An end of week recap
“There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.”
– P.G. Wodehouse
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.
* 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.
However, before we get underway, I should like to highlight a couple of fascinating posts relating to Wales and the Welsh. Those of you who take part in the Reading Wales (aka Dewithon) event each year will, I am sure, understand my interest in these particular pieces.
Firstly, Frances Spurrier of Volatile Rune has shared a little about her Welsh background in Loss, Love, Hiraeth and the Presence of Absence: A Review of ‘The Long Field’, Pamela Petro. I won’t reveal too much about the piece because her recollections of Wales, her thoughts on the almost untranslatable Welsh word hiraeth and her critique of Petro’s memoir are all the more pleasurable for being read in one sitting.
Secondly, the writer Maria Donovan published a feature: People of the Village – the title of a short story she penned for the Imagining History conference at the University of South Wales. As one of the contributing writers for the event, Maria says she was “inspired” by Daniel Trivedy’s ‘Welsh Emergency Blanket‘, “part of ‘an ongoing series responding to the proposal for Wales to become the first Nation of Sanctuary’.” You can learn more about her story and the exhibition itself in her latest post.
Review: The Haunting Season: Ghostly Tales for Long Winter Nights – Should you have a desire to snuggle under the covers with a good ghost story, the writer and historian Laura Tisdall has the perfect book to fill those long chilly nights. The Haunting Season is “a multiple-author collection” providing a “cozy, spooky reading experience”, although, some pieces work “better […] than others” when it comes to inducing fear. Laura’s tastes incline towards the horror genre, but she declares herself impressed with Natasha Pulley’s ‘The Eel Singers’, which is described as “perfectly eerie”, and Laura Purcell’s ‘The Chillingham Chair’ – a tale of “an early kind of wheelchair” becoming “animate”. The “historical” nature of this collection gives it a “traditional” feeling, but the “best stories”, in her opinion, are those that “push the boundaries.”
Allegorizings by Jan Morris – In her splendid review for Shiny New Books, Liz Dexter of Adventures in reading, running and working from home describes Allegorizings – a “posthumous collection of essays” by the intrepid and much-missed Welsh historian and writer Jan Morris – as “good: from start to finish”. It is, she says, a “beguiling and intelligent” selection from a person whom she describes as having been “everywhere and witnessed everything”, covering an array of topics, “from sneezing to marmalade-making to matters of nationality and nationhood.” While her favourite pieces are the “quirky ones”, the work in its entirety is a “worthy” finale from “one of the great travel writers of our age.”
* 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:
Scotiabank Giller Prize: Omar El Akkad Wins the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize – “Omar El Akkad has been named the winner of the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel, What Strange Paradise, published by McClelland & Stewart, taking home $100,000 courtesy of Scotiabank.”
Faber: The Faber Interview: Sarah Hall – “In the first of a series of long read interviews with Faber authors, Sarah Hall speaks to Alex Clark about the inspiration behind her novel, Burntcoat, and the themes of her writing.”
Gibraltar Chronicle: A literary baseline – Minister for Culture, Dr John Cortes, reflects briefly on Gibraltarian literature for Gibraltar Literature Week.
The New York Times: The Reductive Practice of Assigning Book Reviews by Identity – “Are editors asking reviewers to represent the views of their entire race and gender?” asks Jay Caspian Kang.
3:AM Magazine: The Myopic Country – “So who are Australia’s free speech warriors? Where is our tradition of standing up to orthodoxy, who [are] our Milton and Orwell, where [is] our John Stuart Mill, or Chomsky?” asks Stephen Orr.
Ploughshares: The Dawn of the Queer Ecological Novel – Morgan Thomas finds the need for a queer ecological novel is increasingly apparent, as it becomes difficult to imagine any story, any life, unaffected by the reality of climate change.
World Literature Today: Thinking Outside the Perceptual Box: Adam Wiśniewski-Snerg’s Robot – Rachel S. Cordasco reviews a recent translation of Adam Wiśniewski-Snerg’s 1973 Polish sci-fi classic, Robot.
New/Lines: Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Nobel: The Right Award for the Wrong Reason – Meg Arenberg argues that the Nobel Prize committee in Stockholm “pigeonholed the complex and cosmopolitan work of the Zanzibar novelist in conventional East/West terms”. Something, she says “he’s always rejected”.
Women’s Prize for Fiction: Meet the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction Judges – WPF “announce the marvellous Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022 judging panel.”
The Critic: Murders for early November – “As the days quicken and the shadows lengthen, our thoughts turn naturally to murder”, says Jeremy Black.
Writer’s Digest: Memoir as Detective Novel – “Every memoir requires searching for the truth of the story. Lilly Dancyger, author of the memoir Negative Space, shows how this hunt can serve as the structure of the narrative.”
Los Angeles Times: Op-Ed: Book banning in 2021? Why my book has been removed from school shelves – Christopher Noxon, American author of Good Trouble: Lessons from the Civil Rights Playbook, explains why his and five other books are likely to be removed from schools in Virginia.
CrimeReads: The Story of the Selkie: Eight Novels Based in Powerful Folklore – “Half woman, half seal, they come from the sea and suffer injustice at the hands of men.”
The Scotsman: Robert Louis Stevenson’s guide to Edinburgh’s ‘glories and absurdities’ – “As Manderley Press release a new edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1878 book Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes, Alexander McCall Smith hails a portrait of the city that is both of its time and also strikingly modern”.
