An end of week recap
“We were given a country to keep, a piece of land as proof that we insisted on living.”
– Gerallt Lloyd Owen (‘Etifeddiaeth’)
Due to disorder and general befuddlement in our new home, this wind up arrives a day early. However, it is, as ever, 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.
* Week One of Reading Wales *
Reading Wales commenced on 1st March (St David’s Day) with Karen of BookerTalk the first book blogger to post a feature spotlighting the event. Battle of the Celts is an amusing piece in which Cathy Brown’s Begorrathon is pitted against Dewithon in a mock battle between Ireland and Wales – two Celtic nations competing for attention “in the same calendar month.” Karen wonders “who will triumph?” The answer is undoubtedly both of us, should we succeed in encouraging others to immerse themselves in the literature of these two splendiferous nations.
Book Jotter kicked off D22 with Rhyfel (War), a poem both poignant and apposite considering recent developments in Ukraine. It was penned by the Welsh-language First World War poet, Hedd Wyn, shortly before his death in 1917. >> A Poem by Hedd Wyn >>
I was cheered to spot the annual Google Doodle in recognition of our saint’s day. Inspired by “symbols of Welsh heritage and its ancient cultural legacy,” this year’s image depicts a rather fetching red dragon from the legend of Dinas Emrys, the story of a Celtic king who started a battle between two fearsome dragons – one white and one red. The red dragon, as I’m sure you have guessed, was victorious, and its image is now emblazoned on the national flag of Wales (Y Ddraig Goch).
You will find a dedicated page displaying your Dewithon-related posts. Here I share your reviews, features, interviews etc. with the book blogging community. >> Reading Wales 2022 >>
Should you post any content relating to Dewithon on your blogs (or elsewhere), please be sure to let me know.
* Lit Crit Blogflash *
Time has been tight this week to say the least, so on this occasion, I will share only one of my favourite literary posts from the bookish blogosphere:
A Deep Dive Into the Weird World of Flat Earth – “Conspiracy theories help us feel safe by providing an explanation for things that feel incomprehensible,” says What’s Nonfiction?’s Rennie Sweeney in her review of Off the Edge, Kelly Weill’s “deep dive into […] one of the strangest [of them all]: the idea that the Earth is flat.” The book’s author traces the more recent resurgence in this misguided belief “to Donald Trump’s ‘conspiracy-laden presidential campaign that many dismissed as a joke,’” which is one of the reasons why Rennie feels the topic is “so worth reading about and better understanding.” The writing, she says, is “completely engaging,” though her interest flagged a little in the “historical sections.” It is, however, filled with “humor and a hearty dose of compassion for the people involved” and “most importantly, Weill shows that [via deprogramming] even the most hard-held and passionately defended beliefs can be changed.”
* 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:
Harper’s BAZAAR: Jane Goodall and Margaret Atwood Still Have Hope for the Planet – “The writer and conservationist on the urgent fight for climate justice, their legacies as feminist trailblazers, and finding optimism in disheartening times.”
BBC Culture: Philip K Dick: the writer who witnessed the future – “Forty years since the death of the sci-fi author – whose stories have inspired films like Blade Runner and Minority Report – Adam Scovell explores how prophetic his work has been.”
IWA: Poetry’s Place in the Face of the Climate Crisis – “Hywel Griffiths explores how Wales’ creativity can help us face the climate crisis.”
The New York Times: A Humorous Ukrainian Writer, With Nothing to Laugh About – Alex Marshall finds “Andrey Kurkov wrote about fighting between Russia and Ukraine long before [the] invasion. But now, more than ever, he wants to explain it to the world.”
Australian Book Review: Till ‘real voices’ wake us, and we drown – Mindy Gill unpicks the impact of identity on Australian literary review culture.
Humanities: The Writers Who Translated Goethe into English Became Some of the Best Writers in English – Gregory Maertz finds “outsiders and several important women of letters were drawn to the cult of Goethe.”
European Union Prize for Literature: European Union Prize for Literature announces the 2022 nominees – The books nominated for EUPL 2022 have been revealed.
Crime Cymru: Gwobr Nofel Gyntaf Crime Cymru First Novel Prize: a new crime writing prize for Wales – See the longlisted writers and the shortlist.
The Quietus: Radical Speculation: Science Fiction As Revolution – “Joe Banks speaks to Iain McIntyre, co-editor of illustrated essay collection Dangerous Visions And New Worlds – Radical Science Fiction, 1950-1985.”
Book Marks: The Best Reviewed Books of the Week – BM selects its favourite book reviews, “featuring new titles by Julie Otsuka, Roddy Doyle, Sarah Weinman” and others.
Vanity Fair: Sarah Polley on Writing for the Screen vs. Writing for the Page – “In her forthcoming essay collection, Run Towards the Danger, Polley viscerally recounts the exploitation of child actors, sexual assault, high-risk pregnancy and premature birth, grief, and a three-year recovery from a concussion,” writes Lauren LeBlanc.
SupChina: Danmei, a genre of Chinese erotic fiction, goes global – “Centered around romantic and sexual relationships between men, “danmei” is wildly popular in China,” says Jin Zhao. “It’s been a hit abroad, too, with three books recently receiving an authorized English translation [including Heaven Official’s Blessing by Mò Xiāng Tóng Xiù] — and all three making it to the New York Times’s bestsellers list.”
Publishers Weekly: Russia’s War of Words with Ukraine – Ed Nawotka reports: “As many publishing institutions in Europe condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian publishers explain how Russia has been conducting a proxy war for a generation by attempting to undermine the success of the country’s national publishing industry.”
