At Newsweek, Jeremy McCarter reviews The Cross of Redemption, a new anthology of James Baldwin’s previously uncollected essays and public letters: “At a time when serious people claim we live in a ‘post-racial’ society, the reappearance of Baldwin’s writing—insistent, accusatory, outraged—feels like a terrible family secret coming to light in an Ibsen play, or Banquo’s ghost showing up to spoil the party.”
What do you do if you’re Leo Tolstoy, 20 years old and being treated in isolation for venereal disease? Start a diary, of course. Because you’re Tolstoy, you’ll probably use this diary to make a plan of your day, and then comment on how your actual activities line up with your ideals (“not quite,” usually). And, to be as Tolstoy-ish as possible, why not rate all your actions on a general moral scale? An example: “Arose somewhat late and read, but did not have time to write. Poiret came, I fenced, and did not send him away (sloth and cowardice). Ivanov came, I spoke with him for too long (cowardice). Koloshin (Sergei) came to drink vodka, I did not escort him out (cowardice).” And so on. For some long-term perspective, pair with The Millions‘s perennially popular “Tolstoy or Dostoevsky? 8 Experts on Who’s Greater.”
In a time of crisis, any decision is better than no decision at all. That line–credited to Theodore Roosevelt–is pop conventional wisdom. An excellent piece at Aeon explores the full implications of the line, and may just convince you that your next impossible choice should be made by a soothsayer, a lottery, or a flipped coin.
“For American readers, literary evocations of Korea have come, for the most part, in the form of dystopian novels written by people without any direct connection to the country.” Ed Park on reading Dalkey Archive Press’s series Library of Korean Literature, launched in collaboration with the Literature Translation Institute of Korea.
The latest installment in The Believer’s “What Would Twitter Do?” series (which we’ve mentioned before) features London Review of Books editor Christian Lorentzen, whose Twitter feed, Sheila Heti writes, “seem[s] like what someone who only expresse[s] himself as a fiction writer within the universe of twitter might come up with.” Meanwhile, Heti has a review of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman in (where else?) the LRB.
This essay from Adrian Barnes at The Daily Beast on cancer and fiction and how the two mirror one another is eerie and fascinating. This review of Rebecca Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby from The Millions addresses this tendency of writing and real world illnesses to feed of of one another.