Since they got married and began working 33 years ago, Larissa Volokhonsky and Richard Pevear have translated around 30 works of Russian literature, from The Brothers Karamazov to Doctor Zhivago. Now their interview with the Paris Review is available online from the Literary Hub, and this seems as good a time as ever to bring up that constant debate: who’s greater, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky?
This week, our own Lydia Kiesling took part in The Morning News Tournament of Books, where she adjudicated a showdown between Scott McClanahan’s Hill William and Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being. Who went on to the next round: the trans-Pacific odyssey, or the tale of West Virginia? (You could also read our own Edan Lepucki’s Tournament contribution from last year, or else read our own Nick Moran’s Year in Reading piece on Scott McClanahan.)
“For good or evil, we are a single people: the more we become conscious of this, the less difficult and long will be humanity’s progress towards justice and peace.” The inimitable Primo Levi on the spiritual value of science and its ability to bring people together.
In Meg Wolitzer’s new YA novel Belzhar, a group of teenagers packed off to an idyllic boarding school learn that they have the ability to undo their most serious traumas. Their discovery is sparked by a writing assignment in a class on Sylvia Plath. At Slate, Jennifer Ray Morell connects Wolitzer’s novel to Plath’s classic The Bell Jar. Related: our own Hannah Gersen’s interview with biographer Elizabeth Winder.
“Then there’s the no-one-reads-anymore hysteria, the lack of supportive careers for apprenticing writers, the MFA deathtrap, etc. It feels self-indulgent as a critic to say, ‘But the whole critical structure has broken down, let’s talk about that.’ The critic only comes into play when the books are actually produced and put onto the market, meaning their jobs are tied into this whole decaying, rotting mess of an industry.” Jessa Crispin writes on the self-hating book critic.