“People used to wish that life could be as it is in books—that it could have the beauty, drama, and shapeliness that writers gave it. Today, by contrast, we hope desperately that life is not really like our writers portray it; in other words, we hope that writers are not representative men and women, but unfit beings whose perceptions are filtered through their unhealth. It is necessary to hope this, because if life were as it appears in our literature it would be unlivable.” Adam Kirsch explores the downside of literary nostalgia.
“Embracing the transients and flâneurs, this is, in effect, a museum of Russian literature. And, being Russian, it becomes a museum of censorship and repression as well as art: of genius and bravery, blood and lies.” Snowdrops author A.D. Miller visits Ukraine’s Odessa State Literary Museum.
Are you familiar with "Teach This Poem"? If not you should be. This organization just won the National Book Foundation's 2018 Innovations in Reading Prize. Their literary social impact mission? Help teachers add poetry to their curriculum; "Each week, The Academy of American Poets emails out a poem along with interdisciplinary information — classroom discussion questions and multimedia offerings like maps, videos, photography, and related reading suggestions. Everything is curated to help teachers incorporate poetry into the classroom experience." Find out more about the prize and the org here.
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?
Sometime Ph.D candidate, sometime actor, and ubiquitous lit blog all-star James Franco (henceforth known as "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named") has begun filming an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's Child of God in West Virginia, and I'm reminded of that line from W. B. Yeats' "The Second Coming" -- "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity."
Remember when I wrote about Bonnie Huie’s translation of Qiu Miaojin’s Notes of a Crocodile? Well here’s some more about Huie’s work. Over at the PEN blog, you can check out the translator’s introduction to Miaojin as well as an additional excerpt from the translation-in-progress.