Winding Up the Week #337

An end of week recap

In the old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press.”
 Oscar Wilde

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 one 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 pick only this one – which was published in recent weeks:

You Read Jasper Fforde Yet? – Over at Thoughts Become Words, Gretchen Bernet-Ward recently posted an engaging piece about her admiration for the books of English novelist Jasper Fforde – a writer she credits with pulling her “back into reading” at a time when “health and family dilemmas” were dominating her every waking moment. She cheerfully recollects an unexpectedly rewarding visit to a mobile library in her corner of Brisbane and reveals her favourite Fforde titles in what she describes as a “reverie, down memory lane.” Moreover, Gretchen is keen to share her passion with others and emphasises the sheer readability of this singular author’s brand of alternative history and comic fantasy.

* 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, there follows a selection of interesting snippets:


Himal Southasian: Sri Lankan speculative fiction lifts off – “An extraordinary burst of anglophone SF writing from Sri Lanka looks afresh at home and the universe(s),” says Gautam Bhatia.

DW: Milan Kundera: Czech writer dies aged 94 – “His book The Unbearable Lightness of Being brought the Prague Spring to life for international readers,” recalls Nadine Wojcik of Milan Kundera, the Czech-born French writer who has died at the age of 94.

The Marginalian: Ursula K. Le Guin on Art, Storytelling, and the Power of Language to Transform and Redeem – Art “unsettles us awake, disrupts our deadening routines [and] enlarges our reservoir of hope,” writes Maria Popover – and this, she observes, “is what Ursula K. Le Guin reflects on in an interview by the polymathic marine conservationist Jonathan White, included in his wonderful Talking on the Water: Conversations about Nature and Creativity.”

Evening Standard: 14 of the best independent bookshops in London – “Sourcing your next summer holiday beach read?” Laura Hampson suggests you “head to one of London’s best indie bookshops, from Pages of Hackney to Dulwich Books.”

Africa is a Country: Transient literatures and maps – “During apartheid, literary magazine Staffrider flourished from its ability to represent multiple social visions,” writes Nombuso Mathibela. Nevertheless, “it struggled,” she says, “to achieve the same in democratic South Africa.”

Bomb: Ruth Madievsky Interviewed by Katya Apekina – “The debut novelist [of All-Night Pharmacy] on communing with Soviet ancestors and writing characters who are in ever-constant search for community.”

Chicago Review of Books: Transition as Entry Point in “The Best Possible Experience” – Malavika Praseed reviews Indian author Nishanth Injam’s debut short story collection, The Best Possible Experience.

The Public Domain Review: Radioactive Fictions Marie Corelli and the Omnipotence of Thoughts – “Outselling books by Arthur Conan Doyle and H. G. Wells in their day, Marie Corelli’s occult romance novels brim with fantasies of telepathy, mesmerism, and radioactivity. Steven Connor revisits The Life Everlasting (1911), where the recent discovery of radium shapes the mechanics of phantasmal machines and psychic forces able to pass through all impediments.”

BBC Culture: Why adults should read children’s books – “The best children’s fiction “helps us refind things we may not even know we have lost”, writes the author Katherine Rundell, with many books proving subversive, emboldening – and awe-inspiring.”

Commonweal: Holding His Pose – Marcus Hijkoop reviews The House on Via Gemito – a prize-winning novel by an Italian writer rumoured to be Elena Ferrante, in which the author challenges the myth of the singular, self-made artist.

ABC News: The best new books released [last month], as selected by avid readers and critics – A “shortlist of new releases read and recommended by The Bookshelf’s Kate Evans, The Book Show’s Sarah L’Estrange, and critics Declan Fry and Cher Tan.” 

Al Jazeera: Books are losing value in Afghanistan – this scares me – “My country, where the pursuit of knowledge was always venerated, is descending into darkness,” writes Hujjatullah Zia.

Orion: Duck, Chair, Bone, Suspense: A Conversation with Jon Klassen – The Canadian writer and illustrator of children’s books and Caldecott Medal winner, Jon Klassen, speaks to Kathleen Yale about “unusual characters, the art of suspense, the joy of good collaboration, and… revenge.”

