An end of week recap
“Problems of human behaviour still continue to baffle us, but at least in the Library we have them properly filed.’”
– Anita Brookner (Born 16th July 1928)
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:
So Long a Letter, by Mariama Bâ – First published in 1980, this “very short” epistolary novella by a “Senegalese author known for her feminist politics and writing” is composed as a “letter to […] the childhood best friend of [the] protagonist, Ramatoulaye” and contrasts “the struggles of both women with their husbands’ decisions to take second wives,” writes Eleanor Franzen in her favourable review at Elle Thinks. The final part the book becomes increasingly “explicit in [its] political content,” she says, advocating “for more respect and liberality towards women from Senegalese society,” with the author putting “the reader […] thoroughly in Ramatoulaye’s shoes.” Although there “are a few good men” in this story, they generally fail “to accord women basic respect” – even though this is a “society where educated women aren’t unheard of,” which, she says, is “the heart of the novel’s sadness.” By contrast, the “love, community and friendship among women is the answer to the pain and alienation” caused by the menfolk. In conclusion, Eleanor finds, the “slender size” of So Long a Letter “belies its emotional impact.”
A Thorough Exposé of a Literary Fraud and a Podcast-to-Book on Cults – In addition to a review of Cults by Max Cutler (a title based on the hit podcast of the same name), Rennie Sweeney of What’s Nonfiction? discusses Go Ask Alice – a book she describes as a “ubiquitous must-read” when she was growing up, despite it being published many years earlier. This supposedly ‘true diary’ of “an anonymous teen girl, nicknamed Alice,” which outraged censors in the early 1970s for its candid depiction of sex and drug use, was, however, a complete fraud penned by serial con-artist Beatrice Sparks. In Unmask Alice: LSD, Satanic Panic, and the Imposter Behind the World’s Most Notorious Diaries, the “former radio host Rick Emerson” exposes as fake this and Jay’s Journal, a later publication in a similar vein. Describing Emerson’s story of a woman who “suckered everyone from the New York Times to major publishing houses” as “astounding”, Rennie says every “chapter has some new, shocking revelation” and she declares it “unputdownable.”
* 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:
Electric Literature: 9 Books About Women Who Can’t Get Out of Their Heads – Nada Alic “recommends stories of thoughtful rumination and interior complexity.”
The New York Times: An Ode to Bookstores and Promiscuous Reading – Tish Harrison Warren on her love for bookstores and ‘promiscuous reading’.
Esquire: Everything Everywhere All in One Novel – “It takes a grand narrative to describe the grand threats facing us, like capitalism and climate change.” Lincoln Michel invites you to “enter the speculative epic.”
Premium Times NG: 11 poets make NLNG’s $100,000 literature prize longlist – “The 2022 edition of the Nigeria Prize for Literature initially had 287 poets compete for the $100,000 Prize.”
CrimeReads: Exploring the Complexity of Love Through Crafting a Criminal Family – “I knew what it was like for my family to love me, but also do and say things that hurt me too,” says Alex Temblador.
The Nation: The Literary Games of Fernando Pessoa – “Did Pessoa truly control his alter egos? Or did his creations, in many ways, control him?” asks Ilan Stavans.
Quillette: Céline, Literary Antichrist – “If we demand that our artists be angels,” says RJ Smith, “we will not have any art left to appreciate.”
Penguin: Inspiring books about gardening for lazy days – “From Benjamin Bunny to Rumer Godden, books have offered immersive reflections on the garden for decades. Salley Vickers picks her favourites.”
The Guardian: Where You End and I Begin by Leah McLaren review – a white-knuckle study of imperfect love – An “intimate, fearless account of the Canadian author’s relationship with her traumatised, free-thinking mother,” Where You End and I Begin “leaves you rooting for both of them,” writes Hephzibah Anderson.
Publishers Weekly: Finding a Place for Disability in Publishing – John Loeppky talked a range of people in publishing with disabilities about a new organization fighting for their needs and what it’s like to work in the book business with a disability.
