An end of week recap
“The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.”
– Aldous Huxley
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.
* Summertime and the Reading is Easy *
Would you like to clear 20 books from your groaning TBR stacks within a mere three months? If your reply is in the affirmative, then Cathy Brown of 746 Books invites you to take part in her ever-popular 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, which begins on Thursday 1st June and continues until Friday 1st September. Cathy admits to being “the slackest” of event hosts and will “bend the rules to help anyone reach their goal” – thus, it is permissible to swap books mid-way through the event or drop your reading goal from “20 to 15 (or even 10)”. Anything goes! Should you wish to participate, simply swipe the Books of Summer image, select your titles, post a link to your list in the comments section of the official Announcing 20 Books of Summer ’23: Add your links here! page and you will be added to the master list. Finally, you are requested to please use the #20booksofsummer23 hashtag when discussing your progress on social media. Cathy would very much appreciate your support and hopes “some of you will join in the summer reading fun!”
* 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 Hudson Review: The Birth of the Self – Andrea Wulf finds herself “fascinated by the ‘Jena Set’,” with whom Alexander von Humboldt “socialized and collaborated during extended visits to the town [in] the 1790s,” writes Brooke Allen in her review of Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self.
UnHerd: The liberal complacency of Martin Amis – Following the recent death of Martin Amis, Terry Eagleton discusses the novelist’s “exquisite style [hiding] a squalid sense of morality.”
Open: “A feminist translation of an ancient Tamil text about love and longing” – Vineetha Mokkil reads the Tirukkural: The Book Of Desire by Meena Kandasamy.
BBC Culture: The 100 greatest children’s books of all time – “BBC Culture polled 177 books experts from 56 countries in order to find the greatest children’s books ever. From Where the Wild Things Are to Haroun and the Sea of Stories, here’s the top 100.”
TNS: A fearless endeavour – Sara Danial on “a powerful new anthology [which] explores the resilience and complexity of the lives of Pakistani women.”
Independent: Bestselling Japanese author Haruki Murakami wins Spanish Asturias prize for literature – The Princess of Asturias Award jury praised the “uniqueness” of the 72-year-old Kyoto-born writer’s essays, short stories and novels.
Daily Maverick: A literary festival by any other name may not always read so sweetly – “Ben Williams draws dubitable conclusions about literary festivals from his most recent experience.”
The Guardian: Caffè Nero launches major book awards – “Like the Costa prizes, scrapped in 2022, the Neros will cover children’s books, nonfiction and novels, emphasising ‘commercial’ titles.”
Middle East Eye: The Other Side of the Shadow: Lebanese writer Rachid el-Daif turns to fairytales – “A power-hungry king tries to hunt down his absconded queen in the author’s latest novel, an escape from the reality of life in Lebanon.”
Ploughshares: The Power of Oral Stories in The Distant Marvels – “Keeping the stories, the myths, the facts, and the losses of the Cuban people alive is important. Telling these stories is an act of active resistance against the washing away of the Cuban people who have toiled under colonizers and dictators,” says Christopher Louis Romaguera in this piece on Chantel Acevedo’s The Distant Marvels.
Air Mail: A Swann’s (Three-) Way – Josh Zajdman reviews the third English-language translation of Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way – the first volume of his seminal work, In Search of Lost Time – by the late James Grieve.
Literary Hub: Why the Spanish Civil War Mattered to Writers on Distant Shores – “Sarah Watling looks at the role literature played in the fight against Fascism.”
Public Books: Crossing “The Tartar Steppe”: A New Buzzati – “Did this 1940 novel use symbolism not for aesthetic purposes, but, instead, to conceal its critique of Italian fascism from the regime’s censors?” asks Lawrence Venuti of Fortezza Bastiani’s The Tartar Steppe – recently republished as The Stronghold.
Compact: The Autofiction Writer and the Torturer – The French author, screenwriter and film director, Emmanuel Carrère, has, according to Marcus Hijkoop, “established himself as France’s premier nonfiction writer.”
The Irish Times: ‘I wanted younger lesbians, gays, queers, trans and non-binary people to know the history… I was told I would never get a job’ – “In her debut novel [Slant], Katherine O’Donnell tells the story of a young lesbian emigrant to Boston in the 1990s,” finds Una Mullally.
The New York Review: Surviving by Accident – “With neither cynicism nor sentimentality, Marina Jarre makes us feel the hard, dull ache of the spiritual aloneness that countless lives endure, especially in the shadow of a dramatic world war,” writes Vivian Gornick.
Nippon.com: Furuta Oribe: A Samurai Life Devoted to Zen and Tea – “The manga series Hyōge mono, published over 12 years from 2005, is the story of the samurai Furuta Oribe. But rather than depicting the military aspects of his life during times of unrest, it focuses on the blossoming culture of Zen and beauty,” writes Hotta Junji.
