An end of week recap
“Every New Year is the direct descendant, isn’t it, of a long line of proven criminals?”
– Ogden Nash
Over the festive period, I thoroughly enjoyed perusing your end-of-year reading lists and pieces devoted to favourite titles of 2021. I wish I could include them all in this weekly summation but, alas, there simply isn’t space to accommodate so much bookish approbation (opprobrium in some instances, too).
Apropos of nothing whatsoever to do with books or literature in general, several of you expressed an interest in our family of feral moggies after I mentioned them in WUTW #202. If cats aren’t your saucer of milk, you should feel free to skip the next couple of paragraphs.
Regular followers may recall that my partner and I have been living in a lodge on the coast of Mid Wales since selling our house between COVID-19 lockdowns. The caravan site in which we are located is delightfully secluded with only a handful of fellow dwellers, and we enjoy uninterrupted views of the windswept shoreline, open fields and nearby mountains. Scattered about the place are a number of derelict farm buildings and, it was from one of these we first noticed a scrawny, pitifully bedraggled black and white cat emerging with three tiny kittens of varying shades and fluffiness.
To cut a rambling story short, we started leaving food out for them and gradually earned their trust sufficiently to capture all four and take them to a vet in Barmouth, where they were decrittered, sexed (all female) and neutered. Given the names Mampuss (the mother cat, of course, who these days looks quite plump), Mittens, Frida and Hisspuss (she’s a feisty madam), our little family have become official park puss cats – known and fed by all – with permission from the site owner to remain indefinitely. Our amused (frequently bemused) neighbours tend these days to refer to us as the ‘mad cat ladies’, but are equally smitten and concerned for the animals’ welfare. Consequently, when we do eventually move to our new home in Conwy, and inevitably spend less time at the lodge, there are plenty of willing volunteers ready to take over feeding duties. Cats and residents, both, now live contentedly side-by-side. And there concludes my shortest of short stories, with a happy ending to boot.
As ever, 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.
* Tackle Tolstoy’s Monster Masterpiece *
The #WarAndPeace2022 Readalong (5th January – 31st December) may have already begun but it’s not too late to catch up with this year-long, chapter-a-day adventure. Elizabeth Humphreys of Leaping Life, along with Rebecca Budd and Elisabeth Van Der Meer, plan to read all 361 chapters of Leo Tolstoy’s monumental 1869 novel, War and Peace, during 2022. You are invited to join the trio in their endeavour since, as Liz points out, “it will be marvellous to share [your] thoughts, comments, insights, related reading and anything else you’d like to throw into the mix” with fellow participants. You can discover more about this exciting event at Liz’s Start The Year With A Classic of World Literature! page. She suggests you also peruse her Reading Schedule and list of Related Resources before getting started.
* Read Indies in February *
“Following the success of last year’s #ReadIndies event,” Karen Langley at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings and Lizzy Siddal of Lizzy’s Literary Life think it “worth repeating.” The ladies’ principal aim in organizing Reading Independent Publishers Month is to “support all the wonderful” indie publishers in existence by selecting works “exclusively from their catalogues during the month of February” – and they hope “fellow bibliophiles” will participate. “Any book, magazine, comic or pamphlet, in any language, in any format, from any independent publisher around the world can be read for this event,” they say, so there is an enormous omnium gatherum of reading materials from which to choose. To learn more about taking part next month, please head over to Announcing Reading Independent Publishers Month 2 #ReadIndies (February 2022) for further 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:
A Brontëul Season – In her delightful post, Lyndsay Hobbs of Topaz Editing & Literary discusses at length her recent immersion in the Brontës, which began with a “wonderful” Jane Eyre podcast and “snowballed from there.” She was inspired to “pick up” The Vanished Bride: A Brontë Sisters Mystery by Bella Ellis – which she describes as an “historical mystery novel that imagines [the sisters] as a trio of sleuths” (sadly, not her “cup of tea”) – and then on to The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente, which she “adored.” She now has a Persephone edition of Tea with Mr. Rochester by Frances Towers in her sights, before tackling the Jean Rhys classic, Wide Sargasso Sea. I look forward to further “Brontëing” from Lyndsay.
