Winding Up the Week #343

An end of week recap

The evils of mankind are caused, not by the primary aggressiveness of individuals, but by their self-transcending identification with groups whose common denominator is low intelligence and high emotionality.”
 Arthur Koestler (born 5th September 1905)

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.

* Books Not Only for Life, but for Christmas *

Self-confessed “Christmas fanatic,” Jodie of That Happy Reader, is fast off the festive starting blocks this year with her Christmas Reading Challenge. Between now and 31st December, she will host 15 Books of Christmas, which involves (as you might expect) reading fifteen books (or less if you wish) with Yuletide themes. Simply select your titles, make a brief “introductory post” outlining your reading plans and create a link back to 15 Books of Christmas Reading Challenge for 2023. Here you can see a list of Jodie’s noel novels, peruse the event’s guidelines and find out who else is taking part.

* 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 was difficult to pick only this one – which was published over the last week or so:

‘The Mad Women’s Ball’ by Victoria Mas (translated by Frank Wynne) – Set in “a 19th-century Parisian asylum,” Victoria Mas’s debut historical novel (combined with “a dash of the supernatural”) is, according to Kim Forrester of Reading Matters, a “tale of two women trapped by circumstance who meet by chance and help each other.” The Mad Women’s Ball – “based on the Salpêtrière’s annual grand ball” – is described here as “a grotesque affair” with patients “dressed up in their finery” for “the entertainment of the upper echelons of society.” It is, she says, “fast-paced [and] plot-driven” with an “engaging storyline,” that reveals “misogyny at the heart of science and medicine at the time.” Ably assisted by translator Frank Wynne, the author “gives voice to those who had none,” producing a “captivating and immersive” novel with “a bold feminist agenda.” Indeed, Kim admits to having “ripped through the entire book in the space of two afternoons.”

* Irresistible Items *

Umpteen fascinating articles appeared on my bookdar last week. I generally make a point of tweeting/x-ing (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:


The Guardian: What to read this autumn: 2023’s biggest new books – “Sara Pascoe’s new novel, rare Terry Pratchett, memoirs from Barbra Streisand and Britney Spears, plus the essential reading on today’s hot button topics – all the releases to look out for” this autumn.

Esquire: The Long Tale (Tail?) of Dogs in Fiction – “Literary canines have been around forever,” says Neil McRobert. “But what do these stories […] reveal” about us?

The Collidescope: Cosmic Creations: An Exclusive Interview with Michal Ajvaz – George Salis chats to Czech writer Michal Ajvaz on matters ranging from magical realism and Kafka to his latest novel, Journey to the South.

Evening Standard: Alice Winn’s In Memoriam scoops Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize 2023 – Set in the First World War, In Memoriam tells the devastating story of two young men in love sent to fight on the Western Front.

Montreal Gazette: Montreal-born Sarah Bernstein among Booker Prize semifinalists – “Bernstein, who now teaches in Scotland, is nominated for Study for Obedience, which the judges described as an ‘absurdist and darkly funny’ novel about a woman who moves to a new place and experiences a hostile reaction from the community.”

Public Discourse: How to Justify the Study of Literature – John Guillory’s book, Professing Criticism, “is a thorough and complex work of scholarship” and “a bracing call for literary scholars to significantly reform how they think about their profession,” writes Christopher Scalia in his review.

Port: Look! Over Here! – “An essay by Jeanette Winterson. This was originally published in Issue 24’s Commentary, Guest edited by Sylvia Whitman.”

The Johannesburg Review of Books: ‘An excellent example of the reviewer’s least favourite thing’—Wamuwi Mbao reviews Yellowface by Rebecca F Kuang – “In Yellowface, the contrast is turned up so brightly that the shadows disappear, writes Wamuwi Mbao, but it’s the darkness that gives meaning to what we see.”

Open: Many Indias – “From the early masters to contemporary stars” – Somak Ghoshal describes Arunava Sinha’s short fiction anthology, The Greatest Indian Stories Ever Told, as audacious.

The Verge: The best ebook reader to buy right now – “From reading in the bath to scribbling notes in the margins, from diving into the Amazon ecosystem to avoiding it outright, there’s an e-reader for everyone, says Sheena Vasani.

The Hedgehog Review: Realism Confronts Utopia – “The verbomania that compelled ordinary Russians to devour thousand-page books appears increasingly remote, even mythological,” writes Richard Hughes Gibson in his review of Saul Morson’s Wonder Confronts Certainty: Russian Writers on the Timeless Questions and Why Their Answers Matter.

