An end of week recap
“To be born in Wales, not with a silver spoon in your mouth, but with music in your blood and with poetry in your soul, is a privilege indeed.”
– Brian Harris
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.
* Week One of Reading Wales *
March may well come in like a lion in other parts of the world but (to mangle a perfectly good proverb) here in Wales it appears in all its searing and impassioned glory in the form of a red dragon. I’m not sure if that means it leaves like a leek. Hmm… Let’s simply say it goes out like a lamb gambolling through a field of daffodils and leave it at that.
If you didn’t already know, this torrent of Wales-related wordage may well have alerted you to the fact that Dewithon 23 is underway, and you can stay abreast of all the latest pieces published by participants at our dedicated page: Reading Wales 2023.
For the umpteenth year running, Chris Lovegrove of Calmgrove beat all of us to it with the first post of the event, Imaginary biologists – a lovely review of Christie Davies’s Dewi the Dragon (about a magical dragon living in South Wales).
We began the month with Miracle on St David’s Day, a moving poem written by a former National Poet of Wales. >> A Poem for St. David’s Day by Gillian Clarke >>.
I will, of course, share many more features during March.
Once again, Google celebrated our patron saint’s day on 1st March with a colourful picture on its home page inspired by things found in Wales. We are told: “The artwork was hand-crafted with cut acrylic glass inspired by traditional stained-glass windows and prominently features Wales’ National flower — the daffodil!”
My heartfelt thanks go out to all of you for your fabulous features and tremendous support. Please do keep sharing your Dewithon content and comments for the rest of the month. If you publish or record anything at all relating to the event, be sure to let me know.
* Irresistible Items *
Many 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:
New Welsh Review: Delicacy: A Memoir about Cake and Death by Katy Wix – “Ed Garland gobbles up this rigorous, crafted and very funny exploration of the links between cake and human distress [Delicacy] by the Welsh comedian and Ghosts actor.”
The Millions: The Exuberant Diversity of Ukrainian Literature – One year after Russia invaded Ukraine, Timothy Walsh celebrates the rich history and exciting future of Ukrainian literature.
BBC News: Sir Terry Pratchett: Short stories to be published after being found by fans – “A collection of 20 recently rediscovered short stories by late fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett is to be published later this year,” reports Helen Bushby.
The Irish Times: Roald Dahl, JK Rowling and Dr Seuss: Language police to the left, book-banning zealots to the right – “If sensitivity readers are willing to bowdlerise an author such as Roald Dahl, what’s going on with first-time writers?” wonders Hugh Linehan.
Brisbane Times: How the Stella Prize has revolutionised our reading habits – The Stella Prize has revolutionised the Australian publishing industry for women writers, finds Kerrie O’Brien, but its head says there’s more to be done.
Book Marks: March’s Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books – Natalie Zutter rounds up some of the latest SFF titles, ranging from an “intriguing new dark fantasy series [to] space Westerns and Afrofuturist fables.”
The New Yorker: A Serbian British Writer Revitalizes the Novel of the Émigré – “Long caught between the Western imagination and the Soviet sphere of influence—much like the Balkans themselves—the novelist Vesna Goldsworthy forges something new.”
Open: Searching for Anon – Sumana Roy on “the missing Indian women essayists.”
History Today: Literary Heroine – “One of Croatia’s most-read authors, Marija Jurić Zagorka spent her life in defiance of convention,” says Maša Grdešić.
The New York Times: It Took Nearly 30 Years. Is America Ready for Ben Okri Now? – “The acclaimed Nigerian British writer is resonating with American readers in a moment of national crisis,” says Anderson Tepper.
The Guardian: From book butlers to library sleepovers: 10 great UK places to stay for book lovers – “To celebrate World Book Day [Rhiannon Batten] picked 10 lovely literary retreats for bookworms” – Wales’ very own Gladstone’s Library among them.
The Verge: AI-generated fiction is flooding literary magazines — but not fooling anyone – “Prominent science fiction and fantasy magazine Clarkesworld announced it would pause submissions after a flood of AI spam. It’s not the only outlet getting AI-generated stories.”
Literary Hub: Helen Mirren is playing Patricia Highsmith in a new thriller. – Dame Helen Mirren “is set to star as the poet of apprehension herself, Patricia Highsmith, in an upcoming thriller film,” says Dan Sheehan.
IGN Southeast Asia: The National Library Board of Singapore Launches Manga Library at City Square Mall – Available for the next six months, patrons can visit this pop-up Manga Library at City Square Mall in Singapore.
