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Deepening the Mystery + InsideStorytime SPIRIT

Flannery O’Connor said the task of a fiction writer is to deepen the mystery.Raymond Chandler at twenty-three, writing in surprisingly Chestertonian mode in his essay “Realism and Fairyland,” wrote that “the spirit of an age is more essentially mirrored in its fairy-tales than in the most painstaking chronicle of a contemporary diarist.” It’s fascinating to […]

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Some Art Market Psychology

We know what we like — but not why. The part of us that comes up with rationalizations for what we like is not the same part of us that does the liking. The phrase “I don’t know a lot about art, but I know what I like” might translate roughly into “There is little […]

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Secret Sharers in a Jolly Corner

Cynthia Ozick’s story “Dictation” creates a fictional relationship between two real women — Theodora Bosanquet, the secretary of Henry James, and Lilian Hallowes, the secretary of Joseph Conrad.By the story’s end, Bosanquet has entered into a lesbian relationship with Virginia Woolf, although since Woolf is identified only as Leslie Stephen’s daughter “Ginnie,” inattentive readers may […]

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Generational Bias

Robert B. Ray, in his book How a Film Theory Got Lost and Other Mysteries in Cultural Studies, provides this 1868 quote from Théophile Gautier —“Faced with this paradox in painting, one may give the impression – even if one does not admit the charge – of being frightened lest one be dismissed as a […]

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Long Live Photojournalism: Call for Submissions from the Visuals Section

The New York Times recently proclaimed the death of photojournalism.

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DVD Review: Know Your Mushrooms (2009 Sphynx Productions)

Those expecting this documentary to be about the mind-expanding, space-travel inducing, true sacred portal to the gods types of mushrooms, you have to wait until the latter half of the film. The first part is about plain old yummy wild mushrooms, and the people who love them, hunt for them, and hold festivals in honor […]

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Poe Lives! Goth Hop

From Hemingway’s Green Hills of Africa —“’Well,’ I said, ‘we have had, in America, skillful writers. Poe is a skillful writer. It is skillful, marvelously constructed, and it is dead.’”I read this the other day, and had difficulty figuring out what Hemingway was getting at, with respect to Poe. The “dead” part, that is, not […]

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Biological Constraints on our Ability to Know What we Know

In On Being Certain, Robert Burton writes, “Since beginning this book, I have increasingly found myself asking a single question of any idea – be it the latest scientific advances, a pop psychology book, or personal opinions (mine as well as those of others): Is the idea consistent with how the mind works?”One book Burton […]

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Money and the Changing of the Seasons

This is a good excuse for me to link to Philip Larkin’s “Money.” Something miraculous happens in the last stanza of that poem.

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Michel Houellebecq’s The Elementary Particles

This is a multi-generational saga set in a society where the institution of the family has broken down.Janine is the daughter of a Third Republic official. She functions in the book as an anti-matriarch, an archetypal Bad Mother.Her two sons have different fathers. The boys’ relationship with each other is tenuous and casual; they seem […]

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Free Aung San Suu Kyi

“The door remains open for the regime to respect the wishes of the Burmese people and international community, and to step toward the path of engagement after so many years of isolation.”-United States Department of State-Aung San Suu Kyi, the visionary Burmese pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was sentenced Tuesday to three years […]

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Darwin’s Preference for Pretty Heroines

From Charles Darwin’s autobiography —“I have said that in one respect my mind has changed during the last twenty or thirty years. Up to the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry of many kinds, such as the works of Milton, Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, gave me great pleasure, and even as a […]

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Give Us All Your (Poems About) Money!

I have decided to re-open poetry submissions temporarily, with one condition: they have to be about money.

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Linguistic Relativism and Grammatical Gender

Lera Boroditsky cites experimental evidence that the language you speak shapes how you think — including the finding that the grammatical gender your language assigns to a noun influences your thoughts about the object in question. Boroditsky describes a beautifully-designed experiment: “when asked to describe a ‘key’ — a word that is masculine in German […]

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Girls Start to Speak Out About Violence Against Women

“Studies have shown that up to 46 percent of women in developing countries have experienced at least one episode of sexual abuse in childhood. Most girls in developing countries live in a world completely devoid of safety. In a previous blog I talked about a World Bank study that found that as far as poor […]

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