An end of week recap
“Writing – the act of one person giving a piece of their soul to another.”
– J. Spredemann
Having recently returned from a lazy week in Lanzarote, my link truffling efforts were limited to a mere two days, resulting in a slightly shorter wind up than usual. Nevertheless, I have a few bookish morsels for your delectation and will make up for the paucity of pleasures this week with a few tasty treats in my next post.
As ever, I summarize 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.
PAUSE FOR A POD >>
* Lie Back and Listen *
Here I recommend engaging podcasts and other digital recordings I have come across during the week. Hopefully, you too will enjoy them.
In Episode 4, Series 6 of Alternative Stories and Fake Realities, a podcast designed to promote new and original audio drama, poetry and writing from across the English-speaking world, Chris Gregory interviews the writer and senior lecturer at Staffordshire University, Dr Philippa Holloway, about her new novel The Half-life of Snails (out now from Parthian).
In a special broadcast from Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker in Cheshire (England), we are treated to excerpts from the book as well as much fascinating discussion on the academic’s research trip to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
Described by Alex Lockwood, author of the Chernobyl Privileges, as “a novel that shimmers with compassion” and “crosses borders of both nations and emotions,” Holloway’s debut follows the narratives of Helen and Jennifer, two sisters with a bond that has been intertwined and tested by the menacing presence of Wylfa Power Station that so marked their childhood on the Welsh island of Anglesey. When Helen, a self-taught prepper and single mother, leaves her young son Jack with Jennifer for a few days so she can visit Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone, they both know the situation will be tense. But blood is thicker than heavy water, and both want to reconnect somehow, with Jack perhaps the key to a new understanding of one another. >> Listen to: The Half-Life of Snails >>
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.
* New Welsh Writing Awards 2022 *
Before taking a break, I revealed the identity of the unpublished manuscripts that had made it on to this year’s New Welsh Writing Awards shortlist (plus those that had been highly commended). >> NEW WELSH WRITING AWARDS 2022: Shortlist Announced >>
The winner of this competition was announced on 29th April. I will divulge the identity of the writer and the title of their successful submission in a forthcoming post.
* Leap Into MCMXXIX *
Following a highly successful 1954 Club event, Karen Langley from Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings and Simon Thomas of Stuck in a Book put their “heads together” and came up with a fresh annus mirabilis for their next reading challenge. The dynamic duo this time selected a leap year at the close of the Roaring Twenties, during which America’s Wall Street Crash occurred, Joseph Stalin expelled Leon Trotsky from the Soviet Union, the centenary of Western Australia was celebrated, Germany’s airship LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin flew around the world in 21 days and the 1st Academy Awards for film were held in Los Angeles. If you haven’t already guessed, it was the 929th year of the 2nd millennium, more commonly known as 1929. The event, which will take place from 24th-30th October 2022, presents the perfect opportunity for participants to read notable works by Robert Graves, Jean Cocteau, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, Alfred Döblin, Elizabeth Bowen, Ernest Hemingway and, of course (among a great many others), Agatha Christie. In a post announcing the 1929 Club, Karen says that according to Simon, it has “the potential to be as good as 1954” – so prepare yourselves for a real literary corker!
* Summertime and the Readin’ is Easy *
“Do you fancy” removing 20 books from your TBR pile this summer? If your answer is affirmative, I would suggest pointing your browsers towards 746 Books’ Announcing 20 Books of Summer 22!, where you will get the skinny on “the joys” of taking part in Cathy Brown’s ever-popular warm-weather reading quest (though conditions may well be wintry in the Southern Hemisphere). 20 Books of Summer tempts you to select 10, 15 or 20 works from your ever-growing stack of unread books and post your choices online for all to see (remembering to use the #20booksofsummer22 hashtag on Twitter) before reading and reviewing as many entries as possible over a three-month-period (1st June to 1st September). Cathy is apparently “in the throes” of creating a list and will presently share her likely choices with everyone. In the meantime, she is curious to know: “Who’s in?” You are therefore invited to share your queries, comments and picks at the end of her post.