HEAT: Roasted Uganda – The prize-winning Ukrainian writer, Andriy Lyubka, says that of “all the things [he] took to the front for Ukrainian soldiers, the most important was a kilogram of freshly roasted coffee from a hipster coffee house in the centre of Uzhhorod.”
Open Book: Stuart Ross Creates a Place for a Weirder, Wilder, More Innovative CanLit with 1366 Books – “The birth of 1366 Books” – an interview with Stuart Ross.
OUPblog: What is “normal” anyway? How reading changes our thinking about mental health – Reading literature makes us think differently, with a subtler emotional lexicon, argues Philip Davis. Here he shares three case studies into reading for identity, expression and mental health from the Centre for Research into Reading, Literature, and Society (CRILS).
Hopscotch Translation: Translation as Instrument of Empire – Joshua M. Price argues that the “picture is rarely clear-cut” when it comes to translators and interpreters, since they “ply their intercultural craft [and] sometimes demonstrate a certain complicity with the terms of domination even as they may otherwise subvert the workings of power.”
The National: Bachtyar Ali, his new book and a lifelong quest to put Kurdish literature on the world map – “Fleeing his home country has never been easy, but the celebrated author uses tragedy and exile as inspiration for The Last Pomegranate Tree.”
The Washington Post: Working with the poet who told us to ‘Praise the Mutilated World’ – “Clare Cavanagh spent more than 20 years translating the late Polish poet Adam Zagajewski. With his final volume now available in English, she reflects on their collaboration.”
Literary Hub: Of War and Capitalism: The Debate About All Quiet on the Western Front Goes All the Way Back to the Book – “Bruce Krajewski on the criticism of Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel and its Oscar-nominated adaptation.”
The New York Times: Where the Lion and the Witch Met the Hobbit – “Discovering the sites in Oxford where C.S. Lewis, the writer of over 30 books, including the “Chronicles of Narnia” series, found faith, inspiration and a life-changing friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien.”
Fast Company: Barnes & Noble is stealing the indie shop playbook, and it’s working – “James Daunt launched his first indie bookshop in London 33 years ago. The Barnes & Noble CEO is now bringing the lessons he learned to the biggest bookseller in America.”
The Paris Review: Oil!: On the Petro-Novel – Michael Tondre writes: “In a letter dated June 1, 1925, Upton Sinclair announced a revolutionary experiment: the petro-novel, a new category of fiction inspired by modernity’s most vexing paradoxes of fossil-fueled life.”
Poetry Foundation: I Wanted the Impossible – “Amy Clampitt’s poetry career began late, but as a new biography attests, she was always a writer of deep ambition and erotic intensity,” says Heather Clark in her review of Willard Spiegelman’s Nothing Stays Put.
World Literature Today: A Conversation with Maria Stepanova – Kevin M. F. Platt and Mark Lipovetsky talk to the Russian poet, novelist, and journalist who has “voiced consistent and outspoken opposition to the Putin regime for years.”
iNews: The best new books to read in March 2023, including Sophie Mackintosh’s Cursed Bread – Anna Bonet with a selection of “pacy [new] thrillers, lyrical reads and mind-expanding non-fiction” to read this month.
IWA: Of Cigarettes and Scars: Welsh Volunteers’ Voices from the Spanish Civil War – Elaine Canning, author of The Sandstone City, “sheds light on the role and motivations of Welsh volunteers who took up arms in Spain during the Civil War.”
The Johannesburg Review of Books: ‘Where else is history but in the stories people tell?’ Wamuwi Mbao reviews The Inheritors by Eve Fairbanks – “The Inheritors by Eve Fairbanks is historical storytelling done well, writes Wamuwi Mbao.”
Prospect: Supervillains, heists, laser guns and… nothing? Percival Everett’s ‘Dr No’ reviewed – “This novel might be inspired by the lunacy of the James Bond movies,” says Lucy Scholes, “but it wanders into far more head-spinning territory.”
Lapham’s Quarterly: Flesh and Page – Bruce Holsinger on the ancient and “laborious process of making parchment.”
The Heights: Tóibín Explores Using Emotional Truths Versus Facts in History Writing at Lowell Lecture – “For Irish playwright and novelist Colm Tóibín, writing history depends more on emotional truth than literal facts,” says Ben Kahl.
Independent: James Bond books rewritten to remove ‘offensive’ references – “It comes days after a row over the editing of Roald Dahl’s books,” reports Emily Atkinson.
The Georgia Review: Dreaming the World: Vinod Kumar Shukla’s Extraordinary Sentences – Vidyan Ravinthiran wonders what to do when, as a critic, “you encounter a writer so gladdeningly cajoling, so sweetly weird that you’re convinced anyone who read him deeply and carefully would be delighted; but who also, stylistically, can be studiously bizarre in a way that you worry will scare off the very readers who might love him?”
