At Lit Hub, Sara Wheeler shares an excerpt from her book, Mud and Stars, focusing on Constance Garnett, an “indefatigable worker” who translated the works of Dostoevsky and Chekhov. As she brought these writers further into the English mainstream, the translator gained her fair share of admirers. “Garnett made Dostoyevsky a household name, and he did the same for her. Ernest Hemingway was one of many who admired her Dostoyevskys, as well as her Tolstoys. ‘I remember,’ he told a friend, ‘how many times I tried to read War and Peace until I got the Constance Garnett translation.'”
It’s a big season for Zadie Smith. While most of us eagerly await the publication of her latest book, NW, the author’s earlier work, On Beauty, is set to become a feature film. Smith’s first book to be dramatized on film was White Teeth, a UK mini-series from 2002 based on her book of the same name. (And available online if you have Hulu Plus.)
Year in Reading alum Elizabeth McCracken has a new story collection out this week, and to mark the occasion, she spoke with Kelly Luce over at Salon about her writing, her Twitter obsession and — strangely enough — cannibalism (at least in the context of fairy tales). She also talks about the importance of humor, lamenting that “some young writers mistake humorlessness for seriousness.” (Related: Tanya Paperny wrote a eulogy for the translator Michael Henry Heim.)
Franz Kafka’s birthday was a couple of days ago — the celebration (which would surely have been a subdued affair) would have been his 133rd. Celebrate yourself by taking look at this helpful animation which explains the woefully misused term “Kafkaesque.”
Here’s a thing you’ve probably never thought of before: the sheer weirdness of some of the Christmas rituals in many canonical children’s books. In The Irish Times, Rosita Boland catalogues a few of the stranger ones, including Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Christmas dinner in summer and Lucy’s gift of a dagger in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
On bad days, when his writer’s block was at its worst, Hart Crane wrote bizarre, feverish prose poetry as a way of juicing his creative synapses. Understandably, he never published this poetry, but now, thanks to the Harry Ransom Center, we can read it in its original form. Sample quote: “I held the crupper by a lasso conscripted from white mice tails spliced to the fore-top gallant.”