An end of week recap
“Does anything in nature despair except man? An animal with a foot caught in a trap does not seem to despair. It is too busy trying to survive. It is all closed in, to a kind of still, intense waiting. Is this a key? Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go.”
– May Sarton
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.
* Go West For #McMurtry2022 *
If you have a hankering to immerse yourselves in tales of America’s Old West (or contemporary Texas, come to that), Liz Dexter from Adventures in reading, running and working from home may well have the ideal reading challenge for you. US novelist, essayist, bookseller and screenwriter, Larry McMurtry, well known for works such as Lonesome Dove and Terms of Endearment, “passed away last year” at the age of eighty-four. Liz owns a sizeable collection of his books, none of which have seen daylight for almost eight years. She therefore feels the time is ripe to blow off the dust and start re-reading. She invites you to take part in the Larry McMurtry Project 2022, which begins in January and continues throughout the year. It is a “low-key, no expectations” sort of event – you need only commit to reading one of this “well-loved” author’s books, although, you may well opt to tackle 13 pre-selected titles over a twelve-month period. For further information, please mosey on over to Larry McMurtry 2022 for all the details.
* 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:
The High House by Jessie Greengrass – This soon to be published “cli-fi” novel by British author Jessie Greengrass is “one of the most poignant” stories Nirmala of Red Lips and Bibliomaniacs has read in some time. Exploring themes of “parenthood and sacrifice” amid “climate chaos,” the book follows four people attempting to make a home and survive “cataclysmic weather events,” dwindling insect populations and disappearing seasons. The “psychological impact of imminent threats is realistically portrayed,” adding to “the eerie, somber atmosphere” of The High House, says Nirmala, and “despite some minor quibbles,” she declares it an “important” book. Indeed, she was “spellbound […] from the first page.”
Five of the Most Influential Welsh Writers of All Time – Over at BookerTalk, Karen – the popular South Walian blogger – hands over the reins to Tegan Oldfield of the Welsh independent self-publishing company, Rowanvale Books, allowing him to tackle a question she is often asked: “Who are the most influential authors from Wales?” Here he spotlights “some of the most prolific and talented literary giants of our time,” ranging from the “iconic” Dylan Thomas to “the first woman to win the Booker Prize,” Bernice Rubens. Each one of them, he says, has in one way or the other, played a part “in shaping the Welsh literary canon and forging the way for their successors.”
* 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:
Poets & Writers: Page One: Where New and Noteworthy Books Begin – The first lines of a dozen noteworthy books, including Manifesto: On Never Giving Up by Bernardine Evaristo and To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara.
BBC Wales: Crime writer Ethel Lina White’s Abergavenny blue plaque – The Welsh crime writer was “favourably compared to Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers,” finds Neil Prior.
Independent: Anne Rice death: Interview with the Vampire author dies aged 80 – Anne Rice, author of the gothic novel Interview with the Vampire, passed away at the age of 80.
The Collidescope: The Purity of the Empty Page: An Interview with Mircea Cărtărescu – George Salis speaks to Romanian novelist, poet, short-story writer, literary critic and essayist, Mircea Cărtărescu, about doubt, surrealist art and his popularity.
The Nation: The Question Dave Hickey Dared to Ask – “His work and life were committed to the trickiest of queries: Why do people despise critics?” writes David Schurman Wallace.
Esquire: Emily St. John Mandel Is Nobody’s Prophet – “When real life suddenly resembled the author’s fiction, the world was desperate for her to make sense of it all”, says Adrienne Westenfeld. “Station Eleven readers should have known how she’d react.”
LARB: Through a Computer Screen Darkly: A Conversation with Meghan O’Gieblyn – Meghan O’Gieblyn’s book, God, Human, Animal, Machine, examines the evolution of the individual in technological narratives.
Asian Review of Books: 50 Highlights from 2021 – The year in book reviews – covering “Asia from the Pacific to the Black Sea, from the Russian Far East to India and Caucasus.”
Catapult: The Working Metaphors of Novel Writing – “Ingrid Rojas Conteras speaks to Naima Coster, Alexandra Kleeman, R. O. Kwon, Laura van den Berg, and Bryan Washington about the language they use to describe writing novels.”
Nature: The loss of the world’s frozen places – Alexandra Witze discusses “two very different books [exploring] the past, present and future of glaciers.”
Canadian Literature: Go Down Singing – Katharine Bubel reviews Mark Dickinson’s Canadian Primal: Poets, Places, and the Music of Meaning – an exploration of the relationship between the lives of poets and their writing.
Guardian Australia: The 25 best Australian books of 2021: Helen Garner, Alice Pung, Tony Birch and more – “Experimental elegies, portraits of resilience and political manifestos: 25 of the best reads of the year as picked by Guardian Australia critics and staff.”
Los Angeles Times: New Yorkers scoffed. 10 years later, the Los Angeles Review of Books is a cultural force – “The Los Angeles Review of Books was conceived more than a decade ago during a dark period for the print literary ecosystem,” says Dorany Pineda.
Prospect: Prospect’s best books of 2021: history – “From making constitutions to the origins of the opioid crisis.”
The New Yorker: The Russian Novel That Foresaw—but Underestimated—Totalitarianism – “Yevgeny Zamyatin, the author of We, was both the original writer of totalitarian terror and one of its original victims,” writes Masha Gessen.
Philosophy Now: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft – Sara Bizarro reviews Mary Wollstonecraft’s pioneering Vindication of the Rights of Woman. She describes as “an outstanding book which should be placed among the classics.”
