An end of week recap
“Power attracts the corruptible. Suspect any who seek it.”
– Frank Herbert
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.
* Dewithon 22 is Fast Approaching! *
We are halfway through January, which means it is time for a gentle nudge to alert those intending to participate in Reading Wales 2022 (1st–31st March) that the event has appeared in my eyeline and is bobbing about like a small boat on the horizon. As ever, the motivation behind Dewithon (as it is more familiarly known) is to inspire book bloggers and other members of the online reading community to indulge in works from and about the nation of Wales. A plethora of particulars regarding this reading jolly can be perused on the freshly updated DHQ page, and you can also explore the Reading Wales Library to discover titles reviewed and discussed in previous years. I expect to be in the midst of moving house in March, which means that, sadly, I cannot commit to posting a weekly analysis of a specific book on this occasion, though in all other respects the event will continue as usual. I do, however, have something rather interesting in mind and will share my chosen title in the official post announcing RW22, scheduled to appear in early February. Will you join in the fun this year? I would love to hear your cynlluniau darllen (reading plans).
* 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:
Under the Sea-Wind by Rachel Carson – Although Carol of Journey & Destination tends to “take her time with scientific books and plod along at [a] slowish rate,” there were occasions when the sheer “tension” of the narrative compelled her “to keep reading” Under the Sea-Wind, Rachel Carson’s 1941 oceanic masterwork. This “wonderfully written book” is “one of the greatest natural histories of the seashore” and frequently “reads like fiction while being scientifically accurate.” The American marine biologist and conservationist “has a unique voice,” says Carol, and she “writes in such a way that the reader is vicariously projected into the different experiences these creatures undergo.” She “highly” recommends this classic paean to the sea.
Fabulous fiction in an era of falsehoods – In her excellent piece for Nothing in the Rulebook, Katy Wimhurst, author of the short fiction collection Snapshots of the Apocalypse, “asks whether there is any reason to be more wary of fiction with speculative or ‘untrue’ elements” in this “era of fake news”? She uses examples of “fiction with fabulous elements”, ranging from Johnathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude to Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series, and finds it meets “human needs beyond pleasure” while addressing “uncomfortable truths about today.” She argues that its “long history” of providing “metaphors for human behaviour”, enables writers to “interrogate power or satirise topical issues” – indeed, the “subversiveness” of “genres like sci-fi, fantasy or magical realism” is one of their greatest appeals.
* 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 Booker Prizes: The 2022 Booker Prize – “The judges for the 2022 Booker Prize have been announced, as the prize opened for submissions.”
The New York Review: Misbehaving Like Adults – “The people in Helen Garner’s books are defined by their interactions with others,” says Nathan Whitlock. Their “life is communal, even for those who wish it were not so.”
Ploughshares: Activism in Exile – Gisèle Freund’s portraits, shown at the Maison des amis des livres in 1939, of several avant-garde writers and artists, are a collective portrait of a community, rather than a series of individuals. This group of intellectuals, however, would be scattered by the invasion of Paris by the Nazis.
The Chronicle of Higher Education: This Is the Way the Humanities End – “A recent book review by Louis Menand carries the field further along the path to oblivion.”
The Hans India: How publishers beat Covid blues in 2021! – “The COVID-19 pandemic reset all equations everywhere, including in publishing, but publishers say they learned to put their heads down in 2021 […] and were able to bring out a super line-up of books.”
BBC Wales: Berwyn Books to re-open after fire destroyed £1m of books – “Less than two months after a fire destroyed more than £1m worth of rare and second-hand books at a warehouse, staff prepare to re-open at a new site,” reports Matthew Richards.
Galley Beggar Press: Uschi Gatward, 1972–2021 – Uschi Gatward, author of the recently published short story collection, English Magic, has died of cancer following a terminal diagnosis in September 2021.
The Baffler: Age of Iron – Bongani Kona looks at two “new histories [revisiting] the fall of Apartheid” in South Africa.
Publishers Weekly: Writers to Watch Spring 2022 – David Varno with a selection of “adoption narratives, genre-bending novels about the horrors and inequities of life, and promising collections” – all coming out this season.
The Guardian: New chapter of hope: indie bookshops defy the odds to hit nine-year UK high – “Independent sellers have battled lockdowns, supply-chains issues and Amazon to reclaim their place in the industry. [Alison Flood speaks] to the people who opened their own.”
The New Statesman: Colm Tóibín: “I think, ‘I must be deep.’ Then I think, ‘Stop this nonsense, get on with the story’” – “The Irish novelist on writing after chemotherapy, growing up gay ‘in the 19th century’, and winning the 2021 David Cohen Prize for Literature.”
TIME: Nobel Laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah Urges Us Not to Forget the Past – Annabel Gutterman discusses Afterlives with Nobel Laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah.
MyLondon: London’s first Black bookshop saved from closure after £90k raised in 11 days – “The initial £35,000 target was smashed within 24 hours,” reports Ruby Gregory.
Book Marks: A 1903 Review of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild – “Jack London seems to possess an intuition of the dog life, and the dog heart…”
Radio Free Europe: Jailed Iranian Poet Baktash Abtin Dies After Contracting COVID-19 – The dissident Iranian poet and filmmaker Baktash Abtin has died of Covid-19 in hospital after being released on a furlough from prison where he was infected.