The Conversation: Mohamed Mbougar Sarr: Senegalese novelist’s win is a landmark for African literature – Caroline D. Laurent reports: “The Prix Goncourt – the oldest and most prestigious literary prize in France – has been awarded to 31-year-old Mohamed Mbougar Sarr from Senegal.”
PopMatters: How George Orwell Inspired Hunter S. Thompson’s Gonzo Journalism – “Hunter S. Thompson’s primary muse was not F. Scott Fitzgerald,” says David S. Wills, “but rather George Orwell and his fact-bending 1933 memoir, Down and Out in Paris and London.”
EL PAÍS: The drowning of Spain’s villages – Silvia Hernando examines several books “recreating the cruel and little-known history of the communities that were flooded to make reservoirs in the 20th century”.
Publishers Weekly: Loves Letters: New Romance Novels 2022 – Pooja Makhijani rounds up some new romance novels planned for next year.
The Hedgehog Review: Chasing Phillis Wheatley – Tara A. Bynum uncovers “other possibilities from the past.”
Literary Hub: Lily King on Shirley Hazzard’s The Evening of the Holiday – One of the “greatest loves” of Lily King’s life is the short novel The Evening of the Holiday by Shirley Hazzard. Here, the author of Five Tuesdays in Winter writes “in praise of a great literary love”.
BBC Dorset: Thomas Hardy: ‘Fascinating treasure trove’ to be displayed – “Four museums have teamed up to conserve and display rarely seen objects relating to novelist Thomas Hardy.”
Scroll.in: Novelist Shashi Deshpande on how to read (or rather, how not to read) the writing of women – “Can we continue to regard women writers as a separate species?” asks the eminent novelists of contemporary Indian literature in English, Shashi Deshpande.
Bianet: Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk investigated again over his book ‘Nights of Plague’ – In Turkey, Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk’s novel Veba Geceleri (Nights of Plague) has again been accused of provoking public hostility towards Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first President of the Republic.
AP: Pandemic sparks union activity where it was rare: Bookstores – Hillel Italie believes the pandemic is responsible for sparking union activity among booksellers in the USA.
Fairlight Books: Dennis Hamley Interview – “The Second Person from Porlock was inspired by the mystery surrounding Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poetry collection housed in Jesus College, Cambridge, after a disparaging note was found in the margin of the poem ‘Kubla Khan’.”
The Skinny: Read Think Act: Lighthouse on books and activism – “Lighthouse Books have launched a video series looking to explore the connections between books and activism. [Heather McDaid speaks] to Digital Campaigns Manager Jessica Gaitán Johannesson to learn more”.
The Irish Times: Don’t mention the war: why should writers not tackle the Troubles? – Sharon Dempsey, author of the forthcoming mystery novel Who Took Eden Mulligan?, “takes issue with Rosemary Jenkinson’s criticism of fellow authors”.
YLE: Finlandia literary prize shortlist unveiled, half of candidates are previous winners – “Winners and nominees for the nation’s top literary award are virtually guaranteed brisk sales in the run-up to Christmas.”
The New York Review: The Mind’s Body Problem – In his review of Melanie Challenger’s How to Be Animal: A New History of What It Means to Be Human, John Gray suggests that the belief we are “different from other organisms may be an incurable human illusion.”
The Guardian: Is Superman Circumcised? favourite to win Oddest book title of the year – “This year’s Diagram prize also pits Curves for the Mathematically Curious against The Life Cycle of Russian Things and Hats: A Very Unnatural History”, finds Alison Flood.
Xtra: Tomson Highway, Canada’s trailblazing Two-Spirit writer, takes us back to his childhood – “In his memoir Permanent Astonishment, Highway celebrates life in the Canadian North in the 1950s and ’60s”.
Vox: The lofty goals and short life of the antiracist book club – “After George Floyd’s death, many white Americans formed book clubs. A year later,” says Fabiola Cineas, “they’re wondering, ‘What now?’”
Big Think: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s greatest critic explains why everyone should read his books – “According to literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin, Dostoevsky’s talents were on par with those of William Shakespeare.”
News.in-24: Raphaela Edelbauer receives the Austrian Book Prize 2021 – Raphaela Edelbauer was awarded the Austrian Book Prize on 8th November for her dystopic third novel, DAVE.
The Berkshire Eagle: Marc Jaffe turns 100. He shares a few words. – American mass-market paperback publisher Marc Jaffer recently reached his century. He shares memories with Felix Carroll on a life-time of editing.
BBC News: Atlas maps Hogwarts, Jurassic Park & made-up places – “So where actually is Batman’s Gotham City? Or The Simpsons’ Springfield. Do you know where Jurassic Park is? Hogwarts even? One man thinks he does.”
Fonda Lee: Twitter Is The Worst Reader – Fonda has “been in [her] share of Twitter blow-ups.” Here she explores the platform’s toxicity and its impact on book lovers.
Ecns.cn: ‘Underwater bookstore’ entertains readers in Chengdu – “Located in Tianfu New District, the ‘underwater bookstore’ has a glass curtain wall that extends into the water on one side of the bookstore, allowing readers to see water plants and fish in the lake”, reveals Xue Lingqiao.
National Review: The End of the Affair at 70 – To read The End of the Affair is to be reminded of a time when a novelist could imagine, and admire, a heroine willing to pay a steep price for her faith, finds Peter Tonguette.
Marie Claire: Hollywood Loves Books – “And authors are cashing in big-time”, finds Kate Dwyer.
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