“After [WWII], the other Finnish artists formed themselves into political groups but Tove wasn’t a joiner; besides, the only political activity she enjoyed was tyrant-baiting. She decided to emigrate to the island kingdom of Tonga but the governor wrote back saying there was a housing shortage and she wouldn’t be welcome. So she created her own Tonga: Moominland.” A new biography looks at the “conflicted life” and creative work of Tove Jansson, whose name has appeared several times here at The Millions.
“Almost as soon as the concept of the Great American Novel was invented, in the nation-building years after the Civil War, Buell finds it being mocked, noting that one observer dryly put it into the same category as ‘other great American things such as the great American sewing-machine, the great American public school, and the great American sleeping-car.’ It was enough of a cliché by 1880 for Henry James to refer to it with the acronym ‘GAN,’ which Buell employs throughout his book.” On the reigning gold standard for quality in American fiction. (Related: we asked nine experts their picks for the best American novel.)
“Summer morning is risen / and to even it wends / and still I’m in prison / without any friends.” Start your Monday off right with this piece from The Paris Review on John Clare, Christopher Smart, and the poetry of the asylum. Speaking of the madhouse, here’s a piece on Anne Sexton and her book Transformations.