Recommended Listening: Renata Adler’s Longform podcast on writing routines and the need for acquiring a sense of danger.
Elmore Leonard was a very cinematic writer, yet why are most adaptations of his work so bad? Christopher Orr explores what he calls the "Elmore Leonard paradox" in The Atlantic. "Most of the early adaptations of Leonard’s crime work missed his light authorial touch, opting instead for somber noir." Pair with: Our own Bill Morris's essay on why Leonard was such a good writer.
Nowadays, we take it as a given that Tolstoy’s fame was guaranteed by his talent, but many of his contemporaries thought he'd never get a readership outside his native Russia. Why? His writing, as Rosamund Bartlett puts it in a comparison with Turgenev, was “unpolished, more uncompromising and altogether more Russian” than his peers'. If you generally prefer Dostoevsky, you’ll appreciate our survey of scholars on which author was greater. (h/t Arts and Letters Daily)
"He represents a failure of empiricism — an unreliability arising not from the absence of rationality, but from the stubborn complexity of perception. This, I would argue, is precisely how the 2016 election went down." In an article for The Los Angeles Review of Books, Aaron R. Hanlon argues that Cervantes' classic provides the perfect framework for understanding contemporary America, concluding that "Don Quixote is such a player in US politics that he might as well run for office." Our own C. Max Magee read Quixote not long after founding the site, deeming it "essential to all who wish to understand 'the novel' as a literary form."
Out this week: All the Rage by A.L. Kennedy; The Confabulist by Stephen Galloway; Fallout by Sadie Jones; The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson; With My Dog Eyes by Hilda Hilst; Ruby by Cynthia Bond; and The Informed Air by Muriel Spark. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great 2014 Book Preview.
"When I was younger, I finished everything. I was a total martyr. Now ... I’m getting older. We have a finite amount of time on this earth. If something really doesn’t speak to you, and there’s not a ride-or-die reason to read it all the way through, then it’s time to give up." Ten questions for Lisa Lucas, the new(ish) director of the National Book Foundation.