An end of week recap
“There are such a lot of things that have no place in summer and autumn and spring. Everything that’s a little shy and a little rum. Some kinds of night animals and people that don’t fit in with others and that nobody really believes in. They keep out of the way all the year. And then when everything’s quiet and white and the nights are long and most people are asleep—then they appear.”
– Tove Jansson
This is a 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.
* Turn to Japan in ’23 *
Meredith Smith of Dolce Bellezza “wondered if there would be an interest in hosting the Japanese Literature Challenge for the sixteenth year, and so […] threw out the idea [to her followers] on Instagram.” She need not have worried because the event has “ardent fans” who were delighted at the prospect. Therefore, the reading will begin on 1st January 2023 (and continue until the end of February), commencing with “a sticky post” on her blog. What’s more, Meredith intends to organise “a few give-aways” – you can peruse photos of the selected titles at The Japanese Literature Challenge 16 is coming soon… “Will you join in?” she wonders. Please use the #japaneselitchallenge16 hashtag when discussing the challenge on social media.
* Irresistible Items *
Umpteen fascinating articles appeared on my bookdar last week. I generally make a point of tweeting (soon, perhaps, Mastodonning) my favourite finds (or adding them to my Facebook group page), but in case you missed anything, here are a selection of interesting snippets:
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Review: Curiosities join murder mysteries in new novel by Louise Penny – In the thick of a case in A World of Curiosities, Canadian author Louise Penny’s high-tension latest, a colleague visits Chief Inspector Armand Gamache in the village of Three Pines, Quebec, finds Gail Pennington.
Letters From Suzanne: An Exclusive Interview with JK Rowling about her New Project – “When J. K. Rowling tells you she has something up her sleeve that she wants to show you,” says Suzanne Moore, “it’s worth getting on a train to Edinburgh.”
Literary Hub: Napoleonic Conspiracy Theories, Unsociable Shabbiness, and More Occupational Hazards of the Second-Hand Book Trade – “Shaun Bythell chronicles his days as a bookseller.”
The Observer: Steer clear of ‘mediocre writing’ by celebrities for Christmas, authors plead – “Books by TV personalities and other high-profile figures will top bestseller lists, but critics say professionals lose out,” reports David Barnett.
The Atlantic: The Atlantic 10 – “The books that made us think the most this year.”
BBC Culture: ‘Reading it is like codebreaking’ – “What happens to our brains when we learn Braille, asks Red Szell in this video for BBC Culture’s A Sensory World series.”
Bad Form: Historical Fiction: Only For White Authors? – It hasn’t escaped the notice of historical fiction writer, Stacey Thomas, that many books by diverse authors are currently focusing on “recovering the forgotten stories of Black and Brown figures from the past.”
Independent Book Review: STARRED Book Review: Cul-de-sac – “Cul-de-sac by Nick Perilli is “a genre-blending mosaic that explores what lies on the other side of death,” says Joshua Ryan Bligh in his review of this Montag Press novel.
The Sydney Morning Herald: Best reads of the year: Top writers reveal the books they loved in 2022 – Helen Garner, Tim Winton, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, Jonathan Franzen, Jane Harper and other leading authors reveal what they’ve most enjoyed reading over the past 12 months.
Counter Craft: Processing: How Elisa Gabbert Wrote Normal Distance – “The author on sentence-thoughts, constructing poems, and the eternal themes of ‘boredom, death, and suffering!’”
The Guardian: Marijane Meaker obituary – Michael Carlson on the “[g]roundbreaking author, initially of lesbian-themed fiction including the 1952 bestseller Spring Fire.”
Berfrois: A Farewell to Café Hemingway – “Some writers search all their lives for the perfect place to work,” says John Crutchfield. The Café Hemingway has always been his creative corner.
African Arguments: The best African books of 2022 – “From the thought provoking and evocative to the laughter inducing,” Samira Sawlani spotlights African Arguments favourite books of 2022.
DW: Stephen King and Margaret Atwood console debut novelist – “When Chelsea Banning tweeted that nobody turned up at her book signing event, the post went viral as literary stars shared their own humiliating tales,” reports Manasi Gopalakrishnan.
The Hindu: Crime does not pay: an author on the slow and low demand for Indian crime fiction – “While the crime and mystery genre is a hotseller in the U.K. and the U.S., its sales are surprisingly low in India,” says Richa S Mukherjee.
The Irish News: Dear John: Exploring the letters of Seamus Heaney, Michael McLaverty, Hilary Mantel and others to John McGahern – “John McGahern, one of Ireland’s most important writers, was in correspondence with many other writers throughout his life. A treasure trove of the letters he received from figures including Philip Roth, Ian McEwan, Hilary Mantel, Seamus Heaney and Michael McLaverty makes fascinating reading in its own right, writes Noel McAdam.”
