An end of week recap
“It’s not climate change – it’s everything change.”
– Margaret Atwood
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.
* The Word is Out *
In 2019, I posted a short piece about the winners of the New Welsh Writing Awards. Over two years later, speculative fiction writer JL George, recipient of the Aberystwyth University Prize for a Dystopian Novella, has finally had her book published by New Welsh Rarebyte amid much razzmatazz. The Word, which has been described by The Bookseller as one for “readers of Margaret Atwood and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro”, explores themes of coercive control, disinformation and fundamentalism in a “brutal fortress Britain” – a country that has become a place where “babies are stolen from mothers whose identities are stripped away at will”, “protesting crowds are mesmerised, and children who disobey are killed in cold blood.” However, The Word also shows how “kindness can emerge when we resist power, practise resistance, and show vulnerability.” As an aside, you may like to read George’s pointed article in Nation Cymru: Brexit broke the story we’d been telling about ourselves as a nation – we need to write a better one, in which she makes the comment: “If you read fiction, go to the cinema, play video games, or watch TV drama, it’s probably happened…” The author will be signing copies of her book at Storyville Books, Pontypridd, from 12:00 noon on 27th November.
* 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:
Vilnius Poker – Ričardas Gavelis’s historical novel, set in the Lithuanian capital of the title during the Soviet rule of the ‘70s and 80s “is compelling”, says Jan Hicks from What I Think About When I Think About Reading. Vilnius Poker “documents the life of Vytautas Vargalys” (a labour camp survivor now working for the government “creating a digital library catalogue that will never exist”), and “is considered by some to be a turning point in Lithuanian literature”, combining, as it does, “philosophy with fantasy in an almost stream of consciousness style.” First published in 1989 and translated into English by Elizabeth Novickas, the writing flows “like the infinite thoughts of Vargalys from one perception of reality to the next”, embodying “echoes of [earlier] science fiction works” in which “[d]reams and reality merge”. Although its “essential disjointedness made it a difficult story to retain at times” – seemingly it “intrigued and revolted” in equal measures – Jan “appreciated the four narrative voices, and the unpeeling of events from different perspectives”. In fact, her favourite chronicler turns out to be “the dog”!
Contemporary Novellas: Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan – Cathy Brown of 746 Books describes Claire Keegan’s tale of “the women and children who were kept in [Ireland’s] Magdalene laundries” between the 18th and late 20th centuries as “perfectly formed and perfectly executed.” The history of these “institutions run by the Catholic Church in collusion with the Irish State”, in which “an estimated 10,000 […] ‘fallen women’” were incarcerated, is explored with “sensitivity and clear-eyed perception”. The novella “thrums with a powerful emotional force”, says Cathy, and its protagonist’s character “is rendered with a striking depth.” Small Things Like These “is as lyrical as poetry”, conveys “a great deal in very few words” and is “almost unbearably poignant”. Her conclusion? It is a “stunning achievement.”
* 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:
GBP: November Book-Ahead: What We’re Excited To Read [This] Month – Meghan Collins Sullivan shares a “handful” of highly anticipated books coming out this month.
The Observer: ‘They would help me write, as cats do, by climbing on to the keyboard’: Margaret Atwood on her feline familiars – Margaret Atwood’s latest book, On Cats: An Anthology, has recently hit the shelves. In this feature she recalls how cats have long crept into her work, from “the tragic disappearance of beloved first pet, Perky, to Blackie the con artist kitten”.
Independent: Booker Prize 2021: Damon Galgut wins top literary award for ‘astonishing’ novel The Promise – The South African novelist and playwright Damon Galgut has won the 2021 Booker Prize for his novel The Promise.
Seren: Guest Post: COP26 – Kristian Evans on poetry & the climate crisis – As world leaders meet in Glasgow for COP26, Kristian Evans, co-editor of the landmark anthology 100 Poems to Save the Earth, talks climate poetry.
Vogue: Words With Friends: On the Joys of Tandem Reading – Emma Specter has discovered there is “something better than reading alone” – and that is “reading side by side with friends”.
