An end of week recap
“A storm ravaged among the spruces and shook them, and it made them even stronger. The prouder did they raise their tops the next morning and bathe them in the golden sunrays. They deserved to stretch up to the clouds and be proud.”
– Olha Kobylianska
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 Challenge Updates *
Karen and Lizzy’s hugely popular Reading Independent Publishers Month (see WUTW #204), which was originally scheduled to run until the end of February, has been extended until 15th March because the hosts “have too many titles” left to review. In recent posts announcing the extension, they also clarify the “definition of an independent publisher”, as apparently there has “been some confusion” – in particular “around US publishers.” Please do check out A little #ReadIndies update! if you are in any doubt as to whether “the book you’re reading is published independently.”
Over at This Reading Life (aka Brona’s Books), Bronwyn has changed her plans regarding The Edith Trilogy Readalong, which, when I first mentioned it in WUTW #208, was due to commence next month. She feels that given the numerous other challenges taking place in March and April, it makes sense to push the event “back a few months.” Frank Moorhouse’s highly acclaimed trilogy, which follows the career of an Australian woman in the League of Nations in the 1920s and 1930s through to her struggles to become a diplomat in the 1970s, will now be read as follows: Grand Days (June 2022), Dark Palace (July 2022) and Cold Light (August 2022). Should you take part, please use the #TheEdithReadalong2022 hashtag when discussing these titles on Twitter.
* 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:
Living and Dying With Proust, by Christopher Prendergast – In his delightful piece for Shiny New Books, Rob Spence amusingly describes the task of reading Marcel Proust’s masterpiece, A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu, as “a kind of literary Everest, to be attempted only by the brave or foolhardy.” Living and Dying with Proust, Prendergast’s guide to the French writer’s monumental work is, he says, “a veritable Sherpa Tenzing” for those wishing to scale the mountain. It is no “dry academic text,” however, rather “a series of quirky topics,” in which the reader can explore “the labyrinthine byways of the novel” and the “rich tapestry of Proust’s sensory world.” Rob finds Prendergast’s style “a great joy” and loves the very many “little corrections to received wisdom.” It is, he concludes, a worthwhile, “witty [and] entertaining guide to one of the glories of European literature” – and one he would “heartily” recommend.
The Bachelors: Muriel Spark – Muriel Spark’s “tale of blackmail, fraud and skulduggery” is, according to Guy Savage of His Futile Preoccupations, a rare “laugh out loud” novel. First published in 1960, the story “focuses on a handful of thirty-something single men who live in London,” all of whom are connected in some way “to a criminal case of fraud against spiritualist […], Patrick Seton” – a man accused of forging a letter from his landlady for monetary gain. “Few females enter the plot” in what Guy describes as a work in which “deceit controls the action [and] sex is the currency” – indeed, “most of the characters, spiritualist or otherwise are frauds in one way or another,” – but the The Bachelors is “great fun”, and he finds the manner in which fakery versus authenticity is portrayed make it “the funniest” Spark novel he has thus read.
* 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:
Republic of Consciousness Prize: Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses Longlist 2022 – The Republic of Consciousness Prize, which exists to “advance for the public benefit literary fiction of the highest merit from small presses in the UK and Ireland,” has announced its 2022 longlist.
The Guardian: The Great Gapsby? How modern editions of classics lost the plot – “F Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece is the latest title to appear in a cheap modern version after copyright expires.”
History Today: Has Literature Ever Changed the Course of History? – “On the 100th anniversary of its publication, James Joyce’s Ulysses is widely regarded as a groundbreaking work of fiction, but can literature have any impact outside the confines of culture?”
Bookforum: I’m Glad as Heck You Exist – “Lorraine Hansberry’s 1957 letter to the editors of The Ladder lesbian magazine” – an excerpt from Lorraine Hansberry: The Life Behind A Raisin in the Sun by Charles J. Shields.
Print: The Daily Heller: The Black Bars of Censorship – In 1926, author and poet Kendall Banning dedicated a book of Mother Goose Rhymes to “The Censors of America.”
Quillette: “A Pleasure to Burn”: We Are Closer to Bradbury’s Dystopia Than Orwell’s or Huxley’s – Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is “as gloomy and prescient as either Orwell’s or Huxley’s, but its explanation of how a dystopia is created comes closer to providing an understanding of our new reality,” writes David S. Wills.
Words Without Borders: Voices from Ukraine: A Reading List – Seven works of poetry and prose from Ukraine.
Publishers Weekly: Atmospheric Pressure: New Books on Climate Change – In a new feature PW’s magazine, Liza Monroy examines new and forthcoming books on climate change.
Shine: Argentine literature woos the heart yet sometimes taxes the mind – “Argentina and China are in different hemispheres and sit on opposite sides of the globe, but the two nations still share a cultural affinity.”
The New York Review: ‘I Have Quite Lost My Heart’ – “Some of Virginia Woolf’s best, deepest letters are those written to Vita Sackville-West in the period of their greatest intimacy.”
Nikkei Asia: Books: Central Asian travelogue courts foodies and adventurers – “Despite its title, Red Sands is less about deserts than desserts.”
Morning Star: A shrewd observation of the absurdities of modern labour – “Lee Scott’s native Runcorn a simulacrum for Churchtown,” according to this MS review of the experimental and humorous modern satire, Swan Song.
The New Yorker: Forget Football, It’s Monday Night Books! – “Thomas Beard, the founder of the venue Light Industry, realized that he had too many books, so he opened a once-a-week pop-up shop consisting entirely of his personal stash of Faulkner, Elizabeth Hardwick, and A Social History of Ice and Ices.”
Al Jazeera: The ‘Uncle Napoleon’ of Persian fiction has just passed away – “Iraj Pezeshkzad, who passed away in Los Angeles at the happy and fulfilling age of 94, was an Iranian institution,” says Hamid Dabashi.
The Wall Street Journal: ‘Index, A History of the’ Review: List-O-Mania – “At the back of the book, the index provides a space for reference—and sometimes revenge,” writes Ben Yagoda in his review of Index, A History of the: A Bookish Adventure from Medieval Manuscripts to the Digital Age by Dennis Duncan.
American Purpose: The Master of Petersburg and the Martyr of Style – “Dostoevsky and Flaubert should be studied together as progenitors of the modern novel,” suggests John G. Rodden.
New Pages: The Everyday Life of Cyclops – In this guest post, Kevin Brown reviews Cyclopedia Exotica, “the latest graphic novel by Aminder Dhaliwa” – a fantasy about the struggles of the cyclops, a fictitious community coping with “discrimination and self-hatred.”
University Times: In the VDP Book Club, Readers of All Types Are Welcome – Ines Kennedy finds “the club’s two leaders are emphatic that you don’t have to be a literary whizz to partake.”
Counter Craft: Do Blurbs Actually Work? – “Few parts of the publishing process cause more anxiety for writers” than blurbs, says Lincoln Michel.
Smithsonian Magazine: The Fascinating—and Harrowing—Tale of the First Japanese American to Publish a Book of Fiction – “After his incarceration during WWII, Toshio Mori released a collection of short stories [Yokohama, California] based on his experiences as a second generation Asian immigrant,” writes Alessandro Meregaglia.
Refinery29: Zoraida Córdova’s Reclaim the Stars Explores Social Injustices Through Magical Tales – “Ecuadorian-American author Zoraida Córdova presents Reclaim The Stars: 17 Tales Across Realms & Space, an anthology featuring works by Latinx authors that embrace magical powers, dark dystopias, family legacies, and first loves,” writes Eva Recinos.
Vice: Why Are Letters Shaped the Way They Are? – Shayla Love explains how “linguistic games and research are revealing a hidden connection between what words look and sound like, and what they mean.”
The Walrus: Why the Sudden Interest in Black Authors Doesn’t Feel like a Victory – “What does it mean to navigate the fact that it took a Black person’s death for some to finally decide my books were worth reading?” asks Sarah Raughley.
AIGA Eye on Design: Why Do Some Authors’ Books Get a Branded Look? – “Yeah, it mostly has to do with capitalism. But we’ll be damned if it doesn’t make for some great art and design,” says Alana Pockros.
Literary Hub: How Lewis Carroll Built a World Where Nothing Needs to Make Sense – “Erin Morgenstern on why we return to Alice.”
The Baffler: How Should a Person Tree? – Jack Hanson shares his thoughts on Pure Colour, the Canadian writer, Sheila Heti’s, “luminous creation myth.”
World Literature Today: Nepal and Pan-Nepalese Identity: A Conversation with Samrat Upadhyay – Koushik Goswami talks to the Samrat Upadhyay about racial discrimination, Nepalese migration and the Tibetan Freedom movement, among a range of fascinating subjects.
New Frame: What has happened to our dreams of freedom? – David Johnson’s book, Dreaming of Freedom in South Africa: Literature Between Critique and Utopia, “looks to the literature of [the] past, when writers’ imaginations were rich with hope, to help us envisage a more just and equal future.”
