An end of week recap
“Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty-and vice versa. Don’t read a book out of its right time for you.”
– Doris Lessing
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 (although, in this instance, I was tipped-off in advance of the broadcast). Hopefully, you too will enjoy them.
Rebecca Budd, host of the excellent Tea Toast & Trivia podcast, tells me to expect an episode devoted to Elizabeth Humphreys’ 2021 Readalong of The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky on 6th December. The event itself was organized to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Dostoyevsky’s birth on 11th November, and the “stars aligned”, says Rebecca, “when Elisabeth Van Der Meer, from A Russian Affair, agreed to join the party” in Season 3 Episode 40 (aired on 4th October) to discuss “the midpoint of the book.” I look forward to listening to the forthcoming “farewell” episode, in which the 2022 Readalong will also be discussed. Many thanks indeed to Rebecca for the heads-up. *NB You will find additional information about these podcasts in the comments section below. *
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.
* Stack ‘em High *
We are nearing a point in the calendar when Angharad at Tinted Edges generally finds herself “scrambling” to complete self-imposed annual reading goals. This year, however, she has decided to turn her usual mad dash to finish as many short books as possible during the month of December into an “official” event. The simple rationale behind the Short Stack Reading Challenge – which runs from 1st to 31st December 2021 – is that “less is more”, and as such, the aim is to “celebrate” smaller books. If this seems like the ideal manner in which to attain your lofty reading objectives, please head over to the Short Stack Reading Challenge, where you will find instructions explaining how to go about piling high your “pancakes”.
* The Charm of the Chunkster *
The word chunkster is often used by bookish types to describe an especially fat book (doorstop is another favourite) and, sure enough, a brief glance at Google led me straight to wordnik.com where it is defined as: “450 pages or more of adult literature (fiction or nonfiction)”. This information is helpful because Becky of Becky’s Book Reviews is to host the Chunkster Reading Challenge from 1st January to 31st December 2022 – though, she invites participants to read tomes of “any” type, including Middle Grade and Young Adult titles. If you feel inclined to take part in this weighty literary jolly, please sign up by leaving a comment on the 2022 Chunkster Reading Challenge post. Big can indeed be beautiful!
* 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 ‘Apples Never Fall’ Liane Moriarty – Liane Moriarty, the Australian author of a string of international best-sellers, has produced an “enthralling novel of thought-provoking misdirection”, says Gretchen Bernet-Ward in her favourable review at Thoughts Become Words. Apples Never Fall, she discovers, is “a blueprint of interior family life”, which is so “emotionally complex” that she at first thought it a memoir. Contained within its “seventy-one [chapters of] domestic drama” are “the innermost workings of the Delaney family” – complete with “tennis fixation”, a missing “matriarch” and the “dysfunctional lives” of its now grown-up children. There is, too, “comic relief” and Gretchen says she “thoroughly enjoyed” reading this tale of “social and relationship enlightenment”.
Assembly – Natasha Brown – Narrated by “a young, Black British woman” involved romantically with “a white man, born of wealthy parents”, Natasha Brown’s literary debut is “a powerful, scathing novella of race [and] identity”. Assembly, reports Radz Pandit from her Reading Retreat, tackles class issues, “notions of success and the desire to take control of your own life”, in a “cool and clipped [prose], stripped of any embellishments”. Furthermore, the story is a compelling “indictment of the corporate world”, which “hurtles towards a powerful climax”, while brilliantly offering an “acid-fuelled [commentary] on Britain’s colonial past”.
* 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:
Literary Hub: “Magnificent Hybrids.” David Mitchell on the Alchemy of A.S. Byatt’s Stories – David Mitchell invites you to: “Step inside. Take your time [and savour] your discoveries” in Medusa’s Ankles, a collection of A. S. Byatt’s very best short fiction.
CTV News: Canada Post to honour Margaret Atwood with special stamp – Margaret Atwood is being celebrated for her contributions to Canadian literature with a special postage stamp.
iNews: Claire Tomalin: ‘We were in the car and he just hit me…We had a stormy marriage but goodness, I did love him’ – “The literary biographer talks to Neil Armstrong about forgiving her late husband, the absurdity of Brexit and why her new book will be her last”.
