Jessica Seignarack

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Boyer Lectures 2011

• <b>Author:</b> Geraldine Brooks<p>A compelling Boyer Lecture from Australian literary sensation Geraldine Brooks.<br>For theBoyer Lecture 2011, best-selling author and journalist Geraldine Brooks tackles the topic of the Idea of Home. Drawing on her personal experience from being an adolescent pen pal to being a …

I'm Not a Tart: The Feminist Subtext of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

"Jesus, what a tramp!" George of the famous duo leading John Steinbeck's <i>Of Mice and Men</i> exclaims with disdain after first meeting Curley's wife, the newly married young woman living on the ranch. The audience, notably younger than usual Broadway theatergoers, dependably erupts with laughter, and as …

Leighton Meester Wrote a Feminist Essay That Will Make You Rethink a Classic Novel

Just admit it: You haven’t read <i>Of Mice of Men</i> since the ninth grade and only remember the plot in the broadest strokes. If you’re going to see the …

In Pieces: French Illustrator Marion Fayolle’s Wordless Narratives About Human Relationships

<b>In Pieces</b> (<i>public library</i> | <i>IndieBound</i>) is an uncommon piece of visual poetry by French illustrator and comic artist Marion Fayolle that calls to mind at once the surrealist whimsy of <i>Codex Seraphinianus</i>, the visual neatness of Gregory Blackstock’s illustrated lists, and the vignettes of Blexbolex — …

Flannery O’Connor on Why the Grotesque Appeals to Us, Plus a Rare Recording of Her Reading “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”

<b>Flannery O’Connor</b> (March 25, 1925–August 3, 1964) is among the titans of twentieth-century literature (in addition to being a lesser-known satirical cartoonist). In 1960, O’Connor penned an essay titled “Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction,” eventually included in the altogether …

Annie Dillard on the Art of the Essay and the Different Responsibilities of Narrative Nonfiction, Poetry, and Short Stories

<i>“Only a person who is congenitally self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays,”</i> E.B. White remarked in his reflection on the art of the essay. And yet there must be a reason why the essay is what we turn to when we set out to assess human potential, as in college applications, …

March 28, 1941: Virginia Woolf’s Suicide Letter and Its Cruel Misinterpretation in the Media

On March 28, 1941, shortly after the devastating dawn of WWII, <b>Virginia Woolf</b> (January 15, 1882–March 28, 1941) filled her overcoat pockets with rocks and walked into the River Ouse behind her house never to emerge alive. A relapse of the all-consuming depression she had narrowly escaped in her …

Mary Oliver on the Mystery of the Human Psyche, the Secret of Great Poetry, and How Rhythm Makes Us Come Alive

<i>“Poetry makes possible the deepest kind of personal possession of the world,”</i> James Dickey wrote. <i>“The way to develop good taste in literature,”</i> Joseph Brodsky advised, <i>“is to read poetry.”</i> Wordsworth believed the poetic form to be <i>“the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge.”</i> For Edward Hirsch, it …

Dare to Disturb the Universe: Madeleine L’Engle on Creativity, Censorship, Writing, and the Duty of Children’s Books

On November 16, 1983 — just two weeks before her 65th birthday and twenty years after winning the prestigious Newbery Medal — <b>Madeleine L’Engle</b> <b>Madeleine L’Engle</b> (November 29, 1918–September 6, 2007), author of the timeless classic <i>A Wrinkle in Time</i>, delivered a magnificent lecture at the Library of …

Dorothy Parker Reads “Inscription for the Ceiling of a Bedroom” in a Rare 1926 Recording

Celebrated writer, humorist, poet, dramatist, and literary critic <b>Dorothy Parker</b> (August 22, 1893–June 7, 1967) was in many ways the sad clown of literature — she survived an unhappy childhood, three troubled marriages (two of them to the same person, who eventually committed suicide by drug …

Zelda Fitzgerald’s Little-Known Art

When Zelda Sayre married legendary Jazz Age novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald to become <b>Zelda Fitzgerald</b>, she was anointed “the first American flapper” and embarked on one of the most turbulent relationships in literary history. Though best-remembered as a writer and dancer, Zelda, unbeknownst to many, …

