It’s Banned Books Week — time to celebrate your right to read Women in Love, Ulysses, and other notables from the ALA’s list of banned or challenged books. Though, according to the Wall Street Journal, this is a whole lotta hoo-ha over nothing.
Nowadays, we take it as a given that Tolstoy’s fame was guaranteed by his talent, but many of his contemporaries thought he’d never get a readership outside his native Russia. Why? His writing, as Rosamund Bartlett puts it in a comparison with Turgenev, was “unpolished, more uncompromising and altogether more Russian” than his peers’. If you generally prefer Dostoevsky, you’ll appreciate our survey of scholars on which author was greater. (h/t Arts and Letters Daily)
Look out, Darwin — Wolfe’s coming for you. Tom Wolfe’s new book, The Kingdom of Speech, which we reviewed a couple of days ago, takes aim at Charles Darwin and Noam Chomsky: “Like an industrial engineer who also makes bespoke dueling pistols in his shed on the weekends, Mr. Wolfe has made a side career of skirmishing with the eminati (his term) in an array of cultural fields. If fighting enlivens one’s mornings, Mr. Wolfe has had little need of caffeine.”
“Much of the time, though, readers will be thinking that the ‘literary correspondence’ is something we’re well shot of – a postwar embarrassment, like child labour, meat rationing and outdoor toilets.” Martin Amis reviews the recent collection of Philip Larkin’s love letters, Letters to Monica, at Guardian.