An end of week recap
“My education was the liberty I had to read indiscriminately and all the time, with my eyes hanging out.”
– Dylan Thomas
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.
* Week Two of Reading Wales *
Many thanks to everybody who contributed reviews and features during the second week of Dewithon 22. I very much enjoyed reading your entertaining and thought-provoking posts – links to which can be found on the official Wales Readathon 2022 page.
I published the first in a series of brief posts looking at literary and other cultural goings-on from the land of poetry and song. In the spotlight this time was Wales Week Worldwide 2022. >> DEWITHON 22: Llyfrbabble (Bookbabble) #1 >>
Our poem of week two is The Cat and the Sea by R. S. Thomas (1913-2000), a fiery Welsh nationalist poet and Anglican priest who believed in “the true Wales of my imagination”. >> A Poem by R. S. Thomas >>
Should you post any content relating to Dewithon on your blogs (or elsewhere), please be sure to let me know.
* The Return of Zoladdiction *
“Zoladdiction will be back next month,” says Fanda Kutubuku of Fanda Classiclit. Throughout April (in recognition of his birthday on the 2nd), this annual reading event will celebrate the works of French novelist, journalist, playwright and poet, Émile Zola (1840-1902) – best-known practitioner of the literary school of naturalism. With the intention of encouraging more people to engage with his work, participants are urged to “read, post, and talk about” his life, literary output and influences, whether via his vast body of publications or biographic materials, however, if you lack time, a single short story or essay will suffice. To take part, “simply leave a comment, or mention [Fanda] on Twitter, using the hashtag #Zoladdiction2022,” as, you never know, this may “inspire others” to do likewise. Please head over to Zoladdiction 2022: Announcement | #Zoladdiction2022 for all you need to know about the event and to share your Zoladdiction 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:
“Remarkably evocative” – The Instant by Amy Liptrot – While The Instant isn’t “as immediately bracing and reflective” as Amy Liptrot’s debut, The Outrun, it is “another deeply serious” and “brokenly honest” memoir – this time about her time in Berlin, says James Doyle in his review for Bookmunch. She travels from her isolated Orkney home “to find new experiences and the possibility of love,” meeting in the German capital others with “similar reasons for being there.” At times, he feels the book is akin to a Joan Didion-like “magazine article”, though James is keen to stress he means this in “the most complimentary way.” As before, she “turns to nature for connection,” and is “keenly attuned to the interactions of the human and natural worlds.” In conclusion, he declares the book “a study of how we relate to the world around us, but [in this instance alluding to] the internet rather than nature.” It is, however, characteristically “readable.”
The Last Resort by Jan Carson – This linked collection of stories by the Northern Irish writer, Jan Carson, “set in [the] fictional Seacliff caravan park in Ballycastle,” digs deeply into “the psyche” of the “kaleidoscope of colourful characters” who “make up their community.” Claire McAlpine of Word by Word discovers everyone “has their own mini drama and troubling perspective” and the author “finds a common thread [to connect each one of] them.” The Last Resort, she notes, has “so many great lines” – not to mention “humour, angst, regret [and] camaraderie” – that it is nothing short of “brilliant.”
* 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:
Women’s Prize For Fiction: Announcing the Women’s Prize 2022 longlist! – The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022 longlist has been unveiled, comprising “sixteen incredible books, featuring both debut and acclaimed writers.”
The Post and Courier: Review: ‘The Fortune Men’ a heartbreaking portrayal of a miscarriage of justice – Simon Lewis shares his thoughts on The Fortune Men, Nadifa Mohamed’s novel based on the true story of the last man to be executed in Cardiff.
The Home of Agatha Christie: Agatha Christie’s Grand Adventure, 1922: Part 1 – For International Women’s Day, the AC site looked back at a bold, adventurous Agatha who travelled the world for ten months, capturing photos, noting down unique experiences and seeking inspiration.
The New Yorker: The Crisis That Nearly Cost Charles Dickens His Career – “The most beloved writer of his age, he had an unfailing sense of what the public wanted—almost,” says Louis Menand.
