An end of week recap
“The inclination to believe in the fantastic may strike some as a failure in logic, or gullibility, but it’s really a gift. A world that might have Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster is clearly superior to one that definitely does not.”
– Chris Van Allsburg (born 18th June 1949)
After a memorable (for all the right reasons) holiday in the in the Isles of Scilly, I pick up where I left off at the end of last month – i.e., truffling for the juiciest literary links on the Internet.
Please forgive me if you have left a comment or made contact in some other way over the previous three weeks – I’m not ignoring you, merely attempting to wade through a sea of unanswered e-mails. Thank you so much for your patience.
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.
* A Decade of Austen in August *
Adam Burgess (aka Roof Beam Writer) returns with his “annual reading event celebrating one of literature’s greatest writers”: Austen in August. For the tenth year on the trot, you are invited to “read as many of Jane Austen’s works (finished or unfinished) as you want […] during the month of August” (including novels, biographies, “contemporary re-imaginings” etc.) and share your thoughts in blog posts and on Twitter. Adam intends to publish content covering a range of Austen-related topics and, rather excitingly, will offer giveaways to keep you motivated. He is also seeking “people who would like to host/sponsor a giveaway or provide a guest post.” Please fill out the Austen in August Year 10 Contributors’ form by 15th July if this appeals to you. To participate in the event itself, head over to Austen in August Year 10! Call For Volunteers #AustenInAugustRBR and leave a comment announcing your intentions. He requests that you merely “post the button somewhere on your blog,” in order to “spread the word, gather excitement, and encourage participation” – as he is keen to point out: “The more [people] reading Austen together, the better!”
* 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:
Walter Scott Prize 2022: Lizzy’s Winner – The Walter Scott Prize is an annual award for Historical Fiction, presented in the name of the founding father of the historical novel. This year’s shortlist was revealed on 12th April and the winner announced at the Borders Book Festival yesterday. However, in this post, Lizzy Siddal offers an “alternative,” Lizzy’s Literary Life award ceremony in which she picks her own winner. I won’t divulge her final choice, but I will disclose that she was impressed with all four titles on the list, and she thoroughly enjoyed reading them. Describing herself as a “self-appointed shadow judge”, she boldly unveiled her favourite book only hours before the official title was confirmed (which, by now, you will know was News of the Dead by James Robertson) – but did she and the official panel agree? Read on to find out.
A Tonic Against Despair: Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryko Aoki – Lindsay Hobbs at Topaz Editing & Literary was completely “unprepared for the wonder, heartbreak, and hilarity” she encountered in Ryko Aoki’s science fiction/LGBT novel. An “interlocking story of several [women’s’] lives,” Light from Uncommon Stars is, she says, “a heartwarming story about love, acceptance, and found family” set in California’s San Gabriel Valley, which has “a strong thread running through [it] of despair and hope.” While in many ways it may seem “absolutely bananas,” this book “also grapples expertly with very real and very dark things,” and its tale of “a runaway teenage [trans] girl escaping an abusive family with nothing but a backpack and her violin” has a “huge heart” and is filled with “smile-inducing absurdity.”
* 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: I’m horrified by how brutal crime fiction has become. Have we gone too far? – “What would Ruth Rendell make of an Ozark episode in which a man’s fingernails were pulled out and a baby was plunged into a lake?” asks a queasy Jane Sullivan.
The Nation: Raw Speech, Raw Stories: A Conversation With Fernanda Melchor – “Her new novel, Paradais, is an explosive exploration of the boundaries of the Spanish language and the banal brutality of everyday violence,” says Lucas Iberico Lozada.
Practical Ethics: Can a Character in an Autobiographical Novel Review the Book in Which She Appears? On the Ethics of Literary Criticism – “The common intuition in literary criticism, in art criticism in general and in the public cultural sphere is that it is wrong to engage in criticism of a work if you have a personal relation to its author.” In this piece, Mette Høeg suggests “this intuition is to some extent wrong and misled.”
Penguin: From sweaty to sultry: why fiction loves a heatwave – “Hot weather is a narrative device as old as time, but scenes of the stickiest season are taking on ominous new undertones in modern fiction. Lauren Bravo explores how literature’s love affair with the long, hot summer is changing.”
BBC News: Ruth Ozeki: Author and Buddhist priest wins Women’s Prize for Fiction – “US-Canadian author, film-maker and Zen Buddhist priest Ruth Ozeki has won this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction” with her fantasy novel, The Book of Form and Emptiness.