* 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:
The Critic: Love letter to the printed word – Lucasta Miller discusses Emma Smith’s latest title, Portable Magic: A History of Books and their Readers, which explores “the material culture of the book.”
Air Mail: Talking in Riddles – “A collection of 95 medieval riddles has left scholars scratching their heads—and clutching their pearls.” A.J. Jacobs discusses his new memoir: The Puzzler: One Man’s Quest to Solve the Most Baffling Puzzles Ever, from Crosswords to Jigsaws to the Meaning of Life.
Financial Times: Rooms of their own – “Five women writers on where they write.”
The Comma Press: ‘Back in print at long last’: Nigel Kneale’s ‘Tomato Cain and Other Stories’ to be published by Comma Press – To mark the centenary of Nigel Kneale’s birth, Comma Press invited his official biographer to talk about Tomato Cain and Other Stories, a prize-winning collection of short stories first published in 1949.
Independent: Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022 shortlist is here – and it’s a diverse range of stories – “From Elif Shafak to Meg Mason, join [Eva Waite-Taylor] in championing female writers today and always.”
WIRED: Historical Novelists and Fantasy Writers Should Be Friends – “Author Christopher M. Cevasco says there’s a surprising lack of crossover between the two.”
The Irish Times: The Irish-language novel that caught the eye of ‘the Eurovision for literature’ – “Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin’s Madame Lazare got special mention at the EU Prize for Literature,” reports Clíona Ní Ríordáin.
Brisbane Times: Sex, love and footnotes: Meet the 2022 Best Young Australian Novelists – Robert Moran introduces three first-time novelists who have claimed the prestigious annual title.
Public Books: Putting French Literary History on Trial – Mohamed Mbougar Sarr’s Goncourt-winning novel confronts the racist history of France’s literary prizes.
Publishers Weekly: Call of the Wild: Popular Science Books 2022 – Matthew Broaddus spotlights new books that probe the connection between animals and humans.
TNS: The translator and her place – “The South Asian translator must strive to love another language first, then master it before taking on the arduous task of translating a literary work,” says Moazzam Sheikh.
The Washington Post: What bookstores and the literary life contribute to … life – Michael Dirda with “a stack of new books [that illuminate] the wonder of printed books — writing them, buying them, reading them.”
Evening Standard: Albanian author Lea Ypi named winner of £10,000 RSL Ondaatje Prize – “The author picked up £10,000 prize for her 2021 novel Free, a coming of age memoir set amid political upheaval.”
Berfrois: How to Be an Incipit – “Unleashed on social networks, the first sentence becomes a sign of recognition, a knowing wink, a cabalistic sign between insiders,” writes Paul Vacca.
European Commission: Georgian writer wins the 2022 European Union Prize for Literature – “An international jury announced the 2022 winner and the 5 special mentions at the Paris Book Fair.”
Publishers Weekly: Debut Novel About Ukraine Receives Attention, Acclaim – Kalani Pickhart’s ambitious historical novel, I Will Die in a Foreign Land, is receiving enormous attention as the war continues in Ukraine.
The New York Review: Catastrophic Desires – “The intention behind Forough Farrokhzad’s poetry, particularly her erotic poetry, was not just to express herself but to match the complexities of twentieth-century life.” Anahid Nersessian on T. Gray Jr.’s “luminous new translation” of the controversial Iranian poet’s posthumous collection, Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season.
Ploughshares: Climate Resignation in Inter Ice Age 4 – “A forgotten classic in the realm of climate fiction, Kōbō Abe’s 1958 sci-fi thriller represents a telling effort in assessing why so many of us feel resigned to our climate fate—and why it is fundamentally difficult to understand the magnitude of the problem that lies before us,” says Harrison Blackman.
