The History of Literature #147 – Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy

When asked to name the three greatest novels ever written, William Faulkner replied, “Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina.” Nabokov said, “When you are reading Turgenev, you know you are reading Turgenev. When you read Tolstoy, you are reading because you just cannot stop.”  And finally, there’s this compliment from author Isaac Babel: “If the world could write itself,” he said, “it would write like Tolstoy.”

But who was Leo Tolstoy? How did he become the person who could write War and Peace and Anna Karenina, two of the pinnacles of the novel form – and two of the greatest achievements in the history of human civilization? Why did he stop writing novels, and what did he do with the rest of his life?

In this episode, host Jacke Wilson takes a look at the life and works of Count Leo Tolstoy, one of the most fascinating and revered figures in all of literature.

Links and Other Treats:

More of a Chekhov person? You might like Episode 63, where author Charles Baxter talks about how important Chekhov has been to him.

For a look at Anna Karenina’s “French cousin,” check out Episode 79 – Music That Melts the Stars – Madame Bovary.

Love the Russians? Listen to more in Episode 130 on the great poet Anna Akhmatova and her surprising affair with sculptor Amedeo Modigliani.

Why did Tolstoy hate Shakespeare? Learn more in Episode 104 – King Lear.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature. Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC.

FREE GIFTS! The gift-giving continues! This month, we’re giving away a copy of Nabokov’s Lectures on Russian Literature and an Amazon.com gift certificate for the book of your choice. Sign up at patreon.com/literature to be eligible to win. Good luck!

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The History of Literature #146 – Power Ranking the Nobel Prize for Literature

The Nobel Prize for Literature has a special place in the literary landscape. We revere the prize and its winners – and yet we often find ourselves puzzled by the choices. The list of fantastic writers who never won a Nobel Prize is as long and distinguished as the list of those who did.

In this episode, Jacke and Mike take a look at the Nobel Prizes by decade, attempting to determine which decade had the best (and worst) group of authors. Do we select your favorites? Overlook some hidden gems? Let us know!

For a list of Nobel Prize Winners for Literature by Decade, visit historyofliterature.com/nobel-prizes-by-decade/

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature. Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC.

The History of Literature #145 – Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know – The Story of Lord Byron

The Later Romantic poet George Gordon Byron, once described by Lady Caroline Lamb as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” lived 36 years and became world famous, his astonishing career as a poet matched only by his astonishing record as a breaker of norms, an insatiable lover, a bizarre hedonist, a restless exile, a head-scratching eccentric, a passionate friend, a determined athlete, an ardent revolutionary, and in general, one of the greatest embracers of life the world has ever seen.

Works discussed include Childe Harold’s PilgrimageFugitive Pieces / Hours of IdlenessEnglish Bards and Scotch Reviewers, and Don Juan.

For another taste of Romantic poetry, try our episode on Poetry and Ruins, which includes a look at Shelley’s Ozymandias.

Jacke recounts his own attempts to write a Keatsian poem in the Bad Poetry episode.

Byron makes a cameo appearance – he was on the scene when both Frankenstein and vampires were invented – in our Mary Shelley episode.

Want some of the older Romantics? Try our episode on Coleridge and the Person from Porlock.

EXCITING NEWS!!!!

We are giving away a FREE History of Literature Podcast mug and a FREE copy of Ronica Dhar’s book, Bijou Roy, to two lucky Patreon donors! Sign up now at patreon.com/literature to be eligible for this special bonus offer.

If you’d like to purchase a mug instead, or just donate a fiver or two to the show, you can find out how at historyofliterature.com/shop. Learn more about the show at historyofliterature.com or facebook.com/historyofliterature. Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or on Twitter @thejackewilson.

144 Food in Literature

Food, glorious food! We all know its power for nourishment, pleasure, and comfort — and we’ve all felt the sharp pangs of its absence. How has this essential part of being alive made its way into novels, short stories, and poetry? Our guest Ronica Dhar, author of the novel Bijou Roy, joins us for a conversation about food in literature, as we select ten mouthwatering (and thought-provoking) examples. Bon appetit!

Works and authors discussed include Kevin Young, Dr. Seuss, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, William Shakespeare, Beatrix Potter, Patrick O’Brian, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, Beowulf, Elizabeth Alexander, Big Night (the film), Charles Dickens, Arnold Lobel, Russell Hoban, Lillian Hoban, Haruki Murakami, Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis, Paddington Bear, Pippi Longstocking, and more.

For our first discussion with Ronica, in which she chooses her favorite books, see Episode 35 – A Conversation with Ronica Dhar.

What’s food without the means to buy it? For a draft of 10 great writers at work, see Episode 101 – Writers at Work (with Mike Palindrome).

For more on Patrick O’Brian, see Episode 37 – Great Literary Duos.

For a medieval feast, see Episode 108 – Beowulf (aka Need a Hero? Get a Grip!).

EXCITING NEWS!!!!

We are giving away a FREE History of Literature Podcast mug and a FREE copy of Ronica Dhar’s book, Bijou Roy, to two lucky Patreon donors! Sign up now at patreon.com/literature to be eligible for this special bonus offer.

If you’d like to purchase a mug instead, or just donate a fiver or two to the show, you can find out how at historyofliterature.com/shop. Learn more about the show at historyofliterature.com or facebook.com/historyofliterature. Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or on Twitter @thejackewilson.