Best Of The Web
“Tolstoy is arguably history’s greatest novelist, but not that arguably. In a 2007 Time poll of 125 authors, Anna Karenina was voted the greatest book ever written, with War and Peace finishing third. Dostoevsky and Nabokov both called Anna Karenina “flawless,” and James Joyce and Virginia Woolf acknowledged his brilliance. Isaac Babel summarized the consensus, referencing the unmatched realism in his books: “If the world could write by itself, it would write like Tolstoy.”
The man who wrote like the world was born in 1828, the fourth of five children. His aristocratic parents died when he was young, leaving him raised largely by his extended family on their majestic 4,000-acre estate, Yasnaya Polyana. One hundred and twenty miles south of Moscow, it was filled with ponds, parks, landscaped gardens, fruit orchards, paths — and about 300 serfs working the land.
Tolstoy abandoned university after two years. At 19, he was living a debauched bachelor’s life in Moscow, acquiring gonorrhea and a gambling problem. After another perfunctory attempt at university in St. Petersburg and a brief stint at home, he joined the Russian military, fighting in the Caucasus and Sevastopol during the Crimean War in the early- and mid-1850s while writing fiction in his free time.
…But there was another Tolstoy who’s been lost to history. For all his fame as a novelist, in Russia and elsewhere Tolstoy the fiction writer was secondary in fame and impact to Tolstoy the author of political, social and religious non-fiction. “His popular celebrity in 1910 owed more to his political and ethical campaigning and his status as a visionary, reformer, moralist, and philosophical guru than to his talents as a writer of fiction,” the classicist Mary Beard has observed. Though it’s remembered today only by a few literary critics, Tolstoy fashioned an entire coherent way of living centered around his unique understanding of Christianity. Its adherents came to be known as Tolstoyans, much to his annoyance. At one time, there were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of practicing Tolstoyans around the world, from India to Canada. They renounced cities, comforts, laws, pleasure, modernity. Now they’re all gone. Almost all.”
JJ Best Of The Web
"Now I’m starting to wonder how I can go at all. And I’m also wondering why more Muslims don’t question the powers that control our most sacred site—and how the Saudis have already twisted it to their own political and financial ends."
"It's going to be a letdown. Not only is it likely that the final report will not reveal that the president has been a KGB agent since the late '80s, as at least one mainstream liberal columnist fantasized."
"The JFNA GA may say they want to talk, but there are some parts of Israel which have the feeling that this American Jewish organization is not really interested in hearing what they have to say."
“What responsibility do you think young, famous women have today to be activists?” I asked Bateman. “Are you tempted to leverage your fame for political reasons?”
"For nearly 40 years, the GOP has relied on cutting taxes as an easy way to win votes, even when their plans—like the most recent package—benefit only the rich. "
"On its face, voting by phone makes sense. Nearly ninety-five per cent of American adults own mobile phones, and rely on them for all sorts of secure transactions."
"Allegations of sexual harassment brought down Bill Gothard, a leading figure of the Christian right. But his fall also revealed the diminished influence of fundamentalism in the Trump era."
"Literature — the top-shelf, award-winning stuff — is positively ectoplasmic these days, crawling with hauntings, haints and wraiths of every stripe and disposition."
"Kids have a habit of imitating their parents’ criminal behavior. It’s no wonder, then, that by one measure, 10 percent of families account for two-thirds of criminals."
"SFAH doesn’t make an argument for local or slow food per se, but that’s what we see. The dishes are simple, with few ingredients, made traditionally and with pleasure."
We think of archeological finds as being clues to the ancient past. In a new book from Ulrike Sommer, archeology's effects on present-day national narratives are excavated.
"That the highest God speaks for six days and then has to rest from fatigue at the seventh is a patent absurdity: ‘It is not fitting for the first God to be tired or to work with his hands or to give orders,’ he writes."