Our Trip Around the World – Renate Belczyk – A 1950s travelogue written by one of two intrepid young women who went globetrotting together after the Second World War is, says Claire from The Captive Reader, the “greatest journey [she has] come across in some time.” Native Germans, Renate and Sigrid – both “in their early twenties” – “learned to rock climb in Mexico; hiked, canoed and skied in Canada; […] fell in love with Turkey; toured the Greek islands” and had numerous other escapades before returning home “via Yugoslavia and Austria.” Receiving “kindness and hospitality” wherever they went, which is “unimaginable now in the age of mass tourism”, Claire proclaims this adventure-packed memoir truly “unforgettable.”
* 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:
The Irish Times: Books to look out for in 2022: It’s going to be a bumper year – Martin Doyle with twelve months of new titles from Ireland and elsewhere – with suggestions for all types of readers.
The Bookseller: PRH dominates Costa Book Awards as Azumah Nelson and Fuller win categories – One of the UK’s most prestigious and popular book prizes, the Costa Book Awards has revealed its five category winners.
Alison Fincher Reads Japanese Lit: 2022 Upcoming Japanese Fiction Releases – A tempting selection of Japanese fictional titles appearing in 2022.
Open Country: Blessing Musariri’s Dystopian Debut Novel – “Only This Once Are You Immaculate is ‘a book about the life we don’t live,’ said the Zimbabwean writer. ‘I watched it all unfold in my head as live action.’”
Bloomberg: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Private Library Is Coming to Auction – “Over 1,000 books will be sold online at Bonhams, including tomes signed to her by Gloria Steinem, Toni Morrison, and Antonin Scalia,” reports James Tarmy.
The Robert B. Silvers Foundation: 2021 Silvers-Dudley Prize Winners – The Robert B. Silvers Foundation has announced the winners of the inaugural Silvers-Dudley Prizes, recognizing outstanding achievement in literary criticism, arts writing and journalism.
Australian Book Review: Secrets and broken hearts – Polly Simons with “three new novels of friendship” by Kate Ryan, Vanessa McCausland and Mette Jakobsen.
Seren: Guest post: Zoë Brigley – What is Ecojustice? – “Zoë Brigley, co-editor of landmark anthology 100 Poems to Save the Earth, looks at ecojustice – what it is, why it’s important – and talks about it’s place within the anthology and in poetry more widely.”
NPR: In ‘The Maid,’ a devoted hotel cleaning lady is a prime murder suspect – In Nita Prose’s debut, The Maid, a guest at a fancy urban hotel lies dead and the main suspect is Molly Gray, a devoted member of the cleaning staff who recognizes she has “trouble with social situations.”
CrimeReads: January’s Best New Crime Fiction – Molly Odintz showcases “10 crime novels, mysteries, and thrillers to read this January.”
Jezebel: Writing My Book About Women Football Players Helped Me Leave My Husband – “Queer histories are crucial, even when they don’t seem relevant,” says Britni de la Cretaz.
The Ankler: Michael Wolff on Random House’s Cancellation of Norman Mailer – “Exclusive: The author’s ‘White Negro’ essay helps sink a book set for 2023.” [I should point out that Mailer’s son has denied his late father has been “cancelled” – see this article.]
Uncanny: The Future in the Flesh: Why Cyberpunk Can’t Forget the Body – “Cyberpunk is dead,” in the view of Lincoln Michel. Furthermore, he argues, it has been in this state for 37 years, “since Neuromancer was published, making the genre officially a geriatric millennial.”
The Critic: Too woke to travel write? – “Perhaps a little less introspection will see a renaissance of the troubled genre,” suggests Tom Chesshyre.
Middle East Eye: Turkish lira: Book publishers pushed to brink by currency crisis – “Skyrocketing prices of paper and growing fees risk sinking small and medium-sized publishing companies to the detriment of Turkey’s cultural scene,” finds Mefaret Aktas.
Slate: The Beautiful and the Damned – “Two new books give The Great Gatsby a feminist twist. One is magnificent. (It’s the one in which people turn into giant fish.)”
Asian Review of Books: 2021: The Year in Translation from European and Middle Eastern Languages – In 2021, “[s]everal translations from French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Russian, both fiction and non-fiction had links with Asia.”