Paper Republic: 2021 Roll Call of Published Translations from Chinese into English – Nicky Harman presents a list of books translated from Chinese in 2021.
EW: Jami Attenberg and Bernardine Evaristo on chronicling the grit behind their glamorous careers – “The authors of I Came All This Way to Meet You and Manifesto discuss literary success and shame” with Seija Rankin.
The National: Campaign to establish National Poetry Library of Wales launched – “A campaign has been launched to establish a National Poetry Library of Wales.”
NLR: Sidecar: Fragments of Revolution – Aditya Bahl goes in search of India’s literary underground.
Jewish Book Council: The Jewish Neighbors of ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’ – “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is an American classic” and “an inspiration to bookish young girls everywhere,” says Ariella Carmell. It is also, she discovers “a story about its Jewish community.”
CrimeReads: Jane Austen and Me – “Author Jane Cleland on getting to know her namesake through researching Austen’s sizable correspondence.”
Words Without Borders: The Best Translated Books of 2021 – “As the year comes to an end, […] staff, contributors, and board members look back on their favorite international reads from 2021.”
Lexington Herald Leader: ‘The world is a lesser place today without her.’ Acclaimed author bell hooks dies at 69 – The US author and feminist Gloria Jean Watkins (whose pen name was bell hooks) has died at the age of 69.
The Irish Times: Colm Tóibín wins David Cohen Prize for Literature 2021 – “Previous winners of £40,000 award for a lifetime’s work have gone on to win Nobel,” says Martin Doyle.
Lapham’s Quarterly: Becoming a Religion of the Book – Konrad Schmid and Jens Schröter on scripture before the Bible, in this excerpt from The Making of the Bible: From the First Fragments to Sacred Scripture.
Public Books: Do the Humanities Need Experts or Skeptics? – Patrick Fessenbecker questions why Anglophone novels are more worthy of attention than Ottoman shadow puppetry or the art of knot-tying? “Just what are the humanities for?” he wonders.
Arts Hub: Winners of 2021 PM’s Literary Awards announced – The best of Australian literature, history and poetry was celebrated following the announcement of the 2021 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards at the Sydney Opera House.
New Frame: Sharp Read | Phaswane Mpe’s one great novel – “Welcome to Our Hillbrow was a turn-of-the-century exploration of Johannesburg’s inner city, migration, xenophobia and Aids, by an author who never shed his sense of ubuntu.”
Penguin: Pinks, layers and bold fonts: the book cover trends that have dominated 2021 – “Book cover design is as subject to trends as interiors or fashion, and this year has been no different. Here Penguin designers discuss the biggest covers of 2021 – and what we can expect on our shelves next.”
Publishing Perspectives: European Booksellers, Publishers, Printers: ‘No Christmas Without Books’ – “Three European trade organizations issue a statement, calling on policy makers to exempt bookstores from any lockdowns deemed needed for COVID-19 spread mitigation.”
The Hedgehog Review: The Critic’s Critic – An important part of George Steiner’s legacy is his criticism of the critics, says Richard Hughes Gibson. Here he reflects on the late Franco-American literary critic “and the art of hopeful failure.”
National Review: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Frodo vs. Peter Jackson’s – Jack Butler examines the ways in which the films’ depiction of Frodo differ from the The Lord of the Rings novels.
Faber: What Our Authors Are Reading This Christmas – “Faber authors tell us about their favourite book of the year, along with what they’ll be reading and gifting this Christmas.”
NBC News: ‘Attack on books’: Over 600 authors, publishers, groups condemn book bans – “The signatories — including author Judy Blume and the American Library Association —condemned the recent wave of LGBTQ- and race-related book bans.”
Exberliner: The best English bookstores in Berlin – The city’s world-class English-language bookstores remain open despite lockdown. ExB rounds up the oldest, the newest and the best of the bunch.
ThePrint: Translations in Indian languages gaining momentum. But we lack access to regional non-fiction – “Indians have natural ‘translation consciousness.’ But there is a gap in accessing non-fiction from regional languages,” says Yauvanika Chopra.
Publishers Weekly: A Forbidden Love Grows in Douglas Stuart’s Glasgow – Douglas Stuart sat down with Louisa Ermelino to discuss Young Mungo, the much-anticipated follow-up to his Booker-winning novel Shuggie Bain.
Netherland News Live: Writer Arnon Grunberg wins PC Hooft prize for prose – The PC Hooft Prize, which is awarded annually, alternately, to a writer of prose, essays, or poetry, has gone to Arnon Grunberg.
Jacobin: John le Carré’s Novels Weren’t Just Spy Thrillers — They Were High Literature – “One year ago […], novelist John le Carré died at age eighty-nine. His talent for turning spy novels into great literature was unmatched”, says Paco Ignacio Taibo II.
Gawker: The Joy of Writing by Hand – “Drowning in screen time during the pandemic, [Nicholas Russell] decided to experiment with pretension.”
The Paris Review: Our Staff’s Favorite Books of 2021 – In which they tell you some of the things they most enjoyed reading this year.
Heritage Auctions: ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ First Edition Sells for $471,000 to Set Modern-Literature World Record – A rare first edition of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone went for $471,000 – making it “the most expensive commercially published 20th-century work of fiction ever sold”.
The Guardian: ‘Don’t start a sex scene when your mother-in-law is visiting’: how I wrote a novel in a month – “In November, Guardian writer Tim Jonze joined half a million others taking part in National Novel Writing Month. Could he get to the end – and would it be any good?”
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