The fun of reading as “an exchange between consciousnesses, a way for human beings to talk to each other about stuff we can’t normally talk about.” Despite his heartbreaking end, or perhaps in part because of it, David Foster Wallace endures as one of the most revered and celebrated modern sages, from his wisdom on writing and self-improvement to his superb definition of true leadership to his chilling-in-hindsight insights on death and redemption to his unforgettable commencement address on the meaning of life.
“While it is not the business of education … to teach every possible item of information, it is its business to cultivate deep-seated and effective habits of discriminating tested beliefs from mere assertions, guesses, and opinions.” “Do not feel absolutely certain of anything,” philosopher Bertrand Russell instructed in the first of his ten timeless commandments of teaching and learning in 1951.
“By using stale metaphors, similes and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself.” George Orwell was a man of unflinching idealism who made no apologies for making his convictions clear, be they about the ethics of journalism, the universal motives of writing, or the golden rules for making tea — but never more so than in his now-legendary essay “Politics and the English Language,” which belongs among history’s best advice on writing.
Precision, bold geometric shapes, and repetitive patterns that somehow amplify rather than dull the psychedelic sensibility of Baum’s whimsical world.
“Music takes place in time, but repetition beguilingly makes it knowable in the way of something outside of time.” “The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism,” Haruki Murakami reflected on the power of a daily routine.
“The greatest dignity to be found in death is the dignity of the life that preceded it.” “To lament that we shall not be alive a hundred years hence, is the same folly as to be sorry we were not alive a hundred years ago,” Montaigne wrote in his timeless meditation on death and the art of living.
An illustrated ode to the brilliant flops that pave the way for brilliant breakthroughs. A few decades ago, it was a commendable feat for a children’s book to imagine such stereotype-defying notions as a man who does housework instead of his wife (Gone Is Gone, 1936), a black woman astronaut (Blast Off, 1973), a female architect (Need A House?
“Anyone with any degree of mental toughness ought to be able to exist without the things they like most for a few months at least.” In her heyday, Georgia O’Keeffe (November 15, 1887–March 6, 1986) was written about as America’s first great female artist.
“A failed romance. A restless sense of longing… These are raw ingredients that get mulled, weighed, processed — and ultimately transformed into art.” Beneath 647 Broadway in Manhattan, now occupied by a Soho shoe boutique, was once Pfaff’s famous saloon, both a literal basement and a figurative cultural underground.
“To lose the appetite for meaning we call thinking and cease to ask unanswerable questions [would be to] lose not only the ability to produce those thought-things that we call works of art but also the capacity to ask all the answerable questions upon which every civilization is founded.” In 1973, Hannah Arendt became the first woman to speak at the prestigious Gifford Lectures — an annual series established in 1888 aiming “to promote and diffuse the study of natural theology in the widest sense of the term,” bridging science, philosophy, and spirituality, an ancient quest of enduring urgency to this day.
A sweet and irreverent reminder that kindness is the most potent antidote to evil. Given my inexhaustible affection for vintage children’s books, I was instantly smitten by the 1965 gem Petunia, I Love You (public library) by Roger Duvoisin, part of his altogether delightful Petunia series — the story of the conniving Raccoon, who sets out to make Petunia the goose, “so handsome and so fat,” his dinner, but ends up making a good friend instead.
“Our world is dangerously riven by religious doctrines that all educated people should condemn, and yet there is more to understanding the human condition than science and secular culture generally admit.” Nietzsche’s famous proclamation that “God is dead” is among modern history’s most oft-cited aphorisms, and yet as is often the case with its ilk, such quotations often miss the broader context in a way that bespeaks the lazy reductionism with which we tend to approach questions of spirituality today.
What a baby cactus can teach us about empathy, free will, and the art of finding one’s tribe. A hug is such a simple act.
“Any fool knows that to work hard at something you want to accomplish is the only way to be happy.” By the time he was fifty, playwright Eugene O’Neill had just about every imaginable cultural accolade under his belt, including three Pulitzers and a Nobel Prize.
“Love … is the honoring of others in a way that grants them the grace of their own autonomy and allows mutual discovery.” Countless great minds have attested to the creative and psychological value of keeping a diary, but few have manifested that more beautifully than artist Anne Truitt — perhaps in large part because Truitt’s formal training as a psychologist before she turned to art gave her higher-order powers of introspection and self-awareness, which, coupled with an artist’s penchant for patient observation, produced a true masterwork of psychological insight.
“It’s a feeling of happiness that knocks me clean out of adjectives. I think sometimes that the best reason for writing novels is to experience those four and a half hours after you write the final word.” On March 24, 2008, two years before she penned her oft-cited ten rules of writing, the immeasurably brilliant Zadie Smith delivered a lecture at Columbia University’s Writing Program under the brief “to speak about some aspect of your craft.” Appropriately titled “That Crafty Feeling” and included in Smith’s altogether enchanting collection Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays (public library), the lecture outlines the ten psychological stages of writing a novel.
“Be awake enough to see where you are at any given time and how that is beautiful and has poetry inside” In 1995, while working for a local radio station in the town of Correggio, Italian journalist Luisa Cotardo conducted what would become the most candid, soulful, and profound conversation with legendary musician Jeff Buckley.
A manifesto for the “friendly spirits whose bodiless presence nourishes the body of language.” Mary Oliver once joked — perhaps semi-seriously, as is the poet’s prerogative — that each writer has a finite lifetime quota of punctuation, which should be used judiciously to shepherd language into as much elegant submission as the writer is capable of.
A pioneering picture-book with an enduring message of equality. “Many homosexuals live together in stable relationships.
An immeasurable treat for kids and introspective grownups alike. Psychologists believe that our capacity for creative work hinges on our memory and the ability to draw on our mental catalog of remembered experiences and ideas.