Art and Freedom

There are five things that societies do: They reproduce; they produce food; they organize themselves in terms of law; they organize themselves in terms of belief; and they make art. Four of them are about conformity -- and in these, everything would go more smoothly if people just would shut up and do what they're told.

But in art it doesn't work that way. Art doesn't exist if you just do what you're told. It only exists as an exercise of individual taste and freedom. So in every society, the artists will be the ones who set themselves up as contrary to whatever the society expects.

--Jane Smiley, born on this day in 1949; the comments above, from a 2007 interview in Progressive magazine, are in response to the interviewer's observation that Smiley's Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel expresses her belief that "all novels are liberal, and all novels are political"

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at


Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).