An end of week recap
“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.”
– Victor Hugo
Sprinkled throughout this week’s literary mashup, you may notice there is something of a love theme going on – containing a goodly pinch of lust, heartbreak and plain old-fashioned romance. However, for those preferring to sidestep the decidedly over-commercialised Valentine’s Day on 14th February, there are still plenty of non-amatory and purely book-related links to explore.
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.
* Reading First Nations Writers Project *
Over at Reading Matters, Kim Forrester is heading “in a new direction” with her latest literary challenge. In order to “read outside [her] comfort zone,” discover “new voices” and shape her book-reading year, she intends, between now and December, to concentrate her efforts on a minimum of twelve books by First Nations authors – and she invites others to do likewise. The purpose of the Reading First Nations Writers project is to spotlight indigenous writers. Although Kim is likely to focus on Australian works, she is keen to stress you are under no obligation to do the same. On the contrary, she encourages participants to read widely from indigenous communities around the world. She will post an official page on which to track her progress, as she hopes this project will continue beyond 2022, and urges you to use her logo and link reviews back to the Introducing my ‘Reading First Nations Writers’ project page (where you can also acquaint yourself with the minutiae of this challenge), or alternatively, “send a trackback.” Should you tweet about the event, please use the #ReadingFirstNationsWriters hashtag.
* Lit Crit Blogflash *
Time has been tight this week to say the least, so I will share only one of my favourite literary posts from the bookish blogosphere on this occasion:
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim — irresistible charm – Karen of BookerTalk found herself “transported” from a wintery Wales in February “to the sunny climes of the Italian Riviera” in Elizabeth von Arnim’s 1922 classic romance, The Enchanted April. Set in Portofino, four women, all with “vastly different backgrounds,” discover each other “through an advert in a London newspaper” – which leads to them hiring a medieval Castello for a month. The “scented gardens” of San Salvatore work “magic on all four women, causing them to change their perspectives” and feel hope for the future. The story “contains wonderful descriptions,” but more enjoyable still, says Karen, are “the portrayals” of the guests. The author’s “keen eye for detail” reveals the natures of these “touchingly amusing female companions” with both “wit” and “humour” in this “genial” but never “frothy” novel.
* 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 New York Times: ‘Love in the Time of Contagion’ Observes Mutations in Domestic Life – Molly Young finds “Laura Kipnis’s new book [Love in the Time of Contagion: A Diagnosis] is about how relationships, including her own, have changed during the pandemic.”
The Marginalian: The Light That Bridges the Dark Expanse Between Lonelinesses: James Baldwin on How Long-Distance Love Illuminates the Power of All Love – “As long as space and time divide you from anyone you love… love will simply have no choice but to go into battle with space and time and, furthermore, to win.” Maria Popova delves into Nothing Personal by James Baldwin – available for the first time in a stand-alone edition.
LARB: Weaving Words: The Magic of Diana Wynne Jones – Henrietta Wilson and Lydia Wilson explore the young adult fiction of Diana Wynne Jones.
NPR: Heartbroken? There’s a scientific reason why breaking up feels so rotten – Science writer Florence Williams experienced what felt like a brain injury when her husband left her after more than 25 years. Her new book is Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey.
BBC Wales: Elaine Morgan statue to be unveiled in Mountain Ash – “A statue of Elaine Morgan, one of Wales’ leading writers and feminists, is to be unveiled.”
Chatelaine: 10 New Romance Books To Curl Up With This Valentine’s Day – Sonya Lalli is certain you will find “love (and happily ever afters) in all its forms with these swoon-worthy picks.”
CNN Style: Long-standing literary magazines are struggling to stay afloat. Where do they go from here? – Across the USA, “universities are slowly, quietly, cutting funding and shutting their literary publications down,” says Leah Asmelash.
Vox: One Good Thing: Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is funny, just like love – “Northanger Abbey’s comedy has serious takeaways for the aspiring romantic heroine.”
Xtra Magazine: Ignored for 40 years, Kay Dick’s paranoid dystopian novel ‘They’ rings true today – “A bisexual writer and editor who was ahead of her time, Kay Dick’s prescient oeuvre deserves reappraisal,” argues Eli Cugini in this piece about her radical dystopian classic, They.
