“If I had to choose between the Doors and Dostoyevsky, then — of course — I’d choose Dostoyevsky… But do I have to choose?”
Susan Sontag’s timeless, timelier than ever thoughts on how the false divide between “high” and pop culture limits us and robs our lives of richness
“What Winston Churchill once said of architecture — “First we shape our buildings, and then they shape us” — might also be said of cooking. First we cooked our food, and then our food cooked us.”
Essential reading: Michael Pollan on reclaiming cooking as social glue and anti-corporate activism
“The useless days will add up to something….These things are your becoming.”
When an anonymous advice columnist by the name of “Dear Sugar” introduced herself on The Rumpus on March 11, 2010, she made her proposition clear: a “by-the-book common sense of Dear Abby and the earnest spiritual cheesiness of Cary Tennis and the butt-pluggy irreverence of Dan Savage and the closeted Upper East Side nymphomania of Miss Manners.” But in the two-some years that followed, she proceeded to deliver something tenfold punchier, more honest, more existentially profound than even such an intelligently irreverent promise could foretell.
Something unusual defined Vienna between 1890 and 1918, something that shaped more of Western culture than we dare suspect — artists, writers, thinkers and scientists across biology, medicine, and psychoanalysis came into regular contact and, in the process of these interactions, steered the course of modern art and science.
“Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. This you cannot do without temperance.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
From Mark Twain to Kurt Vonnegut to Stephen King, advice on writing from modernity’s greatest writers.
An illuminating and just the right magnitude of uncomfortable almanac of some of the most prevalent and enduring lies we tell ourselves.
A compelling deep-dive into the invisible algorithmic editing on the web, a world where we’re being shown more of what algorithms think we want to see and less of what we should see.
In 2009, the great Umberto Eco became a resident at the Louvre, where he chose to focus his studies on “the vertigo of lists,” bringing his poetic observational style to the phenomenon of cataloguing, culling, and collecting. He captured his experience and insights in The Infinity of Lists: An Illustrated Essay, where he charts the Western mind’s obsessive impulse for list-making across music, literature and art, an impulse he calls a “giddiness of lists” but demonstrates that, in the right hands, it can be a “poetics of catalogues.”
Australian historian Martyn Lyons explores how books became one of the most efficient and enduring information technologies ever invented — something we seem to forget in an era plagued by techno-dystopian alarmism about the death of books. From the first papyrus scrolls to the painstakingly made illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages to today’s ebooks and the iPad, Lyons distills the history and evolution of books in the context of a parallel cultural evolution and, as in the case of Gutenberg’s printing press, revolution.
A vicarious journey into the personal libraries of thirteen favorite authors, who share their collections of childhood favorites, dusty textbooks, prized first editions, and beloved hardcovers, along with some thoughts on books, reading, and the life of the mind. Alongside the formidable collections — featuring Alison Bechdel, Stephen Carter, Junot Díaz, Rebecca Goldstein and Steven Pinker, Lev Grossman and Sophie Gee, Jonathan Lethem, Claire Messud and James Wood, Philip Pullman, Gary Shteyngart, and Edmund Whit — are short interviews with the authors about the books most important to them (including their top 10), their style of organization, and their thoughts on what the future of books might hold. The interviews are prefaced by Leah Price’s fascinating brief history of bookshelves, from the rise of the vertical book on a horizontal shelf to how social bookmarking services are changing our relationship with tagging and indexing information.
Freemasonry was born out of medieval craft guilds — working men distinguished by their freedom, not bonded into serfdom, indenture, or slavery. Masons were primarily aristocratic, and if not wealthy, then at least refined. The fraternal lodges of the Elks, the Shriners, the Woodsmen, and the Moose, to name a few, offered a more casual form of brotherhood. Developed with masonic screeds in mind, they populated small towns and suburbs and its provided its members with a reason to get together once or twice a week.
In 1892, a Woodsman lodge member asked his friend Ed DeMoulin to make him something that would really shake up dull lodge meetings. DeMoulin owned a local factory that manufactured uniforms, flags, patches, hats, seating, upholstery, and regalia of all kinds, and he was also at heart a trickster.
Enter the DeMoulin brothers and their wonderfully strange DeMoulin Brothers catalogs, collected by New Yorker cartoonist Julia Suits in her new book, The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions. A treasure chest of curiosity and a history lesson in dark humor, this is equal parts bizarre and delightfully bemusing, an essential piece of pop culture’s ritualistic paradigm and a rare glimpse of twentieth-century Americana.
In 1872, some thirteen years after The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin published The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, one of the first scientific texts to use photographic illustrations. Though the work itself was hardly groundbreaking — it was based on the research of French neurologist Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne, who ten years prior used electrodes to explore the human face as a map of inner states and published Mécanisme de la Physionomie Humaine (The Mechanisms of Human Physiognomy) — Darwin’s book is regarded not only as his main contribution to psychology, but also as a pivotal turning point in the history of book illustration, right up there with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.