‘Self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others’

Last night I finished reading Joan Didion’s classic essay collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968). I especially liked the first stories about the stranger side of American society, which she wrote for The Saturday Evening Post. She sings praises for John Wayne, who many considered old-fashioned then, and explains America’s fascination for airplane tycoon Howard Hughes. But the essay that really […]

One bespoke library please

A Saudi businesswoman wanted her London boardroom lined with books about the West’s engagement with Islam and the Arab world. The thousand-or-so books—a reader’s selection rather than a true collector’s library—cost £80,000. A London bookseller reinvents itself as a purveyor of private libraries. It takes all the fun of book collecting away. But it’s a […]

Close The Door, Then Start Writing

I’ve just finished reading On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000), a book about writing by Stephen King. Blogs like Brain Pickings often quote it.  I only know Stephen King from the movie adaptations of The Shining, The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption. But after reading On Writing, I feel like I’ve known King for ages. He writes about […]

The Pain In E.B. White’s Here is New York

I finally got around to reading E.B. White’s famous essay about New York. He wrote it in 1949 for Holiday. This was a travel magazine for a generation that had just embraced both a post-war boom and the rise of commercial airlines. White wasn’t a traveler, so the magazine asked him to leave Maine for […]

My public scrapbook now has 10,000 followers

Just posted this on my Writers at Work Tumblr (more info about that hobby here): Dear literature friends, I normally just post photos of literary giants at work, but I’d like to take a moment today to thank you.   As of today, 10,000 people follow this photo collection. Wow. I couldn’t have imagined that […]

The new flâneur

Our doubled lives enable flânerie—how often do we search our physical surroundings for things to post on Instagram? How long do we wander the depths of the Internet to find the perfect GIF? How many hours do you spend clicking the random button on Wikipedia? Where is real life? [..] The flâneur’s raison d’etre—to participate […]

David Sedaris advices young writers how to deal with their heroes

I think it’s important to read with a generous spirit. If you’re going to pick up a book and say, “I’ll never be that good,” well, it’s not about you. Just celebrate the fact that anyone’s that good. When I read something great, I know I’ll never be that good. But the fact that anyone […]