2017 Fall – New Publications of Note: What am I reading, listening to, or watching?

WESS Newsletter

Fall 2017, Vol. 41, No. 1

The following list presents a selection of items on the reading lists of fellow ESSies. Have something to add? Email Jen Bonnet.

Sarah Wenzel, University of Chicago

  • I am reading Karl Ove Knausgaard’s Autumn. (He came to speak on campus in September.)
  • I have yet to read Creative Instructional Design: Practical Applications for Librarians.

Walter Schlect, Goethe-Institut New York

  • Two of my favorite books I’ve read in the last few months have been graphic novels. The first, Madgermanes (Berlin: Avant-Verlag, 2016) by Birgit Wehye tells the story of about 20,000 Mozambicans who were contracted to work in the former East Germany from 1979-1991. Wehye conducted several interviews with former workers and deftly weaves their histories into three compelling and lively composite figures. After the conference in Chicago I read My Favorite Thing is Monsters (Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2017) by Emil Ferris, which takes place there in the 1960s. It’s a beautifully and imaginatively drawn book from the mind of a young girl obsessed with monsters and everything macabre, who tries to solve the death of an upstairs neighbor who died under mysterious circumstances. I particularly liked the anti-fascist themes (the neighbor had a very harrowing backstory in Nazi Germany) and copious visual references to artworks in the Art Institute.
  • In honor of the 50th anniversary of Uwe Johnson’s Jahrestage (Anniversaries), I’m trying to commit myself to read the whole gigantic thing in a year. The whole story is told from August 21, 1967 to August 20, 1968, with entries for each day of that year. (It’s good so far, but I have to admit I’m already behind). It’s about Gessine Cresspahl, a German who lives in New York, her relationship with her 10 year old daughter, the New York Times (current events are obsessively referenced), and her past in Mecklenburg. A new translation of Jahrestage by Damion Searls will be published by New York Review Books Classics next fall, so there will likely be a little renewed attention in the US to Uwe Johnson, who never quite developed a following here though he lived in New York for several years.

Maira Bundza, Western Michigan University
I just recently read or technically listened to a couple of books that might be of interest to this group. I keep a blog with personal reactions to books.

Sam Dunlap, University of California San Diego
This summer’s beach reading in a favorite café included the latest installment of the Inspector Ricciardi series published in Europa’s World Noir series: Maurizio de Giovanni, Glass Souls: Moths for Inspector Ricciardi. New York: Europa Editions, 2017. All these novels takes place in Naples during the Mussolini era. In the sixth installment in the Bernie Gunther series of historical detective novels that take place in Germany and Europe during the 1930s, WW2 and the Cold War, Bernie ends up in Havana in 1954. Philip Kerr, If the Dead Rise Not. New York: Putnam’s, 2010.

The last few months also saw renewed interest in longer German novels including Günter Grass’s Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum), Joseph Roth’s Radetzkymarsch (Radetzky March) and Die Kapuzinergruft (The Emperor’s Tomb). Now on order from Germany are the first two volumes of the Jung und Jung critical edition of the works of Robert Musil, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (Man without Qualities), volume 1, chapters 1-75 and 76-123. Next in the queue is the first volume (actually volume 2) in the new Rostocker Ausgabe critical edition of Uwe Johnson published by Suhrkamp: Mutmassungen über Jakob (Speculations about Jakob). These will soon join others in the “to read” pile.

For those particularly interested in Musil’s novel, the publisher, in conjunction with other scholars, has also rolled out the online edition which includes textual apparatus and extensive commentary as Musil-Online.

In terms of European television, the Danish series The Legacy (Arvingerne) is completely addictive through the third season. The DVD set is available from Amazon.uk in the Region 2 PAL format which is playable on an international DVD player available in this country. For anyone interested in Nordic Noir, be sure to subscribe to the Newsletter at the top of the screen. A new Spanish series that is generating a lot of positive buzz is I Know Who You Are (Sé quién eres) and has been renewed for a second season. This will definitely be on the “to view” shelf soon. Finally, excellent spy thriller series is The Bureau (Le Bureau des légendes) and seasons 1-3 are available from Bureau Kino Lorber.
Agnes Haigh Widder, Michigan State University
I’ve set out to read Samuel Pepys’ Diaries. It’s a multi-volume edition, maybe 11 vols. I’m part way through v. 1. I expect this will take the rest of my life, off and on. Am continually dipping into the Companion volume to the set, which is a dictionary of people, places, topics, events.

Lucy Worsley, Jane Austen at Home, just one of a spate of recent books on Austen

Several books on Beatrix Potter, author of many the little children’s books, Peter Rabbit, etc.:

  • Andrew Wiltshire, Beatrix Potter’s Secret Code Breaker
  • Judy Taylor, That Naughty Rabbit
  • J. de Vasconcellos, She Was Loved, Memories of Beatrix Potter
  • E. Battrick, Real World of Beatrix Potter
  • M. Dennison, Over the Hills and Far Away: the Life of Beatrix Potter
  • S. Gristwood, The Story of Beatrix Potter
  • Hunter Davies, Beatrix Potter’s Lakeland

Others on my list:

  • T. Robinson, Worst Jobs in History. Pretty popular, about horrible, dangerous, messy jobs in the past.
  • Elizabeth Norton, Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor. He whacked off her dress with a knife, with her in it! Who knew!
  • J. Rebanks, Shepherd’s Life, Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape, about sheep farming in Cumbria today
  • D. McCasland, Oswald Chambers Abandoned to God. I also select for religious studies. If you know My Utmost for His Highest, you’ll be interested in this.
  • S.B. Smith, Prince Charles, because one of my primary responsibilities is the British Isles
  • J. Murphy, Virtuous Necessity, Conduct Literature in the Making of Virtuous Women in Early Modern England, because I’ve just put up a display of early modern English conduct books, what they have to say about marriage
  • H. Mantel, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, because I have loved her other books. This is about a short period of her life living in the Middle East.
  • M. Qvortrup, Angela Merkel, Europe’s Most Influential Leader, because of this
  • K. Staikos, Aldus Manutius and His Greek Collaborators, 2015 was the 500th anniversary of the death of this famous Venetian printer
  • Andrew Marr, Queen Elizabeth II
  • Margaret Drabble, Dark Flood Rises, a favorite fiction author
  • Alain Corcos, Little Yellow Train, Survival and Escape from Nazi France, for the second time. Autobiography of a emeritus prof, a plant geneticist on my campus, whose wife now lives in my mother’s retirement facility
  • J. Nicholson, House Full of Daughters, of the Sackville-West family

C. Drinkwater, several books by her about living in Europe:

  • Olive Season
  • Amour, a New Life
  • Olives II

Also, do encourage members to keep reading the TLS, NYTBR, and other similar publications.