The CIA was known for unorthodox espionage techniques during the Cold War, but using Doctor Zhivago to undermine the U.S.S.R. is one of the strangest. The CIA helped print and distribute the banned book because it would make Soviets wonder “what is wrong with their government, when a fine literary work by the man acknowledged to be the greatest living Russian writer is not even available in his own country in his own language for his own people to read.”
The brand new Library of Birmingham opens next week, and the gigantic structure is said to be “Europe’s largest public library.” In addition to its modern architecture, the facility also offers “a room from the 19th Century … to house one of the UK’s most important Shakespeare collections.”
“Fantasy is a tool of the storyteller. It is a way of talking about things that are not, and cannot be, literally true. It is a way of making our metaphors concrete, and it shades into myth in one direction, allegory in another.” Neil Gaiman reviews Kazuo Ishiguro‘s The Buried Giant for the New York Times Book Review and considers the power, and risks, of fantasy. Pair with Ishiguro’s talk with The Telegraph about the 10 years since the publication of Never Let Me Go.
Reading War and Peace was always a challenge, but how much harder is it in an age of constant distraction? At Salon, Mike Harris, a self-confessed distraction addict, writes about his experience tackling the Russian classic. You could also read our own Kevin Hartnett on the book’s effect on perception.
The Sagrada Família, which Antoni Gaudí began designing in 1883, is due to be completed in 2026. Recently, 60 Minutes aired a feature on the masterpiece envisioned by “God’s architect,” and a new video depicts the work still be done, as well as what the church will look like when it’s finally completed. You can also take a virtual tour of the interior as well.
“There are many ways to define ‘success’ as a writer,” and Jeffrey Condran writes about his own path to and definition of writerly success for The Missouri Review‘s blog. Hint: it has something to do with craft, something to do with editing, and a lot to do with a certain magazine.
“There was a plan a few years ago, during the crisis of unaccompanied minors arriving on our southern border, to send a copy of The Beast, Óscar Martínez’s extraordinary account of Central American migration to the U.S., to every member of Congress. How many of them read it? And how many of those who read it changed their position? Did any anti-immigrant populist show an ounce of humanity or generosity as a result?” Daniel Alarcón, author of At Night We Walk In Circles, on recommending a book to the president.