Vogue: Life’s Too Short to Finish Books You Don’t Like – The “only reading rule should be that there are no rules”, says Michelle Ruiz.
BBC Wales: Buckley fire: Berwyn Books sees 400,000 destroyed in blaze – “About 400,000 books have been destroyed in a blaze at a warehouse storing “irreplaceable” editions, according to staff.”
The Guardian: ‘It was terrifying’: ancient book’s journey from Irish bog to museum treasure – “A new book tells the story of the painstaking process to preserve the 1,200-year-old Faddan More Psalter”, writes Lisa O’Carroll of The Faddan More Psalter: The Discovery and Conservation of a Medieval Treasure by John Gillis.
NBC News: Nikole Hannah-Jones on the 1619 Project book, harsh truths of the Black experience – “‘The 1619 Project, I would argue, is more truthful, but not comforting. It’s not comforting at all,’ the reporter and Howard University faculty member said.”
Wired: Can Science Fiction Help Solve Our Biggest Problems? – Neal Stephenson, the acclaimed speculative fiction novelist, author of the recently published technothriller Termination Shock, discusses “climate change, the metaverse, and the role fictional stories can play in shaping our future.”
EL PAÍS: Paul Preston: ‘Franco was shy with women, Mussolini an aggressive predator, and Hitler harbored a range of perversions’ – “Whenever the Hispanist is asked if the Spanish Civil War and Francoism can really provide that much writing material, he produces yet another book. [Preston’s] latest essay picks out the perpetrators of the propaganda and the lies that led to tragedy”.
Middle East Eye: City of a thousand booksellers: Eight of the oldest places to buy books in Cairo – “Whether it’s vintage maps, film posters or photographs, a tour of Cairo’s bookshops can reveal much about its past”, says Bahira Amin.
Public Books: Public Thinker: Merve Emre Throws a Party for Different Readers – “One way to think about the act of annotating is that you are that meddlesome party gossip, telling the reader how to draw connections between the different parts of the text,” suggests the Turkish American polymath in her discussion with Leah Price on The Annotated Mrs. Dalloway.
Toronto Star: Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Literary Review of Canada — the high-profile magazine ‘no one’s ever heard of’ – “The LRC exists at the nexus of publishing, journalism and academia”, says Mike Doherty. And thirty years on “it still feels like a very Canadian experiment”.
LARB: Living in the World: Peter Brooks on Balzac – Having read Peter Brooks’ Balzac’s Lives, Elena Comay del Junco concludes that Honoré de Balzac’s great La Comédie Humaine (‘The Human Comedy’) offers a middle way between speculative fiction and autofiction.
The Quietus: A Place Where The Unwordable Happens: The Novels Of Russell Hoban – “As Penguin issues his first eight novels under their Modern Classics imprint, Mathew Lyons looks back over the career of the writer M. John Harrison once called ‘a quiet, unalloyed delight’”.
Publishing Perspectives: The United Kingdom’s Costa Book Awards Name Five Shortlists – “With the big ‘book of the year’ winner to be announced on February 1, the Costa Book Awards program will name its 2021 winner in 2022”, reports Porter Anderson.
Aeon: George Sand’s boots – “How the rebellious novelist left behind her provincial self to learn about life, charging around Paris dressed as a man”.
Al-Fanar Media: Syrian Publishers and Bookstores Become Casualties of War – EL-Tohamy finds that several prominent Syrian publishing houses and bookstores have closed in recent years, the latest signs of cultural death in an economy hard hit by war.
JSTOR Daily: A Brief History of Literary Cats – “There’s nothing like curling up with a good book and a soft cat”, declares Livia Gershon. “Even better”, she adds, “is a book with a cat in it.”
The Indian Express: Hope ‘Born A Muslim’ creates space for Muslims, Hindus to have candid conversation: Ghazala Wahab – The author discusses her recently published book, Born A Muslim: Some Truths About Islam in India, which focuses on one of the largest and most diverse communities in India.
Sydney Arts Guide: Jodi Picoult: Wish You Were Here – According to Australian critic Carol Dance, “Wish You Were Here is most definitely a novel for our times. It is”, she says, “about the Covid experience, and so much more.”
