The Art of Leaving Things Out
Here is Tolstoyan wisdom: real insight lies not in some abstract system, which necessarily oversimplifies, but in a faith always within our grasp. The truths we seek are so difficult to discern precisely because they are hidden in plain view.
We are not to take as a work of art; we are to take it as a piece of life
When the old man dies, Prince Vasily unexpectedly acts out of character. “ ‘Ah my friend,’ he murmured, taking Pierre by the elbow, and there was a weakness and sincerity in his voice that Pierre had never heard before. ‘How greatly we sin, how we deceive—and for what? I am nearing sixty, my friend—I too—it all ends in death, all . . .’ And he wept.” Another writer might make this moment a turning point in Vasily’s life, or at least allow it to reveal qualities that we will see again, but nothing of the sort happens in . So far as we know, Prince Vasily is never sincere again. Tolstoy knows that people are never entirely consistent, that character includes acting out of character; and he demonstrates an uncanny sense of when and how someone might do so.
Just 150 years ago, in 1869, Tolstoy published the final installment of , often regarded as the greatest of all novels. In his time, Tolstoy was known as a —someone who says , or no, to all prevailing opinion—and discredits the prevailing views of the radical intelligentsia, then just beginning to dominate Russian thought. The intelligentsia’s way of thinking is still very much with us and so Tolstoy’s critique is, if anything, even more pertinent today.
"If we concede that human life can be governed by reason, then the possibility of life is destroyed,” the book’s epilogue instructs. Even more than their Western European counterparts, Russians were obsessed with establishing a hard social science, as certain as physics. Any Western theory that promised such certainty found enthusiastic Russian supporters. In England, utilitarianism supported moderate liberalism, but by the 1860s Russians took it as proof of revolutionary socialism. The French positivist Auguste Comte, who coined the term “sociology,” originally planned to call his new discipline “social physics.” His Russian followers presumed that this “physics” already existed. Of course, Marxism—or “scientific socialism”—would eventually triumph over its rivals.
It's been said that if nature could write, it would write like Tolstoy. It's his unsurpassed realism that makes reading War and Peace unlike reading any other book... The greatest of all novels
We've been warned about food and medicine, but should we be stockpiling European manuscripts? Waterstones says books may be more expensive if we leave without a deal. "Start hoarding these outstanding European titles before March 29," urges an ad. "You never know — they may introduce a tax on translated fiction."
In a mischievous comment on post-Brexit Britain, one of the titles was Jozef Imrich's Cold River: The Cold Truth of Freedom ...
The cheery, bland age of “books coverage.” Reviews have been replaced by listicles, gift ideas, and promotional Q&As. We deserve better... Books like this don't die
At The New York Review of Books' weblog Tim Parks wonders Does Talking About Books Make Us More Cosmopolitan ?
Apparently it was time for another of these pieces: in the April Harper's Christian Lorentzen expounds on: 'The fate of the book review in the age of the algorithm' in Like This or Die.
Lorentzen mentions that, not long after New Yorkannounced it was: "greatly expanding and reimagining its books coverage" his: "contract to review books at New Yorkmagazine was dropped". 'Expanded coverage' apparently does not include reviews; instead he finds (and argues): "Books coverage now rises or falls in the slipstream of social media".
Among much else, he offers an overview of book-reviewing -- including the apparently brief blog-flourishing:
The early book bloggers -- typically amateurs, many of whom have gone on to become authors and critics for mainstream outlets, among them Mark Athitakis, Maud Newton, Mark Sarvas, Levi Stahl, Tao Lin -- were an anarchic bunch, pursuing their own idiosyncratic enthusiasms and antagonisms (Sam Tanenhaus, then editor of The New York Times Book Review, was a frequent target of their ire, envy, and, occasionally, awe). Constricted neither by convention nor by editors, the bloggers, at their best, popularized worthy but obscure writers, circulated the most interesting criticism that caught their eyes, and devoted tremendous energy to indexing the literary scene. They were passionate. At their worst, they aired uninformed opinions about books they hadn't read, but mostly their work was a tonic. Group blogs such as The Millions (recently purchased by Publishers Weekly), Electric Literature, and HTMLGIANT became forums for recent MFA graduates and geographically isolated aspiring writers to work out their ideas in public and form their own communities. As with blogs generally, book blogs entered a decline as social media became the zone where people ventured their considered or (increasingly) stray thoughts.