Los Angeles Times: Jane Goodall is still surprised at her ever-growing fame – The English primatologist and anthropologist, Jane Goodall, will join LA Times book club readers on 25th February to discuss her Book of Hope and ‘Becoming Jane’ exhibit.
SWI: Reto Hänny wins top Swiss literature prize – “Swiss author Reto Hänny has been awarded this year’s Swiss Grand Prix for Literature for his life’s work.”
Nippon.com: Epics of Aristocratic Love: “Dream of the Red Chamber” and “The Tale of Genji” – “Many Chinese classics have long been loved and read in Japan, but Dream of the Red Chamber is relatively little known. Japan-based Akutagawa Prize winner Li Kotomi recommends the eighteenth-century masterpiece, suggesting similarities with The Tale of Genji.”
Harper’s BAZAAR: Soo Hugh’s ‘Pachinko’ Adaptation Confronts Japan’s Colonization of Korea – Based on the best-selling novel Pachinko, “the new 8-part Apple TV+ series explores the trauma of history. For the show’s creators and actors, that meant confronting it head-on.”
Penguin: 7 books exploring singlehood this Valentine’s Day – “From a collection of essays on the glories and challenges of living ‘unattached’ to novels centring on the friendships that can bloom from shared independence, here are seven books [suggested by Carmella Lowkis] exploring singlehood to read this Valentine’s Day.”
EIBF: The voice of booksellers – The European and International Booksellers Federation has revealed its new logo and branding, “highlighting the organisation’s commitment to its members and the sector.”
EL PAÍS: Angélica Gorodischer, star of Argentine science fiction literature, dies – “The feminist writer died at the age of 93 in her home in the city of Rosario.”
Book Riot: The History of Consent in Romance – The romance community takes consent very seriously, but was this always the case? Nikki DeMarco offers a brief history of consent within the romance genre.
The New Yorker: Can Science Fiction Wake Us Up to Our Climate Reality? – “Kim Stanley Robinson’s novels envision the dire problems of the future—but also their solutions,” finds Joshua Rothman.
Radio Free Europe: Russian Teacher ‘Forced To Quit Job’ For Reading Poems By Authors Persecuted Under Stalin – “A Russian teacher says she was forced to quit her job at a school in the city of St. Petersburg after she read poems to her class by two authors who had been persecuted during Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s purge in the 1930s and 1940s.”
The Irish Times: Red poets society: The Stasi Poetry Circle’s battle for hearts and rhymes – Philip Oltermann on The Stasi Poetry Circle and the “weird and wonderful world of East Germany’s Working Circle of Writing Chekists.”
Gawker: The Crankification Engine – “On the internet, we are all encouraged to become the sort of person who writes letters to the editor,” says Ben Jenkins.
ALCS: Sarah Death Wins the Bernard Shaw Prize for Translation for the Third Time – Sarah Death’s translation of Letters from Tove by Tove Jansson has taken home the Bernard Shaw Prize.
iNews: Winchelsea, by Alex Preston, review: An exhilaratingly fresh take on historical fiction – Winchelsea is a “thrilling novel” in which a teenager is sent into “the treacherous world of 18th-century smuggling, as she seeks revenge for the death of her father,” says Michael Donkor.
Nation Cymru: Queer Square Mile – two centuries of diverse Welsh storytelling – “Queer Square Mile is a ground-breaking anthology of queer Welsh writing edited by Mihangel Morgan, Kirsti Bohata and Huw Osborne and published by Parthian.”
Ploughshares: Love and Loss in You Never Get It Back – “Cara Blue Adams skilfully deploys the direct address in her 2021 collection,” You Never Get It Back. Laura Spence-Ash discovers the “love and loss examined throughout is heightened by this craft choice.”
The Guardian: Forget Wordle! Can you crack the Dickens Code? An IT worker from California just did – “The writer’s archaic shorthand has baffled experts for over a century. So they launched a deciphering competition for fans – with stunning results that cast new light on his love life and financial peril,” finds Simon Usborne.