The Christian Science Monitor: Sobfests, pop songs: TikTok upends France’s lauded literary landscape – With emotional videos on TikTok’s viral #BookTok community, French influencers are bypassing the traditional literary establishment and garnering younger readers, discovers Colette Davidson.
Esquire: 15 Books Chris Pine Thinks Everyone Should Read – Alex Pappademas asked Esquire’s “March cover star, a serious reader, to select five book recommendations. He picked fifteen.”
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
Another wonderful round-up, Paula, thank you! (And thanks for the mention!) A few responses, now. I hadn’t spotted the item about Patricia Highsmith being played by Helen Mirren, so I look forward to that coming out. Good news too about the Terry Pratchett short story collection to be published later: the late still-missed author of course died eight years ago on 12th March.
This ongoing debate about tampering with texts: my view for what it’s worth is that the originals should always be published in full but, if felt necessary, with publishers’ caveats, trigger warnings or what-have-you inserted to indicate language likely to cause offence may occur; in years to come these editorial notices will prove useful archive material for social historians wanting to see how society viewed classic but troublesome texts well into the 21st century. Next, all Old Testament editions will be rewritten to remove references to misogyny, murder, slavery, child sacrifice, witchcraft, false prophets, genocide, adultery, onanism… Well, you get the picture.
Thank you, Chris. I can always rely on your Dewithon posts to be a bit special. 😀
I completely agree with all that you say regarding book censorship. A brief warning should suffice – and that should go for the Old Testament, too! 🙈🙊🙉⚰️
Offense and the need to maintain the authenticity of the record is something I grapple with in my day job, Chris. It’s inevitable that archive collections contain material of a pejorative and harmful nature given the history of Western society. The debate in archives is around how to represent such content in a catalogue, when and how to use an original title, and how to flag for those researching the history of outdated and offensive terminology as well as for those harmed by its continued existence. Your thoughts here align with the approach that custodians of history are taking.
That’s good to know, Jan.
I’m glad I’m in alignment, Jan – doctoring or bowdlerising texts without explanation given or context explained is almost as bad as book banning and in some cases worse than book burning because generations may grow up with the wrong impressions of what was regarded as generally acceptable in the past, which does nobody any favours.
I’m in favour, too, of controversial statues remaining on display – though not necessarily in any positions of honour, preferably in a curated museum gallery with explanatory captions.
I love Katy Wix and have my own symbiotic relationship with cake and distress, so I’ve reserved her book at the library. Thanks for drawing my attention to it!
It’s a pleasure, Jan. Oh, I know exactly what you mean about eating cake during difficult times – it’s so pleasurable for the time that it takes to eat every last crumb but leaves me feeling dreadfully guilty when I look at the empty plate.
Guilt triggered by pleasure is such a wicked thing. Where does that notion come from, that the things that give us pleasure, particularly when we need it, are unvirtuous? We joke about it, but I wish we could allow ourselves to just take pleasure in the moment 😊
If only! 🥺
Thanks for these, Paula! I shall have to dig on the Welsh shelves to see what I have!
Great stuff, Kaggsy! 👍
No more guilt about cake and books! Especially for women! 🍰📚 Very interesting piece in Open on female Indian essayists. As always Paula, I appreciate your truffling out of all these wonderful links.
You’re right, Julé. I shall turn over a new leaf – or perhaps I should say, a new slice of cake. 🍰
Thank you, as ever, for taking the time to comment. 😊
Lovely opening quote Paula 🙂 I’ll be posting my Dewithon contribution on Tuesday hopefully. I really like Katy Wix and keep meaning to read Delicacy – thank you for the nudge!
That’s fabulous news, Madame B. I can’t wait to read it. 😀
When I heard about Clarkesworld closing submissions due to the high number of AI submissions I started to get very worried about how writing and reading might change over the next several years. Sometimes I fear we may not be able to trust our eyes or ears anymore once AI works and deepfakes become more and more common.
It is certainly troubling, Marie. I hardly dare think where it will all lead.
Late to the party – but I am grateful for the chance to smell the coffee on the Ukrainian front line. What an article. Also, at the far end of the spectrum, I am reminded of a fantastic radio play about CS Lewis being introduced by Tolkien to the idea of setting his writing in an imaginary world. We had the wonderful juxtaposition of their conversation with immersion in the worlds they created. Thanks, Paula!
It’s a pleasure, Maria. Thank you for reading. 🤗