Firstpost: Remembering Sarojini Naidu, the gentle poet and the fiery freedom fighter, on her 73rd death anniversary – “Sarojini Naidu used the power of language not only to delight and entertain but also to invigorate and rouse people to action.”
BBC Scotland: Authors underline value of Scottish book festivals – “A string of authors and poets have spoken out about the value they place on Scotland’s book festivals.”
Gawker: Learning to Love Really Long Books – “Accept that you will never truly finish them,” advises Tom Whyman.
Los Angeles Times: These books kill tyrants: Azar Nafisi on Putin and how to ‘Read Dangerously’ – Azar Nafisi, author of Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Times, “argues passionately that reading and writing can be a tool — no, a weapon — in troubled times.”
Guardian Australia: The best Australian books out in March: what we’re reading this month – “At the beginning of each month, Guardian Australia editors pick out the new local books they’ve already read and loved – or can’t wait to get their hands on.”
Esquire: “My Own Little Fiefdom”: Why Some Famous Novelists Are All About Substack – “But the success of their migration depends on whether—or not—the social Internet can function like a writing workshop,” finds Adrienne Westenfeld.
NPR: Ukraine’s libraries are offering bomb shelters, camouflage classes and, yes, books – Bill Chappell reports: “One bundle of homemade camouflage netting was packaged with a note reading, ‘Death to enemies.’ The libraries are also sending Ukrainian books out of the country to refugees who have fled.”
Seren Books Blog: 10 Books for International Women’s Day – To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th March, Seren books “put together a list of ten books by and about women which you should read.”
CBC: Margaret Atwood and the late Graeme Gibson win Nature Canada award for conservation advocacy – Tabassum Siddiqui reports that the veteran Canadian author and her late partner were honoured for their lifelong dedication to birds and nature.
TNR: Good Riddance to Amazon’s Terrible Bookstores – “Amazon is as dominant as ever—and its retail ambitions aren’t going anywhere. But” says Alex Shephard, “booksellers can toast the end of its disastrous foray into their turf.”
Prospect: When is a civil war not a civil war? – In her new book, How Civil Wars Start and How to Stop Them, Barbara F Walter argues that “most contemporary conflicts, like Iraq and Ukraine, are transnational.”
The Irish Times: Why are there so many Irish women crime writers? Why is there so much crime against women? – “If crime fiction acts as a mirror to society, women have a lot of ugly truths to tackle,” says Louise Phillips.
The Guardian: My dear Russians – the Ukrainians are fighting Putin’s army for their freedom, and ours – Russian novelist, Mikhail Shishkin, argues that the “real Russia is a country of literature and music, not the bombardment of children.”
Lambda Literary: What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Screen Adaptation – Deesha Philyaw, James Earl Hardy and Sarah Waters “discuss their reasons for adapting their work[s]” for the screen.
Asian Review of Books: “The Dog of Tithwal” by Saadat Hasan Manto – “Intense is the way to describe The Dog of Tithwal, a new volume of [Saadat Hasan] Manto’s selected stories newly translated by Khalid Hasan and Muhammad Umar Memon,” says Soni Wadhwa.
Smithsonian: How Much Medieval Literature Has Been Lost Over the Centuries? – “A new analysis suggests that just 9 percent of manuscripts produced in Europe during the Middle Ages survive today.”
Guernica: Leaving Lviv – Agata Izabela Brewer on “turning to poetry to parse a long history of loss and exile.”
Evening Standard: 2022 International Booker Prize longlist announced – Olga Tokarczuk and David Grossman are both in the running to win their second International Booker Prize for Fiction.
VICE: The Best Self-Help Books, According to Our Friends (and Happy Reviewers) – Mary Frances Knapp “asked everyone” from therapists to co-workers which self-help books they would recommend.
Middle East Eye: Aliens and the Middle East: Four historic works that mention extra-terrestrials – “For thousands of years the possibility of life outside of Earth has intrigued humans. The writers of the Middle East are no exception,” finds Layla Azmi Goushey.