This is Africa: Audrey Chirenje’s Life Will Humble You – A light-hearted contemporary novel which raises pertinent subjects – “Audrey Chirenje’s novel Life Will Humble You is a welcome addition to the literature of Zimbabwe. Its high entertainment value is a blessing to a canon that has many books that tend to be hard, contemplative and impregnable,” writes Andrew Chatora.
Literary Hub: The 28 Novels You Need to Read This Summer – Emily Temple with recommendations for books to read on “beaches, benches, backyards, and BBQs.”
Poetry Foundation: The Mere Fact of Her – “A newly reissued memoir by Emily Dickinson’s niece tries to decode the poet’s enduring mystery.”
The Guardian: Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit story originated in African folktales, expert argues – “The unacknowledged debt Potter owed to the Brer Rabbit stories told by enslaved Africans deserves to be recognised, says scholar,” Dr Emily Zobel Marshall.
The Washington Post: Objection to sexual, LGBTQ content propels spike in book challenges – Hannah Natanson discovers that “an analysis of book challenges from across the [USA] shows the majority were filed by just 11 people.”
The New York Times: The Essential Neil Gaiman – “The man behind the landmark reboot of “The Sandman” comic (and Netflix series) is going strong after decades of writing in just about every format. [J. D. Biersdorfer summarises] where to get started with his books for adults.”
The Wall Street Journal: ‘Orwell’ Review: A Fresh Biography of Truth’s Champion – “To transform himself from imperial policeman to writer, Eric Blair set aside both his name and the trappings of respectability his family cherished,” writes Dominic Green.
Financial Times: Georgi Gospodinov’s comedy novel ‘Time Shelter’ wins International Booker prize – Laura Battle reports Georgi Gospodinov’s novel Time Shelter, translated from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel, has won the International Booker Prize.
Mekong Review: Unforgettable blood – Unable to write openly about repression, Uyghur writer Perhat Tursun resorted to symbolism, invoking visceral descriptions in his novel The Backstreets to convey a sense of disconnect and despair.
The Offing: Cyberfeminism, Mutation and an Oath of Maintenance – “For this book [Cyberfeminism Index], we wanted to create a virus… a way to infiltrate ‘legitimizing’ institutions with our grassroots collection,” Mindy Seu tells Divya Gangwani.
Pop Matters: Author John Wray on the Death Metal Novel as Flamethrower – “Like the death and black metal bands it includes, John Wray’s novel Gone to the Wolves is a full-on assault on the senses that doesn’t hold back,” says Steve Woodward.
World Literature Today: World Literature Today Announces Finalists for 2024 Neustadt International Prize for Literature – “World Literature Today, the University of Oklahoma’s award-winning magazine of international literature and culture, has announced finalists for the 2024 Neustadt International Prize for Literature.”
The Nation: The Last Cosmopolitan – Throughout his life he “maintained his commitment to a humanity undivided by the artificial lines of a nation or state and standing as one collective whole,” says Farah Abdessamad in this piece on “Elias Canetti’s 20th century.”
The Sydney Morning Herald: Debut author scoops $85,000 in literary prizes with memoir – Gudanji/Wakaja author Debra Dank won Book of the Year at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and the prizes for non-fiction, new writing and Indigenous writers.
Big Think: Using big words doesn’t make you sound smarter – Tom Hartsfield believes “George Orwell got it right” when he said: “Never use a long word where a short one will do.”
South China Morning Post: ‘Somebody may call the police’: Chinese Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan turns to ChatGPT to beat writer’s block – Stephen Chen reports: “Literary giant known for Red Sorghum reveals AI chatbot helped him craft speech for fellow author Yu Hua, but he stresses his novels are his own work.”
Vanity Fair: How Will Succession End? This Poem May Hold the Key – Andrew Quintana with a “close reading of John Berryman’s ‘Dream Song 29,’ the cryptic poem where the titles of every Succession season finale come from.
National Review: Publisher Retracts Gender-Critical Paper – Madeleine Kearns suspects the official reason given by Springer Nature for shelving J. Michael Bailey’s Archives of Sexual Behavior is likely a pretext.
Bon Appétit: Hollywood’s Gruesome, Lurid Obsession with People Eating People – “In an essay Carmen Maria Machado explores why audiences can’t get enough of cannibalism stories like The Last of Us and Yellowjackets right now.”
NBC News: An ancient writing system from the Philippines makes an unlikely comeback – “Baybayin, the written component of the Tagalog language, is becoming a new way for Filipinos to explore their cultural identity.”
Politico: Britain’s Rishi Sunak loves reading racy books about horses – “The British prime minister is a big fan of Jilly Cooper,” reveals Andrew McDonald.
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