An end of week recap
“Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible.”
– Virginia Woolf (born 25th January 1882)
To all those celebrating Chinese New Year, I wish you a peaceful and prosperous Year of the Rabbit, which, of course, begins tomorrow, on Sunday 22nd January.
As ever, 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.
* 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:
Fantasy: How it Works, by Brian Attebery – In her critique for Shiny New Books, Helen Parry of a gallimaufry describes Attebery’s new study of the fantasy genre as “a short and friendly book that eschews jargon.” Fantasy: How It Works is “structured as ten reasonably short and distinct chapters,” focusing at first on the various meanings “fantasy novels can explore” and tracing “the form’s roots in fairy tale and folklore,” before finally summarising the author’s “arguments as a numbered list.” The book makes a “convincing case for the importance of fantasy fiction in our culture,” says Helen, and she finds it “a wonderful introduction” to the subject.
On my bookshelf: Humankind – a Hopeful History – Rutger Bregman – Motivated over the festive period by the words of a “fellow blogger” to pick up this optimistic tribute to our better natures, Michael Graeme of The Rivendale Review found it a “fascinating” and “uplifting read.” Its author – “an historian, a left leaning intellectual, and a powerful advocate for a Universal Basic Income” – makes “a simple […] and not particularly radical” suggestion, “backed up by centuries of data, yet somehow conveniently ignored” – that human beings are, at heart, “decent, and will go out of their way to help [others].” While Bregman’s opinions “are at times counter-intuitive, to the extent of being hard to swallow,” he does “[draw] upon several fascinating examples to illustrate his point,” and invites the reader to “discount the myth that most people are a bad lot.” Human kind: A Hopeful History’s central message: “that if we could only realise our true natures, so many of the problems plaguing societies the world over would be solved” is, says Michael, “an entirely fresh view of humanity.” Indeed, this book’s “wonderfully hopeful message” is the ideal way to start the New Year.
* 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:
The Public Domain Review: Eating and Reading with Katherine Mansfield – “For Katherine Mansfield, a great master of the [short story] form, eating offered a model for the sensuous consumption of her fiction — stories, in turn, that are filled with scenes of alimentary pleasure. On the centenary of the New Zealand writer’s death, [the author of Modernist Short Fiction and Things] Aimée Gasston samples her appetites.”
BBC Suffolk: Suffolk nature writer Ronald Blythe dies aged 100 – “Ronald Blythe CBE, who chronicled the English countryside and a way of life that was rapidly disappearing, has died at the age of 100.”
Literary Hub: Here’s Your 2023 Literary Film and TV Preview – Emily Temple with 43 literary film and TV dramas premiering in 2023.
Guardian Australia: ‘A visceral feeling’: how a young editor discovered the Australian classic A Fortunate Life – “Wendy Jenkins, who has died aged 70, took some unpromising typed pages from a pile of unsolicited manuscripts and was immediately captivated,” finds Jennifer King.
LA Times: How a new film captured Zora Neale Hurston’s radical authenticity – Chris Vognar on a revelatory new PBS documentary featuring Zora Neale Hurston, the American author, anthropologist and filmmaker.
Faber: Women Talking Film Trailer – Miriam Toews powerful 2018 novel, Women Talking, which is based on real-life events, has been adapted for screen by director Sarah Polley and will hit cinemas next month. Follow the link to watch the trailer.
Nippon.com: Ogawa Yōko’s Latest Collection Offers New Glimpses at the Surreal Underbelly of Everyday Life – “Ogawa Yōko is often cited as one of the Japanese writers most likely to win the Nobel Prize. Her latest collection, Tenohira ni nemuru butai (A Stage that Sleeps in the Palm of Your Hand), contains eight stories, all connected in some way with the theater. The stories draw the reader into a succession of uncanny and surreal fictional worlds.”
The Conversation: How Chaucer’s medieval Wife of Bath was tamed and then liberated in the 21st century – Marion Turner, author of The Wife of Bath: A Biography, explains how Chaucer’s medieval character continues to make her voice heard.
Russia Beyond: Boris Pasternak’s ‘Doctor Zhivago’: A short summary – Boris Pasternak’s 1957 novel, Doctor Zhivago, “shows how turbulent the 20th century in Russia was, with its revolutions, civil war and two world wars,” says Alexandra Guzeva. Even more importantly, she points out, it “demonstrates how one man’s personal life gets destroyed because of all those events.”
The New Yorker: Has Academia Ruined Literary Criticism? – “Literature departments seem to provide a haven for studying books, but [Merve Emre suspects,] they may have painted themselves into a corner.”
The Paris Review: Relentlessness: A Syllabus – Colm Tóibín shares the syllabus from a class he once taught, which includes “translations of some ancient Greek texts, […] Joan Didion, James Baldwin, Ingmar Bergman [and] Sylvia Plath.”
Publishers Weekly: Exploring the Innovative Community Libraries of Korea – R. David Lankes looks at the community libraries of Korea.
