An end of week recap
“Literature is news that stays news.”
– Ezra Pound
Everything went rather too well last month. I moved with my partner to our new harbour home in Conwy and, aside from the usual stresses associated with changing address, we were settling in nicely. Dewithon tootled along without a major hitch, the sun shone for several days on the run, and we enjoyed a couple of jolly evenings with friends. Then, quelle surprise, last Sunday our lateral flow tests turned positive. As a result, my memory and powers of concentration, which were always more Joey Essex than Stephen Hawking, are now in barely working order, so I hope you will excuse my reduced (and likely error-strewn) offerings this week.
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.
* Daphne du Maurier Reading Week 2022 *
It is almost “that time of year,” says Ali Hope of Heavenali in a post announcing Daphne du Maurier Reading Week (9th-15th May) – a celebration of the “enduringly loved” English novelist, biographer and playwright with whom she shares a birthday (13th May). As in previous years, Ali invites you to join her in reading du Maurier’s “novels or short stories, mystery, chills or romance, historical escapism, or something a little more contemporary (to her time of course)” and then to “share your thoughts and pictures” via blogs and social media (please use the hashtag #DDMreadingweek when posting to Twitter). Rather excitingly, “a cheeky little giveaway” is apparently in the offing. Please head over to Announcing #DDMreadingweek 2022 for more on this and Ali’s aspirations (or should I say hopes?) for this year’s challenge.
* Read and Learn About the Ukraine *
Many of us are struggling to comprehend the dire situation in Eastern Europe but we sometimes find media reports are, at best, rather shouty and over excitable – at worst, horribly graphic and too upsetting to view. Having said this, I should point out that I have enormous respect for journalists who place themselves in dangerous situations to report facts to the outside world, but as a reader, I prefer to absorb the crisis calmly and from a variety of perspectives: historically, politically, culturally and from the viewpoint of ordinary people caught up in events. I was therefore intrigued by Australian book blogger, Brona’s recent post at This Reading Life in which she tentatively suggests “hosting/co-hosting a reading event to help us make sense of what is going on [in the Ukraine] right now.” She has “a number of books about Russia, Putin and the Ukraine” on her shelves (perhaps you do, too?) and wonders if you may like to collaborate in an event of this sort. If so, please go to Stories & Shout Outs #48 and share your thoughts and suggestions with her.
* Lit Crit Blogflash *
For reasons outlined above, I will share only one of my favourite literary posts from the bookish blogosphere on this occasion:
‘Not an elegant, studied gesture but a convulsive act’ [book review] – Eleanor Updegraff of The Monthly Booking finds In the Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing, Elena Ferrante’s new published collection of original essays, “a little breathless” and “uncertain” at times, but equally “wise” and “full of warmth.” This “hymn to the written word,” translated into English by Ann Goldstein, displays the author’s “characteristic care with words” and adopts “a flowing rhythm that [takes] the reader by the hand and lead[s] them deep into the text.” From her early ‘struggles’ to “capture real life and render it true to the reader” to a “fiercely intellectual and feminist reading of Dante,” Ferrante’s four essays offer “insights into her writing practice” and permit us to edge that little bit closer to the “keen intelligence” of a complex and secretive author.
* 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:
Faber & Faber: Cover Design: Klara and the Sun – “Senior Designer Pete Adlington gives a behind-the-scenes insight into the process of designing the cover for Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 2017.”
NPR: 10 books to read about Ukraine – If you want to learn more about Russia’s relationship with Ukraine but aren’t sure where to begin, Rina Torchinsky suggests several titles that may be of interest.
The Conversation: ‘I will not hide’: Helen Garner’s radical gift is the shock of plain-speaking – Helen Garner is the pioneer of fearless self-revelation in Australian literature. Writer Sean O’Beirne examines his own literary fear and fearlessness: should he ‘give’ more, as Garner does?
The Atlantic: Your Feelings Are No Excuse – “Emotions may explain why people overreact, but they don’t justify it,” said Margaret Atwood in her remarks after receiving the sixth annual Hitchens Prize.
BBC News: ‘Stolen’ Charles Darwin notebooks left on library floor in pink gift bag – Rebecca Jones reports: “Two ‘stolen’ notebooks written by Charles Darwin have been mysteriously returned to Cambridge University, 22 years after they were last seen.”
Literary Review: What Is She Reading? – During the pandemic, we became familiar with friends, colleagues and public figures using bookcases as backdrops when they appeared on video calls – but ‘shelf-fashioning’ isn’t as new as we might think. Emma Smith examines three ‘shelfies’ featuring famous women: Lady Anne Clifford, Madame de Pompadour and Marilyn Monroe – and asks what they reveal.
Penguin: Is this the most desirable bookshelf on the internet? – “The Penguin Bookshelf was manufactured by the thousands in the 1950s and then vanished – until one was unearthed and became a viral sensation. Alice Vincent tracks its weird history.”
