An end of week recap
“Oh!” said Moominmamma with a start, “I believe those were mice disappearing into the cellar. Sniff, run down with a little milk for them.” Then she caught sight of the suitcase which stood by the steps. “Luggage too,” thought Moominmamma. “Dear me — then they’ve come to stay.” And she went off to look for Moominpappa to ask him to put up two more beds — very, very small ones.”
– Tove Jansson (Finn Family Moomintroll)
Firstly, a massive thank you for all your kind comments and good wishes regarding the Covid-19 outbreak in our household. We are recovering well despite feeling rather listless but have fared considerably better than many others – no doubt, in part, because we are both fully vaccinated.
I would also like to say Happy Easter to those celebrating the festival – whether you observe it in the Christian sense or simply enjoy eating chocolate eggs (possibly both). And to my Jewish friends and family: Chag Pesach Sameach (Happy Passover).
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.
* Understanding Ukraine *
You may recall from last week’s wind up that Brona of This Reading Life was keen to organize a Ukrainian reading event “to help us make sense of what is going on” in Europe’s second largest country. She has since formulated a plan and now intends to host the I Stand For Peace Reading & Blogging Event from May to September, during which she hopes to scrutinize the “the complicated and long history between Russia and Ukraine” by reading some of the many pertinent titles already on her shelves. She invites others to join her in attempting to understand “the Ukrainian people better” and also perhaps “work out why Putin is doing what he is doing.” On 1st May, she will “publish a MASTER POST to keep track of what [she has] read,” in addition to titles reviewed by others. If you would like to participate, please head over to Brona’s I Stand For Peace Reading Event May – Sept 2022 post for further details.
* 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:
Bird Shadows by Jennie Morrow – “Nova Scotian author,” Jennie Morrow’s story about “two sisters” (Helen and Rube) – one of whom remains in her native village, marries young and has two children, while the other moves away, returning only after a divorce – delights Naomi MacKinnon of Consumed by Ink, partly because it takes place “close to [her] hometown,” but also because she enjoys its characters, humour and themes. The siblings, who “have grown up to have completely different lives” are at “the heart of this book,” she says. They “care deeply for–and rely on–each other,” while occasionally “chaf[ing] over their differences,” but the eccentric Rube “is there” for her sister when she is “suffering” in an unhappy marriage. It is clear from this review that Naomi greatly enjoyed Bird Shadows.
Margaret Atwood Answers “Burning Questions” – “The twenty-first century has been a crazy ride so far,” writes Linda of Pages and Papers in her review of Margaret Atwood’s “third collection of essays and occasional pieces, spanning the years 2004 to 2021.” Burning Questions “proves yet again” that this gifted writer “is one of the most brilliant minds of our times,” and her “wit and intelligence run through the book, making it a thought-provoking read.” Atwood shares here “her thoughts on the most pressing issues of our times” – environmentalism in particular featuring prominently. “All in all,” Linda concludes, she would “highly recommend” this fascinating selection “to all who are intrigued by Atwood’s fiction and her take on the pressing issues of our times!”
* 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:
Brisbane Times: Mirandi Riwoe inverts the world to examine the lives of outsiders – The stories in Mirandi Riwoe’s short fiction collection, The Burnished Sun, focus on gaps, loss and divided loyalties among the marginalised.
The Hindu: The reality effect: The pandemic novel – “As the pandemic upends the world as we knew it, how are novelists incorporating this cataclysm into their work?” asks Jaideep Unudurti.
Historia: Honouring Adele, Egon Schiele’s muse – “When Sophie Haydock was researching her debut novel, The Flames, she was surprised to discover the burial place of one of the subjects of her book, unmarked and unremembered. This is the story of how she became determined to make sure Adele Harms’s life, and name, would be recognised and honoured.”
The Conversation: Libraries around the world are helping safeguard Ukrainian books and culture – “Libraries are sharing knowledge so that when the war is over, Ukraine can see its cultural treasures rescued and restored.”
Open Book: The Writers’ Trust Releases 2022 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing Shortlist – Last week, the Writers’ Trust of Canada announced the 2022 shortlist for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing.
Aeon: Nature does not care – Richard Smyth feels that “too many nature writers descend into poetic self-absorption instead of the sharp-eyed realism the natural world deserves.”
BBC News: Douglas Stuart: Booker Prize-winning author ‘feels like an impostor’ – “Bullying, bigotry and benefits. That is how author Douglas Stuart describes his challenging childhood” to Rebecca Jones.
The Irish Times: A library of neglected gems: books that deserve to be better read – Roy Foster, Emilie Pine, Lucy Caldwell, Kit de Waal and 11 other writers on books that deserve better.
Radio Free Europe: In Russia’s War On Ukraine, Historians Find Themselves On The Front Lines, Figuratively And Literally – “One of the books specifically mentioned in [Ukraine’s] military-intelligence report on the confiscation of books [by Russian occupying troops] was a 2019 volume called The Case Of Vasyl Stus, about a Ukrainian dissident poet who was persecuted under the Soviet government and whose case files were recently declassified.”
Book Marks: Jeff VanderMeer on Ursula K. Le Guin, Tove Jansson, and Ottessa Moshfegh – Rapid-fire book recommendations from Jeff VanderMeer, author of the speculative thriller, Hummingbird Salamander.
Quartz: How Swahili became Africa’s most spoken language – “Once just an obscure island dialect of an African Bantu tongue, Swahili has evolved into Africa’s most internationally recognized language,” says John M. Mugane.
Slate: What Kind of Bookstore Browser Are You? – According to Jeff Deutsch, “booksellers have seen it all.”
