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Strung Out In Heaven: Amanda Palmer on Patronage vs. Commerce, Art as Non-Ownable Nourishment, and the Story Behind Her Bowie String Quartet Tribute


“People don’t trust you without getting to know you and watching you work and seeing you make good on your word.” On a gray January morning, I was taking a run through a London cemetery, the BBC in my ear, when news of David Bowie’s death broke.

William S. Burroughs on Love


“Love? What is It? Most natural painkiller what there is. LOVE.” “It’s funny that it’s so plain that it’s love that makes the world go round,” Iris Murdoch wrote in one of her magnificent her love letters, “although it’s so very difficult to get it right.” In those rare moments when we’re able — or, rather, willing — to strip away our cynical resistance to sincerity, we can glimpse the plainness of love and relish it as the richest reality of life.

Happy Birthday, Rosa Parks: The Civil Rights Legend on the Meaning of Life


“We are here on earth to live, grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.” “The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately,” Seneca counseled two millennia ago as he contemplated the shortness of life and urged us to live wide rather than long.

From Umberto Eco to Patti Smith, 11 Celebrated Contemporary Authors Offer Advice to Aspiring Writers

“Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises, don’t worry about making a bunch of money… If you build a good name, eventually, that name will be its own currency.” For several years, I’ve been compiling an evolving library of timeless advice on writing from more than one hundred of the craft’s greatest masters, dead and alive — authors like Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Neil Gaiman, Joan Didion, Ernest Hemingway, David Foster Wallace, Zadie Smith, and dozens more.

The Needs of the Soul: Simone Weil on the Crucial Difference Between Our Rights and Our Obligations


“The notion of obligations comes before that of rights, which is subordinate and relative to the former.

Happy Birthday, Felix Mendelssohn: The Great Romantic Composer on Selling Out, Creative Integrity, and the Measure of Artistic Satisfaction


“When I have composed a piece just as it sprang from my heart, then I have done my duty towards it; and whether it brings hereafter fame, honor, decorations, or snuff-boxes, etc., is a matter of indifference to me.” The German composer, pianist, and conductor Felix Mendelssohn (February 3, 1809–November 4, 1847) performed his first public concert at the age of 9.

James Joyce’s Love Letters


“If I am to write anything fine or noble in the future I shall do so only by listening at the doors of your heart.” As an ardent lover of love letters, I have encountered few exemplars of the genre more piercing than those penned by James Joyce (February 2, 1882–January 13, 1941).

Madness and Genius: Cosmologist Janna Levin on the Vitalizing Power of Obsessiveness, from Newton to Einstein


“Are all of nature’s greatest secrets encrypted in our own selves?” One aphoristic definition of madness is repeating a behavior that has previously led to disappointing results over and over again, expecting a different outcome each time.

How Arthur Rackham’s 1907 Drawings for Alice in Wonderland Revolutionized the Carroll Classic, the Technology of Book Art, and the Economics of Illustration


“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” In the 150 years since Lewis Carroll first told the story of Wonderland to the real-life Alice, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has attracted a number of stunning visual interpretations ranging from Salvador Dalí to Yayoi Kusama, but none more influential than those Arthur Rackham (September 19, 1867–September 6, 1939) created in 1907.

Keats on the Joy of Singledom and How Solitude Opens Our Creative Channels to Truth and Beauty


“The roaring of the wind is my wife and the Stars through the window pane are my Children… I do not live in this world alone but in a thousand worlds.” “Nourish yourself with grand and austere ideas of beauty that feed the soul… Seek solitude,” the great French artist Eugène Delacroix counseled himself in 1824.

The MoMA Cookbook: Vintage Recipes and Reflections on Food by Salvador Dalí, Louise Bourgeois, Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, and Other Great Artists


From Dalí’s red salad to Warhol’s cream of tomato soup. “Art is a form of nourishment,” Susan Sontag wrote in her diary.

André Gide on Growing Happier as We Grow Older and Using Death as a Mobilizing Force for Creative Work


“Age cannot manage to empty either sensual pleasure of its attractiveness or the whole world of its charm.” “There is, after all, something eternal that lies beyond the hand of fate and of all human delusions,” Albert Einstein wrote in his beautiful letter to the Queen of Belgium, “and such eternals lie closer to an older person than to a younger one oscillating between fear and hope.

Harvard Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy on Mastering the Antidote to Anxiety, Self-Consciousness, and Impostor Syndrome


“Before we even show up at the doorstep of an opportunity, we are teeming with dread and anxiety, borrowing trouble from a future that hasn’t yet unfolded.” “We know that we live in contradiction,” Albert Camus wrote in his magnificent meditation on strength of character, “but we also know that we must refuse this contradiction and do what is needed to reduce it.” One of the most pervasive and perennial contradictions pulling the human spirit asunder is our yearning for greatness, which coexists with our chronic propensity for self-doubt.

How to Treat the Symptoms of a Rising Reputation: David Hume on the Only Adequate Response to Haters


On choosing the turn of mind that expands your happiness rather than contracting it. In the final year of his life, the great Scottish philosopher, historian, and essayist David Hume (May 7, 1711–August 25, 1776) penned a short, beautiful autobiography titled My Own Life (public library) — a potent packet of wisdom on the measure of a life well lived, which became a major inspiration for the contemporary counterpart Oliver Sacks wrote at the end of his own life.

Why We Write About Ourselves: Some of Today’s Most Celebrated Writers on the Art of Telling Personal Stories That Unravel Universal Truth


“Making art is all about humans and our psychology: who we are, how we behave, what we do with the hand we’ve been dealt.

Happy Birthday, Mozart: The Great Composer’s Daily Routine


How a day is composed in the hours between sleep o’clock and symphony o’clock. “The patterns of our lives reveal us.

Iris Murdoch on the Fluidity of Gender and Sexuality: Her Intensely Beautiful Love Letters to Brigid Brophy


“It’s snowing (big flakes) and I love you.” “A self that goes on changing goes on living,” Virginia Woolf wrote in her defense of letter writing as the humanest art.

How You Spend Your Life: A Cinematic Sum of the Hours, Days, and Years Spent on Mundane Activities


An awakening anatomy of the average life’s two years of boredom, 6 months of watching commercials, 67 days of heartbreak, and 14 minutes of pure joy.

Why Can’t You Remember Your Future? Physicist Paul Davies on the Puzzlement of Why We Experience Time as Linear


The curious question of how and whether we can tell the difference between an experience and the memory of an experience.

How Aubrey Beardsley’s Visionary Illustrations for Oscar Wilde’s ‘Salome’ Subverted Victorian Gender Norms and Revolutionized the Graphic Arts


“He is drawing not persons but personages; he is dramatizing not the relationships between personalities but the pure, geometric essence of relationship.” In his short life, Aubrey Beardsley (August 21, 1872–March 16, 1898) became a pioneer of the Art Nouveau movement and forever changed the course of the graphic arts.


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