ABC News: Move over, Murakami: Female authors drive growing interest in Japanese novels – “Ten years ago, only a handful of books by Japanese women were published in English,” says Victoria Namkung, “but of the 34 titles translated from Japanese in the last two years, 28 were by women.”
Scroll.in: How unsung, obscure publishers from the 18th and 19th centuries made Shakespeare what he is today – “And in the 20th century, computer programmer Grady Ward created the first digital, free-to-use, edition of the playwright’s works”, finds Andrew Murphy.
Stylist: Gift ideas for the book lovers in your life – “Thrillers, cookbooks, poetry, memoirs and more”. Francesca Brown invites you to “be inspired with the best books to buy for Christmas 2021.”
Historia Magazine: The winners! The HWA Crown Awards 2021 – Historia, the magazine of the Historical Writers’ Association, has announced “the winners of the 2021 HWA Crown Awards, celebrating the best historical writing of the year, fiction and non-fiction”.
Melville House: “Millennium hand and shrimp!” Discworld audiobooks get star-studded re-record – Tom Clayton delights in revealing “stellar news for fans of Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series […] as a raft of his audiobooks, newly recorded by a host of famous names, are set to grace our ears in 2022.”
France 24: Why Africa is dominating literary prizes in 2021 – “Some of the world’s biggest literary awards, including the Nobel, Booker and Goncourt, have gone to Africans this year in a sign of the continent’s emergence as a major force in publishing and a region with a direct line to the pressing questions of our time.”
Nature: How dogs became humans’ best friends: from Neanderthals to now – Josie Glausiusz describes Our Oldest Companions:The Story of the First Dogs by Pat Shipman as a “lively tale of evolution, domestication, migration and fellowship.”
The Armenian Mirror Spectator: Anna Maria Mattaar: Translating from Armenian into Dutch and vice versa – In the Dutch translator Anna Maria Mattaar, “we have a tireless devotee to Armenian literature and culture in the Netherlands”, says Artsvi Bakhchinyan.
The Calvert Journal: ‘History crams a lesson down your throat:’ a thunderous poem on wartime by Russian poet Polina Barskova – A reading of ‘A Sunny Morning in the Square” from Polina Barskova’s Air Raid, followed by an excerpt from a conversation between Barskova and Belarusian poet, Valzhyna Mor.
New Welsh Review: The History of Wales in Twelve Poems, A Last Respect: The Roland Mathias Prize Anthology of Contemporary Welsh Poetry – “Chris Moss on two anthologies which prove that Welsh poetry in English is in robust health.”
The Atlantic: Thanksgiving and the Curse of Ham – Imani Perry on the “subversive literature” of the 19th century African American author, essayist, political activist and lawyer, Charles Chesnutt.
i-D: How to thrive in the digital age as an independent art book publisher – “In the era of the infinite scroll, Innen Books founder Aaron Fabian explains what keeps us coming back to print.”
The Sunday Times: Virginia Woolf statue on Richmond Riverside opposed over fears of copycat suicides – Concerns have been raised about a planned statue of Virginia Woolf overlooking the Thames, which has been called insensitive because of the way she killed herself.
The Verge: Spotify’s latest purchase is about becoming the place you listen to everything – Ashley Carman looks at the reasons why Spotify purchased an audiobook company.
Poetry Foundation: Everything Is Flowers – Wyatt Mason with some notes on Charles Baudelaire and translation.
Atlas Obscura: Luis Soriano Had a Dream, Two Donkeys, and a Lot of Books – In an excerpt from Every Day the River Changes: Four Weeks Down the Magdalena, Luis Soriano writes: “The schoolteacher’s long-running Biblioburro program delivers reading materials to children in Colombia.”
The Sydney Morning Herald: Comic timing: how Snoopy mapped out one writer’s life – “The canine star of the Peanuts comic strip taught novelist Ann Patchett about the power of imagination, handling rejection – and co-opting coolness.”
Evening Standard: Best books 2021: our writers pick the year’s best novels, from Patricia Lockwood to Torrey Peters – “Give someone (or yourself) a very good book this Christmas”.
The Hollywood Reporter: The Comic Book Industry’s Next Page-Turner: Union Organizing – “Production and edit staff at Image, publisher of ‘Spawn’ and ‘The Walking Dead’ series, unveiled plans to unionize in what could be a test case watched by employees at larger companies.”
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