19th century Old Lutherans who migrated from Prussia to the colony of South Australia.
Publishers Weekly: Translators Fight for Credit on Their Own Book Covers – Do you know who translated your favourite foreign-language novel? Why? Because they would like you to know their identity. In fact, translators are now demanding publishers credit them on the front covers of the books they translate.
Hindustan Times: Interview: Mita Kapur, Literary Director, JCB Prize for Literature – “I want to make the JCB Prize a true representation of what India reads” – “The author, literature festival producer, and literary consultant talks about her vision for the ₹25 lakh JCB Prize presented each year to a work of fiction by an Indian”.
The Calvert Journal: How Slovene author and adventurer Alma Karlin travelled solo across the globe – and fought the Nazis – “On what would have been her 132nd birthday, [Martina Žoldoš] looks back on the extraordinary life of Alma Karlin: the Slovene adventurer who shunned her travel writing career to delve deeper into human spirituality — and join the Yugoslav resistance.”
BBC Northern Ireland: Enniskillen mounts Oscar Wilde tribute with flight of gold-leaf swallows – Alison Flood reports on an “[i]nstallation inspired by The Happy Prince, which will “be accompanied by similar celebration of Samuel Beckett, who like Wilde was educated in the town”.
Sierra Club: Was George Orwell’s Political Writing Rooted in Love for the Natural World? – “Inside Rebecca Solnit’s new book, Orwell’s Roses”.
CBC: ‘A magic to it’: Winnipeg’s McNally Robinson celebrates 40 years in book business – A bookstore, which opened in 1981, is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its flagship Grant Park location.
Portuguese American Journal: Honor: Writer Paulina Chiziane winner of the prestigious Camões Award – Portugal – “Mozambican writer, Paulina Chiziane, is the winner of the Camões Award one of the most prestigious Portuguese language writers’ accolades.”
Dorothy Parker’s Ashes: Who Wrote It? – Vivian Conan discusses her memoir, Losing the Atmosphere, which is about “living with and healing from dissociative identity disorder,” once known as “multiple personality disorder.”
Popular Science: Will supply chain issues affect the books you want? Depends on what you’re reading. – Jenna Schnuer has “some tips if you’re looking for a page-turner this holiday season.”
The Atlantic: Why Did Dostoyevsky Write Crime and Punishment? – “He had no choice”, according to James Parker.
Premio Strega: European Witch Award 2021. The winning book – “Georgi Gospodinov, with the novel Cronorifugio [to be published in English as Time Shelter], wins the eighth edition of the European Witch Prize.”
La Prensa Latina Media: Book fair ‘regrets’ authors’ cancelations over far-right stalls – At least four writers have pulled out of the Frankfurt Book Fair, the biggest book fair in the world, citing concerns over the presence of far-right publishers.
Oprah Daily: Travel the World With These New Books in Translation – Hamilton Cain suggests “novels from Argentina to Sweden and everywhere in between.”
The Atlantic: The Self-Help That No One Needs Right Now – “The pandemic has boosted interest in trauma books full of advice that isn’t particularly relevant”, says Eleanor Cummins. Is it helpful to read these titles at present, she wonders?
Lapham’s Quarterly: Save the Scribe – Mary Wellesley on “the blessed purpose of the women who worked with medieval manuscripts.”
TripFiction: Talking Location With … Georgie Hall – Stratford Upon Avon – “Stratford upon Avon, inextricably linked with William Shakespeare, is a gift of a setting for a writer,” says Georgie Hall, author of Woman of a Certain Rage.
Dirt: Dirt: Saved by #BookTok – “One author’s perspective on selling books through social media.”
The Irish Post: Third time lucky as Irish author scoops National Short Story Award for ‘masterful storytelling’ – A Belfast author has won a national award for her short story of a mother on a trans-Atlantic flight with her toddler daughter.
Dutch News: No dinosaurs, bikinis or Harry Potter: the silent censorship of Dutch school books – “What do dinosaurs, divorcees and Harry Potter have in common? They’re all censored in many Dutch school books because of pressure from religious communities, according to an investigation by the NRC.”
Pajiba: Some YA Authors Announced Plans to Create an NFT Project for Fans. It Did Not Go Well – “YA Twitter exploded when it was announced that several best-selling and highly popular YA writers” were collaborating on a fantasy epic, says Kayleigh Donaldson. Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan.
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