Prospect: The delightful, surprising, secret lives of stones – “A beautiful new book contains 60 essays on the harder parts of the natural world—from diamonds to coprolite. Its revelations are frequently delightful,” writes Cal Flyn of Hettie Judah’s Lapidarium: The Secret Lives of Stones.
NPR: ‘A Dangerous Business’ is an entertaining, Poe-inspired murder mystery – In Jane Smiley’s latest novel, A Dangerous Business, which was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue, characters Eliza and Jean are determined to figure out who killed their missing colleagues.
The Booker Prizes: Esi Edugyan announced as Booker Prize 2023 Chair of judges as prize opens for entries – The identity of the judges for the Booker Prize 2023 have been revealed.
Current Affairs: Why We Need Book Reviews – Merely one week after being sold, Bookforum is closing down. Nathan J. Robinson argues that a “flourishing democracy depends on a culture that cares about and talks about books.”
ArabLit Quarterly: Fatma Qandil’s ‘Empty Cages’ Wins 2022 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature – The Egyptian writer, Fatma Qandil, who dedicated her award to Arab women writers, said that winning the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature proves that her long journey with writing “was not in vain.”
FineBooks & Collections: Caveat Emptor: or some thoughts on ethics and online book buying – Alex Johnson discovers: “The Independent Online Booksellers’ Association aims to combine traditional bookselling best practices with the opportunities of online bookselling.”
Hindustan Times: Review: The War Diary of Asha-San by Lt Bharati ‘Asha’ Sahay Choudhry – “The simple diary entries that comprise this book are rare accounts of the diaspora’s role and of women’s participation in India’s freedom movement.”
The Japan Times: Take a journey through the mythic and mundane in ‘The Thorn Puller’ – Hiromi Ito’s semi-autobiographical, transnational novel probes the complexities of life as it follows the struggles of a woman shouldering an impressive load of family troubles.
Shondaland: Explore the Depths of the Sea and Human Experience in ‘How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures’ – “Sabrina Imbler discusses their new collection of essays” with Sarah Neilson.
History Today: Books of the Year 2022 – History Today’s “year in reading covers the year’s major anniversaries such as Partition, Stalingrad and the March on Rome as well as space travel, English law and, of course, the Tudors.”
The First News: The Republic of Dreams – “A new online project brings the Drohobycz of Polish-Jewish writer Bruno Schulz back to life through reimagined immersive soundscapes and narratives.”
Arts Hub: Winners of 2022 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards announced – Celina Lei on Australia’s annual celebration of literature, which has honours people for their cultural contributions and literary talents.
The Irish Times: Nightingale and cello, or Beatrice and the bird – “Poet Mark Roper on being inspired by cellist Beatrice Harrison’s BBC duets with a nightingale.”
Esquire: The Murky Path To Becoming a New York Times Best Seller – “Publishing insiders tell [Sophie Vershbow] why they find “the list” so frustrating—turns out, it’s a data project full of contradictions.”
Zocalo: Why is Fantasy Stuck in the Middle Ages? – “From the latest Tolkien adaptation to the new Thrones series, a genre is reckoning with its most well-known setting,” says Jackie Mansky.
Gawker: The Brilliant Hackwork of P.G. Wodehouse – “In the right hands, recycling a plot can be very funny,” says Dan Brooks.
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
Thanks for all the work you put into these posts, Paula. Wishing you a happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas season ☃️😊
Thank you so much, Sandra. A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Hoping 2023 will be a really good year for you and your loved ones. 🤶❄️🎄👋
Excited to read that new Louise Penny book!
I’m sorry to say I’ve not read any of her work. Would you recommend reading her Chief Inspector Armand novels in order of publication or is it possible to start the series mid flow, so to speak? 🤔
Louise Penny is quite the thing with several avid mystery/ crime readers I know. I, too, have yet to try one but i am assured by aficionados that it would be best to read them in chronological order (although not essential.)
Thank you, Josie. I used to read lots of whodunits but less so now. A good murder can be quite comforting, so I may well start again! 😉
I would start in the beginning to have the fullest understanding of the continuing characters. Such a wonderful series!
I like the sound of starting at the beginning and having a whole series to enjoy. Thanks for the recommendation! Which is the first one, I wonder? I’m going to look it up
Some of the titles are different in the UK compared to the US, but for both the 1st one in the series is called “Still Life.”
Thank you, Becky. Will do. 😊
As always a literary trove. Thank-you. I was especially pleased to see the link to the Guardian obit for Marijane Meaker. I had missed it, being rather annoyed with that paper these days. Until it became too much, my friend Molly always spent Christmas with her out on Long Island – part of a whole circle of women who – way back in the day – included Patricia Highsmith.