World Literature Today: Museum of Miniature Books: Baku, Azerbaijan – J. R. Patterson on the Museum of Miniature Books – a “spectacle of Lilliputian writing” in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The Washington Post: Johns Hopkins curators examine musical mystery linked to Edgar Allan Poe – Titled Mr. Po, Mary Carole McCauley explains why sheet music suspected of being a forgery is baffling experts.
Them: Find a Home in These Unsung Classics of Black Queer Literature – For scholar Emerald Faith, these texts are more than gripping reads; they’re home.”
The Untranslated: Interview with Max Lawton – “On reading Russian literature, translating Sorokin, books in need of translation and retranslation, learning languages, and ambitious projects.”
Auckland Scoop: Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Judges Announce ‘Surprisingly Diverse’ Shortlist – The 16 finalists in the 2022 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards have been announced, and five of them are first-time authors.
The Baffler: Great Sinners – Wen Stephenson: “Dostoevsky, my father, and me.”
BBC News: Ulysses: £1 charity shop book set to fetch £800 at auction – “A rare book which was going to be sold for £1 at a charity shop is expected to fetch £800 at auction.”
Wales Arts Review: Four Dervishes by Hammad Rind – Zoe Kramer reviews Four Dervishes by the Welsh-Pakistani writer Hammad Rind, which he describes as “a surreal and fantastical novel written in reverence to the act of storytelling itself.”
DW: Wladimir Kaminer: ‘Putin lives in the past’ – “The Berlin-based Russian author discusses Putin’s backward approach and warns that the Russian leader is aiming for world domination.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer: Black Opals: How a rare Black Philly literary journal is finding new life – “Black Opals, published four times between 1927 and 1928, is finding new readers after nearly 100 years in obscurity,” says Cassie Owens of this Black literary journal published at the height of the Harlem Renaissance.
The Conversation: Afghanistan’s libraries go into blackout: ‘It is painful to see the distance between people and books grow’ – Zamir Saar writes: “My friend, with whom I co-founded a library in Mazar-i-Sharif, tells me books are like lights. With no one visiting the library and opening books, ‘the lights are off.’”
Historia: The bloody history of pearls – “Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter, Lizzie Pook’s debut novel, takes us on a journey to 19th-century Western Australia. She tells Historia about her immersive research process and what drew her to writing about the dangerous pearl diving industry.”
Literary Hub: “When? Where? How?” Margaret Atwood Considers the Burning Questions of the Writing Life – Margaret Atwood writes: “Failed again to find recipe box. Used this as an excuse for not working on overdue bird piece.”
WSJ: Marlon James Has No Idea What Comes Next – “The Booker Prize–winning author, whose latest novel is Moon Witch, Spider King, shares his ever-changing process, his passion for African mythology and a collection of his favourite things.”
The Nation: Francesco Pacifico Confronts Fiction’s Oldest Questions – “His new novel, The Women I Love, asks if men can accurately portray and represent the experiences of women.”
Tor.com: A Readers’ Guide to the Finnish Weird in Translation – Jonathan Thornton with a handy guide to Finnish Weird (or suomikumma), “a new strain of speculative fiction.”
The National: Eight of the best libraries in the Middle East and North Africa – from Baghdad to Dubai – “From one of the world’s oldest to the most modern, [The National takes] a look at the finest book havens in the region.”
Los Angeles Magazine: Inside Author Susan Orlean’s Midcentury Modern Home – “She has written about everything from taxidermy to orchid thieves. But it’s her side hustle renovating houses that’s having a big impact on L.A. architecture.”
USA Today: Want to understand what led to Russia invading Ukraine? Read these 8 books – “In times of great confusion and despair, books are always there to light the way and help us better understand,” says Barbara VanDenburgh.
The Irish Times: Gunnar Staalesen on the mystery of novels and nature – “Nature is a key character in crime writing, from Ross Macdonald to Ian Rankin and Jane Harper.”
SLJ: Poll Shows Majority Oppose Banning Books About History, Race – “A recent CBS News/YouGov poll showed Americans do not support removing books about race from schools and believe that students should be taught the history of race and racism in the United States.”
Gawker: The ‘Thursday Murder Club’ Books Are Criminally Bad – “Ostensibly comic capers billed as ‘cozy crime,’” in the opinion of James Greig, Richard Osman’s books “flatter the worst sort of person.”
UnHerd: How sensitivity readers corrupt literature – Writing about her Orwell Prize-winning book, Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me, Kate Clanchy accuses sensitivity readers of sullying her memoir “to suit their agenda.”
Penguin: How Agatha Christie turns readers into bestselling novelists – “When authors talk about formative childhood books, few names sprout up more than Agatha Christie’s. [Stephen Carlick] asked Lisa Jewell, John Boyne, and a host of others: What is it about her mysteries that inspire readers to become writers?”
BBC News: Journalist wins ‘kleptocrat’ book High Court libel case – Dominic Casciani reports: “A libel claim brought by a post-Soviet mining giant against [Kleptopia] a journalist’s book about dirty money and corruption has been dismissed by a High Court.”
Deadline: Dr. Seuss Unseen Sketches Will Inspire New Book Line After Editing By Inclusive Writers And Artists – “Dr. Seuss, the children’s book author who was a major supplier of content for television and film […] will be making a comeback of sorts in a new line of books,” finds Bruce Haring.
The Asian Age: Book Review | Feline mystique! How one cat can change your world – Cat People is “a collection of essays and fictions by cat lovers.”
The Guardian: ‘A group of drinkers with a writing problem’: readers’ favourite literary haunts – “From the pubs of Dublin to rural Provence, this week’s tipsters sought out the locations behind the books that inspired them.”
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