At the Paris Review, Yiyun Li revisits Tolstoy‘s War and Peace and reflects on the many ways it continues to resonate throughout generations. “Books that I feel drawn to and reread, War and Peace among them, are full of uncommon sense and common nonsense,” she writes. “(Uncommon nonsense makes exhilarating literature, too, in Lewis Carroll’s case, but uncommon nonsense does better to stay uncommon: in less skillful hands, it becomes caprice or parody.) One imagines that Tolstoy did not seek to write about uncommon sense. He simply presented the world, and the world, looked at closely, is often extraordinary.”
Max’s verdict in the opening round of The Morning News Tournament of Books has been posted. Which book did he pick, Gate at the Stairs or The Book of Night Women? Hop over to TMN to find out. And don’t miss the match commentary, which has some great additional discussion of both books.
The office novel, by nature, is a tricky construct, if only because your average white-collar job doesn’t offer much in the way of fiction-worthy moments. That said, recent books like Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris demonstrate how fruitful it can be to wring drama out of the rat race. In the latest issue of Dissent, Cubed author Nikil Saval delves into the contradictions of office fiction. FYI, Saval wrote a Year in Reading entry for us.
What do you do when McSweeney’s rejects your humor piece? You could, like most people, slink off and write something new, perhaps after a quick look at the site to get a better sense of what they’re looking for, or you could write a new humor piece about getting rejected by McSweeney’s. At The Nervous Breakdown, Rachel Pollan takes the latter route (with a cameo by the movie Swingers).