Nordic Co-operation: Meet the nominees for the 2022 Nordic Council Literature Prize – “Love, power, and exclusion are among the common themes of the fourteen Nordic novels and poetry collections that have been nominated for the 2022 Nordic Council Literature Prize.”
The Critic: Will the real Elena Ferrante please sit down? – Maria Albano feels it “is her words and voice, not her purported identity, that matter to her fans.”
Poetry Foundation: Poetry and Feminism – “Tracing the fight for equality and women’s rights through poetry.”
Book Institute Poland: “Waiting for The Novel”. Translator Ostap Slyvynsky on contemporary Ukrainian literature – “For years, the Ukrainian literary community has been in a state of double expectation: for the Nobel Prize in Literature and for a Great Novel.”
Toronto Star: Bloor West’s Monkey’s Paw bookshop specializes in bizarre subjects – “From Hobbit houses to WW1-era tin can toys, you can find a book on just about anything at Bloor West’s Monkey’s Paw,” says Celeste Percy-Beauregard.
The Bulwark: Ayn Rand in Our Day – Cathy Young shares her thoughts on the mixed literary, philosophical and political legacy of the author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, forty years after her death.
The Washington Post: Why ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ is worth reading today – “T.E. Lawrence’s memoir of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire — the basis for ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ — offers a sweeping look at war and its consequences,” writes Michael Dirda in his review of Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
Bomb: The Power of the Utopian Imagination: Allegra Hyde Interviewed by Matt Bell – Eleutheria is an “evocative work of environmental fiction about people trying to find an ethical way to live in our deeply flawed culture.”
Ploughshares: Women’s Rage – Miyako Pleines discovers Claire-Louise Bennett’s new novel, Checkout 19, “stirs up all the women in literature who have been sealing their anger away, letting it churn undisturbed at the centre of themselves.”
The Merwin Conservancy: “For An Undersea Library,” by W.S. Merwin – A list of five books and five poems to add to the libraries of nuclear submarines, recommended by the American poet, W.S. Merwin.
Harper Collins India: Transcending Borders and Binaries: Translating Shahidul Zahir – “Critically acclaimed in Bangladesh, late author Shahidul Zahir’s oeuvre imbues a polyphony of voices to register the syncretic yet conflicted history of the nation. His legacy is now inscribed in rich translations by V. Ramaswamy and Shahroza Nahrin, who have collated two of his novellas in Life and Political Reality.”
Paste: Fantasy King Brandon Sanderson Just Raised $15 Million on Kickstarter in a Single Day – Jim Vorel reveals that “Sanderson’s Kickstarter project has amassed more than $21 million, officially giving him the title of the highest earning internet crowdfunding project of all time.”
Nation Cymru: Three Welsh publishers nominated for prestigious industry awards – “Three Welsh publishers have been short-listed for the annual British Books Awards Small Press of the Year Award.”
Boise State Public Radio News: Idaho librarians could face jail time for lending “harmful” books – James Dawson reports: “House lawmakers could soon consider whether prosecutors could criminally charge librarians for allowing minors to check out sexually explicit materials.”
The Herald: JK Rowling’s warning over Scotland’s gender bill – “JK Rowling has spoken out against the Gender Recognition Reform Bill in Scotland saying it ‘will harm the most vulnerable women in society’.”
Letters From Suzanne: An Epic Lunch with the Poet Laureate: Dr John Cooper Clarke – Suzanne Moore “had a fabulous lunch at Noble Rot with poet John Cooper Clarke. That went on long into the night…”
Publishers Weekly: Ukraine Update: More Fairs Bar Russia – Callisto Media with an update from Ukraine: The Conference of International Book Fair Directors has cut ties with Russia and Ukrainian authors describe how their world has been turned upside down.
The Texas Tribune: Texas students push back against book bans for censoring LGBTQ, racial justice issues – “Students are forming banned-book clubs and distribution drives to contest restrictions that focus mostly on LGBTQ and racial themes.”
Marketing Brew: How BookTok changed Book of the Month’s influencer marketing strategy – “The TikTok community has had a major impact on the subscriptions service,” finds Phoebe Bain.
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