147 Leo 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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119 The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

Very few works of art have had the cultural and literary impact of J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye. An immediate success upon its publication in 1951, and popular with teenagers (and adults) ever since, the book has sold over 65 million copies – and inadvertently led to two notorious assassination attempts in the 1980s. Have we moved beyond The Catcher in the Rye? Are its innovations still as fresh as they once were? Do its themes of alienation and disaffection still resonate? Mike Palindrome, President of the Literature Supporters Club, joins Jacke for a reconsideration of the book that critic Adam Gopnik called “one of three perfect American novels.”

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature. Learn more about the show at historyofliterature.com. Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

FOR A LIMITED TIME: Special holiday news! Now for a limited time, you can purchase History of Literature swag (mugs, tote bags, and “virtual coffees” for Jacke) at historyofliterature.com/shop. Get yours today!

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96 Dracula, Lolita, and the Power of Volcanoes (with Jim Shepard)

Author Jim Shepard joins the podcast to discuss everything from the humor of Christopher Guest and S.J. Perelman to the poetic philosophy of Robert Frost and F.W. Murnau’s classic film, Nosferatu. He and host Jacke Wilson flutter around Nabokov’s Lolita, sink their teeth into Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and descend into the world of volcanoes in Krakatua 1883, where they explore how an author discovers emotional truths in unexpected places. Other works and artists discussed include Robert Frost, Howard Nemerov, James Thurber, Robert Stone, Anne Carson, Love at First Bite, and the deadpan style of Pat Paulsen.

Show Notes: 

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/historyofliterature.

You can follow Jacke Wilson at his Twitter account @WriterJacke. You can also follow Mike and the Literature Supporters Club (and receive daily book recommendations) by looking for @literatureSC.

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Sweeter Vermouth” and “Spy Glass” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0.

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75 The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki

With a strong claim to be the first novel in history, the Japanese classic The Tale of Genji (ca. 1001-1012), by Murasaki Shikibu, or Lady Murasaki, is one of the world’s greatest literary masterpieces. But who was Lady Murasaki, and what compelled her to write this story of an idealized prince and his many lovers? How innovative was she? And do the intrigues of the imperial Japanese courts from a thousand years ago still have the power to fascinate, entertain, and instruct us today? 

Show Notes: 

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/historyofliterature.

On Twitter, you can follow Jacke Wilson at his handle @WriterJacke. You can also follow Mike and the Literature Supporters Club (and receive daily book recommendations) by looking for @literature SC.

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Ritual” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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