El Mundo: Marguerite Yourcenar and the forgery that whitewashed Emperor Hadrian – “Presented as a historical novel, Memoirs of Hadrian aroused the furious reaction of some academics and was the centre of controversy over the boundaries between reality and fiction.”

The Irish Times: Mary O’Donoghue: ‘The first paragraph is where it’s at, where possibilities are asserted’ – “The writer on her new short story collection, working as a fiction editor in the US and the joys of translating Irish poetry.”

The Markaz Review: Stories From The Markaz, Stories From the Center – Malu Halasa presents the double summer issue featuring many talented Middle Eastern writers, translators and artists.

Prospect: Small gods are big history – “Creatures such as faeries and fauns have persisted for centuries in the human imagination,” says Peter Hoskin. Twilight of the Godlings by Francis Young “looks deeply into their origins.”

The Booker Prizes: International Booker Prize 2024: Judges announced and submissions now open – “The judges for the International Booker Prize 2024 [were] revealed [yesterday], as the prize opens for submissions.”

LA Times: Reviving a novelist of monsters and men: Why Rachel Ingalls matters now – “Ingalls remains largely unknown” but “there are plenty of fresh discoveries to be made among [her] work,” says Jessica Ferri.

The Paris Review: The Last Window-Giraffe – “Zilahy can murder a sacred cow and canonize an unknown victim of totalitarianism in a single sentence,” says Marina Abramović of the Hungarian author of The Last Window-Giraffe – “labeled a novel” but essentially “a hippogriff of a creation…”

CBC Books: 40 Canadian books to read this summer – “Looking for a good book to read on a nice summer day? CBC Books has you covered! Here are 40 recent Canadian books to check out this season.”

USA Today: You can’t tell the truth about the Holocaust in Poland. Could that happen in the US? – “Cautionary examples loom in other countries, especially Poland where it is now against the law for its citizens to speak the truth about Poles’ complicity in the Holocaust,” says Judy Rakowsky in this piece about US book censorship. 

The Guardian: Geoffrey Chaucer note asking for time off work identified as his handwriting – “Exclusive: Document was originally thought to be written by clerk on behalf of Canterbury Tales writer who worked as civil servant,” reveals Dalya Alberge.

Poetry Foundation: Sylvia Plath’s “The Applicant” – A poem described by Julie Irigaray as a “hymn to female independence in the form of a withering critique of marriage.”

Words Without Borders: The Watchlist: July 2023 – “Each month, Tobias Carroll shares a handful of recently released or forthcoming titles in translation that he’s especially excited about. This month’s selection includes books translated from Arabic, French, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish.”

AP News: Book Review: Lisa See’s ‘Lady Tan’s Circle of Women’ celebrates a Ming Dynasty physician – “Soon after she published her last novel […], Lisa See joined much of the rest of the world in seclusion, sheltering […] to avoid the deadly coronavirus” – which, says John Rogers, “lead directly” to one of her most “enjoyable works,” Lady Tan’s Circle of Women.

The New York Times: The Art of Translation – “See how a translator carries a book from one language to another, line by line.”

The Asian Age: Slow & lovely dive into a middle class Indian girl’s young angst – Set in New Delhi, Anjana Appachana’s Fear and Lovely is about “secrets held by Mallika, the protagonist.”

Guardian Australia: ‘Exciting’, ‘bold’, ‘laugh out loud’: the best Australian books out in July – “Each month, Guardian Australia editors and critics pick the upcoming titles they have already devoured – or can’t wait to get their hands on.” Feminist and literary activist – In this piece on the short story collection, Something Strange, Like Hunger, Christina Mohr writes: “The Moroccan author Malika Moustadraf (1969 – 2006) wrote about sexuality, patriarchy and women’s rights in her texts. When she died from chronic kidney disease aged just 37, she left behind an exciting, little-known literary legacy.”

Electric Literature: Announcing the 2023 Shortlist for the Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction – This is the shortlist for the 2023 Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction, followed by a brief interview with Theo Downes-Le Guin.

TNR: The Tantalizing, Lonely Search for Alien Life – “Scientists disagree about what life on other planets even means. Would we know it when we saw it?” asks Phillip Maciak in his review of Jaime Green’s cultural and scientific exploration of alien life and the cosmos, The Possibility of Life.