Korean Literature Now: Real Estate Narratives in Korean Literature – Real estate (budongsan) is, according to Roh Taehoon, “near the top of the list of concepts essential to describing Korean society.”
Counter Craft: When Will Novels Fix Society Already? – “Fiction can help us understand our world, but that doesn’t mean novels can solve our problems,” says Lincoln Michel.
Open Book: “Everyday Dystopian Reality” Robert McGill on His Captivating and Madcap New Speculative Novel – A Suitable Companion for the End of Your Life by Canadian author Robert Mcgill “is not what you might expect. For one thing, he wrote it before COVID-19, finishing just as the real world began to eerily mirror his fictional one.”
The Public Domain Review: Out on the Town Magnus Hirschfeld and Berlin’s Third Sex – “Years before the Weimar Republic’s well-chronicled freedoms, the 1904 non-fiction study Berlin’s Third Sex depicted an astonishingly diverse subculture of sexual outlaws in the German capital. James J. Conway introduces a foundational text of queer identity that finds Magnus Hirschfeld — the “Einstein of Sex” — deploying both sentiment and science to move hearts and minds among a broad readership.”
The American Spectator: The Ally of Executioners: Pushkin, Brodsky, and the Deep Roots of Russian Chauvinism – Matthew Omolesky finds there is “no sympathy whatsoever for the historic plight of Ukrainians.”
The Guardian: Costa book awards scrapped suddenly after 50 years – “Coffee company announces ‘difficult decision’ to end the prizes, sparking a chorus of disappointment across the books industry.”
Gawker: Writer’s Shouldn’t Talk – “Stop encouraging them,” says Becca Rothfeld.
Tablet: The Sunny Side of American Life – David Mikics suggests America’s “greatest writers found their inspiration in misery and failure.”
Scroll.in: When Jawaharlal Nehru read ‘Lolita’ to decide whether an ‘obscene’ book should be allowed in India – “After a consignment of Vladimir Nabokov’s famed book landed on Indian shores, a debate over its ban spanned Customs and police to the finance minister and PM.”
The New Statesman: Reflections of the elusive Jean Rhys – “The novelist wrote four dark, slyly autobiographical novels – then vanished for 25 years. A new biography hopes to separate the woman from the work,” finds Anna Leszkiewicz.
Qantara.de: The maelstrom of Aleppo – “Longlisted for the 2020 International Prize for Arabic Fiction and now available in German translation, Khaled Khalifa’s novel No One Prayed Over Their Graves details lives and loves lost against the backdrop of a city undergoing seismic change. Joseph Croitoru read the book.”
Document: Living at Xanadu: Ten writers muse on Joan Didion’s literary legacy – “Cynthia Zarin, Ira Silverberg, Fariha Róisín, and others reflect on the reach of the iconic American voice.”
Aeon: Old not Other – “Here’s a puzzle,” says Kate Kirkpatrick, author of the biography Becoming Beauvoir. “Why do we neglect and disdain the one vulnerable group we all eventually will join? Beauvoir had an answer.”
Outlook Weekender: Regional Literature Needs Quality Translators: Assam Poet Rita Chowdhury – “The Assamese poet and novelist, who served as the Director of the National Book Trust, reflects on the state of translations from Assamese literature and the role of the NBT in the promotion of regional literature.”
Eater: Inside the Colorful, Campy, Unapologetically Horny World of Erotic Cookbooks – “While it’s easy to dismiss them as gag gifts,” Emma Orlow discovers “there’s way more to erotic cookbooks than double entendres and naughty illustrations.”
Ploughshares: “We all compartmentalize parts of ourselves to an extent”: An Interview with Katie Gutierrez – Katie Gutierrez’s debut, More Than You’ll Ever Know, is a novel about time. The driving force of the book is a woman who once led two lives, keeping two families in two cities.
The Smart Set: The Strange Afterlife of the Vikings – Author of Extreme North: A Cultural History, Bernd Brunner, is intrigued to know why we are still so fascinated by these medieval seafaring people.
The Critic: Literary festivals: sheer hell in a tent – “To make people laugh for an hour is good business sense — but” says Alexander Larman, “it says nothing about writing, or creativity, or art.”