Thank you, Josie. You know some fascinating folk. I bet Molly has some incredible memories of Christmases past. 😊🎄
I too am somewhat miffed with the Guardian at present. Quite possibly for the same reasons as you.
They have fascinating stories to tell of living as independent working women in the New York and living in then Bohemian Greenwich village of the 1950s. Another world.
Books by slebs may top bestseller lists, but the public is mostly discerning I think (David W*lliams notwithstanding) – maybe it’s retail outlets with their stacked displays that are partly to blame, particularly the likes of WH Sm*th’s… One thing I don’t get though is why would anyone close Bookforum immediately after buying it? That makes no commercial sense, even if the title was ailing.
Anyway, the usual cornucopia, Paula, thanks! (And I’ve sent you a message about a Le Guin event I’m planning to run.)
You are right about large retail stores piling celebrity titles next to the tills. It’s just too easy. Yes, it is sad to hear Bookforum is closing – I can’t understand it either.
Many thanks for your message regarding the Le Guin event. It’s a marvellous idea, Chris, and I’m sure it will be hugely popular with the book blogging community. Please be sure let me know when you post an introduction or similar to the event – I will, of course, feature it in my weekly wind up. 🎄❄️😊
Thanks, Paula – the advance notice post for #LoveHain is now scheduled for 2nd January. In the meantime, hope that you’ll both get some lovely reading during some warm, peaceful and comfortable few days, sleb promotions notwithstanding. 😊 🌲🎄📚
Wonderful selection of links as usual, should keep me busy and out of mischief in the run-up to Christmas. Wishing you a restful and joyful festive period.
Thank you, Marina. I intend to post my next wind up on Christmas Eve and a final one before 2022 is out, so there will be plenty of links to explore should you have five minutes to yourself.
I hope you too enjoy the festive period and that ’23 is a really good year for you. 🎅❄️🎄⛄
Thank you, Paula, all sorts of great links this week. The piece from Suzanne Moore really struck home and the one by Stacey Thomas in Bad Form is fascinating. I’d also like to get a glimpse of those John McGahern letters some day.
I always enjoyed Suzanne Moore’s pieces for the Guardian and feel sad they dispensed with her services, which leads me straight back to Josie’s comment (4 messages back). Anyhow, thank you, as ever, Julé, for highlighting your favourite pieces. It is enormously helpful when it comes to choosing links for inclusion each week. 😊⛄❄️
For decades to be a “Guardian reader” was a kind of short hand for a news reading identity – someone liberal minded, with an interest in culture broadly conceived, who liked to consider all sides of the issues and took pride in reaching considered opinions based on a look at all sides of a topic.. The reality might have been something quite different but it was an honourable identity for someone who wanted to be considered open-minded, well-informed, and thoughtful. With the loss of journalists like Suzanne Moore and Hadley Freeman i’m not sure this is still the case. And the prominence of Owen Jones and Zoe Williams has not helped. Her recent interview with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie being a case in point. Wondering whether the Guardian’s success in the US is a factor here.
Well, this is one American reader who is thoroughly annoyed by what the paper is turning into. The bad first sign for me was the slowly shrinking book coverage starting years ago.
My mum remembers the paper when it was still the Manchester Guardian (she’s originally a Mancunian) and the city was really proud of its liberal outlook on the world. How tragic that it has come to this. I sincerely hope Katharine Viner will come to realise she has joined the mob persecuting the wrong people.
Too true, Julé! 😢
I remember those days. My family took the Daily Herald until it was rebranded in 1964 (imagine! – the “forerunner'” of the egregious “Sun”) and the Manchester Guardian weekly edition – that was also sent to distant relatives in Canada.
Thanks Paula – a cornucopia of links for me to explore this week! And I’m very much looking forward to the Japanese Lit Challenge – I already have a pile waiting!! Happy Christmas to you and yours!
Thank you, Kaggsy. A very Merry Christmas to you too. Hope there are plenty of books under your tree! 📚❄️🎄⛄
Thank you so much, Paula, for including the Japanese Literature Challenge 16 in your post. xo
It’s a pleasure, Meredith. I hope your 16th challenge is the best yet! 😊
Such riches again, Paula. I’m fascinated by the braille brain article. I didn’t even realize that the brain has a special area just for reading and separate from heard and spoken language. Also enjoyed in the Wodehouse article being told that no one makes money from funny books these days. I’m not even going to try! Have a lovely warm and cheery Christmas – to you and all your merry readers!
Lovely opening quote Paula! I’d not heard it before and it’s so evocative.
Another great haul, Paula, I am never without something interesting to click and read! The Sydney Morning Herald “best reads of the year” as recommended by top Aussie authors seems a bit shonky to me. They mostly read the same books, hmm…
Wishing you and your loved ones a happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year 2023 🙂