Orion: Finding Community in Isolation – Emily Raboteau in conversation with American novelist, essayist and critic, Professor Kate Zambreno.

The Drift: Publicists, Manifesto Pushers, Propagandists​ | What Happened to the Avant-Garde? – In the modern world, “new modes of cultural production don’t seem to be emerging.” Are “experimental movements” being overlooked? The Drift asked a selection of novelists, sculptors, composers, dancers and critics “to reflect on the current state of the avant-garde.” Kikuchi Kan: Founder of the Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes – Takino Yūsaku reports that a newly released book, Bungō, shachō ni naru, (which translates as ‘A Literary Master Becomes President’) “introduces the reader to Kikuchi Kan, “a writer and publisher who founded Japan’s best known literary awards, the Akutagawa Prize and Naoki Prize, in 1935.”

Shondaland: James Renner on the ‘Little, Crazy Children’ of Shaker Heights – “The true-crime author and podcast host discusses his new book and the unsolved 1990 murder of 16-year-old Lisa Pruett.”

Wales Arts Review: Dolgellau: A Writer’s Home – “Author Rachel Grosvenor explores the process of writing and reflection, pausing to take in the history of her home in Dolgellau.”

Mental Floss: The Highest-Rated Book in Each Country, Mapped – “If you want to add more diversity to your reading list, check out [this] map,” suggests Michele Debczak. 

BBC News: Charlie Watts’ book collection to be auctioned – “He was best known as the drummer for the Rolling Stones, but away from the stage Charlie Watts was an avid collector of modern literature.”

Esquire: (Re)Introducing The Napkin Project – “Sixteen years after the series last appeared in [Esquire’s] pages,” the publication’s Fiction Department “sent cocktail napkins to ten writers.” Here you can read “the short works of fiction they wrote on them.”



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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24 replies

  1. Enjoyed the piece by Rundell; the book from which it is taken was recently recommended to me. Le Guin I clicked on immediately as well, realising once again how far behind I am on Chris’ readalong! And the Srilankan Scifi article–not that I am much of a scifi reader but it was still interesting to read about some from my region! Also I was glad to see the post on Fforde since I ‘ve been meaning to Thursday Next for ages now. Thanks for lots of wonderful links once again this week!

  2. Some very interesting links, Paula. Love that Oscar Wilde quotation. 😂

  3. I had no idea Charlie Watts was so into books – the ones they’ve highlighted for sale are really extraordinary. Thanks as always Paula!

  4. Fantastic, and interesting, list Paula

  5. An excellent Le Guin interview you’ve linked to, Paula, in which she draws our attention to things which seem so self-evident – art being a means to shut oneself off from a world which chews us up and spits us out, history as more an art than a chronicle of absolute facts, and politicians too often the antithesis of creative types who are reaching towards some kind of truth. Then there’s radioactive fictions, Katherine Rundell, holocaust complicity – so much to tempt this week, thank you!

    • I hoped you would find the Le Guin piece of interest, Chris. Having read it, I’m also quite interested in Jonathan White’s book (it was new to me). Thanks so much for your continued support. 😀

  6. Thanks Paula! A bumper selection as always – off to check out the recommendations for London bookshops!!

  7. Appreciated the piece with the list of Middle Eastern writers and artists, and the one by Katherine Rundell–what an interesting and imaginative mind she has. A wonderful group of links, thank you!

  8. Really great to see some love for the Thursday Next series 🙂 Perhaps time for a reread, life needs some lighter escapism I feel!

  9. I just finished a Lisa See novel The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane without realising she has a new book out, reading this article makes me want to read her latest which sounds all the more intriguing for being set in the 1400’s and focusing on female friendship and their affinity for healing.

  10. What a nice surprise to see Gretchen of Thoughts Become Words heading your excellent round up. Well it didn’t need to be a surprise I suppose because I always enjoy her posts!

  11. Oh, Paula, such a lovely and unexpected surprise. I did a double-take and clicked to make sure I’d got it right 🙂 Of course I shouldn’t let my ego get in the way because it’s all due to Thursday Next and Jasper Fforde’s active imagination. All the best, Gretchen.


  1. Winding Up the Week #338 – Book Jotter

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