A quiet few days in the literary world, though the Orange Prize judges did issue the long list for this year’s prize, with a plea from judge chair, Daisy Godwin, to authors to spare us your misery. I hear you, Daisy, I’m perpetually in mourning for humor in modern literature, we still, even now, seem to equate seriousness with serious intent. Margaret Atwood’s sense of humor is intact, and she shares on her blog her experience of singing a cameo for an upcoming musical about hockey.
The Atlantic is bringing fiction back, just when David Shields in Reality Hunger is telling us that it’s dead. Though James Woods in a recent New Yorker review seems to disagree with some parts of Shields’ argument, and while doing so he describes Tolstoy as a realist author who “was about what he was about.” This is a timely remark, as I’ve been thinking a lot about Tolstoy recently. A friend of mine was reading War and Peace, while I’ve been revisiting the rather creaky and old-fashioned, but nevertheless wonderful, adaptation by the BBC in 1972. Check out the excellent essay by Kevin Harnett at The Millions on the effects of reading Tolstoy’s masterpiece.