Gawker: The Disaffected Narrators of Internet Gothic Fiction – “Kate Folk’s Out There is the latest entry in an emerging genre,” says Nicholas Russell.
South China Morning Post: Cambridge student from Hong Kong becomes the youngest ever winner of the National Poetry Competition – A 19-year-old economics student from the University of Cambridge has become the youngest person ever to win the National Poetry Competition.
The Irish Times: Helping the traumatised to speak: The role of the specialist victim interviewer – “Author Gill Perdue had never heard of a specialist victim interviewer. Soon, she wanted to be one,” finds Arlene Harris.
The Smart Set: Elena Ferrante and Feminine Creativity – “An interview with Stiliana Milkova [author of Elena Ferrante as World Literature] about Elena Ferrante, acts of translation, and leaky bodies.”
WKSU: 2022 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winners announced – The Cleveland Foundation has unveiled the winners of its 87th annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, given for work that “confronts racism and explores diversity.”
The Critic: Seductive, scholarly life of the poet-priest – Katherine Rundell’s new biography of John Donne “brings the centuries-dead poet to life,” writes Kate Maltby in her review of Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne.
Evening Standard: James Tait Black Prizes: Shortlist announced for UK’s oldest literary honours – “Among the nominated works are a novel inspired by one of the first, black, female doctors in the United States and a biography of DH Lawrence.”
Aeon: Nil by page – “When a writer stares down a blank page, the whole of literature stares back. Why, then, leave the empty page as it is?” asks Andrew Gallix.
Hyperallergic: Author Sues New York Prisons For Banning Book About the Attica Uprising – “Blood in the Water by Heather Ann Thompson details the dismal conditions that led over 1,200 incarcerated people to rebel and the legacy of their fight for justice.”
The Rumpus: Looking for Trouble: A Conversation with Maud Newton – “Are these stories true? Did my great grandfather really kill someone with a hay hook? Was my other great grandfather really a communist?” Liz Button speaks to Maud Newton about her debut memoir, Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation.
Infobae: Brazilian writer and feminist Lygia Fagundes Telles died at 98 – “In 2005, she won the Camoes Prize, considered the greatest for literature in the Portuguese language, and four times she was awarded the Jabutí, the main prize awarded to Brazilian writers.”
Norsk Litteraturfestival: British focus for the 2022 Norwegian Festival of Literature – Well-known British authors along with “new voices” will be the “core” of The Norwegian Festival of Literature this year.
The New Criterion: Poetry & digital personhood – Carmine Starnino on “artificial intelligence and creativity.”
The Guardian: International Booker prize shortlist delivers ‘awe and exhilaration’ – “The final contenders for the £50,000 prize for translated fiction – five out of six by women – could see Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk win a second time.”
Counter Craft: Conflict Is Only One Way to Think About Stories – Lincoln Michel discusses some “conflicting feelings on conflicts in literature.”
The Public Domain Review: Documenting Drugs The Artful Intoxications of Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz – “In pursuit of Pure Form, the Polish artist known as “Witkacy” would consume peyote, cocaine, and other intoxicants before creating pastel portraits. Juliette Bretan takes a trip through Witkiewicz’s chemical forays, including his 1932 Narcotics, a genre-bending treatise that warns of the hazards of drugs while seductively recollecting their delirious effects.
iNews: These fake George Orwell quotes are everywhere online, my mission to fix them is deeply ironic – “The author of Nineteen Eighty-Four became famous thanks to stories about the power of manipulation, but now his name is falsely used by internet trolls,” says Benedict Cooper.
The Bookseller: Longlist for £10k RSL Ondaatje Prize revealed – An annual prize of £10,000, the RSL Ondaatje Prize is awarded to an outstanding work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry that best evokes the spirit of a place.
Forward: A paragon of erudition and a vital poet, he captured the American gay Jewish experience – The American poet, translator and literary critic Richard Howard died on 31st March at the age of 92.
Guernica: Kate Braverman Is Dead – “The late writer believed that womanhood should confer outlaw status,” says Leah Mensch.
DW: Russian author Ulitskaya warns of ‘terrible’ consequences of war – “The internationally acclaimed writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya speaks about how the fighting in Ukraine will ruin Russia-Ukraine ties for several generations.”
BBC Hampshire: Jane Austen’s Chawton home visited by Camilla after roof restoration – “The Duchess of Cornwall has seen work carried out to restore the roof on the former home of Jane Austen.”
CNN: Texas leads among 26 states with book bans, free speech group says – Nicole Chavez reports: “More than 1,000 books have been banned in 86 school districts in 26 states across the United States, a new PEN America analysis shows.”
The Spectator: The death of the guidebook – “Is it the end of the road for the guidebook?” asks Dea Birkett.
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