Recommended reading: In a piece for the LA Times David Ulin ponders the ethics of writing. “What do we owe our subjects? Do we have the right to tell their stories at all?”
Charles Dickens turns 200 in February, which is one good explanation for two new biographies (Charles Dickens: A Life) and (Becoming Dickens) appearing just in time. But even more importantly, why is now the perfect time to read him? Here’s one hint: the man’s vast social imagination.
Last week, I mentioned Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes, which caused a stir in Germany with its tale of a time-hopping Hitler. Now, Daniel Torday reviews the book for the Times, judging it both for its historical research and its merits as a work of fiction. Sample quote: “The German public’s acceptance of the artist they think they’re watching provides a critique of pop culture. But it feels like bringing the Luftwaffe to a knife fight.”
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?
“Some people see things others cannot, and they are right, and we call them creative geniuses. Some people see things others cannot, and they are wrong, and we call them mentally ill.” The Atlantic has an excellent contribution to the age-old thesis that creativity and madness are inextricably linked–and tied, moreover, to mental illness–based in part on a sample of students at Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Pair with another essay on creativity and the “touch of madness” from our own archives.