An end of week recap
“There’s an epigram tacked to my office bulletin board, pinched from a magazine – ‘Wanting to meet an author because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pâté.’”
– Margaret Atwood
Following a frenzied few months of house-moving, holidays, doggy sitting a large but lovable Doberman (George, should you ask) and now moving my Mum from her cluttered cottage into a specially adapted annex in our new home, I hope I will be excused for offering such a paltry (if well-intentioned) wind up this week. I can’t be sure when the day-to-day kerfuffle will abate but hopefully, I will return to something resembling normality very soon. Oh, please may it be soon!
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 *
Due to a dearth of hours in my day, on this occasion I share only one of my favourite literary posts.
We Do What We Do in the Dark by Michelle Hart – Nirmala of Red Lips and Bibliomaniacs hasn’t “read a whole lot of queer novels” but finds We Do What We Do in the Dark, Michelle Hart’s contemporary “coming-of-age story where the main focus is on a lesbian love affair”, resonates with her because of the protagonist’s “sense of loneliness, which translates to vulnerability.” The young woman’s “clandestine affair” with an older, married woman is in many ways “reminiscent of Elif Batuman’s The Idiot,” and Nirmala is impressed with its ending – the epilogue set almost a decade later. It is, she feels, an admirable, “well-written novel about desire and self-discovery,” in which we are able to explore the way people’s views “on morality [change] with time” – in this instance it highlights modern attitudes towards romantic liaisons between professor and student.
* 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:
Book Marks: The Best Reviewed Books of the Week – Featuring new titles by Hilary Mantel, Ed Yong, Riley Sager and others.
The Asian Age: Book Review | Climate fantasy that captivates and concerns – In Manindra Gupta’s Pebblemonkey, translator Arunava Sinha “preserves his voice” and “deserves to be congratulated for presenting this literary gem to readers,” says Sucheta Dasgupta.
Faber: Where to start reading: Miriam Toews – “Miriam Toews is the author of seven bestselling novels, including All My Puny Sorrows, selected for the Sunday Times Top 100 Novels of the Twenty-First Century.”
Variety: Joel Whitburn, Pop Chart Expert Who Published Hundreds of Books, Dies at 82 – American author and music historian, Joel Whitburn, “whose books of research on the charts were a staple of the bookshelves of anyone who cared about the history or business of pop music for decades,” has died at the age of 82.”
UnHerd: The deracination of literature – “We have fallen out of love with good writing,” says Mary Gaitskill.
Slate: The Weirdly Specific Trend That Has Taken Over Women’s Fiction – Heather Schwedel wonders “why a wave of recent titles all sound so similar.”
Brittle Paper: Love, Violence, and Everything In Between | Review of If An Egyptian Cannot Speak English by Noor Naga – “If An Egyptian Cannot Speak English by Canadian Egyptian novelist Noor Naga is an experimental novel with a darkly romantic heart,” writes Ainehi Edoro.
JSTOR Daily: Is it a Crime? – “An appreciation of Gertrude Stein’s pulp explorations,” by Cornelius Fortune.
BBC England: Wilfred Owen and Philip Larkin GCSE removal ‘cultural vandalism’ – “Removing poems by Philip Larkin and Wilfred Owen from a GCSE course has been described as “cultural vandalism” by the education secretary.”
Arts Hub: 2022 Miles Franklin shortlist announced – “Five authors compete for [Australia’s] most prestigious literary prize.”
The Millions: Shelf Life: On the Stories Our Books Tell About Us – “My bookshelves remind me of where I’ve been, who I am, and what it’s taken to get here,” writes Bryan VanDyke.
The New Yorker: The New Poem-Making Machinery – “Shall code-davinci-002 compare thee to a summer’s day?”
AEON: Cracking the Cretan code – “Linear B has yielded its secrets, but Linear A remains elusive. Can linguistic analysis unlock the meaning of Minoan script?” asks Ester Salgarella.
Big Think: Kurt Vonnegut on the 8 “shapes” of stories – “The American author said he attempted to bring scientific thinking to literary criticism but received ‘very little gratitude for this.’”
The Conversation: Can Bionic Reading make you a speed reader? Not so fast – The claims made by the creators of an app that highlights parts of words to supposedly enhance users’ reading abilities are, according to Lauren M. Singer Trakhman, “dubious.”
