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.”
“Every atom of my blood, form’d in the soil of this earth, runs hot / As I wheel through this snaked monster of steel, The Steamin’ Demon.” Ride The Steamin’ Demon at Six Flags with Walt Whitman. Pair with our own Michael Bourne’s piece on how Whitman saved his life.
At The Guardian, Susanna Rustin interviews the Irish writer Edna O’Brien, whose new anthology of stories, The Love Object, comes out as an e-book this week. Among other things, she compares a writer who works on a book for only one day a week with a parent who leaves a toddler unsupervised: “You can’t find it again.”
“In my adolescence people spoke of ‘café intellectuals,’ not with the respect due to a sect that transmits ideas within the cramped space of a table but with the contempt reserved for those who turn their backs on reality and take refuge in vain speculation.” Juan Villoro on the writing life in Mexico City’s cafés as part of the “Writing Life Around the World” series for Electric Literature.