As the 20th century wore on, the Strugatsky brothers grew pessimistic about Soviet Communism, eventually turning their fictional worlds from socialist utopias to dystopias. Their most famous early novel, Noon: 22nd Century bears little resemblance to later works like Hard to Be a God, which implicitly criticizes the Soviet government. At The Paris Review Daily, Ezra Glinter charts their evolution.
“A vast human action is going on. Death watches. So if you have some happiness, conceal it. And when your heart is full, keep your mouth shut also.” Saul Bellow saw a bit of resurgence this year with the publication of his collected non-fiction, There Is Simply Too Much to Say. Why do we need him now more than ever? According to Michael Weiss at The Daily Beast, it’s because he has “a bit of the opposition in him.” This essay is exhaustive and thoroughly researched and well worth your time.
“Summer morning is risen / and to even it wends / and still I’m in prison / without any friends.” Start your Monday off right with this piece from The Paris Review on John Clare, Christopher Smart, and the poetry of the asylum. Speaking of the madhouse, here’s a piece on Anne Sexton and her book Transformations.
Meet the man who calls his own fans “scum,” R. Crumb. Crumb first rose to prominence after the 1968 debut of Zap Comix, the first of the majorly successful “underground comix” publications. His work with legendary poet Charles Bukowski is worth taking a look.
For the most part, Tolstoy is known as a realist, despite his work’s occasional dips into fancy. Yet the plotlines of his great novels featured long and important dream sequences. In The New York Review of Books, Janet Malcolm argued that Tolstoy was a master of dreams, using Anna Karenina as proof.
The 2014 National Book Awards were just announced earlier this week. In celebration, The Paris Review took a look back at the American Book Awards, which “serve as a reminder that ostensibly prestigious institutions—institutions whose authority and taste depend on their perceived stability—are just as susceptible to whims and trends as the rest of us, which is to say very.”