Winding Up the Week #302

An end of week recap

From the beginning men used God to justify the unjustifiable.”
Salman Rushdie

Thank you so much to everyone who wished me a happy birthday last week. The four-day-long jollities involved a surfeit of gluttony (Cantonese, Italian, traditional Sunday roast…), an evening at Venue Cymru, and cappuccino and cake at L’s Coffee & Books café in Conwy. I had a splendid time and was thoroughly spoiled but I am now playing catch-up with all your thoughtful messages. Please forgive me if I haven’t yet responded to a comment in #WUTW 301 – I’m not ignoring you, merely chasing my somewhat dishevelled tail.

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:

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy – Becky Chambers’ “second short novel about her monk and robot pair, Dex and Mosscap,” is “a quiet story about what it’s like to be human or robot in the future,” says the newly retired Jeanne Griggs of Necromancy Never Pays (many congratulations, Jeanne!). “Small points and nice distinctions are part of the pleasure” of A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, though the world through which the protagonists travel is far from perfect – however, she suspects it may well “seem utopian” to modern readers. This brief fantasy novella, which gives the characters “room to explore the issues presented” and “the power to charm readers,” is likely to appeal to readers in their twenties but, she finds, one of its messages, specifically: “you don’t have to have a reason to be tired. You don’t have to earn rest or comfort. You’re allowed to just be,” resonates with her during a time of great change.

Book review: “Death and the Penguin” by Andrey Kurkov – “Considered one of the greats of contemporary Ukrainian literature,” Kurkov’s 1996 mystery novel, Death and the Penguin, has “been reissued this year with an updated foreword by the author under the Read for Ukraine initiative in association with Oxfam.” The “central character is [aspiring writer] Viktor and his pet penguin is Misha,” reveals Julia Rice in her review for Julia’s Books – the latter apparently “a powerful presence […] and a motif for Viktor’s state of mind.” This “surreal and dark book,” which “captures the sense of surveillance, of corruption, of secrecy and scarcity that pervaded the former Soviet republics at the time,” reminds her somewhat of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, “with the same feeling of oppressiveness.” While perplexing at times, upon reflection Julia got to grips with the with the nuances of the story and is now keen to “explore further” the work of this “respected international commentator.”

* 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:


Independent: Salman Rushdie – live: Author on ventilator and likely ‘to lose an eye’ as wishes pour in – Salman Rushdie was attacked at an event in western New York –police have identified the suspect in custody as Hadi Matar. The author’s spokesperson, Andrew Wylie, says Rushdie has “suffered significant injuries” and the “news is not good. Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.” 

Women’s Prize For Fiction: 6 Books set on Distant Shores – A great book can take you anywhere. A browse through the Women’s Prize library reveals a selection of novels that offer insight into the history, society and culture of countries from across the world. 

The Guardian: Philip Larkin flinched from intimacy – how would he have coped with social media? – “A century after the poet’s birth, Imtiaz Dharker introduces her own poem about the grumpy great, Swiping left on Larkin.”

BBC News: Waterstones: Book delivery backlog due to technology upgrade – “The bookseller Waterstones has suffered weeks of disruption to its business operations following an upgrade of its warehouse software.”

JSTOR Daily: The Hoax That Inspired Mary Shelley – “In the hot summer of 1826, the British people—including science fiction author, Mary Shelley—embraced a fake and frozen Roger Dodsworth.”

Sky News: The Snowman author and illustrator Raymond Briggs dies aged 88 – The much-loved writer and illustrator Raymond Briggs died last Tuesday.

Japan Forward: Interview | Hideo Furukawa: Beyond The Dystopia of ‘Soundtrack’ – “What is necessary for the modern age and the future is to look not for the material, but for something immaterial that ‘resonates in people’s hearts.’”

AIGA Eye on Design: Here’s Why John Updike Designed His Own Book Covers – “The ‘Jansonist Knopfer’ regularly butted heads with Chip Kidd and ‘didn’t want to see too much letter spacing or type used in any kind of bizarre way’, writes Rachel Berger.

ABC News: Tim Winton on Blueback, Ningaloo, and 40 years of writing – The Western Australian writer and environmental activist says the “clock is ticking” on human existence – but there’s still an important place for art and writing.

Publishers Weekly: 10 Overlooked Yet Essential Novels – Elaine Castillo, author of the essay collection How to Read Now, with a list of books “less glimpsed […] yet whose force reverberates across all sorts of borders, in ways indelible, unforgettable, and yes, essential.”

The New York Times: Overlooked No More: Alda Merini, Poet Who Wrote of Life’s Joys and Struggles – “Countless fans have been intrigued by her verses carrying erotic and sacred imagery, and by her life, from her childhood in Milan to her time spent in asylums,” finds Ilaria Parogni.

