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.
Are critically acclaimed authors really terrible? Is feminism bad for women? New York Magazine runs down the greatest hits of what appears, in hindsight, to have been the Decade of Counterintuition (and, in the process, catalogues many of my personal bêtes noires).
The literary archives of Gwendolyn Brooks – the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize – are headed to the University of Illinois Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The haul amounts to more than “150 boxes stuffed with manuscripts, drafts, revisions, correspondence, scrapbooks, clippings, homemade chapbooks in which Brooks neatly handwrote her earliest (unpublished) poems, and heavy bronze awards ensconced in velvet-lined boxes collected later in her career.”
“[C]hildren often prefer the factual over the fantastical. And a growing body of work suggests that when it comes to storybooks, they also learn better from stories that are realistic. For example, preschool-aged children are more likely to learn new facts about animals when the animals are portrayed realistically as opposed to anthropomorphically.” Two new studies suggest that where learning is concerned, realism trumps fantasy in children’s books. Which is as good a time as any to ask our own Jacob Lambert‘s question: Are picture books leading our children astray?
Implicit in a lot of the discussions about how negative a book reviewer can be is a question of utility: is a book review an act of public service or a work of art in itself? In the Times, James Parker and Anna Holmes debate the purpose of the review. Sample quote: “I’d argue that a majority of the reading public doesn’t necessarily benefit from the sorts of reviews for which artistry is the point.” You could also read our own Matt Seidel’s hypothetical worst review ever.