An end of week recap
“We are in the hands of men whose power and wealth have separated them from the reality of daily life and from the imagination. We are right to be afraid.”
– Grace Paley
This is my final weekly summary before the start of Reading Wales 2022, which kicks-off on 1st March and runs throughout the month. Please head over to Are You Looking Forward to Reading Wales 2022? for further details. I’m far from confident I will accomplish everything I have planned this year, but I will do my damnedest to keep calm and carry on Dewithoning as I peer over unpacked boxes and prepare to move into my new home.
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.
PAUSE FOR A POD >>
* Lie Back and Listen *
Here I recommend engaging podcasts and other digital recordings I have come across during the week. Hopefully, you too will enjoy them.
I received an e-mail from Robert Helen a few days ago recommending the feature, 60 Best Podcasts in 2022: Crime, History, News, Health + More, courtesy of Zephin Livingston at the tech advice website, WizCase. Robert tells me he commutes on a daily basis and podcasts save him from boredom. He is always looking for fresh productions and hopes others will enjoy this diverse selection as much as he did. It is certainly a list worth bookmarking – especially as it is regularly updated. Thank you so much, Robert, for sharing your find with fellow podites.
Have you discovered a fascinating or unusual podcast recently? Zephin Livingston says there are currently 1.7 million in circulation, so I expect there are a myriad of gems awaiting discovery. I am especially keen to unearth literary programmes. Please do share your favourites.
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.
* 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:
Come for the Intrigue, Stay for the Impeccability: The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo – Over at Topaz Editing & Literary, Lindsay Hobbs shares her enthusiasm for Nghi Vo’s “small and perfectly spare” fantasy novella, The Empress of Salt and Fortune. She describes the story in which Rabbit, “an elderly woman who [is] sold to the imperial court at age 5” and becomes handmaiden to the “formidable” Empress In-yo, as “a political thriller,” which “hums with intrigue, pain, and beauty.” In “a world where girls and women are nothing more than possessions,” she is impressed by the way the book manifests feminism – “atrocities committed against the female characters” are neither “belaboured [nor] excused.” Its “precise descriptions” are “elegant” and its “sense of place […] vivid and beautifully wrought.” Lindsay recommends this evocative work to those “looking for a quick read [to] transport” them to a royal compound in a place not unlike imperial China.
‘Truth is merely our perception of the truth’ [book review] – “The Night Will Be Long is a novel about Colombia,” which “takes its title from a line by Spanish poet José Ángel Valente,” says The Monthly Booking’s Eleanor Updegraff in her review of Santiago Gamboa’s newly translated thriller. “With its endless red herrings [and] looping backstories,” this many-layered story “is about everyday struggles” and “what makes good people do bad things.” Focusing on corruption within the Churches of Latin America, the book’s “three main protagonists” embark on a “labyrinthine investigation” into a “violent shoot-out on the banks of the Ullucos River.” The Columbian author’s “celebration of voice and multiplicity” is, she says, “a complex beast,” yet it is fundamentally “smart, thoughtful [and] liberally doused in both metaphor and wit.”
* 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:
Nation Cymru: Review: Pugnacious Little Trolls by Rob Mimpriss – “This collection of freely and fiercely inventive short stories takes its title from the critic A. A. Gill’s depiction of the Welsh people as ‘immoral, stunted, bigoted, dark, ugly, pugnacious…’ and is just as provocative, albeit in very different ways”, says Jon Gower in his review of Pugnacious Little Trolls.
The Baffler: Unlucky Stars – “Portents of war in Ukraine” – Sophie Pinkham reviews Yevgenia Belorusets’ short story collection, Lucky Breaks.
LARB: Lost Beneath the Waves of Time: Jane Gaskell in/and the ’60s – Rob Latham remembers British fantasy author, Jane Gaskell – one of the most celebrated (but now largely forgotten) writers of an unforgettable decade.
The Spectator: The lost art of browsing – John Sturgis laments the loss of the physical to digital.
The New York Review: What We Owe Our Fellow Animals – Martha C. Nussbaum asks: “Can we develop a theory of justice that encompasses nonhuman animals?”
The London Magazine: Upping the Ante – In his review of Erik Martiny’s postmodernist detective novel, Crown of Beaks, David Malcolm finds the author “confronts the universality of crime fiction and one’s worries about why one actually likes it.”
TomDispatch: My Life with Maus – Tom Engelhardt on Maus and “how [he] was banned (even if in a second-hand way) by a Trumpian world.”
Poetry Foundation: Sound of the Axe on Fresh Wood – Irish poet, Declan Ryan eavesdrops on Edna St. Vincent Millay’s diaries.
Scroll.in: ‘Dear Pankaj…Yours, Amit’: An email chat between novelists Pankaj Mishra and Amit Chaudhuri – “A conversation over 12 successive days, about Mishra’s new novel, Run and Hide, and more.”
Los Angeles Times: Permit Margaret Atwood to explain ‘The Wizard of Oz’ – Carolyn Kellogg discovers Margaret Atwood is not your ‘elderly icon’ or ‘witchy granny.’ She’s better than that!
