Yiyun Li is a Chinese-American writer. Her short stories and novels have won several awards & distinctions, including the PEN/Hemingway Award and Guardian First Book Award for A Thousand Years of Good Prayers.
The contributor Yiyun Li is a fiction writer who also teaches creative writing at Princeton University. “The campus is empty,” she tells Joshua Rothman. “The city is quiet. It has a different feeling. And it’s a good time to read ‘War and Peace.’ ” When the coronavirus outbreak began, Li reached for Tolstoy’s epic of Russia during the Napoleonic Wars; there is no better book, she feels, for a time of fear and uncertainty.
So as many of us were retreating to our homes in March, Yiyun Li launched a project called Tolstoy Together, an online book club in which thousands of people, on every continent except Antarctica, are participating. In the morning, Li posts thoughts about the day’s reading (twelve to fifteen pages), and participants reply, on Twitter and Instagram, with their own comments. “War and Peace,” Li believes, is capacious enough to be endlessly relevant. “The novel started with Annette having a cough. And she said she was sick, she couldn't go out to parties, so she invited people to her house for a party and everybody came. And so that was ironic. I have read the novels so many times. This is the only time I thought, ‘Oh, you know, a cough really means something. These people really should be careful about life.’ ” Plus, with the coronavirus pandemic delaying the start of the M.L.B. season, David Remnick revisits a conversation with baseball’s greatest observer: the Hall of Fame inductee Roger Angell.