The Korea Times: Park Kyung-ni’s Gangwon home becomes museum dedicated to literary giant – “The last residence occupied by Park Kyung-ni (1926-2008), one of Korea’s literary giants [has opened] its doors to the public as the Park Kyung-ni Museum,” reports Park Han-sol.
The New Statesman: What is romantic friendship? – “Deep and lasting connection comes in many forms: we need a new vocabulary to talk about love.”
The Moscow Times: Archie Brown Is Awarded the Pushkin House Book Prize – Archie Brown, Emeritus Professor of St Antony’s Russian and Eurasian Studies Centre, has won the Ninth Annual Pushkin House Book Prize of £10,000 for The Human Factor: Gorbachev, Reagan and Thatcher and the End of the Cold War.
Bad Form: In Every Mirror She’s Black – Lola Akinmade Åkerström – Åkerström’s debut, In Every Mirror She’s Black, “is part romantic drama, part comedy, part raw and incisive meditation on race, class, fetishization and tokenism in the nucleus of Nordic society”, says Candy Ikwuwunna.
BBC News: James Bond: Kim Sherwood to write trilogy as first female 007 author – “Author Kim Sherwood is to write a new trilogy of James Bond books, becoming the first female author in the series of spy novels created by Ian Fleming.”
Premium Times: NLNG announces winner of $100,000 Literature Prize – Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia’s novel, The Son of the House, has been declared the winner of the $100,000 NLNG Literature Prize for 2021.
Lapham’s Quarterly: Novel Transport – Kristen Martin on the “anatomy of the ‘orphan train’ genre.”
Literary Hub: All About Basket: A Letter from Gertrude Stein About Her Beloved Dog – Shaun Usher, author of Letters of Note: Dogs, presents a letter from Gertrude Stein about her much adored dog, Basket.
The Strategist: The Best Gifts for Poetry Lovers, According to Poets – According to a handful of contemporary American poets, the Beats should be struck off the list.
Penguin: How books shaped The Beatles – “From Shakespeare to Edward Lear, literature had a considerable impact on the lyrics of some of pop’s most famous songs, discovers James Hall.”
Nordic Co-operation: Niviaq Korneliussen wins the 2021 Nordic Council Literature Prize – “Greenlandic author Niviaq Korneliussen has been awarded the 2021 Nordic Council Literature Prize for the novel Naasuliardarpi.”
The Quietus: A Fold In Space: Jean Ray’s Malpertuis – In light of the recent republication of Malpertuis, “Robert Davidson looks back at the strange career of the writer dubbed the ‘Belgian Edgar Allan Poe’.”
Fine Books & Collections: Bright Young Booksellers: Kitazawa Rika – FB&C’s Bright Young Booksellers series continues with “Kitazawa Rika, a fourth-generation bookseller in Tokyo, Japan, at her family’s shop Kitazawa Bookstore.”
The Paris Review: Games of Taste – David Kurnick writes: “My enjoyment of Bolaño wasn’t quite real, my new acquaintance said, and the part of it that felt real was a function of American ignorance.”
The Hindu: ‘You can’t save the world, but you must record it’: Amitava Kumar – “A novel becomes an archive of the current moment, says Amitava Kumar, whose latest book, A Time Outside This Time, is on the stands”.
The Calvert Journal: ‘I wanted this book to be a reconciliation of different generations’: Lea Ypi on growing up in communist Albania – Matt Janney discusses Lea Ypi’s memoir, Free: Coming of Age at the End of History.
The New Yorker: The Most Ambitious Diary in History – “Claude Fredericks, a Bennington classics professor, knew Anaïs Nin and James Merrill, and taught Donna Tartt. He kept a journal for eight decades, and persuaded many in his orbit that he was writing a titanic masterpiece. Did he?” wonders Benjamin Anastas.
Poets & Writers: Craft Capsule: Bisexuality on the Page – “Labels can be valuable,” says Christopher Gonzalez. “But how much does this matter? And if labels are included, is it an invitation for readers to test their validity?”
Tor.com: Managing My Ever-Expanding TBR Stack – Speculative fiction reader, Alex Brown, shares a few secrets behind the structure of their constantly fluctuating TBR stack.
