The Tolstoy Challenge: Book Club Round-Up

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NPR’s Bill Goldstein took on Adam Levin’s “thousand-page debut splash,” The Instructions, calling it “daunting enough as a matter of real estate alone.” Read Goldstein’s review to find out whether he thinks it prevails in the Tolstoy Challenge (are books over a thousand pages worth reading over War and Peace?).

Canada’s The National Post offers: “It is rare to find a writer like Levin who can inspire real concern over the meaning of words.”

When The Rumpus Book Club interviewed Levin, The Instructions‘ characters became the central theme. “Should we look at Gurion as hero, anit-hero, or something else entirely?”…”How’d you come up with the idea for the personality of Gurion’s parents? I loved them both in all their intelligent wonderful imperfection”…”Why was Gurion so rigid in not letting Nakamook spread the word of the pennygun?” OK, you really have to have read the book to understand that last one. But if you have, this interview with Levin is a must. And if you haven’t, you’ll still get a hoot out of the antics of the Book Club in the interview.

“I can admit when I’m wrong about a book, and this is probably the most embarrassing example of the year,” writes Bookavore blogger, who just shrugged at The Instructions when he first unpacked it from a box. Find out why now he thinks he was wrong to ignore it.

Alan Cheuse reviews Lan Samantha Chang’s All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost for NPR. Listen to the podcast, or read the transcript, here.

The Kansas City Star named John Brandon’s Citrus County as one of its “Top 100 Books” of the year.

Public Radio International’s “The Sound of Young America” interviews Brandon on their latest show.

Good news for poet Tim Donnelly: California’s Poet Laureate called his new collection, Cloud Corporation, “utterly ingenious” and “nearly-indescribable.”

Viceland Today thinks Tao Lin (of Richard Yates fame) is “Clean, Energetic, and Powerful.”


Maddie Oatman has interviewed musicians and writers for The Rumpus. She's the research editor at Mother Jones, where she also writes. A Boulder transplant, she can often be found on her bike, skis, or cooking with vegetables, and she wrote her English thesis on a gay red-winged monster and Billy the Kid. Follow her on Twitter or read occasional musings on her blog Oats. More from this author →