The Irish Times: Eoghan Ó Tuairisc: When the past haunts the present – “The Galway author is one of the most important writers Ireland produced in the 20th century.”

Prospect: Edith Stein and the power of empathy – “The philosopher-nun was murdered in Auschwitz 80 years ago. Today her ideas are as resonant as her tragic life story,” says Peter Salmon. Here he examines her 1916 work, On the Problem of Empathy.

Lapham’s Quarterly: Speak of the Devil – Ed Simon with the “who, what, where, and why of Faust and his legend.”

Literary Review of Canada: This Unfolding Epoch – “It is not easy to write fiction about the Anthropocene,” says André Forget, but Jaspreet Singh has done exactly that in his ambitious novel, Face: A Novel of the Anthropocene.

The East African: Kenyans are reading, who is writing? – Tony Mochama finds Kenya’s literary scene is flourishing.

Biblioklept: An interview with Max Lawton about translating Vladimir Sorokin’s brilliant novel Telluria – Edwin Turner is delighted to find Vladimir Sorokin’s dystopian sci-fi novel, Telluria, is available in English “thanks to NYRB and translator Max Lawton.” ‘Whispering Chinar’: These interlinked short stories go to the heart of male privilege and machismo – “Ali Rohila’s [stories] traverse a long period of time in the same setting to show what changes and what does not,” says Chitra Ahanthem of the author’s debut collection, The Whispering Chinar. 

Electric Literature: If Your History Is Full of Holes, How Do You Fill in the Blanks? – “The characters in Belinda Huijuan Tang’s novel confront the difficulty of defining home by the parts of it that are missing,” writes Elyse Martin. 

Current Affairs: The Dangerous Populist Science of Yuval Noah Harari – “The best-selling author is a gifted storyteller and popular speaker.” However, in the opinion of Darshana Narayanan, “he sacrifices science for sensationalism, and his work is riddled with errors.”

Book Riot: Why Do We Love Portal Fantasies? – Alice Nuttall attempts to explain why we so love “fantasy stories that involve hopping from one high-concept magical universe to another.”

Salmagundi: The Measuring Muse – Peter Filkins attempts to work out why the role of poet critics is different from other critics.

Le Monde: The tribulations of Balzac in Ukraine – “Toward the end of his life, the novelist stayed in the country of his great love, Ewelina Hanska. Jean Roche, a French entrepreneur very active in Ukraine, was beginning to make this forgotten story known when the war put a stop to his project,” finds Ariane Chemin.

Salon: Republican war on books: They don’t just want to control your body — next up, your mind – “Gutting public schools, targeting booksellers, shutting down libraries: Every censorship tactic is on the table,” says political commentator, Amanda Marcotte.

World Literature Today: Tethers: A Traveler’s Ode to Book Swaps, Big and Small – “A frequent traveler currently winding her way through Central America [SarahBelle Selig] celebrates the free book swaps along the way, and all the hope and longing nestled amongst their shelves.”

Vintage: A Fire Rush playlist, curated by Jacqueline Crooks – “A playlist to listen to while reading Jacqueline Crooks’ debut novel Fire Rush, which opens at a dub reggae night in 1970s London.”

Esquire: Does the Maximalist Novel Still Matter? – “Once upon a time, a new Pynchon or DeLillo was an event. Now, Adam Levin’s latest Mega-Novel raises questions about what, if anything, this type of fiction has left to say,” finds Jonathan Russell Clark.

CNN Travel: How a tiny Chinatown bookstore became a hub for authentic Asian American stories – “Lucy Yu found refuge in books growing up,” which eventually led to her opening Yu and Me Books in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

MPR News: Old books, new perspectives: Program aims to diversify rare books field – Jaime Harker, author of The Lesbian South, cracks the rare and antiquarian book trade.

The Atlantic: Don’t Call Them Trash – “Romance novels celebrate female pleasure and aspiration,” writes Sophie Gilbert.

Printweek: Physical books are still king – but sustainability is a priority – Dominic Bernard reports: “Consumers overwhelmingly prefer books printed on physical media, presenting opportunities for sustainable manufacturers, according to new research.”

Premium Times: Nigerian novelist Biyi Bandele is dead – The Nigerian novelist, playwright and filmmaker, Biyi Bandele, died in Lagos earlier this month at the age of 54.

History Today: Explicit Content – “Rude words are a constant, but their ability to cause offence is in flux,” says Suzannah Lipscomb. “Historians,” she suggests, “should know their flim-flam from their fiddle-faddle.”



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.

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29 replies

  1. That sounds like a thoroughly enjoyable, celebratory week, Paula!

    Such shocking news yesterday. Your opening quote is well chosen.

    • I agree, the news is shocking and your choice of quote so relevant, Paula.