Quillette: Authentic Immediacy—A Tribute to the Political Fiction of Frederick Forsyth – “When the Berlin Wall fell and the USSR collapsed, one might have assumed that Cold War fiction would become irrelevant. That hasn’t turned out to be the case with Frederick Forsyth’s work,” finds Kevin Mims.
SupChina: Examining the most popular Chinese fiction titles – “From techno-optimistic science fiction to migrant worker poetry, China produces a wealth of literature with Chinese characteristics, and many titles are gaining global popularity. Literary critic [and author of The Subplot: What China Is Reading and Why It Matters] Megan Walsh appeared on the Sinica Podcast to discuss.”
Seren: Celebrating Welsh Dark Skies Week – The 19th to the 27th February 2022 is “the inaugural Welsh Dark Skies Week” – the astronomer Martin Griffiths discusses his book, Dark Land, Dark Skies: The Mabinogion in the Night Sky.
The Calvert Journal: Lines of resistance: Kazakhstan’s poets face the aftermath of protest – Assiya Issemberdiyeva on Kazakhstan’s young creatives, and particularly its poets, at the forefront of last month’s chaotic protests.
Catapult: I Couldn’t Stop Updating My Memoir – “Writing a memoir is a process of curation. But I kept wanting mine to reflect my up-to-the-moment present,” says Pyae Moe Thet War, author of You’ve Changed: Fake Accents, Feminism, and Other Comedies from Myanmar.
Mental Floss: 16 Must-Visit Indie Bookstores Owned by Writers – Judy Blume, Louise Erdrich, and many other authors in the US also have ‘independent bookstore owner’ on their résumés.
Jewish Currents: Reclaiming a Minor Literature – “The editor of diasporic Hebrew journal Mikan Ve’eylakh seeks to recover the possibilities of Hebrew language not tied to the State of Israel,” finds Maya Rosen.
JSTOR Daily: The Female Husband is So Eighteenth Century – In his novel The Female Husband, Henry Fielding “conflates vagrancy with sexual, gender, and religious deviance,” says Livia Gershon.
National Centre for Writing: NCW Book Club: recommended reads for fans of AM Howell – If you know a Middle Grader who enjoyed reading The House of One Hundred Clocks, chances are they will “love these books too.”
Russia Beyond: 100 masterpieces of Russian literature you should read – “From ancient tales to modern novels,” the Russia Beyond team “bring you a selection of books that can all be considered timeless classics.”
State Library NSW: Wildest dreams – Sam Cooney speaks to Emily Bitto about her second novel, Wild Abandon, which, she says “raises compelling questions about writing and living.”
The Christian Times Monitor: Q&A with Andrew Pettegree, author of ‘The Library: A Fragile History’ – “Andrew Pettegree, co-author of The Library: A Fragile History, discusses the centuries-long development of libraries as a civic necessity.”
Chicago Review of Books: The Strangeness of Life vs. Fiction in “Be Here to Love Me at the End of the World” – Aaron Coats reviews Sasha Fletcher’s new novel, Be Here to Love Me at the End of the World.
The Guardian: Mapping fiction: the complicated relationship between authors and literary maps – “In a new exhibition, the long, difficult history of literary maps is explored, from James Joyce to Raymond Chandler.”
The Sacramento Observer: Why Aren’t There More Black Librarians? – “Though they account for less than 10% of the industry, Black librarians serve a crucial role in our society,” says Maya Pottiger.
Brittle Paper: Nigerian Poet Titilope Sonuga and Her Family Star in Short Film About Black Canadian Communities – Nigerian poet Titilope Sonuga and her family appear in Black on the Prairies, a cultural project celebrating the lives of Black Canadians in the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba regions.
The Common: Blood Feast: Translating the Troubled Life and Troubling Work of Malika Moustadraf – This essay [from Alice Guthrie] is an introduction and translator’s note excerpted from Blood Feast: The Complete Stories of Malika Moustadraf, out now from the Feminist Press.
Nederlands Letterenfonds: Summer Brother awarded Vondel Translation Prize to David Doherty – “The Vondel Translation Prize 2021 has been awarded to David Doherty for Summer Brother, his translation of Zomervacht by Jaap Robben.”
Nature: Microbes are the future, and the joy of games: Books in brief – “Andrew Robinson reviews five of the week’s best science picks.”
The Conversation: The Sheep Look Up: cult 1970s sci-fi novel predicted today’s climate crisis – According to Dan Taylor, the sci-fi classic The Sheep Look Up has lessons for today on environmental change.
The New York Times: The Problem With the Pandemic Plot – “Literary novelists are struggling with whether, and how, to incorporate Covid into their fiction,” finds Alexandra Alter.
The Offing: Palimpsest Istanbul – “Palimpsest: the term came to [Hantian Zhang] at that moment. [He] knew “the Greeks had coined the term to denote the scraping or washing off of old texts from a page – be it parchment, papyrus or vellum – for reuse, as [he] knew the word could now be, and is, used figuratively for situations of overwriting or layered meanings.”
