Surprisingly modern lessons from classic Russian literature

Though gloomy and dense, Russian literature is hauntingly beautiful, offering a relentlessly persistent inquiry into the human experience. by Tim Brinkhof  Russian literature has a knack for precisely capturing and describing the human condition. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn are among the greatest writers who ever lived. If you want to be a wiser person, spend time with the great Russian novelists. In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1864 novella Notes from Underground, an unnamed narrator asks the following question: “What can be expected of man since he is a being endowed with strange qualities?” The answer: “Even if man were nothing … Continue reading Surprisingly modern lessons from classic Russian literature

The Optimism of the Oyster

From the rudiments of consciousness to the redemptions of conservation, with a side of existential reckoning. BY MARIA POPOVA “Obviously, if you don’t love life, you can’t enjoy an oyster,” Eleanor Clark wrote in the book that won her the National Book Award, published exactly 100 years after On the Origin of Species. For Darwin, these strange and quietly wondrous creatures furnished a different kind of enjoyment. He had come under their spell as a college student, accompanying two of his mentors as they waded into tidal pools to collect oyster specimens. By twenty-five, having fused the enchantment of oysters with … Continue reading The Optimism of the Oyster