Counter Craft: Fantastic Modes; Or, Is Magical Realism Just Urban Fantasy? – Lincoln Michel on “the differences and similarities between surrealism, fabulism, [and] contemporary fantasy.”

Smithsonian Magazine: Forgotten Winnie-the-Pooh Sketch Found Wrapped in an Old Tea Towel – “A rediscovered drawing of the iconic children’s book character and his friend Piglet could sell for thousands at auction,” finds Julia Binswanger.

Yale News: At Beinecke, papers of Cynthia Ozick now open for ‘delighted discovery’ – Mike Cummings tips off readers and scholars that “the archives of renowned [American essayist, novelist and short story] writer Cynthia Ozick are now open to researchers at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.”

Ars Technica: The strange, secretive world of North Korean science fiction – “Unusual and often breathtaking, the genre is relatively unknown in the West, says Andrada Fiscutean.

Electric Literature: Translating the Lives of Slackers Drifting on the Margins of Beijing – “Eric Abrahamsen and Jeremy Tiang on capturing the voices of young Chinese men in Xu Zechen’s collection Beijing Sprawl.

The Walrus: Goodreads Is Terrible for Books. Why Can’t We All Quit It? – “It’s not entirely clear who it’s for and what its function should be in a rapidly changing literary ecosystem,” says author Tajja Isen.

El Transatlántico: 2023 QSSI Translation Prize Longlist Announced – The Queen Sofía Spanish Institute (QSSI) honours the best English translation of a work written originally in the Spanish language.

Pop Matters: Albert Camus’ Struggles with earthly existence in ‘Travels in the Americas’ – Adam Sobsey finds “the Albert Camus of Travels in the Americas diaries is a passionate, despairing reckoner with the struggles of earthly existence, both personal and societal.”

TNS: The terror of trauma and tragedy – “Awais Khan’s third novel highlights the challenges faced by survivors of acid attacks,” says Taha Kehar.

The Millions: Arte Migrante – Julia Conrad discovers debut authors Giada Scodellaro and Amaryllis Gacioppo have written “an untold Italy.”

Guardian Australia: The world’s great literature has captured the uncanny – but Australian suburbia is uniquely spooky – “You won’t find that feeling in faraway lands,” says Chris Womersley. “It’s here between the city and the bush, not quite one thing or the other.” Sheikha Helawy’s joyous, rebellious passions – “Their bodies might be displaced, torn away from homes and villages. Yet the memories of women and girls in Sheikha Helawy’s short-story collection They Fell Like Stars from the Sky remain, haunting the spaces where they once lived, writes Marcia Lynx Qualey.

Institute of Welsh Affairs: On poetry and current affairs: ‘Prigohzin’s Galley Slaves’ – “Angela Graham, co-author and editor of Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere, on writing poetry about fast-developing events.”

The Nation: Nora Ephron’s Divorce Plot – “Her only novel, Heartburn, looked beyond the love story to uncover the limits of bourgeoisie life and marriage itself,” writes Dilara O’Neil.

Vulture: Brandon Taylor Wants to Bring Gatekeeping Back to Book Criticism – “Social media has changed what readers and critics expect from writers,” says Sam Sanders. He speaks to novelist Brandon Taylor about why literary criticism is broken.

Exberliner: Great Berlin writers and where they lived – “Ever wondered where Bertholt Brecht, Günter Grass or Hans Fallada used to hang out? Here are twelve famous writers who once called Berlin home.”

Brittle Paper: British-Nigerian Novelist Bolu Babalola Wins a 2023 TikTok Book Award for Honey & Spice – The results of the first ever TikTok Book Awards for UK and Ireland have been revealed. The winner of the BookTok Book of the Year award for her debut novel Honey & Spice is British-Nigerian author Bolu Babalola.

The Rumpus: Giving Voice to Illness: A Comparative Review of Three Recent Cancer-Themed Collections – “All three poets contemplate the female body and the voice both literally and metaphorically, appealing to outside powers as they ponder how much a person can bear.”

Xtra: Enjoying the legacy of feminist restaurants and cafés – “In the 1980s, hundreds of feminist restaurants and cafés dotted the U.S. Though most are gone,” in this piece on Alex D. Ketchum’s Ingredients for Revolution: A History of American Feminist Restaurants, Cafes, and Coffeehouses, Paul Gallant suggests, “a new generation is embracing their queer spirit.” 

iNews: Prophet Song by Paul Lynch, review: I’d be surprised if this won the Booker – Prophet Song is “a brave but odd novel, a half-successful fusion of the dystopian and poetic,” says Max Liu of this Dublin-based portrait of a society on the brink.