Joyland: Some Thoughts About Writing About Love While The World Falls Apart – On the question of whether one should write about love when the world is in turmoil, Sasha Fletcher says: “If I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t know what else to do.”
Public Books: Poetry for the Deluge – Amid this turbulent present, can poetry call attention to creative forms of survival and persistence, human and nonhuman? wonders Margaret Ronda.
Brisbane Times: Read now: the book TikTok made popular, four years after it was published – “Cameron Woodhead and Fiona Capp cast their eyes over recent fiction and non-fiction releases.”
The Slovak Spectator: Unnoticed Slovak writer published in Ukraine – “Ivan Yatskanyn, a writer of Ukrainian ethnicity, has never had any of his books translated into Slovak,” finds Peter Dlhopolec.
LARB: Ephemeral Gestures of Care and Self-Compassion: On Nina Mingya Powles’s “Small Bodies of Water” – Bryony White on Small Bodies of Water, Nina Mingya Powles’ “memoir made up of interconnected essays”, which “foregrounds small, unmediated acts of pleasure.”
Full Stop: Dubravka Ugrešić – The Croatian writer tells Adam Dalva: “All in all, I’m a sort of literary smuggler. I try to smuggle forgotten, less known literary values to ‘Western audiences.’ Do you know what premastication, or pre-chewing, or kiss feeding is? That’s what I did in Fox.”
The Asahi Shimbun: VOX POPULI: Translator used storytelling gift in ‘Paddington Bear’ series – Kyoko Matsuoka, the Japanese translator of A Bear Called Paddington, passed away last month at the age of 86.
BBC Entertainment: First trailer teases The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power TV show – Lord of the Rings fans have been given the first glimpse at footage from the new $1bn (£800m) Amazon TV series.
Christian Lorentzen’s Newsletter: ‘The Great Moral Literature of Our Time’: Part 1 – Christian Lorentzen examines the works of Jean-Patrick Manchette, the French crime novelist credited with reinventing the genre.
Rest of World: An ancient language has defied translation for 100 years. Can AI crack the code? – “Machine learning can translate between two known languages, but” says Alizeh Kohari “could it ever decipher those that remain a mystery to us?”
France 24: Novel crisis: Iran’s books shrink as US sanctions bite – Iranian’s are finding that “losing yourself in a good book is becoming harder, as cash-strapped publishers struggle because the price of paper is soaring.”
The Moscow Times: Russian Town Asks Tarantino to Save ‘Doctor Zhivago’s House’ – The Hollywood director is known for his love of Boris Pasternak and visited the novelist’s grave in 2004.
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
Thanks as always for the great links, Paula, and also for mention of #ReadIndies – really I think we could do two months of this as I still won’t fit in all the indie books I want to read!!!
A wonderfully topical opening quote Paula! Hope you’re all safe and dry.
You’re most welcome, Kaggsy. Perhaps #ReadIndies should be the sort of challenge rolled out over twelve months! 😂
Thank you, Madame B. It seemed topical on a number of fronts. 😊
We’re fine, thank you. It has been wild, of course, but I think we avoided the very worst of the storm. How about you? I believe London was hit quite badly.
In a recent time when we were renting a furnished house that had been left to itself since 1997, we had the joy of someone else’s books and no TV, and that gave me the push to start reading Proust. It was a wonderful experience and felt like being immersed in another world for a long time and it was a regret that it came to an end. That was the older translation… ‘Remembrance of Things Past’. The newer and maybe more accurate ‘In Search of Lost Time’ would give me the chance to read it again but … I am not prepared at the moment for that expedition! Thanks for the Winding Up, Paula!
Thank you, Maria. I’ve never been brave enough to tackle Proust’s monster masterwork but you make it sound most tempting. One of these days…
It helps if you can be prepared to stay with it for a while. I found it mesmerising and read it quite slowly…
“A storm ravaged among the spruces…” You can say that again, Paula! Hope you two have survived intact as Eunice swept across Cardigan Bay towards and over you. And thanks again for trawling the internet for literary tidbits, thank goodness we have books to distract us — however temporarily — from war, pestilence, cupidity, corruption and tempest…
I chose that particular quotation for a number of reasons, the wild weather certainly being one of them!
We are fine thank you, Chris. No more than a tad windswept. I think it was probably worse for you.
Yes indeed, we need books now more than ever.
Hope you and yours are safe and well.
Wonderful collection of links as always. The Proust book was quite a coincidence as just this morning I was reading a goodreads friend’s experience reading Proust!
I also enjoyed the pieces on Argentine literature in China, Ukrainian literature (all I knew was Gogol belonged there), and Nepalese identity–made me realise I haven’t actually read anything from there except some work around the post-earthquake efforts which was more an academic text.
