An end of week recap
“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.”
– William Shakespeare (in recognition of his 458th birthday today)
Regrettably, next Saturday will be wind-upless because I am planning to take a short break from my screen. My partner and I are skedaddling off for a cheeky week on the Spanish island of Lanzarote, which was for many years home to the Portuguese writer and recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature, José Saramago (I am always compelled to seek out some sort of literary connection to my peregrinations, however tenuous), so I am hoping to find time to visit his house in Tías – apparently it is open to the public. This will be my first visit to the Canaries, but I am reliably informed the weather will be warm and windy. I will catch up with everyone when I return. Feliz lectura!
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.
* 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:
Review of “How Iceland Changed the World: The Big History of a Small Island” by Egill Bjarnason – Egill Bjarnason’s “delightfully quirky book” about Iceland is a chronicle of its “idiosyncratic people, written by an Icelandic native whose national pride oozes off every page,” says Jim in his enthusiastic critique of How Iceland Changed the World: The Big History of a Small Island for the Rhapsody in Books Weblog. Though occasionally “self-deprecating,” Bjarnason “clearly loves his country” and his narrative is “spritely, clever, and wry.” Little is omitted from this historical tour of a “remote and forbidding” place in the North Atlantic, which has nevertheless always been “ahead of the rest of the world in granting women political rights.” Indeed, Jim thoroughly endorses a work he describes as a “short but diverting history.”
Woman Running in the Mountains – Yuko Tsushima (tr. Geraldine Harcourt) – Over at Radhika’s Reading Retreat, Radhika Pandit has been relishing Woman Running in the Mountains, which she describes in her eloquent review as “a stunning, immersive novel of single motherhood, loneliness and alienation.” Written by Yūko Tsushima (aka Satoko Tsushima), the daughter of celebrated Japanese author Osamu Dazai, this story in which “haunting landscapes of the natural world offer pockets of relief from the harsh reality of a brutal family life,” focuses on 21-year-old Takiko and the “daily challenges” she faces as the mother of “an illegitimate child.” Her “family life is horrendous” but she finds a way to “break away from her parents” and start “anew with her baby.” Despite its depictions of “crippling poverty” and the young woman’s “toxic family environment,” it is, says Radhika, “a book bursting with stunning visions that evoke sensations of joy and wonder” and its “haunting, dreamlike imagery” make it “a pleasure to read.”
* 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:
Daily Maverick: ‘Thrown Among The Bones: My Life In Fiction’ is a thought-provoking autobiography by South African novelist Patricia Schonstein – “In this brutally brave first-person account, Schonstein unveils the often heartbreaking experiences that defined her as an artist,” says Carmen Clegg of Schonstein’s autobiography, Thrown Among The Bones: My Life In Fiction.
Nation Cymru: Could Dublin’s hugely successful literary promotion scheme be replicated in Wales. – “Visitors to Dublin in the month of April will perhaps be surprised to see a great deal of publicity being given to” Nora: A Love Story of Nora and James Joyce by Nuala O’Connor. It is the official title of this year’s One Dublin One Book campaign. Could this act as a template for Wales?
Los Angeles Times: Lit City: The Everything Guide to Literary Los Angeles – A guide to the literary geography of Los Angeles: A comprehensive bookstore map, writers’ meetups, place histories, an author survey, essays and more.
History Today: Mind the Authority Gap – “History books by men are bought in far greater quantities than those by women. Why?” asks Suzannah Lipscomb.
The Korea Times: [INTERVIEW] New generation of Korean literary translators brings more diverse voices to English market – “Translators’ behind-the-scenes roles deserve wider recognition,” insists Park Han-sol.
Ploughshares: “Grief with animals isn’t the same, and we can learn something from that”: An Interview with Annie Hartnett – By combining the voices of the dead with the experiences of the living, Annie Hartnett builds a sense of community. The characters in Unlikely Animals are not navigating hardships in isolation but with the support of family and friends, animals and the dead.
CrimeReads: Science Fiction for Crime Lovers: A Beginner’s Tour – “Or,” says Adam Oyebanji, “a look at five great scifi novels that also happen to be pitch-black noirs.”
Arts Hub: What makes a perfect book review? – “What are the rules of reviewing books? Ronan McDonald looks at the thorny cultural landscape of the contemporary criticism.”
Seren Books Blog: Books to celebrate Earth Day 2022 – Seren’s “celebrating Earth Day 2022 with a list of books that addresses the natural world, the climate emergency and nature in all its glory.”
Spine: Pete Garceau Designs a Psychedelic Cover for Pathological – Pete Garceau, the Art Director for PublicAffairs books, “talks us through his process for creating the cover for Sarah Fay’s new book Pathological.”
BBC London: The book that sank on the Titanic and burned in the Blitz – Tim Stokes on “one of the most lavishly decorated books the world has seen,” which was “despatched from London to New York in April 1912. The jewel-encrusted edition of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám was taken aboard the RMS Titanic and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, exactly 110 years ago.”
Big Think: 6 essential books on existentialist philosophy – “Wander into the deep recesses of the mind and never return the same with these existentialist books.”
Penguin: Next Book Energy: the secret science behind your next read – “What makes a book more alluring than any other book in the entire world? It’s #NextBookEnergy – and without it, it may never be your next read at all,” warns Stephen Carlick.
Oprah Daily: Alice Walker’s Journals Have Been Collected in Gathering Blossoms Under Fire – “Salamishah Tillet, author of In Search of The Color Purple, considers the iconic writer’s creative journey”: Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker, 1965–2000.
