Posts Tagged: brain pickings

How Books Saved Mary Oliver’s Life

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Feeling anxious about today’s election? Brain Pickings gives us a look at how writer Mary Oliver copes when times are tough: The second world—the world of literature—offered me, besides the pleasures of form, the sustentation of empathy (the first step of what Keats called negative capability) and I ran for it. I relaxed in it. I stood […]

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The Lyrics of Friendship

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What is friendship if not learning the song of another’s heart and singing it back to them? In a reflection on friendship and language, Brain Pickings’s Maria Popova explores Eudora Welty’s writings on the topic. Popova writes: “[I]t might be the basic necessities of friendship, [Welty] suggests, that sparked in us the evolutionary need for […]

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Saving Our Minds

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At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova reviews Albert Camus’s Lyrical and Critical Essays, and suggests works by Nietzsche and Susan Sontag to read alongside Camus’s eye- and mind-opening work: If we are to save the mind we must ignore its gloomy virtues and celebrate its strength and wonder. Our world is poisoned by its misery, and seems to wallow […]

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What Do I Know of Sorrow?

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What have I to complain about? Nothing much. Sylvia Plath would have been eighty-three years old last week; to celebrate her birthday, Brain Pickings shares an eighteen-year-old Plath’s thoughts on her life of privilege, what constitutes “free will,” and both the trap and power of the “I.”

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Reading for a Cloudy Day

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At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova muses on Richard Hamblyn’s The Invention of Clouds: How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies, which details the true story of Luke Howard, a 19th century English meteorologist whose work was admired by German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Aside from chronicling the unlikely friendship between a […]

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Sylvia Plath’s First Tragedy

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I don’t know whether it is a hereditary characteristic, but our little family is altogether too prone to lie awake at nights hating ourselves for stupidities—technical or verbal or whatever—and to let careless, cruel remarks fester until they blossom in something like ulcer attacks—I know that during these last days I’ve been fighting an enormous […]

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Kafka’s Father

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Franz Kafka’s letters reveal how the author’s father impacted his writing and his life, and a relationship fraught with fear. Kafka worried about his father’s “intellectual domination” creating an environment of “emotional tyranny.” Over at Brain Pickings, Maria Popova finds in Kafka’s letters a deeply haunting father-son relationship: What I would have needed was a […]

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Making Art and Being an Artist

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When does an artist get to be called an artist? Anne Truitt explored the labels in her diary seven years in the making, Daybook: The Journal of an Artist. Maria Popova over at Brain Pickings looks at Truitt’s work and the “existential discomfort” at facing her life’s retrospective. Truitt wrote: The “just me” reaction was, […]

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Learning to Look Closer

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Over at Brain Pickings, Maria Popova talks with cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz about her new book On Looking, which is about the way sensory awareness impacts our perception of reality. The two discuss how “a writer is a professional observer” and how when you look at things more closely, you see—and imagine—them differently: When you […]

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Rotten Apples and Other Writerly Customs

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Nearly any creative writing course, teacher, or mentor will give you the same advice—writing is a solitary act and is different for every writer. However, some of us writers are a bit more different than others. Brain Pickings shows us the wacky habits of many esteemed writers. We especially enjoy this anecdote about Friedrich Schiller: […]

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The Gift of Understanding

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Author and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton is featured on Brain Pickings for her new book, Meanwhile in San Francisco: A City in its Own Words. MacNaughton’s beautiful illustrations remind us of the importance of community, and an essential message: [T]here is no greater gift we can give each other than the gift of understanding, of looking […]

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The Cliché of Leadership

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Think about it. A real leader is somebody who, because of his own particular power and charisma and example, is able to inspire people, with ‘inspire’ being used here in a serious and non-cliché way. A real leader can somehow get us to do certain things that deep down we think are good and want […]

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Grimm Fairy Tales Just Got Grimmer

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British art giant David Hockney is best known for pop-art paintings like A Bigger Splash, but he has also worked in many other mediums—including, it seems, illustrations for children’s books. Over at Brain Pickings, Maria Popova highlights a recently reissued collection of fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm with striking, discomfiting drawings by Hockney. As Popova […]

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Hear Virginia Woolf’s Voice

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Over at Brain Pickings, Maria Popova highlights the only known recording of Virginia Woolf’s voice. In the recording, Woolf reads from an essay on craft (which Popova conveniently reprints in the post): “How can we combine the old words in new orders so that they survive, so that they create beauty, so that they tell […]

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Advice from Vonnegut

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Advice my father gave me: never take liquor into the bedroom. Don’t stick anything in your ears. Be anything but an architect. To celebrate Kurt Vonnegut, Maria Popova posted on her Brain Pickings an interesting list of advices the author use to give his children, excerpted from his collection of letters.

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Beyond Good Writing

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Either in content or in style, in subject matter or in rhetorical approach, fiction that is too much like other fiction is bad by definition. However paradoxical it sounds, good writing as a set of strictures (that is, when the writing is good and nothing more) produces most bad fiction. Brain Pickings quotes, among others, […]

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Remembering David Foster Wallace

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Five years ago today, groundbreaking writer David Foster Wallace took his own life. Maria Popova at Brain Pickings remembers him with a post excerpting Conversations with David Foster Wallace, a “collection of 22 interviews and profiles of the beloved author.” A preview: Really good work probably comes out of a willingness to disclose yourself, open yourself […]

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Heaven, According to Hemingway

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Maria Popova of Brain Pickings has featured a 1925 letter from Ernest Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald, in which Hemingway describes his personal conception of heaven (after playfully guessing at Fitzgerald’s). As an added bonus, check out the snapshot of Scott and Ernest palling around in Paris. Hemingway looking remarkably casual and contemporary next to […]

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Brain Pickings

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Brain Pickings made a New Year’s resolution to read more books and write better.  They’ve been posting all kinds of interesting writerly and readerly advice. For half a year they’ve been doing a heck of a job summing up Vonnegut on penning a short story, writing rules from Kerouac, Steinbeck, and Ogilvy, Ray Bradbury and […]

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