The Standard: Kenyan in AKO Caine Prize for African Writing 2022 shortlist – The AKO Caine Prize for African Writing is a literature prize awarded to an African writer of a short story published in English. Its shortlist was announced earlier this month.
Words Without Borders: The New Words Without Borders: The Future of Reading the World – “The launch of [WWB’s] new website and publishing model ushers in a new era for the leading digital magazine for international literature. In [its] pages this month, new work by Olga Tokarczuk, Jokha Alharthi, Fernanda Melchor, Boubacar Boris Diop, and more.”
Outlook: Lost Without Translation, Punjabi Yearns For Global Publishers – “Though translations are gradually picking up in Punjabi literature, getting international publishers remains a tough challenge,” finds Ashutosh Sharma.
Esquire: Fantasy Failed to See Me, So I Wrote Myself In – “The genre that shaped me never did right by its queer characters. Now, I’m writing the television show my teenage self needed,” reveals V.E. Schwab.
The Drift: “Here Comes the Break” | On Literary Fiction Today – A discussion on literary fiction today.
JSTOR Daily: In Defense of Polonius – Jeffrey R. Wilson points out that “Shakespeare’s tedious old fool was also a dad just doing his best.”
The Sydney Morning Herald: Reading this dazzling book is like ‘quaffing the finest champagne on earth’ – Peter Craven hopes you will discover “the magic of words that tingle with feeling” in Sneaky Little Revolutions, a new selection of Charmian Clift’s essays.
Guernica: Shuang Xuetao: Writing Rouge Street, a Home for Exiles of Chinese Modernity – “The New Dongbei Literature writer on ‘pure fiction,’ genre novels, and revolutionary slogans.”
iNews: Anthony Horowitz: ‘I was wrong all that time I supported the Conservatives. It’s upsetting’ – “Horowitz talks to Neil Armstrong about his 11-year ‘overnight’ success, feeling betrayed by the Conservatives and why cancel culture is calamitous for writers.”
Paris Review: Re-Covered: The Bloater by Rosemary Tonks – “The poet and novelist Rosemary Tonks wrote her third novel, The Bloater, in just four weeks in the autumn of 1967,” writes Lucy Scholes of this ‘lost’ cult classic recently republished by Vintage.
Air Mail: Talking Contradiction – “Notes from the archive of the Jewish Nobel Prize laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer show that even he, a renowned pacifist, was torn when it came to Israel and its place in the world,” finds David Stromberg.
CrimeReads: How Agatha Christie’s Deep Respect for Science Helped Her Mysteries Stand the Test of Time – Carla Valentine with a “careful consideration of the forensic sciences in mystery’s most enduring novels.”
World News Era: Walter Abish, Daring Writer Who Pondered Germany, Dies at 90 – In provocative, sometimes linguistically playful experimental fiction, a Vienna-born American traced the complex interplay of modern Germany and its Nazi past.
The Washington Post: James Patterson shares his formula for success. It’s pretty simple. – “In the memoir James Patterson by James Patterson, the best-selling author opens up — kind of — about how he came to be such a force in the literary world,” writes Mark Athitakis.
Axios: Spotify CEO teases major push into audiobooks – Will Spotify become a major Amazon competitor with audiobooks? “It’s all part of a new strategy that we’re calling ‘the Spotify machine’,” says Spotify CEO Daniel Ek.
Artsnet: This 1980s Drag Zine Helped Launch the Careers of Queens Like RuPaul. Now It’s Celebrating Its 35th Anniversary With an Exhibition—and a New Issue – “[My Comrade,] Linda Simpson’s revolutionary zine returns in time for Pride Month.”
Publishers Weekly: New App Aims to Improve Book Discovery – A new app, Tertulia, launched this month, is trying a different approach, by measuring and distilling the online chatter about books to point readers to the ones that are driving discussions.
Star of Mysore: ‘India Loves Caste System, Even Literature Has One’ – “Exclusive interview with celebrity author Chetan Bhagat by Sujata Rajpal.”
The Millions: Is It So Wrong to Accessorize with Books? – Bill Morris wonders if celebrities who treat books as accessories are devaluing them. Or are they perhaps reminding us of the outsized power of books to shape our perceptions of their owners?
Hazlitt: Street Meat Stories – “Writing and whoring—selling a body or a body of work—what’s the difference?” ask Canadian writer and film director Andrea Werhun and Nicole Bazuin.
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