We’re fine, Mallika. Thank you so much for asking. The cats hid themselves away but emerged with hearty appetites once the wind subsided! 😺
Olha Kobylianska (whose quotation I have used this week) was a fascinating Ukrainian writer. I intend to seek out her work if it has been translated into English. She was multilingual – I wish I could make such a claim myself.
Glad to hear that. Animals do have such different reactions. My first dog used to bark at thunder and fireworks; the current ones (these are a couple of strays who live in our garden–we have a kennel for them) are terrified of fireworks. Among the cats too, one of my toms is not bothered at all while another I had previously would hide in the cupboard.
I’ll look her up for sure. I don’t think I’ve read anything from that part of the world so far so am all the more eager to
Thank you for updating my Edith trilogy readalong dates. I really want to read an Irish & Welsh book as well as a Zola over March & April, trying to fit in Edith as well was too much!!
You are most welcome, Brona. I don’t blame you at all – there is a positive glut of reading challenges over the next couple of months. I hope you are able read all the books in your March/April pile – especially the Welsh title! 😉
I ended up getting an oversized diary a couple of weeks ago, that has a big double page spread for the year, to help me keep track of the reading events I like to do each year. Hopefully this will help!!
It’s good to see Rob Spence’s Shiny post on Proust featured this week, a book I would have been happy to have had in hand when reading the wild and crazy Frenchman! Glad to hear Eunice didn’t cause you too many problems for humans and cats…🌬
I feel quite guilt-ridden at never having read “the wild and crazy Frenchman!” It seems like such an immense commitment. Perhaps I should start with Prendergast’s guide – Rob makes it sound like such fun. 🤔
Ahh yes, dear old Eunice! She was one of the biggest to hit the UK in many years. We’re not really prepared for such storms but that needs to be remedied – something tells me there could be more like her heading our way in the future! 😨
We all have those guilt-inducting books and there really shouldn’t be any such thing. Just books we haven’t got around to yet.
That’s so true, most of us are woefully unprepared and surprised when another major weather event hits.
Especially enjoyed the piece about blurbs. Have a good week, Paula!
Thank you so much for letting me know, Becky. I hope you too have a rewarding and trouble-free week. 😊
I just never thought about Paddington having been translated into Japanese: lovely story!
And I am not quite so hot on Virginia Woolf as I once was, but this collection of letters sounds lovely. Maybe even a bit spicy. Hehe
Thank you, Marcie. I agree. Paddington is such an ‘English’ bear (although he claims to be from Darkest Peru), it’s difficult to imagine him speaking Japanese! 🤣
I find all the Bloomsberries and their various friends a fascinating bunch – even the lesser-known personalities. Plus VW and VSW were fabulous letter writers, so I expect this collection will be worth reading.
Great selection, Paula! Really enjoyed that piece on blurbs “Counter Craft: Do Blurbs Actually Work?” because I’ve seen them from both sides of the book counter and have to say IMO that most are water off a duck’s back. It shows the prowess of someone relatively famous putting ten relatively exciting words together but not exactly relative to the storyline 🙂
Yes, I’ve sometimes wondered if the nominated blurbers have actually read the book they are recommending! 😏
Postscript: I enjoyed the Brisbane Times book link and to quote Eric Idle, nudge-nudge, wink-wink, say no more.
Great article on Bradbury’s book. Thanks for the link, Paula!
Thank you, Carol. I’m glad you found it of interest. 😊
I also enjoyed the piece about blurbs. Having done it once–asked people to read my manuscript and give me a blurb–I agree with the conclusion of the article, that most authors are generous people and there’s nothing better than having someone whose work you love say they love your work too.
I believe potential readers take notice of blurbs – I certainly look at them when I’m pondering a purchase.
Great list as usual! I’m doing very poorly with readindies as I’ve just not read much this month – although I think one of my two recent NetGalley reads was from an indie, phew!
Thank you, Liz. 😊 From where I’m sitting, you seem to be doing really well. Certainly far better than me – though, that wouldn’t be difficult! 🙄
Cover blurbs are very stressful! When I was an editor I would ask the authors for suggestions but debut authors often didn’t know anyone so I would send pleading letters to authors I knew begging for a quote. Unbeknownst to me when I was knew, the editorial assistant was required to give a copy of every letter I wrote to our publisher, a spiteful woman who one day started making fun of my (I thought) charmingly coaxing letters. It would have been nice if she had offered to help!
I am unfamiliar with Frank Moorhouse but there is one copy of the first book in my library system, so I will request it and see what happens.