Current Affairs: Publications Must Pay Their Writers, Period – Nathan J. Robinson is firmly of the opinion that payment for publication is “non-negotiable.” Indeed, he insists, writers “should refuse to produce uncompensated work, and publications should be shamed when they ask for it.”
The Common: Reclaiming Brooklyn and Puerto Rico: An Interview with Xochitl Gonzalez – Emily Everett interviews novelist Xóchitl González, author of Olga Dies Dreaming, set in the wake of Puerto Rico’s devastating Hurricane Maria.
Book Marks: 17 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Look Forward to in 2022 – In her final SFF piece for Book Marks, Leah Schnelbach recommends seventeen new titles by R. F. Kuang, Emily St. John Mandel, John Darnielle, John Scalzi and many others.
The New Republic: Dostoevsky’s Favorite Murder – “The author of Crime and Punishment had a love-hate relationship with the true-crime obsessions of his era.” Jennifer Wilson reviews The Sinner and the Saint: Dostoevsky and the Gentleman Murderer Who Inspired a Masterpiece by Kevin Birmingham.
New Scientist: The best science books coming your way in 2022 – Simon Ings with a breakdown of science titles coming your way in 2022.
The New York Review: Love for Sale – “Eva Illouz’s The End of Love presents a world starkly divided between male and female, straight and gay, sex and love, dignity and humiliation,” says Anahid Nersessian.
NZ Herald: From Emily Bronte to Keri Hulme: The strange life of a literary one-hit wonder – Keri Hulme wrote one brilliant novel – and then never published another book. Why? Claire Allfree reports.
Daily Maverick: Making sense of Wole Soyinka’s difficult and brilliant new novel – “A new novel by celebrated Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka – Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth – is a major event,” says David Attwell. “But some critics have complained that the book is too long and difficult,” he finds.
The Asian Age: Book Review | Arsene Lupin versus Sherlock Holmes – “The history of Lupin has an uncanny similarity with that of Sherlock Holmes in the sense the character assumed a much larger than life role,” writes Sridhar Balan.
BBC News: Filippo Bernardini: Man accused of stealing unpublished books arrested – “An Italian man has been arrested in New York for impersonating figures from the publishing industry online, in order to fraudulently obtain unpublished manuscripts of novels and other books.”
Inquirer.net: National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose dies at 97 – Philippine novelist Francisco Sionil Jose, whose works explored the country’s painful colonial past and social injustices, died on 6th January, according to the literary guild he founded.
Los Angeles Times: A book of horror and hope in India, inspired by extremists closer to home – Thrity Umrigar talks about writing her ninth novel, Honor, about ethnic conflict and fundamentalism in India during a populist uprising in the U.S.
Chicago Tribune: Column: My 4 reading resolutions for 2022, some easier than others – “Nothing too serious,” says John Warner. He thinks “it’s a mistake to make resolutions about significant stuff.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: What does your bookshelf say about you? – “Books are furniture and always have been,” says Jennifer Rude Klett. “Displays,” she says, “add personality to homemaking.”
Forbes: Chapter House Is Turning A New Page For Indie Book Publishing – Jesse Damiani reports: “The merger of indie presses Black Ocean and Not a Cult into a new publishing group offers new path for competitive small-press publishing in the digital era.”
The Kingston Whig Standard: Cornwall used book store hopes to find home for its vast inventory – The owner of Red Cart Books, a used bookstore in Cornwall, Ontario, hopes to find a home for her mountainous collection of 250,000 titles.
Italy24 News: Gianni Celati, the writer who told “Italy elsewhere”, died at 84 – The Italian writer, translator and literary critic, Gianni Celati, died in England at the age of 84.
Book Riot: In Defense of Recommending Books You Haven’t Read – “I rarely feel any more qualified to recommend a book after I’ve read it than before,” declares booktuber Danika Ellis.
Metro: I read a book a week in 2021 – it was surprisingly easy – By last October, Sandeep Sandhu had already reached his target of 52 books for the year.
The Conversation: 50 years on, The Joy of Sex is outdated in parts but still a fun ‘unanxious’ romp – With its simple but graphic line drawings and relaxed approach, The Joy of Sex offered a recipe for ‘doing it right’, finds Fiona Kate Barlow.
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