The Hawaii Herald: Literature History – FOLLOWING NATSUME SŌSEKI’S TRAIL – Stacy Lee goes on a literary pilgrimage in search of the Japanese novelist Natsume Sōseki.
Ahram Online: Ehsan Abdel-Kouddous: A literary legacy reintroduced – “More than 30 years after his death, [the Egyptian] novelist Ehsan Abdel-Kouddous is getting a new recognition, with re-prints, translations and more drama adaptations of his works.”
The Hedgehog Review: An Unlikely Meditation on Modern Happiness – Why, in Kierkegaard’s view, would anyone choose a life of faith? asks Ryan Kemp in this piece on rereading the Danish philosopher’s Fear and Trembling.
The World News: Margaret Atwood joins writers calling for urgent action over missing Rwandan poet – “Margaret Atwood, Ben Okri and JM Coetzee have joined more than 100 writers from around the world in calling on the Rwandan president to intervene in the case of the poet Innocent Bahati, who disappeared one year ago.”
Condé Nast Traveler: Poet Ada Limón on Raising a Glass with Old Friends in California Wine Country – “After a prolonged separation, Limón and her two best friends get together in California wine country.”
Publishers Weekly: A Zoom of One’s Own: Poetry 2022 – “Five poets with collections forthcoming in spring discuss the experience of writing during the pandemic” speak to Maya Popa.
TechCrunch +: Apple launches its own book club, ‘Strombo’s Lit,’ in the Apple Books app – Sarah Perez reports: “The iPhone maker has just launched its own book club directly in its Apple Books app for readers in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Australia, where it will curate both fiction and non-fiction titles for readers.”
Vox: What romance novels can teach us about attraction – “Romance authors are philosophers of love,” says Byrd Pinkerton. “Here’s how they think about chemistry.”
Mashable: A new anthology tells erotic stories by 27 ‘anonymous’ writers – “Tales of sex, gender, love, infidelity, and desire — but whose story is whose?” asks Meera Navlakha.
The New York Times: How Yiddish Scholars Are Rescuing Women’s Novels From Obscurity – “Works written decades ago, often by female Jewish immigrants, were dismissed as insignificant or unmarketable. But,” according to Joseph Berger, in the past several years, translators devoted to the literature are making it available to a wider readership.”
Open Book: Book Therapy: The Music Game – “This deep into the seemingly never ending story that is the pandemic, where uncertainty reigns more than it ever has, my reading habits no longer fit any reliable pattern.” Stacey May Fowles on The Music Game by Canadian writer Stéfanie Clermont.
The Bookseller: Faulks and Halls battle it out on Walter Scott longlist – “The £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction’s longlist this year features Sebastian Faulks, Stacey Halls and Colm Tóibín among others,” reports Heloise Wood.
Medievalists.net: New Medieval Books: From Military to Markets – “Five new books that take you from Wales to Russia, and from the Near East to China.”
The Korea Herald: [Eye Plus] Indulge in Joy of reading at first public book museum – “Songpa Book Museum, situated in eastern Seoul, is an establishment dedicated to reading.”
My Modern Met: 8-Year-Old Snuck His Self-Made Book Onto a Library Shelf and Now It Has a Waitlist Over 100 People Long – “It can take years for aspiring authors to finally see their work on the shelves of bookstores,” says Arnesia Young. “But one young writer skipped all the conventional methods […] and took his manuscript straight from his pen to the stacks of his local public library.”
News in 24: Austrian writer Gerhard Roth is dead – “The Austrian writer Gerhard Roth died in his hometown of Graz at the age of 79. He was considered one of the most important political authors.”
Air Mail: Playing with Fire – “For the years that Australia banned Philip Roth’s controversial novel Portnoy’s Complaint, a cottage industry churned out handmade bootleg copies,” finds George Kalogerakis.
CNN Politics: Donald Trump quietly making millions from coffee table book – Kate Bennett reports that Trump is making a fortune from “a coffee table tome with pictures detailing [his] presidency — retailing about $75 and $230 if signed.”
The Well: When stories pop off the page – “The University Libraries’ collection of fantastically engineered pop-up books grew from a late professor’s fascination”, says Scott Jared.
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