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.”
What drives the Year in Reading alum and Boy, Snow, Bird author Helen Oyeyemi? If we can believe her interview with The Globe and Mail, it isn’t just the enjoyment she derives from writing fiction. When asked why she wrote her new book, she said: “A few reasons, but mainly to see if I could…at this point, it’s perversity that keeps me writing.”
“Somehow, in my eagerness to honor these words, I’d tamed the political intentions behind their meaning. I’d reduced my icon’s truths into affirmational pick-me-ups rather than letting them sink deeper.” Dianca Potts reflects on how to best to appreciate the fullness of Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison. We need to resist erasing their complexities in our haste to embrace them as icons or reduce them to inspirational quotes.
Over at the Oyster Review Alexandra Edwards takes a literary tour of Florida, guided by “a few writers who chart Florida’s strange vacillation between the modern and the primordial,” including the likes of Elizabeth Bishop, Zora Neale Hurston and Ernest Hemingway. Our own Nick Moran has also profiled the literature of the Sunshine State, though his take was a little more “Floridapocalyptic.”