The Yale Review: How Should One Read a Book? – “To read a book well,” said Virginia Woolf, “one should read it as if one were writing it”.
Cision: Winners of 2021 Blancpain-Imaginist Literary Prize announced Post-90s author, Chen Chuncheng, takes home the honors – Chen Chuncheng’s The Submarine at Night has won this year’s Blancpain-Imaginist Literary Prize for Chinese fiction.
The Spinoff: How does a library run out of e-books? – “Auckland’s 56 libraries are closed, and no one knows when they’ll re-open. Devouring e-books online seems like a solution. For many, like my son, it’s not”, writes Chris Schulz.
The Markaz Review: Guantánamo Voices: True Accounts From the World’s Most Infamous Prison – An excerpt from the graphic novel, Guantánamo Voices: True Accounts From the World’s Most Infamous Prison.
Fremantle Press: An extract from Patsy Millett’s new book details the night Miles Franklin Award-winning novelist Xavier Herbert roared up to the house for dinner – Best known for her history of the Durack family, Kings in Grass Castles, Dame Mary Durack Miller was a […] much leaned-upon president of the Fellowship of Australian Writers. Drawing on a great accumulation of firsthand sources […], Patsy Millett’s Inseparable Elements provides an intimate portrait of an extraordinary writer…”
Qantara.de: Interview with Jordanian novelist Jalal Barjas: “Some Arab writers present distorted images of their societies” – Rim Najmi talks to Jalal Barjas, the Jordanian author of Notebooks of the Bookseller.
Literature Wales: The Writers of Wales inspiring our communities – Literature Wales has launched its Writers of Wales Database, an online directory of the writers from Wales, to co-inside with the opening of a new funding scheme for events.
TripFiction: Ten Great Books set in VARANASI – Varanasi, “a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh”, is the latest location in TripFiction’s Ten Great Books Set In… series.
First Things: The Art of Book Collecting – Steve Ayers argues that “book collecting in itself is a good thing”, however, he feels it is “not about mere accumulation, but the disciplines of taste, technique, and study.”
The Guardian: Elif Shafak: ‘Reading Orlando was like plunging into a cold but beautifully blue sea’ – “The novelist on her love of Virginia Woolf, being inspired by HG Wells and how Jack Kerouac’s ego puts her off his books”.
FP: Tanzanians Are Very Proud of the Nobel Winner We Haven’t Read – Elsie Eyakuze finds that in “a country divided over identity and language, literature can be tricky.”
Publishers Weekly: AI Comes to Audiobooks – Thad McIlroy introduces “AI-enabled automated audiobook creation.”
New York Observer: Books for Those Grieving and Processing Mortality in 2021 – Lauren LeBlanc writes: “The last two years have been a wild, sorrowful ride for us all. Whether you are in full denial or deep in process, these books can help.”
CBC News: City Lights Book Shop gets 2nd life with new owners – “The new owners of iconic London, Ont., bookshop have plans to make it accessible”, says Rebecca Zandbergen.
Shondaland: In Katharine Blake’s ‘The Uninnocent,’ a Tragic Event Leads to Deeper Insight on Heartbreak – “In the wake of a devastating murder involving her own cousin, Blake must contend with unanswerable questions while finding a way to move forward” in her newly released book, The Uninnocent.
Havana Times: Gioconda Belli: The Elections Are Merely “Ortega Ratifying His Power” – “The Nicaraguan writer says she has ‘absolutely no hope’ that the ballots ‘will alter the situation in Nicaragua’ since ‘they’re fraudulent votes’.”
The Millions: Drizzly November in My Soul – Ed Simon finds that for those with a brain chemistry that doesn’t incline towards darkness, depression might seem an issue of will power, something to be fixed with a multivitamin and treadmill. However, reading Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy reminds us that depression isn’t a personal failing.
AIGI Eye on Design: Three Publishers Get Real About Independent Publishing – “What does it take to make indie publishing work?” asks Somnath Bhatt.
Polygon: Why every generation re-discovers Stephen King – Joshua Rivera describes King as being like “a horror-movie villain who just will not die”.
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