Why Choose?

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"Why Choose?"


From an interesting NYT piece on JD Salinger:

Depending on one’s point of view, he was either a crackpot or the American Tolstoy, who had turned silence itself into his most eloquent work of art.

Tolstoy was a great novelist, but wasn’t he also a crackpot?


The more I think about this, the less I like it. Tolstoy was something of a crackpot. He was also one of the greatest artists of all time. The idea that if Salinger we don’t regard Salinger as a crackpot we should regard him as the equivalent to Tolstoy seems doubly ridiculous.

I note that on twitter someone was mounting the case that Dostoevsky is better than Tolstoy. These debates will, of course, go on and on. What I would say is that Dostoevsky’s peak moments are more magnificent but that there’s also more weak material in there. Dostoevsky famously wrote under sharp debt-related financial pressure and thus the material is sometimes of uneven quality (consider the quality gap between the first third of The Idiot and the last third) whereas with Tolstoy it’s all good.

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