The Nation: Ari Brostoff’s Truth Is Out There – “The author’s debut collection, Missing Time, is an eclectic mix of left-wing cultural criticism and personal essays on topics like The X-Files.”
CuLTureFLY: Rory Power’s top five family-based fantasy books – “The thing is, I think Tolstoy almost had it right. Unhappy families are unique, yes, yes, but he forgot to add that they are the most fun to read about,” says Rory Power.
CBR: These Literary Classics Prove That Isekai Isn’t Only a Japanese Thing – “Tales of jumping between worlds may be associated with anime and Japanese light novels today, but these books shine a light on the trope’s origins.”
The Guardian: ‘It takes your hand off the panic button’: TS Eliot’s The Waste Land 100 years on – “TS Eliot’s modernist masterpiece has baffled and moved readers for a century. Now the poem has inspired a whole festival. Fans including Jeanette Winterson pin down its elusive, allusive power.”
The Atlantic: Nine Books That Came to Fame Slowly – “Translation allowed these works to become popular all over again in English.”
Melville House: Returning an ebook after reading: is Amazon’s return policy damaging to authors and publishers? – “Is it ok to read a book in its entirety and then return it to get your money back?” asks Nikki Griffiths.
The Sydney Morning Herald: True blue detective: Poirot meets bush noir as COVID rewrites the plot – As the ground keeps shifting beneath our feet, Benjamin Stevenson finds that Agatha Christie-style thrillers are back in vogue.
BBC Culture: The 14 best books of the year so far 2022 – “Thrillers, essays and family sagas are among the BBC Culture picks, write Rebecca Laurence and Lindsay Baker.”
The New Indian Express: Trouble in the translation trail – “Lack of international awareness of what the Indian literary market offers and the inability of publishers to access these spaces and opportunities for international translation causes the trouble,” writes Sahana Iyer.
Gawker: Künstlermania – “The hottest book trend in 2022 is this 200-year-old German word.” The word, reveals Erin Somers, is Künstlerroman, a sub-category of Bildungsroman meaning ‘artist’s novel’.
Ecotone: Unreliable Narrators – A mother and her daughter look closely at their home place, recording what true things they can about the Haw River, frogs, protest and pollution in the age of climate crisis.
MERIP: Not Lost in Translation—An Interview with Jordanian Author and Activist Hisham Bustani – Curtis Ryan interviews the award-winning Jordanian writer Hisham Bustani about his innovative literary works in multiple genres, the art of translation, government censorship and his political activism.
PBS: Ukrainian novelist Andrey Kurkov on preserving his country’s culture during war – “Andrey Kurkov is one of Ukraine’s best-known novelists, and his new book, Grey Bees addresses his country’s past struggles with Russia.” Jeffrey Brown talks to Kurkov for the PBS arts and culture series, CANVAS.
Morocco World News: Moroccan Novelist Zineb Mekouar Nominated for the Goncourt Prize – “Zineb Mekouar’s novel addresses women’s emancipation and freedom in Morocco.”
Slate: The Impatience of Job – “The story is perfect for our harrowing times. But we’ve been reading it all wrong,” says Abraham Riesman of “a religious fable that confounded scholars for millennia.”
Border Telegraph: Four books chosen for this year’s Walter Scott Prize shortlist – The judges of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction have announced the shortlist of books going forward for the £25,000 award.
Vanity Fair: Frank O’Hara’s Last Night – Kyle Schnitzer writes: “People would be rude and say, ‘You were the one that killed the poet Frank O’Hara,’ Ken Ruzicka says. It wasn’t like I was drinking or speeding or doing anything illegal. All of a sudden there’s a tragedy.”
iNews: Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer, review: A bracing debut with a verve for life – Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies “is narrated by its protagonist’s cancer as it spreads through her body. It is a contemplative reflection on motherhood, illness and suffering.”
Prospect: CLR James: The black bohemian – “CLR James’s writings on empire and cricket were marked by moral clarity and mischievous provocation,” writes Colin Grant.
The Hans India: Writing must never be extraneously motivated: Geetanjali Shree – “When you ask if Tomb of Sand being shortlisted for the International Booker Prize, “means that no matter what the language is, individuals across the world are ‘connected’ by common emotions and metaphors, author Geetanjali Shree asserts, ‘That I knew before the Booker shortlist!’”
BBC News: Henry Patterson: The Eagle has Landed author dies aged 92 – “Henry Patterson [aka Jack Higgins], the best-selling author of The Eagle has Landed, has died aged 92, his publisher has said.”
Foreign Policy: The Punk-Prophet Philosophy of Michel Houellebecq – Justin E. H. Smith argues that the “success of France’s most famous novelist has less to do with art and knowledge than anxiety and rock ’n’ roll.”
The Guardian: Shelf-promotion: the art of furnishing rooms with books you haven’t read – “Ashley Tisdale admitted she’d bought all her books for a photoshoot – and as Adele and Gwyneth Paltrow will attest, her hankering for a brainy backdrop is anything but novel.”
The Mary Sue: Proto-Feminist Classic ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ Getting a Horror Adaptation – A horror adaption of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, is in the pipeline.
The Times: JK Rowling joins ladies who lunch and laugh off trans fury – “The author and other women targeted in the debate over gender have launched a campaign, James Beal writes.”
Colossal: 1,400 Pages of Rembrandt’s Hand Drawings Fill a Wearable Book Bracelet – The Amsterdam-based duo, Lyske Gais and Lia Duinker have created a wearable catalogue “that binds 1,400 pages into a thick book.”
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