Lucky Thirteen: Wayward Things #13


Welcome to the lucky thirteenth edition of my newsletter, Will Buckingham's Wayward Things.

You'll see straight away that this newsletter has a new format. I've recently updated my website, so I've moved all my subscribers across from my old WordPress website. I think I've transferred all the right addresses, but let me know if you receive this in error (or you can just click unsubscribe).

In this edition, which comes not long after we've been celebrating the Day of Slavonic Literature and Letters here in Bulgaria, I've got a bunch of stuff relating to both literature and letters. Read on for news on my upcoming writing projects, one of my favourite poems from medieval China, some umlaut-heavy invented languages (bëcäüsë whö döësn't lïkë ümläüts?), and a repository of the world's scripts.

So, let's crack on.

A Lucky 13th Book

Hello, Stranger: The Granta Catalogue Summer 2021.

I've just received the final cover design for my forthcoming Hello, Stranger: How We Find Connection in a Disconnected World, which comes out from Granta this July. This will be my thirteenth book, and so it is wonderful to have it placed with such a brilliant publisher.

Hello, Stranger weaves together stories from Bulgaria to Birmingham to Burma, with philosophy and history and anthropology, to explore our ticklish relationships with people we don’t know. Sometimes it can be bewildering to live in a world of strangers. But Hello Stranger asks: what if the people we meet were not a problem, but a gift?

You can pre-order from the Granta website.

A new-look website

My new-look website is now online. It runs using the absolutely wonderful Ghost platform, and should be much zippier and more elegant than my old WordPress site. I've updated a lot of my older content as well, so the website can also serve as a repository of news and articles from the past. Have an explore here:

Will Buckingham
Will Buckingham is a writer, philosopher and author of “Hello, Stranger: How We Find Connection in a Disconnected World” (Granta 2021)

An interview on creativity, writing, and other things

A couple of weeks ago, I was interviewed for the Dublin City University Credne podcast by the brilliant travel writer, scholar and all-round excellent human being Tim Hannigan. Dr Hannah Stevens and I were talking about our Wind&Bones social enterprise, what we would do to revolutionise creative writing teaching, and what creativity really is. Click the image below to have a listen.

Painting from Rajastan. Photograph Wolfgang Sauber via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 4.0

Some Other Wayward Things Online

Turning thoughts into written signs

In Bulgaria, the Day of Slavonic Literature and Letters falls on the 24th May. It is celebrated to commemorate the two 9th monks Cyril and Methodius, who devised the Glagolitic script that became Cyrillic (see the header image for this edition, which features the 11th century Bulgarian Codex Assemanius)

Fortuitously, I finished my intermediate Bulgarian course just in time for the celebrations. And it feels good to have found my feet somewhat in this surprisingly tricky language.

One of the things that first attracted me to Bulgarian was the script. I've always loved exploring different writing systems (it's what got me into Chinese, and my love of Burmese stems in part from the sheer, cute roundness of the Burmese script).

But there's a whole world of scripts out there. And if you want to know what rongo rongo looks like, or fancy a shot at learning how to write in ersu shaba, or simply want to brush up on your Anatolian hieroglyphs (and who hasn't wanted to do this, at one time or another?), have a look at the beautifully designed World Writing Systems website, an overview of how human beings have turned thoughts into written signs.

World Writing Systems — from Tocharian to Mayan

Now… about those umlauts

One of the most delightful things I've stumbled across recently is this essay from the Public Domain Review on the strange story of Volapük, the invented language created by the 19th century priest Johann Schleyer.

Schleyer (apparently also a harpist, if the photo on the page is to be believed) argued that  “A language without umlauts sounds monotonous, harsh, and boring.” So when he created Volapük, he really went to town...

Trüth, Beaüty, and Volapük
Arika Okrent explores the rise and fall of Volapük - a universal language created in the late 19th century by a German priest called Johann Schleyer.

Poem: Spring, Like Us, Grows Old

A Poem by Li Qingzhao

Here's a fresh translation of one of my favourite poems by the extraordinary poet Li Qingzhao. It's about wine and friendship and old age, written around the time of the death of Li's husband, during a period of political upheaval and chaos.

The original title is a little long —“To the Tune of 'A Butterfly Smitten by the Flowers': Inviting my Relatives on the Third Day of the Third Month.” To my mind, when translated into English, the extended title gets in the way of enjoying the poem, so I've lifted the final lines as the poem's title instead.

Spring, Like Us, Grows Old
A Poem about ageing and loss, written by one of China’s greatest women poets, Li Qingzhao

What I'm reading

Recently, I revisited Tove Jansson's melancholy, spacious children's classic, Moominvalley in November. It was a book that both haunted and frustrated me as a child, and to some extent it still does today.

And as I read and re-read, Jansson’s strange storytelling spoke to me. It spoke to my solitude, to my own sense of what life was or could be, to my own complicated sense of what it meant to be alone, or to long for a future that might never happen, or to find a pathway in the world, grappling with the strangeness that is ours, all of us, by virtue of being human.

Read my piece on Jansson's book here.

The Art of Waiting: Tove Jansson’s Moominvalley in November
A masterpiece of children’s literature about grief, friendship, human difference, and the art of waiting.

That's all for this month. I'll be back on the 1st July for a Hello, Stranger bumper birthday edition of Wayward Things! Until then, as ever, just shoot me an email if you want to say hello,

All the best,


Image: A Page from the Codex Assemanius. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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