Famous Writing Routines: Karen Jennings’ Writing Routine: “I knew I wanted to be a writer, and for a long time that was enough.” – “Karen Jennings is a South African author, best-known for her novels Finding Soutbek (2013), and An Island, which was longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize.”
Library of Congress: Librarian of Congress Names Ada Limón the Nation’s 24th U.S. Poet Laureate – Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden has revealed Ada Limón is to be the nation’s 24th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2022-2023.
ABC News: Libraries are about ‘people, not books’ as they survive and thrive in digital age – Libraries in Australia are not merely surviving but positively thriving in the digital age.
Smithsonian Magazine: Who Were the Women Behind James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’? – “As the novel turns 100, two exhibitions tell the stories of the women who made it possible.”
Scroll.in: Kathryn Hansen: ‘Even knowing one South Asian language very well is not enough to translate’ – “An interview with translator and South Asia specialist Kathryn Hansen.”
Book Marks: 5 Reviews You Need to Read This Week – “Rumaan Alam on Elif Batuman, Brandon Taylor on Teddy Wayne, Alexandra Kleeman on K-Ming Chang, and more.”
Houston Chronicle: Essay: After 3 years, I visited a bookstore. It bought me back to a better time. – “Even if you don’t go to a church of books regularly, it can be comforting to know the building is there when you need it,” says Chris Vognar.
Image: After Disenchantment: C.S. Lewis, Sally Rooney, and the Perennial Hunger – “Many have lamented that we don’t have a Lewis to help us think through these questions (or a Chesterton or a Tolkien to help him), but in [Cornelia Powers’] estimation Sally Rooney comes pretty close.”
LARB: The Political Ferment of Malayalam Literature – Aditya Narayan Sharma considers the legacy and growing global reach of Malayalam literature.
Book Riot: Literary movements you’ve never heard of – You are probably familiar with magical realism and Dadaism, but what about the literary movements Martian Poetry or Jindyworobak?
Tor.com: 5 Books About Fragile Worlds – Erin Swan suggests five books from different genres that feature fragile worlds.
The Millions: Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2022 Book Preview – The editor hopes “you’ll find a book, or two, or ten to keep you company amid” this list of more than 175 titles from the latter half of 2022.
The Slovak Spectator: Slovakia’s first literary museum highlights link between interwar intellectuals – “Exhibition gives a look into the life of a writer, poet and key figure in the Slovak national movement,” finds Jana Liptáková.
The Irish Times: Claire Keegan and Sally Hayden win Orwell Prizes in double Irish success – “Small Things Like These wins political fiction prize; My Fourth Time, We Drowned wins political writing prize.”
Nippon.com: “Living Is Writing”: Remembering Best-Selling Author and Buddhist Nun Setouchi Jakuchō – “The storied life of author and Buddhist nun Setouchi Jakuchō came to a close with her passing last year at the age of 99. [K]nown for tackling difficult topics and for her political stances,” this piece by Yomiuri Shimbun “looks back at her 30 years covering Setouchi to consider the impact she had on Japanese society and modern literature.”
JSTOR Daily: Square Space – “Not so fast, Wordle,” says Adrienne Raphel. “The Fifteen Puzzle, a challenge that inspired poetry, has obsessed fans for more than a century.”
Poynter: The ultimate long-form: Why and how journalists write books – Amaris Castillo “spoke with journalists who’ve written books and publishing professionals to understand what stories the publishing industry wants from news media.”
Advanced Local: Our perfect bookstore was a beautiful daydream – “Beth Thames and her husband dreamed of opening the perfect little independent bookstore. Then real life intervened.”
The Atlantic: Where the Crawdads Sing Author Wanted for Questioning in Murder – “A televised 1990s killing in Zambia has striking similarities to Delia Owens’s best-selling book turned movie.”
Independent: Novelist Joan Lingard who was born on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile dies aged 90 – “The writer became famous for her Kevin and Sadie series of books set during Northern Ireland’s Troubles.”
Protocol: Libby is stuck between libraries and publishers in the e-book war – “Readers love the Libby app, but its newfound popularity is costing librarians more than they can afford,” finds Anna Kramer.
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