London Review of Books: On Typing – “Several years ago, [Jo-Ann Wallace] prepared an edition of Mrs Dalloway for Broadview Press” – learning “something about the minutiae of Woolf’s style” in the process.
Faber: Behind the Book: The Stasi Poetry Circle – “Philip Oltermann on writing and researching his latest book, The Stasi Poetry Circle, the incredible hidden story of a unique experiment: weaponising poetry for politics.”
The Spinoff: Courtney Sina Meredith on pain, fearlessness and taking up space – “The Auckland writer tells Gabi Lardies how a painful condition has pushed her beyond fear – and why she’ll keep fighting for queer women of colour.”
Journal of Cultural Analytics: Shakespeare and Company Project Data Sets – The data sets provide information about Shakespeare and Company, Sylvia Beach’s bookshop and lending library in interwar Paris.
The New Yorker: The Novelist Yoko Tawada Conjures a World Between Languages – “Writing in Japanese and German, Tawada [whose latest novel is Scattered All Over the Earth] explores borderlands in which people and words have lost their moorings.”
Nepali Times: Taking Nepali literature to the world – “English translations of Nepali books open international avenues, but there are miles to go still,” finds Ashish Dhakal.
Litro: The Spitalfields Book Club – In this fictional story, a reading group fights against a resurgence of The Murderer in East London.
The Armenian Mirror Spectator: “Where East Meets West: Hakob Karapents’s The Book of Adam – “The book ‘I am about to write, nobody else can write . . . It is going to be unique in its depth and breadth,’ notes Adam Nourian, the protagonist of Hakob Karapents’ 1983 novel, The Book of Adam, just released in an English translation by Ara Ghazarians.”
The New Criterion: Idol temptations on the Adriatic – Robert D. Kaplan on Ezra Pound and Joseph Brodsky – “two great twentieth-century poets.”
Ploughshares: The Insomnia and Dream Visions of Medieval Literature – “Medieval literature’s exploration of insomnia demonstrates a grappling with what it means to live with, and accept, fear and anxiety,” finds Jessica Hines.
Agenda.ge: Book market study: less new titles and sales in Covid-hit years, women and youth more avid readers – “The pandemic-hit years have impacted the Georgian publishers and booksellers through reduced sales and released books,” according to a recent study.
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
A sadly apposite quote from Grace Paley.
Wishing you all the best for the move Paula – hope it goes smoothly!
Thank you, Madame B. It’s complete bedlam at the mo but we’re making headway! 😵
Thanks for these, Paula, and good luck with the move!
Thank you so much, Kaggsy! 😊
This is a great round up of intriguing articles. Thank you! Good luck with your move.
I’m glad you think so, Deb. Many thanks for your good wishes. 😊
All the best with the move Paula–hope all goes smoothly!
I think I’m going to end up adding both the books from this week’s reviews to my TBR. The piece by Nussbaum was something I instantly clicked being something I feel strongly about, and once again I’m reminded to look up some Nepalese literature.
Thank you so much, Mallika. 😺
Thanks for including a piece on podcasts. After ignoring the medium for years I finally jumped in headfirst about a year and a half ago. Now I’m up to my eyeballs in podcasts and can’t get enough of them. Here’s a post I did on the blog a while back: https://maphead.wordpress.com/2021/02/19/swimming-in-a-sea-of-podcasts/
Reading your post has inspired me to do a follow-up installment on my blog, as well as one focusing on the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Keep up the great work!
Thank you, Mark. I will definitely check out your podcast post and look out for the follow-up piece.
This Russian invasion of Ukraine is horrific. I look forward to reading your thoughts on the matter.
Hope the moving-in goes swimmingly! I am all set with my two Richard King books which feature Wales a) heavily b) totally.
Thank you so much, Liz. Your Richard King books should be good. Is one of them Brittle with Relics?
It is. Do you have a copy? Look in the Acknowledgements and you might see a name you recognise! The other one is his The Lark Ascending
No, I don’t own a copy but I’ve heard good things about it and it is very definitely on my TBR list.
Please do tell… Who will I recognise in the Acknowledgements? 🤔
Great haul again, Paula, and I loved the Emily Bitto interview and Insomnia and Dream Visions of Medieval Literature – quite an arresting painting.
Thank you, Gretchen. I’m so glad you enjoyed those features. 😊
Happy 1st of March Reading Wales #dewithon, Paula, and also happy moving house!
Diolch yn fawr, Gretchen. Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus! 😀
That Grace Paley quote cuts right to the heart of things right now… Thank you putting all this together when you’re in the midst of a move – best wishes for a smooth one!
Many thanks, Julé. It’s a bit bonkers here at present but we love the new house. 😊
Am amazed you could put together this post while you’re packing up to move! I love a podcast but it’s all I can do usually to keep up with everything on Radio 4. So many treasures here again … If I commented on all the things I like or want to read you’d have even more to do! Thanks, Paula.
LOL! I think it was more thrown than ‘put together’ – I expect it is riddled with typos! 🤣
I too love Radio 4 – it is worth the license fee on its own in my opinion.
Thank you, Maria. 😊