It's hard to think of another body of work that is more universally beloved - I don't think I've ever met someone who has encountered 'Calvin and Hobbes' without falling for them.
Calvin and Hobbes are the only two characters from my childhood reading that I return to with any regularity, and they have grown with me, yielding newer and deeper meaning.
Chechnya forms the bookends to Tolstoy's career. He began writing his first novel, 'Childhood,' while in Starogladovskaya in Northern Chechnya, and his final novel, 'Hadji Murad,' is set in the Russo-Chechen War of the 19th century.
Ever since studying in Russia as a college student, I had been in a long-distance, one-sided love affair with Chechnya's remarkable history, culture and rugged natural beauty.
The idea that fiction can capture the stories that fall through the cracks of history informed 'A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,' which progresses across the two Chechen Wars of the 1990s and early 2000s.
My first real awareness of Chechnya came when I was a college student studying in Russia. I arrived in St. Petersburg about two months after Anna Politkovskaya was assassinated for her reports on Chechnya. I lived with an elderly woman and her grown children in an apartment that was not too far from the neighborhood military cadet school.