The New Statesman: From aardvark to woke: inside the Oxford English Dictionary – “The OED’s task – to define every part of the world’s most spoken language – is as ambitious as it was 150 years ago,” finds Pippa Bailey.
Catapult: Wherever I Am, I Write From a Place of Grief – “Walang katapusan ang dalamhati. What else can I do but live through it? Write through it?” says Filipino author Matt Ortile.
The Guardian: The best recent science fiction and fantasy – review roundup – Lisa Tuttle shares a selection of her favourite new science fiction and fantasy titles.
The Atlantic: Byron, Shelley, and Now Zelensky – Susan J. Wolfson suggests that to “appreciate the special power of the Ukrainian president, we need to listen closely to his words, and remember the inspiring poets who came before him.”
BBC Somerset: Kickstarter to fund dyslexic friendly books for adults launches – “A bookshop owner who set up an independent publishing company in 2021 to produce dyslexic friendly books for adults is crowdfunding to publish more.”
Entertainment Weekly: The evolution of Ottessa Moshfegh – “The My Year of Rest and Relaxation author on making movies (she has three adaptions in the works), creativity, and her new novel, Lapvona.” Leah Greenblatt shares “an exclusive look at the novel’s trailer.”
The Critic: Good God, I can’t publish this… – Rosemary Jenkinson on the “ancient art of the literary rejection.”
ExBerliner: Berlin Blues to Marzahn, Mon Amour: 20 years of Berlin in 20 books – “These 20 books – all published since Exberliner started – show the hopes, dreams, failures and fantasies of Berlin over two decades.”
Deccan Herald: Will the Booker lead to a surge in translations? – “Literature in Indian languages is rich and vibrant, with several books published every year, but their readership is mostly limited to readers of that particular language,” says Stanley Carvalho.
Poetry Foundation: All Words Refugees – “The work of the German-Swedish poet Nelly Sachs ranges between atrocity and grace,” writes Richard Hegelman.
Air Mail: You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto – “Scoff if you must,” says Jim Kelly but, he warns, you will “be missing out on one of the most delightful history books of the season” if you don’t read Ten Tomatoes that Changed the World by William Alexander.
Literary Hub: “Warnings Imply You Have a Choice.” Rebecca Solnit in Conversation with Margaret Atwood – In celebration of 40 years of Orion Magazine, Rebecca Solnit and Margaret Atwood talk about the past and future of environmental writing.
Public Books: The World Continues to Need Octavia E. Butler – Pandemics, racist violence, climate change, democratic collapse: Sasha Ann Panaram concludes that it’s Butler’s world. We’re just living in it.
Prospect: The most pressing diversity issue in publishing? Groupthink – “The industry has a responsibility to platform all kinds of views—not just politically fashionable ones,” argues Tomiwa Owolade.
CBC Books: 25 books that highlight the beauty of Indigenous literature: ‘It is time to tell our own stories our way.’ – “This list, curated by Tłı̨chǫ Dene writer Richard Van Camp, reflects the range of books by Indigenous authors.”
Forbes: Why Comic Books Could Be A Powerful Weapon In The Climate Fight – David Vetter finds “graphic novels and comics are becoming an important tool in the climate communicator’s arsenal.”
The Smart Set: walking words, words walking – “There’s never been a better to read James Joyce’s Ulysses (don’t be scared!),” says Bhavna Ganesan.
Eurozine: Reading Ukraine – Maarja Kangro writes: “Should Russian literature be held accountable for creating a nationalist mood capable of inciting war on Ukraine? Calls for a halt on distribution include all works, whether colonialist or not. An Estonian perspective, built over five days in Ukraine, asks whether the Russian state is responsible for cancelling its own culture.”
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
Not paltry at all, Paula. Such interesting links as always, many of which had me clicking immediately, whether the Egyptian novel or how our shelves define us, Byron/Shelley/Zelensky or Ottessa Moshfegh.
George sounds lovely and I’m sure your dogs enjoyed having him over as well. Glad to hear your mum’s settled in with you. Have a lovely week ahead!
That’s so kind of you, Mallika. Thank you. 😊
Yes, George is a great big softy but he’s such a clumsy fellow and tends to lumber about leaving a trail of people, crockery and other dogs scattered in his wake. He’s staying with us while his ‘mum’ is away for three weeks but he keeps us entertained! 😂
I know the kind but they’re such sweethearts, one doesn’t really mind🙂🐶
You have had such a busy time! It’s nice to know your new home has an annexe for your mother. That’s a lot of resettling for all of you. Hopefully this is the basis for a calmer future. Thanks for this round up. There was plenty for me. I feel like I have been writing from a place of grief for a long time now though I keep reaching for something cheerful so I was attracted to reading Matt Ortile’s words on the subject. I enjoyed checking out Kurt Vonnegut’s ideas about the shape of stories: mostly I think I will remember his uncle’s advice to notice when things are good ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is!’
Thank you, Maria. I look forward to that “calmer future”, which will, I’m sure, come soon. 😊
I did think about you when I spotted the Matt Ortile piece. I’m so glad you found it of interest.
Roll on less hectic times for you two, and I don’t really believe that *counts up number of items here* you’ve stinted on your usual array, range and quantity of literary links.
And that Margaret Atwood note-to-self is an excellent explanation of why, apart from stewarding for our local small-scale litfest, I instinctively eschew book signings and author appearances – worryingly I shall forever now think of books as pâté de foie gras!
“I shall forever now think of books as pâté de foie gras!” – It’s a disturbing thought!
Thank you, Chris for your positive take on this week’s wind up. 😊
Oh dear, it certainly wasn’t my intention to fill your mind with fatty liver when you think of books – that must really have got your goose. I must duck next time I see you coming as I have probably cooked my goose in your books! 🦆
Touché with your tour de force!
Goodness, what a busy time you’ve had!! Thanks for taking the time to put this post together!
And thank you for taking the time to comment, Kaggsy. 😊
So impressive that you’re posting at all Paula, with everything you have going on! Hope things ease off for you soon. George sounds adorable 🙂
Thank you, Madame B. George is adorable, though I sometimes have to remind myself of this when I’m righting toppled lamps and brushing shards of once cherished ornaments into the bin. 😂
Busy! Busy! But things sound good for you. Hope that is the case.
Yes indeed, life is good, thank you, Joyce. I hope all is well with you, too. 😊
Yes although very upset by yesterday’s court decision here
Understandably so. A tragic decision, one feels.
Fascinating things this week, Paula. I must confess to not having read any of the five titles shortlisted for the 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award. Must try! Also, from one who cared for ageing parents, you are doing a wonderful thing for your mother 🙂
Thank you, Gretchen. 🤗 My mum and step-dad have both come to live with us. Sadly Mum is no longer mobile and Twm (now there’s a good Welsh name for you) was 90 in March and has all but lost his sight. They have always been highly independent, dynamic individuals with a huge range of interests and friends of all ages, so the decision to move from their mountain home was a difficult but necessary one. Actually, I’m rather enjoying spending time with my mum as we have a similar sense of humour and she loves nothing more than encouraging me to wheel her into the garden on a sunny day for a natter and an ice cold lager. It’s no wonder I get nothing done! 😂
Thank you for your lovely reply, Paula, and my apologies for the late response. I adore the name Twm. Your father would have to be a character with a name like that! You painted a vivid family picture for me, such bitter-sweet moments yet love and resilience shines through. As my dear mother used to say ‘Make good memories’ and that has helped me through difficult times. Also, my mother enjoyed a cold beer so here’s cheers to mothers!
Cheers m’dears! 🍻
That OED article in New Statesman was wonderful, wasn’t it! And what a lovely arrangement to have your mum (and I see your step-dad) safely in an annex. My cousin and his husband recently managed to buy a house that had a side slice that is independent but not totally for my auntie to move into and it’s working really well.
Thank you for putting together a selection that certainly doesn’t feel paltry to me at all, Paula. You’ve certainly had a lot on your plate and I hope it calms down a bit for you.
Thank you so much, Anne. 😊
I hope you find some sense of normality after the move, and upheaval of your lives. And thank you again, for another great selection of links for me to chase down while I drink my coffee.
Thank you, Alexander. I hope all is good with you and you’re keeping well. 😊