Dame: The ‘Conundrum’ Faced By a Pioneering Trans Travel Writer – “In this exclusive excerpt, biographer Paul Clements offers a glimpse into way the late prolific [British] writer Jan Morris navigated a transphobic, misogynist literary world.”
The Canberra Times: The free market is tough on Australian writing. Does the country need a national publisher? – “Australian literature’s problem,” says Robyn Farell, “is that it is written in English.”
The Times of India: Satyarth Nayak on writing ‘Mahagatha’, revisiting the Puranas, writing, and more – Indian author Satyarth Nayak speaks to Surabhi Rawat about writing Mahagatha – 100 Tales from the Puranas.
Lapham’s Quarterly: The Medieval Belly Fat Diet – “Want to be called beautiful by a twelfth-century writer?” asks Eleanor Janega, author of The Once and Future Sex: Going Medieval on Women’s Roles in Society. Then she suggests we “eat sweets and be rich.”
The Pudding: What literature do we study from the 1990s? – Matt Daniels explored university syllabi to identify the literary canon.
CBC: 15 books make Canada Reads 2023 longlist – “The panellists and the books they choose to champion will be revealed on Jan. 25.”
EL PAÍS: Caitlin Moran: ‘Why aren’t any men writing about why they became rapists? That’s what I want to read’ – “After writing 360,000 words about the female experience, [Caitlin Moran’s] ready to take on a new literary challenge: what’s wrong with men?”
The Guardian: Jonathan Raban, travel writer and novelist, dies aged 80 – “The British author, who lived in the US, blended memoir and travelogue in books that were often inspired by the sea.”
CNN Arts: ‘1984,’ George Orwell’s novel of repression, tops Russian bestseller lists – George Orwell’s dystopian novel was “the most popular fiction download of 2022 on the platform of the Russian online bookseller LitRes.”
PopMatters: Spanish Poet Eva Baltasar Tackles the Lesbian Parenting Novel With ‘Boulder’ – “With Boulder, Eva Baltasar lays bear with her incisive power of observation and blade-like prose the unpleasant realities of parenthood,” writes Rhea Rollmann.
Electric Literature: Meet the Champion of Debut Authors – “Adam Vitcavage’s Debutiful website and podcast is a celebration of first books and new writers.”
Vintage: 7 must-read books from Vintage Classics this year – “From rediscovered literary treasures to powerful and timely historical works, here are seven must-read Vintage Classics books for 2023.”
TNR Critical Mass: How to Read The Communist Manifesto – “The novelist China Miéville aims to show that Marx’s words remain just as vital as when they were first hastily composed.”
The Federal: What has led to the great resurgence of literature from Japan – “With their novel experiments with form and content, bold literary conceits and sense of rhythm, Japanese writers in translation are getting commercial success and critical acclaim more than ever before,” discovers Nawaid Anjum.
Arts Hub: Book review: Great Australian Rascals, Rogues and Ratbags, Jim Haynes – Ned Hirst reviews Great Australian Rascals, Rogues and Ratbags: “True crime characters in Australia’s history.”
The First News: Hollywood’s Natalie Portman delights book fans with Olga Tokarczuk interview – After recently selecting Nobel Laureate Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead as her Book of the Month, the actress Natalie Portman interviewed the author on her Insta channel.
Connotations: January 2023 – Lewis Carroll – 125th Anniversary of His Death on 14 January – On 14th January it was the 125th anniversary of the death of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), mathematician, polymath and author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Frieze: Mike Davis’s ‘Ecology of Fear’ Is Still a Ticking Bomb – “Twenty-five years since its publication, the correlations between power, wealth and ecology depicted in Davis’s book remain utterly relevant,” says Justin Beal.
Psyche: Learn the art of journaling and archive your life – “When researching other people’s lives, authors often visit archives to dig into the ephemera that made that person who they were. But when exploring our own lives, we seem to forget that we have our own personal archives,” says Canadian science writer, Sarah Boon.
Words Without Borders: Another Man’s Name – “In his new autobiographical novel, Peruvian author Renato Cisneros imagines the birth of his great-great-grandmother Nicolasa’s first child of seven with her priest—and the parents’ decision to fabricate a father for the newborn.”
The Forward: When a Holocaust denier is actually living right downstairs – Loosely inspired by a true story, Philippe Le Guay’s The Man in the Basement is an unnerving cat-and-mouse thriller about antisemitism and Holocaust denial in contemporary France, writes Simi Horwitz.
The Kathmandu Post: You release all your demons when you write – The Nepali writer, Sangita Rayamajhi, “on the genres of books she enjoys, her love for writing, and book recommendations.”
Slate: An A.I. Translation Tool Can Help Save Dying Languages. But at What Cost? – “A.I. language tools depend on data—and labor—from native speakers,” says Madhuri Karak.
Oldster: Whole 60 – “The Laura Lippman plan requires that you eat whatever you want whenever you want to eat it, and declare yourself beautiful. We’re not going to lie — it’s really hard.”
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