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The Unsung Heroes of Innovation: A 1964 Manifesto for the Role of the Critic-Curator in How Ideas Spread


“It would be a mistake to distinguish too sharply between those who contribute a new way of doing and those who contribute a new way of thinking.” “Art doesn’t explain itself,” music critic Greil Marcus observed in considering what the history of rock ‘n’ roll reveals about innovation.

Happy 99th Birthday, Pioneering Psychologist Jerome Bruner: Art as a Mode of Knowing and Its Four Psychological Aspects


“Whoever reflects recognizes that there are empty and lonely spaces between one’s experiences.” The question of what art is has been asked and answered at least since we dwelled in caves.

A History of New York in 101 Objects: A Thoughtful Visual Encyclopedia of Collective Memory


How artifacts abstract the city’s tragedies and triumphs and tell the story of its aliveness. “A poem compresses much in a small space and adds music, thus heightening its meaning,” E.B.

Jane Goodall on Empathy and How to Reach Our Highest Human Potential


“Only when our clever brain and our human heart work together in harmony can we achieve our true potential.” The question of what sets us apart from other animals has occupied humanity for millennia, but only in the last few decades have animals gone from objects to be observed to fellow beings to be understood, with their own complex psychoemotional constitution.

Tolstoy’s Reading List: Essential Books for Each Stage of Life


Even if one could never “finish” great literature, one has to begin somewhere. Shortly after his fiftieth birthday, Leo Tolstoy succumbed to a deep spiritual crisis and decided to pull himself out by finding the meaning of life.

Hopeful Dispatches on Love, Sex, Work, Friendship, Death, and Life’s In-Betweenery from Lena Dunham


“It’s a special kind of privilege to be born into the body you wanted, to embrace the essence of your gender even as you recognize what you are up against.

Tolstoy’s Reading List: Essential Books for Each Stage of Life


Even if one could never “finish” great literature, one has to begin somewhere. Shortly after his fiftieth birthday, Leo Tolstoy succumbed to a deep spiritual crisis and decided to pull himself out by finding the meaning of life.

Too-ticky’s Guide to Life: Wisdom on Uncertainty, Presence, and Self-Reliance from Beloved Children’s Book Author Tove Jansson


“All things are so very uncertain, and that’s exactly what makes me feel reassured.” Tove Jansson (1914–2001) is among the most imaginative, important, and influential children’s book creators of all time, an artist and writer of unparalleled creative vision and great sensitivity to life’s ineffable nuances.

Werner Herzog on America and His Lifelong NASA Dream


“The country has always had a capacity to rejuvenate itself, pull itself out of defeat and look to the future.

Sam Harris on the Paradox of Meditation and How to Stretch Our Capacity for Everyday Self-Transcendence


“Positive emotions, such as compassion and patience, are teachable skills; and the way we think directly influences our experience of the world.” Montaigne believed that meditation is the finest exercise of one’s mind and David Lynch uses it as an anchor of his creative integrity.

The Art of Timing: Alan Watts on the Perils of Hurrying and the Pleasures of Presence


“For the perfect accomplishment of any art, you must get this feeling of the eternal present into your bones — for it is the secret of proper timing.” Among the things that made British philosopher Alan Watts not only the pioneer of Zen teachings in the West but also an enduring sage of the ages was his ability to call out our culture’s chronic tendency to confuse things of substance with their simulacra.

What There Is Before There Is Anything There: Celebrated Cartoonist Liniers Confronts Childhood Nightmares


An imaginative graphic novel about the quintessential childhood fear. Children often wonder about why we dream, as do some dedicated researchers, but the question of why we have nightmares is as perplexing to scientists — some of humanity’s most intelligent grownups — as it is exasperating to kids.

The Psychology of Cryptomnesia: How Unconscious Plagiarism Works


The cognitive machinery of inadvertent copying and why it matters more than ever. “Any experience the writer has ever suffered,” William Faulkner told a university audience in 1958, “is going to influence what he does, and that is not only what he’s read, but the music he’s heard, the pictures he’s seen.” This notion — that “our” ideas are the combinatorial product of all kinds of existing ideas we’ve absorbed in the course of being alive and awake to the world — is something many creators have articulated, perhaps none more succinctly than Paula Scher.

Real Recipes from Roald Dahl’s Beloved Children’s Books


From Willy Wonka’s Nutty Crunch Surprise to Bird Pie à la The Twits. As a lover of both children’s books and unusual cookbooks — particularly those that bring literature and art to the kitchen, such as Salvador Dalí’s little-known erotic recipes, the vintage gem Artists’ and Writers’ Cookbook, young Andy Warhol’s, illustrated cookery, the treats from the Modern Art Cookbook, and especially Dinah Fried’s magnificent photographs of meals from famous fiction — I was instantly smitten with Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes (public library): a compendium of recipes for treats that appear in Dahl’s beloved children’s books, affectionately compiled and made cookable by Dahl’s widow, Felicity.

William Faulkner on Writing, the Human Dilemma, and Why We Create: A Rare 1958 Recording


“It’s the most satisfying occupation man has discovered yet, because you never can quite do it as well as you want to, so there’s always something to wake up tomorrow morning to do.” The writer’s duty, William Faulkner (September 25, 1897–July 6, 1962) asserted in his magnificent Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1950, is “to help man endure by lifting his heart.” Faulkner’s idealism about and intense interest in the human spirit permeated all of his creative pursuits, from his views on writing and the meaning of life to his only children’s book to his little-known Jazz Age drawings.

The Edge of the Sky: An Unusual and Poetic Primer on the Universe Written in the 1,000 Most Common Words in the English Language


“Perhaps the All-There-Is is not all there is.” “If one cannot state a matter clearly enough so that even an intelligent twelve-year-old can understand it,” pioneering anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote in the 1979 volume Some Personal Views, “one should remain within the cloistered walls of the university and laboratory until one gets a better grasp of one’s subject matter.” Whether or not theoretical cosmologist Roberto Trotta read Mead, he embodies her unambiguous ethos with heartening elegance in The Edge of the Sky: All You Need to Know About the All-There-Is (public library) — an unusual “short story about what we think the All-There-Is is made of, and how it got to be the way it is,” told in the one thousand most common words in the English language.

Mary Oliver Reads Her Beloved Poem “Wild Geese”


“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination…” Mary Oliver (b.

A Lolitigation Lament: Nabokov on Censorship and Solidarity


“Could you visualize LOLITA as a little paperback being offered for sale on the newstands?” Vladimir Nabokov was a man of strong opinions — whether about the necessary qualities of a great storyteller or the nature of inspiration or the attributes of a good reader — but nowhere more so than when it came to defending his greatest work against censorship.

Greil Marcus on What the History of Rock ‘n’ Roll Teaches Us about Innovation and the Art of Self-Reinvention


How to continually experience “the satisfaction that only art, only the act of putting something new into the world, can bring.” “All of us, we’re links in a chain,” Pete Seeger said in an altogether wonderful 1988 interview, capturing with elegant economy of words the notion that creativity is combinatorial — that we create, we contribute to the world, by taking a variety of existing bits of knowledge, memories, impressions, influences, experiences, and other material floating around our minds, and recombining them into “new” ideas that we call our own.

Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space: Imaginative and Illuminating Children’s Book Tickles Our Zest for the Cosmos


Rocket fuel for the souls of budding Sagans. In reflecting on the story of the Golden Record, Carl Sagan, in his infinite poetic powers, celebrated our destiny as “a species endowed with hope and perseverance, at least a little intelligence, substantial generosity and a palpable zest to make contact with the cosmos.” Given how gravely space exploration has plummeted down the hierarchy of cultural priorities in the decades since Sagan’s time, how can we hope to imbue the hearts of the next generation of astronauts, policy makers, and cosmic explorers with the passionate poetics of Sagan’s conviction, with the same exhilarating longing to reach for and embrace the stars?


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