Show hosts: Dmitry Kharitonov
In October 2013 Donna Tartt, an American writer, published her third novel, “The Goldfinch.” It took her 11 years to write, and we readers tend to expect a lot from a book that takes so long to be completed, especially if a distinguished critic described its author’s first novel thusly: “Imagine the plot of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment crossed with the story of Euripides’ Bacchaeset against the backdrop of Bret Easton Ellis’ Rules of Attraction and told in the elegant, ruminative voice of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.”
In May 2013 Khaled Hosseini published his third novel, “And the Mountains Echoed.” Ten years ago Hosseini, an Afghanistan-born American doctor, published a book called “The Kite Runner.” It was, to use the author’s definition, “a father—son story” set in Afghanistan, torn by history and harboring – let’s quote the author again – “friendship, betrayal, guilt, redemption and the uneasy love.”
The 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature went to Alice Munro, a Canadian short story writer. It’s in human nature to doubt all sorts of things, and the bigger the things, the bigger the doubts. Integrity of the Nobel Committee for Literature is certainly among these big things. Do we even know a person who never said “Oh, great, another winner that nobody knows,” “It’s politics, that’s what it is” or something like that? I guess we all say these things from time to time, which, of course, doesn’t make them less – well – anything.
Lots of things that have to do with J.D. Salinger, the reclusive legend of American letters who died in 2010, are covered in secrecy so it seems just (in some twisted way) that three of his short stories happened to leak online in 2013 to become almost universally available for some time.
Tom Clancy, who died this year, seems to have been somewhat of the United States literary corps of one, a poet-laureate of the military-industrial complex, and a perfect example of what the Cold War can lead to when it becomes an inspiration.
The 2013 Booker Prize for Fiction went to Eleanor Catton for her second novel, “The Luminaries.” It’s a big deal for more reasons than one; first, Catton is definitely in the big league from now on: the Man Booker Prize for Fiction used to be the Holy Grail for the Commonwealth citizens who wrote in English and published their works in the UK. (I said “used to be” because in less than a month you will not have to be a Commonwealth citizen to compete for it.) Second, Catton, who is 28 years old, is the youngest author (and the second New Zealander) to win the prize, that was first awarded in 1969, and her novel is the longest book to do so.
In September 2013 Stephen King published “Doctor Sleep,” a sequel to his 1977 novel “The Shining.” In 2009 he asked his fans to help him decide what he should do next: write another “Dark Tower” novel or come back to “The Shining,” one of his best known books, famously adapted for the screen by Stanley Kubrick in 1980.
Aldous Huxley, who died 50 years ago on the same day as JFK the president and C.S. Lewis the author, has claim to be considered both a great writer and a great man but it will perhaps be more fair and accurate to call him “a great man of letters.” As such he embodied and largely defined the intellectual atmosphere of post World War England; shortly before the Second World War he moved to the US where he kept writing for the rest of his life.
In May 2013 Dan Brown published his sixth novel, “Inferno.” The word “successful” doesn’t even begin to describe what some writers are; one can understand the temptation to even stop calling them writers because what they do seems to be somehow beyond literature. On the other hand, one can as easily understand the temptation to suggest that they push the limits of literature, or rather extend our perception of it, which at least sounds like a good thing.
Albert Camus, a French writer and thinker who was born in 1913 and died in 1960 in a car crash, has to be considered one of those who taught us to live in the modern world by showing us what it’s like and how to deal with it. It’s entirely up to us what to believe in and it sure is nice to have some options. To feel free to choose your religion or philosophy is freedom, especially if ultimately there’s no actual need to do so: we develop this need by ourselves and have to accept the consequences.