      I was actually wondering when I might tackle Haroun and the Sea of Stories when I heard about the assault on Rushdie; I think the Channel 4 programmes about the 75th anniversary of Partition and Indian Independence must’ve got me thinking along those lines.

      That sectarian violence will have prompted my own parents’ departure from India the year or so before I was born so it all feels so relevant to me personally.

      • A tough decision for your parents, I imagine.

        I was in bookselling when The Satanic Verses was published. There was a determination in the trade that Rushdie must be supported. A consortium of publishers released a paperback edition so that bearing the brunt of attacks would not fall upon one of them.

      • I hadn’t realised the paperback appeared under the auspices of a consortium, Susan, a sensible way of dispersing any focused attack except for that directed at Rushdie himself. ☹️

        My parents only obliquely referred to that period, a traumatic moment for anybody born in the subcontinent, even for Anglo-Indians like themselves. And all this immediately after a global conflict too, it hardly approaches comprehension.

      • It was a brave thing to do – Collett’s on Charing Cross Road had been fire bombed – but the right thing.

        Ah, your poor parents. Perhaps that was the only way for them to deal with it and they must have wanted to shield you from their experience. Incomprehensible, indeed.

    • I had a lovely week, thank you, Susan. 😀

      Dreadful news. Poor man.

  2. What a week – so sad to say goodbye to Raymond Briggs – I don’t think I will ever get over ‘When the Wind Blows’ – he wasn’t afraid to challenge us and make us sad but with such kindness, humour, and knowledge of sometimes tetchy, awkward human nature. And then the shocking attack on Rushdie. The quote is very apt! Apart from this – so many gems. I’m catching up with Simon Armitage talking about Larkin and whether he’s still relevant (on Radio 4) … And so much more. Glad you had such a resounding birthday! All good things should come your way.

  3. I’m horrified about the attack on Rushdie (he’s an author, for goodness’ sake, not a warrior) and I’m horrified that the attack occurred in America.

    • Very shocking but at least he seems to be recovering (though I fear from reports he may lose an eye). You know, Deb, the attack could have happened anywhere in the world – he had been a marked man for such a long time. Unfortunately, I think he and those around him had become complacent, believing the threat had diminished. In truth, it had never really gone away.

  4. Thanks for featuring A Prayer for the Crown-shy; I think it’s a book I need lots of opinions on, and maybe I’ll get some more comments from less regular readers of the blog!
    Also thanks for the Guardian article on Larkin–it responds to poetry in the only way that counts, with another poem.

  5. I’m glad you enjoyed your birthday celebrations Paula; happy to see that physical books retain their popularity too.

    The news yesterday was certainly shocking, all the more so for how and where it took place. Terrifying to think of the state of things around the world.

  6. I’m playing catch up too after a trip to London (first time in 5 years) and visit to a friend who fell and broke her shoulder bone. Ouch.

    So glad to hear you had a wonderful birthday. You were certainly treated well …

  7. Happy birthday! As always thanks all the links to these great articles. Keep up the great work!

  8. Thanks as always for the links, Paula. Such shocking news about Rushdie… 🙁

  9. I loved the overlooked reads and the book swap piece – as a BookCrosser of course I’m an inveterate leaver of holiday reads on bookshelves – and I try to take books away I know I won’t want to re-read or that are BookCrossing books already so I can leave them!

  10. HaPpY (now very belated) BiRtHdAy, Paula! We’re both Leo babies in early August. I hope you had a lovely time and enjoyed all the delicious food!

    I’m glad you’ve covered Salman Rushdie in your post. What happened to him is just shocking, especially after all this time and when he likely least expected it, too. I can’t get my head around how someone got into the place with a knife. Surely there were still precautions in place for him given the fatwa, let alone precautions for any well-known person doing a public event like this. I really do hope he’s okay and that he comes off the ventilator successfully soon. xx

    • Thank you, Caz. 😀 A very happy belated birthday to you too, my fellow Leo! 🦁

      I tend to think security was a bit thin on the ground at the Rushdie event. He was appearing at Hay Fest the last time I attended about four years ago and there were armed police all over the place on the day he appeared. They were a bit intimidating but obviously necessary. Anyhow, let’s hope he continues to recover and his eye can be saved. 🤞

  11. While the news about Rushdie isn’t surprising, it is still horrifying… what an appropriate opening quote.
    I did get a shock hearing about Raymond Briggs, simply because I hadn’t thought about it in a long time, but I have very fond memories of reading The Snowman as a kid.

  12. Howdy. Have you read any books by William Faulkner in recent years? I’m reading The Reivers now. Neil S.

  13. Happy belated birthday wishes Paula. It sounds as though you had a lovely time. Of Rushdie, after everything he went through in the 1980s with Khomeini it beggars belief that this could happen now, in New York. Thank you for another thought provoking round up.

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