Boston Review: What Good Can Dreaming Do? – Annie Howard finds that Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic 1971 science fiction novel, The Lathe of Heaven “reminds us of the radical power of collective imagination.”
The Nation: Lucille Clifton and the Task of Remembering – “The poet’s memoir Generations is both a chronicle of her ancestral lineage and lesson in the centrality of Black women to the story of American history,” writes Marina Magloire.
The Tehran Times: Nominees for Abolhassan Najafi Award unveiled – Persian translations of eight international novels are contending for the Abolhassan Najafi Award.
Pop Matters: Andrew Lipstein’s ‘Last Resort’ and the Hellish World of Publishing – “Andrew Lipstein’s Last Resort takes the business of publishing to the very edge of the writer’s limit,” says R. P. Finch.
Nation Cymru: Review: The Empty Greatcoat is a story brilliantly and compellingly told – Jon Gower reviews The Empty Greatcoat by Welsh author Rebecca F. John.
Lit Reactor: Why John Urbancik is the Greatest Short Story Writer of All Time – Jay Wilburn argues in favour of U.S. adventurer, John Urbancik, being the “greatest” living short story writer.
DAME: Have We Forgotten How to Read Critically? – “Since the internet has made the entire world a library with no exits or supervisors, many readers treat every published piece of writing as a conversation opener, demanding a bespoke response,” says Kate Harding.
Chicago Tribune: How a Chicago editor set T.S. Eliot on the path to a Nobel Prize – Ron Grossman looks back at Chicago editor, Harriet Monroe, and her involvement in the publication of Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in a 1914 edition of a poetry magazine.
The Washington Post: Maya Angelou to become the first Black woman to appear on U.S. quarter as Treasury rollout begins – Coins featuring the likeness of the author and activist are expected to be available from U.S. banks in late January and early February.
Nautilus: Readers Love Curious George. I Fell in Love with the Author’s Astronomy Books. – “H.A. Rey recreated star maps with wit, grace, and accuracy,” says Dan Falk.
The Face: Shuggie Bain and Young Mungo: the front cover kiss-off – “Author Douglas Stuart and photographer Wolfgang Tillmans on how a classic shot encapsulates [Young Mungo] a soon-to-be-classic book.”
Poetry Foundation: Translation and Poetry – David Larsen – a previous winner of the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets – writes on the theme of ‘Translation and Poetry’.
LARB: Everyone’s a Critic – Richard Joseph interrogates the contemporary life of the critical hatchet job.
Russian Art + Culture: Sergei Tretyakov: A Revolutionary Life – Peter Lowe interviews Robert Leach, author of Sergei Tretyakov: A Revolutionary Writer in Stalin’s Russia.
The Walrus: The Year of Witch Lit: Weird Women Dominated New Stories of Suspicion and Rupture – Alix Hawleyon on three 2021 novels “about confusion, distrust, and fear mirror our pandemic moment.”
Words Without Borders: WWB’s Most Anticipated Translated Books of 2022 – “As we usher in the new year, [WWB’s] staff, contributors, and board members share the books in translation they’re most looking forward to in 2022.”
The Public Domain Review: Beastly Clues – Roddy Howland Jackson on “T. S. Eliot, Torquemada, and the Modernist Crossword.”
The Scotsman: JK Rowling trans row: Shutting down Harry Potter author is wrong way to win trans rights, says Wes Streeting – “Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting has said ‘shutting down’ JK Rowling is not the way to win hearts and minds in the battle for trans rights.”
Penguin: The good reading habits to get into this January – “Keen to make the most of the New Year?” According to Alice Vincent and Stephen Carlick, “finding some new ways to fall in love with books is a great way to kickstart the year.”
Radical Reads: 74 Books That Filled Jorge Luis Borges’ Personal Library – From “the Biblioteca Personal of Jorge Luis Borges, a 1985 project commissioned by Argentine publisher Hyspamerica [for which] the Buenos Aires-born writer [was asked] to curate and compose prologues for 100 great works of literature.”
Lapham’s Quarterly: Under Difficulties – In this excerpt from Material Ambitions: Self-Help and Victorian Literature by Rebecca Richardson, Harriet Martineau, the English social theorist, “considers the relationship between ambitious work and physical health.”
IANS Live: Why Russian literature acquired a global following – Russian literature “saw an accelerated rate [of] global popularity within 200 years,” writes Vikas Datta.
Archipelago Books: Ambai wins Sahitya Akademi Award! – Ambai has won the prestigious Sahitya Akademi award, an annual award “conferred by the Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters, for the year’s most outstanding original work.”
Pew Research Center: Three-in-ten Americans now read e-books – Michelle Faverio and Andrew Perrin report that 75% of U.S. adults say they have read a book in the past 12 months in any format, a figure that has remained largely unchanged since 2011.
The Millions: Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2022 Book Preview – In their “first preview for Pandemic Year Three,” the editors offers up almost 200 books, in “the hope that they can, in some small measure, act as a balm, an escape, a distraction, a source of pleasure, a reason for hope, a source of light in the darkness.”
The Sydney Morning Herald: What books should our leaders be reading … and why – The Australian MP Andrew Leigh says it is important for politicians to read. He casts an eye over books of the past year to offer ministers some tips.
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