Gawker: Just Reject Me – “Please, Literary Magazines, a simple ‘thank you but we’ll pass’ will suffice,” writes Nicholas Russell in a plea for more straightforwardness in rejecting submissions.
Learning For Justice: Debbie Reese on Book Bans and Native Representation – Scholar Debbie Reese talks to Coshandra Dillard about “book bans and the fear of a just society.”
The Guardian: ‘Everywhere I stop bookshops are thriving’: novelist Jon McGregor tours his latest book by bike – “Bored of the online book readings brought on by Covid, the writer saddled up to see how many independent book stores he could visit in a week on two wheels.”
USC Viterbi: AI study finds that males are represented four times more than females in literature – “An artificial intelligence study on female prevalence in literature finds a staggering discrepancy in female representation,” finds Maya Abu-Zahra.
Houston Chronicle: ‘Book smugglers’ plan caravans from Houston, San Antonio to start underground library for banned books – The Librotraficantes, or book traffickers, plan to lead caravans of banned books from Houston to spread the words others have sought to suppress.
The Baffler: Miłosz’s Magic Mountain – Joy Neumeyer on “Czesław Miłosz in California.”
Trinidad and Tobago Newsday: Celeste Mohammed wins OCM Bocas prize for Caribbean Literature – Pleasantview, Celeste Mohammed’s short story collection, has won this year’s OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.
Penguin: 11 things we learned from new Terry Pratchett doc ‘Escape to the Discworld’ – Kat Brown “watched the new documentary about adapting Terry Pratchett’s epic Discworld series to audiobook – here are some of the highlights.”
National Geographic: These green books are poisonous—and one may be on a shelf near you – “A toxic green pigment was once used to colour everything from fake flowers to book covers. Now a museum conservator is working to track down the noxious volumes.”
The New York Times: Ten Books to Understand the Abortion Debate in the United States – “Nearly 50 years ago, the Supreme Court legalized abortion. The decision has since divided the country. Now that the issue is before the court again, here are 10 books that help frame the debate.”
n+1: Day of the Oprichnik, 16 Years Later – “Sorokin deserves credit for bothering to skewer such a marginal figure,” writes Michael Scott Moore of Vladimir Sorokin’s 2006 dystopian novel, Day of the Oprichnik.
The New Criterion: Living the “Satyricon” – Victor Davis Hanson on “the racy Roman novel” by Petronius.
The Sydney Morning Herald: Flipping the script on Virginia Woolf – Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen finds that Michelle Cahill’s debut novel, Daisy and Woolf, reimagines a minor Eurasian character from Mrs Dalloway.
St. Louis: A conversation with 2022 St. Louis Literary Award recipient Arundhati Roy – Roy was last month presented with the annual St. Louis Literary Award for her contribution to literature that has enriched lives. The Indian author spoke to Tobeya Ibitayo via Zoom ahead of the ceremony.
ECNS.cn: ‘Traduttore, traditore’? How can Chinese literature cross the barrier to East-West communication? – Shen Dali, a translator, writer and recipient of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres gives an “in depth analysis” on the problem of Western readers frequently reading Chinese literature in a “superficial manner”.
Stanford News: Stanford’s Britt Wray on the intersection of climate change and mental health – “Planetary Health Postdoctoral Fellow Britt Wray discusses her recently published book [Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis] about dealing with climate anxiety and her own path to finding purpose in a chaotic time.”
BBC Yorkshire: Ukraine war: UK publishers take gifted books to children – “Thousands of backpacks filled with books and essentials for Ukrainian children have been delivered by two UK independent publishers.”
Africa is a Country: Where is black feminism? – Surfacing: On being black and feminist in South Africa is the first book collection “dedicated to contemporary Black South African feminist perspectives.” One of its two editors, Desiree Lewis, “breaks down the content.”
CBC: Origami mystery unfolding at Western University libraries in London, Ont. – Kate Dubinski is intrigued by the folded paper animals that have been “popping up since last semester.”
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.