— Helon Habila, "We Need New Names: review," Guardian
'I feel I want to go somewhere and be ugly quietly for a week,' Miss Compostella was confiding to George Calvally, as she cut a little wild-duck with her luminous hands. 'The effort of having to look more or less like one's photographs is becoming such a strain.'
He sympathized with her."
— Ronald Firbank, Vainglory
— Auden, 1939 letter, ibid.
— Edward Mendelson, "The Secret Auden," NYRB
“I would like to have an elephant that likes the cold weather.”
Nathaniel Rich on de-extinction (NYT).
This is such an English Department way to phrase the question.
Dostoevsky’s novel enshrines, in its very form, a further argument. It is that Ivan’s ideas cannot be refuted by other ideas. In debate, in ‘dialogism,’ there is no way of defeating or even of matching Ivan, and Alyosha does not really try. At the end of Ivan’s legend, he simply kisses his brother. The only way in which we can refute Ivan’s ideas, the book seems to say, is by maintaining that Christ is not an idea. Socialism is an idea, because it is ‘reasonable’; atheism, too. But Christianity, so profoundly unreasonable — what Kierkegaard called ‘lunacy’ — is not an idea. The painful part is that the only realm in which Christ is not an idea, in which he is pure knowledge, is in heaven. On earth, we are all fallen, and we fall before ideas, we have only ideas, and Christ can always be kicked around the ideational playground.
But Christ is not an idea. This is surely the only way to explain the intellectually incoherent behavior of Dimitri, who, though innocent, is willing to be guilty for all and before all; or of Father Zosima’s equally extreme advice that we should ask forgiveness ‘even from the birds’; or of Alyosha’s final words, which close the book, that resurrection does indeed exist: ‘Certainly we shall rise, certainly we shall see, and gladly, joyfully tell one another all that has been!’ Such notions have really fallen off the cliff of ideas and into the realm of illogical, beautiful, desperate exhortation. Belief has smothered knowledge. And this exchange — of the unreason of Christianity for the reason of atheism — means finally that there can be no ‘dialogism’ in this novel, either of the kind that Bakhtin proposed, or the kind that Dostoevsky so ardently desired. There is neither a circulation of ideas nor an ‘answering’ of atheism. For the answer — the unreason of Christian love — no longer belongs to the realm of worldly ideas, and thus no longer belongs to the novel itself. It truly exists in Paradise, and in that other, finally un-novelistic book, the New Testament."
— James Wood, “Dostoevsky’s God,” The Irresponsible Self
— Joshua Rothman, "Why Is Academic Writing So Academic?," NYer website
— Gary Saul Morson, “Anna Karenina’s Omens,” Norton Critical Edition