The Japan Times: Satoshi Yagisawa’s novel has all the charm of a Jimbocho bookshop – Eric Margolis declares Days at the Morisaki Bookshop a “heartwarming coming-of-age tale that will delight fans of Japanese literature.” ‘Marginlands’: A timely dive into the lives of people and species hit by environmental exploitation – “The accounts in Arati Kumar-Rao’s book are arguments in themselves for better policies to address the grave injustices humans have meted out to the environment,” finds Saurabh Sharma.

TLS: Humble drudges – Discover the unsung heroes behind the Oxford English Dictionary in lexicographer Sarah Ogilvie’s fascinating new book, The Dictionary People. 

The Sydney Morning Herald: ‘This is about the story of the nation’: Australia’s writers unite behind Yes vote – About 400 writers have signed up to support the Yes campaign in the upcoming referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, reports Jason Steger.

Reuters: Venezuelan bookstores, publishers struggle under economic crisis – “Publishers and book stores in Venezuela are trying to survive the country’s long economic crisis and sky-high inflation by selling used texts and a handful of new books from Venezuelan writers, booksellers said.”

The New York Times: What Can Literature Teach Us About Forgiveness? – “American fiction has always grappled with sin, atonement and mercy… Ayana Mathis examines what we can learn from forgiveness.”

Sierra: Your Cli-Fi Starter Pack – Aarohi Sheth invites you to “explore the possibilities of climate change with these five reads.”

Star Tribune: Dead writers like Stieg Larsson, Agatha Christie and Vince Flynn keep churning out books. Shouldn’t they rest in peace? – “They’ve left this mortal coil,” says Chris Hewitt, “but their bylines live on.”

Lapham’s Quarterly: Rather Ridiculous Than Criminal – Sixteenth century agony uncle, Giovanni Della Casa, clarifies “how not to be disgusting in Renaissance Italy.”



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

Tags: , , , , , ,

25 replies

  1. Giovanni Della Casa’s ‘Galateo’ is a great read so I was attracted to that article to know a bit more about him. I love the quotes but the one I remember best is ‘on the reprehensibility of telling one’s dreams’, which made my friend and I giggle at the time. Recounting your dreams? How reprehensible! Such rules of etiquette are often hilarious in retrospect but some of the advice is very good and it’s a great resource for anyone writing about that era. Sad to see it was published posthumously. Thanks for all the links, Paula – and enjoy your weekend!

  2. Lots of tempting stuff here, Paula, and you won’t be surprised which were the links I immediately followed through! However, Christmas reading?! So soon?!? Yet can I, dare I, resist? We shall see!

  3. Happy weekend Paula and many thanks as always!

  4. I always dip into a variety of these articles, but boy, the one about “how to justify the study of literature” was really interesting this week. Thanks for putting it on my radar!

  5. Thanks for another bumper collection of links Paula. The Wonder Confronts Certainty one looks particularly interesting – I don’t know how you find them all!

  6. Lovely. Of course you know which one I clicked first 🐶🐶🐶
    Morisaki Bookshop I’ve heard some good things about and the novel by Awais Khan seems a relevant one to explore thought it is going to be hard reading.
    Great collection of links as always, Paula! Love to the 🐶🐶 and 😺😺

  7. Well, Wonder Confronts Certainty was immediately added to my wishlist and I’ve bookmarked a few other links to explore this week. Thanks for these Paula!🐕💚

  8. Enjoyed all the articles, Paula, but of course the two Aussie pieces caught my attention. Also ‘Forgotten Winnie-the-Pooh Sketch Found Wrapped in an Old Tea Towel’ what are the odds?! How/why people tuck away and later find important memorabilia decades later never ceases to amaze me 🙂 G.

    • It must be wonderful to be the person who discovers a long-lost treasure. If I went rooting about in a murky recess, I would no doubt discover cobwebs, dust and the odd spider! 🕷🕸🤧

      Thank you, Gretchen. 😊

  9. Great links, as always, I can’t believe I would have missed the Goodreads article in The Walrus, as I have written about this a little bit and am contemplating a more in-depth blog post, and The Walrus is a Canadian magazine that I read occasionally.. thank you!

  10. Wow, a bumper crop! Well done!

  11. Shouldn’t an old Winnie the Pooh sketch have been more properly discovered preserved in a honey pot? Well, a tea towel is nearly as good I suppose. Another great collection of links!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: