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Ursula K. Le Guin on Where Ideas Come From, the “Secret” of Great Writing, and the Trap of Marketing Your Work


“All makers must leave room for the acts of the spirit. But they have to work hard and carefully, and wait patiently, to deserve them.” Since long before the question of where good ideas come from became the psychologists’ favorite sport, readers, fans, and audiences have been hurling it at authors and artists, much to their frustration.

Artist Francis Bacon’s Conflicted and Creative Life, Illustrated


“It’s all so meaningless, we may as well be extraordinary.” David Lynch has called legendary British artist Francis Bacon (October 28, 1909–April 28, 1992) “the main guy, the number one kinda hero painter.” Like Lynch’s films, Bacon’s paintings compel the way a scene from a nightmare does — a scream piercing the psyche, at once terrifying in its beauty and beautiful in its terror.

The Graphic Canon of Children’s Literature: Comic Artists Reimagine Beloved Childhood Classics, from Tolstoy’s Fairy Tales to Harry Potter


“One sign of a great work of literature or art is that it can be interpreted multiple ways, that it remains ambiguous, refusing to provide clear-cut answers.” “Tales are powerful instruments and should be wielded skillfully,” artist Andrea Dezsö told me in our conversation about her striking black-and-white illustrations for the little-known original edition of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

The Difference Between the Beautiful and the Sublime, Animated


A 100-second anatomy of astonishment. Britain’s Open University has previously given us some illuminating animated explainers of the history of the English language, the world’s major religions, philosophy’s greatest thought experiments, and the major creative movements in design.

The Humane Art: Virginia Woolf on What Killed Letter Writing and Why We Ought to Keep It Alive


“A self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living.” “A letter should be regarded not merely as a medium for the communication of intelligence,” advised an 1876 guide to the art of epistolary etiquette, “but also as a work of art.” More than half a century later, and another half century before the dawn of email as we know it today, one of the greatest letter writers of all time turned a concerned eye toward the death of that singular art form.

The Creative Value of Staying Loose: Wisdom from MacArthur Geniuses on the Art of Connected Irreverence


“Cut short of the floundering and you’ve cut short the possible creative outcomes. Cheat on the chaotic stumbling-about, and you’ve robbed yourself of the raw stuff that feeds the imagination.” The history of the term “genius” is as long and convoluted as the term’s modern usage is nebulous and arbitrary.

November 19, 1957: Albert Camus’s Beautiful Letter of Gratitude to His Childhood Teacher After Winning the Nobel Prize


“I embrace you with all my heart.” Few things are more heartwarming than bearing witness to one human being expressing deep gratitude for the profound, course-altering impact another has played in her or his life.

Happy Birthday, Ted Turner: The Media Pioneer and Philanthropist on Religion, the Meaning of Life, and His 10 “Voluntary Initiatives” in Place of the Commandments


“Our reason for being here is to have a productive, good, long life and to experience the truth that we’re in paradise right now.” For more than half a century, media pioneer and philanthropist Ted Turner (b.

Form, Faith, and Freedom: Wendell Berry on What Poetry Teaches Us about the Secret of Marriage


“The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” I often think that literature is the original internet, each footnote and citation and allusion a hyperlink to another text.

The Best Children’s Books and Picture-Books of 2014


Intelligent and imaginative tales of love, loneliness, loyalty, loss, friendship, and everything in between.

The Spirit of Sauntering: Thoreau on the Art of Walking and the Perils of a Sedentary Lifestyle


Why “every walk is a sort of crusade.” “Go out and walk. That is the glory of life,” Maira Kalman exhorted in her glorious visual memoir.

A Sweet Illustrated Celebration of Our Wild Inner Child


A tender and mischievous invitation to pause and ask, as Mary Oliver did: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Leonardo’s Brain: What a Posthumous Brain Scan Six Centuries Later Reveals about the Source of Da Vinci’s Creativity


How the most creative human who ever lived was able to access a different state of consciousness. One September day in 2008, Leonard Shlain found himself having trouble buttoning his shirt with his right hand.

Diane Ackerman on What Working at a Suicide Prevention Hotline Taught Her about the Human Spirit


“Choice is a signature of our species. We choose to live, sometimes we choose our own death, but most of the time we make choices just to prove choice is possible.

Ah-Ha to Zig-Zag: Maira Kalman’s Sweet Design-History Alphabet Book about Embracing Uncertainty and Imperfection


“Life is not a straight line. Life is a zig-zag.” As a lover of imaginative and intelligent alphabet books and of absolutely everything Maira Kalman does, I find the letters of the alphabet and the words they make insufficient to express the boundless wonderfulness of Kalman’s Ah-Ha to Zig-Zag (public library) — the children’s-book counterpart of her magnificent My Favorite Things, which began as a companion to an exhibition Kalman curated to celebrate the anticipated reopening of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

Mr. Tweed’s Good Deeds: An Unusual Counting Book about the Power of Small Kindnesses


“A library is no place for three lost mice.” However anguishing the art of asking for help may be, little is more gladdening than the act of giving it.

The Fluid Dynamics of “The Starry Night”: How Vincent Van Gogh’s Masterpiece Explains the Scientific Mysteries of Movement and Light


“In a period of intense suffering, Van Gogh was somehow able to perceive and represent one of the most supremely difficult concepts nature has ever brought before mankind.” In 1889, inspired by a famous astronomical drawing that had been circulating in Europe for four decades, Vincent van Gogh painted his iconic masterpiece “The Starry Night,” one of the most recognized and reproduced images in the history of art.

Adrienne Rich on Lying, What “Truth” Really Means, and the Alchemy of Human Possibility


“The possibilities that exist between two people, or among a group of people, are a kind of alchemy. They are the most interesting thing in life.

The Mirror and the Meme: A 600-Year History of the Selfie


How glass, tin, and mercury converged on a Venetian island in the 15th century to fundamentally change the way we look at ourselves.

The Jacket: A Sweet Illustrated Meta-Story about How We Fall in Love With Books


A gentle reminder that to be somebody’s favorite thing in the world requires a certain quality of thingness.


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