The Rumpus: What to Read When You Want to Bend Time – Kristin Keane, author of An Encyclopedia of Bending Time, suggest works that “interrogate time in text through myriad forms, playing with and revealing its machinations all through inventive means”.
LARB: “The Sights and Sounds of Life”: On Matthew Sturgis’s Biography of Oscar Wilde – Kaya Genç finds “Oscar Wilde: A Life displays an almost Tolstoyan attention to detail.”
Melville House: “Old Books Discussed”—ancient article animates attention – Mike Lindgren examines “Old Books Discussed”, an article from an 1890 issue of the Brooklyn Citizen.
The Conversation: ‘Weaponised irony’: after fictionalising Elizabeth Macarthur’s life, Kate Grenville edits her letters – The contents of newly released Elizabeth Macarthur’s Letters were the inspiration behind Kate Grenville’s award-winning novel A Room Made of Leaves – “a purported long-lost secret memoir” of the Anglo-Australian pastoralist and merchant.
Al-Fanar Media: ‘Blind Sinbad’: Bothayna Al-Essa Explores a Changing Kuwait, from War to Pandemic – The Kuwaiti novelist Bothayna Al-Essa’s Blind Sinbad: Atlas of the Sea and War traverses 30 years of change in Kuwait, comparing the faces of war and pandemic.
Gawker: Why Are So Many Novels About “Generations of Women”? – “There really are quite a lot of them,” says Alexandra Tanner.
Independent Book Review: How Can I Become a More Efficient Reader? – “‘How Can I Become an Efficient Reader’ by Usman Raza is a resource for people who want to read more and want to enjoy it along the way. Tips include finding your own personal strategies, forms, and more.”
Orion: Play and Devotion with Oliver Sacks – Lawrence Weschler on a “visit to the Natural History Museum with the poet laureate of medicine.”
Pop Matters: The Missing Chapter in Terry Eagleton’s Critical Revolutionaries – “Terry Eagleton’s richly informed writing is enhanced by perspicacity, wit, and discrimination. Yet his focus on five writers in Critical Revolutionaries is missing something,” says Sean Sheehan.
BBC: The Big Jubilee Read – 2012-2022 – “Throughout this year of Platinum Jubilee celebrations, the BBC and The Reading Agency are celebrating 70 great books from across the Commonwealth. Read on to discover more about The Big Jubilee Read selections drawn from 2012 to 2022.”
Prospect: Why novelists love to fictionalise French philosophers – “Jacques Lacan is one of many theorists to have appeared in fiction over the years,” writes Peter Salmon in his piece about Susan Finlay’s new novel, The Jacques Lacan Foundation.
World Literature Today: New African Novels: A Conversation with Eloghosa Osunde and Okwiri Oduor – An interview with two debut novelists, Ologhosa Osunde, author of Vagabonds!, and Okwiri Oduor, author of Things They Lost.
Asymptote: An Interview with Zenia Tompkins – “From my perspective, the only thing that has really changed since the Russian invasion is that translators of Ukrainian literature can no longer afford to be passive ambassadors of Ukrainian culture and Ukrainian authors.”
The Nation: The New York Times Book Review at a Crossroads – “What does the future hold for one of United States’ oldest literary institutions?” asks Kyle Paoletta.
New Frame: Book Review | CA Davids’ mission against forgetting – “The writer’s second novel [How to Be a Revolutionary] takes on memory, drawing together disparate threads across continents and epochs to construct a story with humanity at its heart.”
The Informant: Valerio Evangelisti, San Francisco lead author and great activist, has passed away – Valerio Evangelisti, one of the best known contemporary Italian writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror, has died in Bologna, aged 69.
Hungarian Literature Online: Christopher Whyte: Translating from Hungarian into Gaelic – “Poetry is already in a foreign language, even when written in the one we use every day – the latest column from poet, novelist, and translator Christopher Whyte.”
The Walrus: Early Warning Signals: How Poetry Helps Us Understand Our Impact on Ecology – “The environmental crisis is, in part, a crisis of the imagination,” says Madhur Anand. “Poems can create a new form of knowing.”
The Oxonian Review: An Interview with Parul Sehgal – Zachary Fine interviews the American literary critic for the third installment of New Critics.
Moomin: The Sound of Moomins – On Turning the Moomin Magic into Music – “What does Moominvalley sound like? How do you interpret a universe already complete, like Tove Jansson’s Moomin stories, into music?”
JSTOR Daily: Lesya Ukrainka: Ukraine’s Beloved Writer and Activist – “‘Lesya Ukrainka’ was a carefully considered pseudonym for a writer who left behind a legacy of poems, plays, essays and activism for the Ukrainian language.”
The Province: Book review: Memories of a ’70s teen’s British life one of strange, twisty tales, enticing cultural analysis – Brett Josef Grubisic finds that in Queasy, “Victoria-based Madeline Sonik recalls her younger self — chain-smoking, bitter and heart-achingly naive — with a stylish mixture of tenderness and astonishment.”
WBUR: The WBUR Read-In: Bearing witness – In this first installment of the Read-In series, WBUR fellow Lauren Williams recommends three books to read on the theme of bearing witness.
BBC US & Canada: Rare tiny Brontë book could set $1.25m sale record – “A tiny book created by Charlotte Brontë worth $1.25m (£957,393) is among the items for sale at what is being billed the ‘world’s finest antiquarian book fair’.”
It’s Nice That: Anna Hoyle wants you to judge her fake books by their comical covers – “Starting her humorous series in 2015, the Melbourne-based creative now has a whole library’s worth of weird and wacky books.”
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.