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....more
Posts Tagged: brain pickings
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 battle with myself.
Brain Pickings dives into the young love lives of George Orwell, then known as Eric Blair, and Jacintha Buddicom. Jacintha was famously the model for Julia in Nineteen Eighty-Four, and the interactions between Orwell and Buddicom as they age may be just as heartbreaking, ending with a bittersweet reunion just before Orwell’s death....more
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 little encouragement, a little friendliness, a little keeping open of my road, instead of which you blocked it for me, though of course with the good intention of making me go another road.
Brain Pickings looks at Jane Austen’s “History of England,” a satirical pamphlet penned by the then 15-year-old Austen and illustrated by her sister Cassandra....more
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 look closely at anything familiar, it kind of transmogrifies into something unfamiliar — the sort of cognitive version of saying your name again and again and again, or a word again and again and again, and getting a different sound of it after you’ve repeated it forty times.
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 and really seeing, of peering beyond the persona and into the person with an awareness that however different our struggles and circumstances may be, we are inextricably bonded by the great human longing to be truly seen for who we are.
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 to be able to do but usually can’t get ourselves to do on our own.
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....more
Apparently from the age of 5 until entering the Iowa Writers Workshop, Flannery O’Connor was an avid cartoonist! Publishing in her high school and college publications, O’Connor’s drawings poke at the student life in a humorous way. Check out the story at Brain Pickings and see the illustrations for yourself....more
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 the truth?”
We hope it doesn’t sound disrespectful to point out that her voice sounds a lot like the Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey, and it’s delightfully mesmerizing....more
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....more
In the 1920s, while living in Paris, poet E. E. Cummings wrote fairy tales for his only little daughter Nancy, which was an unknown fact until 1965.
Only four survived and published in a small booklet accompanied by drawing by Canadian artist John Eaton....more
Write your heart out.
The first sentence can be written only after the last sentence has been written. FIRST DRAFTS ARE HELL. FINAL DRAFTS, PARADISE.
You are writing for your contemporaries — not for Posterity. If you are lucky, your contemporaries will become Posterity.
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.
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 up in spiritual and emotional ways that risk making you look banal or melodramatic or naive or unhip or sappy, and to ask the reader really to feel something.
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....more
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 Ernest Heminway’s thoughts on how stupid symbolism is....more
Carl Zimmer’s Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed reveals the crossroads between the sciences and tattoo culture. The result is “a weird and wonderful almanac of the lovable geek who immortalized passion for science on their living flesh,” according to Brain Pickings, which previews several of the images curated and categorized in the book....more