Susan Sontag on Beauty vs. Interestingness

<i>“Attitudes toward beauty are entwined with our deepest conflicts surrounding flesh and spirit,”</i> Harvard’s Nancy Etcoff wrote in her fantastic meditation on the psychology of beauty. Indeed, beauty is a complex beast surrounded by our equally complex attitudes, and who better to tease those …

What Girls Are Good For: 20-Year-Old Nellie Bly’s 1885 Response to a Patronizing Chauvinist

At the age of twenty-five, <b>Nellie Bly</b> (May 5, 1864–January 27, 1922) did the unthinkable for a Victorian woman — a successful and fierce journalist in New York’s media boys’ club, she raced around the world in a quest to outpace Jules Verne’s fictional eighty-day itinerary. When she eventually got …

Girls Standing on Lawns: A Quirky Collaboration Between Maira Kalman, Daniel Handler, and MoMA

Besides her incontestable talent, what makes beloved artist and illustrator Maira Kalman such a singular creative spirit — full of wisdom on how to live fully and why walking sparks creativity — is her idiosyncratic lens on life. To wit: She is a lifelong collector of vintage photographs fished …

Joyce Carol Oates on Consciousness, Wonder, and the Art of Beholding Beauty

Perhaps counterintuitively, the diaries of celebrated artists, writers, and scientists, private as they are, are often reminders not only of their humanity but of our own, brimming with deeply and widely resonant insights on our shared struggles and yearnings. Such is the case of <b>The Journal of</b> …

Nobel Peace Prize Winner Jody Williams on How Our Choices Shape the World, Animated

<i>“It is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it,”</i> young Hunter S. Thompson wrote in his exquisite letter of advice to a friend. In fact, life — the world — only ever changes when we actively refuse to accept its givens and choose to build new alternatives. But …

Anaïs Nin on Reproductive Rights: A Prescient Perspective from 1940

<b>Anaïs Nin</b> (February 21, 1903–January 14, 1977) was a woman who rejected the options handed down to her by life and instead lived by her own rules. She was also modern history’s most dedicated diarist, beginning at the age of eleven and writing until her death, for a total of sixteen volumes of …

Joyce Carol Oates on What Hemingway’s Early Stories Can Teach Us About Writing and the Defining Quality of Great Art

Besides being one of the most influential, beloved, and prolific authors of our time, Joyce Carol Oates is also a person of extraordinary capacity for beholding beauty.<p>In a recent conversation at The New York Public Library’s excellent <i>Books at Noon</i> series, Oates discussed her journey of becoming a …

Maya Angelou’s Beautiful Letter to Her Younger Self

<i>“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all,”</i> the late and great <b>Maya Angelou</b> (April 4, 1928–May 28, 2014) told Bill Moyers in their extraordinary 1973 conversation.<p>The theme of home and belonging is central to Angelou’s work — to her spirit — …

Bohemians: A Graphic History of Creative Mavericks

Long before there were hipsters and squares, even before there were beatniks, there were Bohemians — named after Bohemia, a geographical area part of the modern Czech Republic, which mid-nineteenth-century French journalists mistakenly believed to be the source of Europe’s Roma population, the …

Barbara Walters on the Art of Conversation, How to Talk to Bores, and What Truman Capote Teaches Us About Being Interesting

What <i>The Paris Review</i> has done for the art of the interview in print, <b>Barbara Walters</b> has done for it on television. By the time she was forty, Walters was seen by more people than any other woman on TV and had grown famous for her ability not only to land interviews with seemingly unapproachable …

Andy Warhol's Girls

Andy Warhol would have been 86 today, and the pop art legend knew the allure of a fabulous (and well-dressed) woman on your arm. Click through for the definitive listing of Andy Warhol's iconic muses, from starlets Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot to so<p>Andy Warhol would have been 86 today, and …

Andy Warhol

Harry Potter and the top 20 novels by women authors

Harry Potter, Jane Eyre and To Kill a Mockingbird among the top 20 most life-changing novels written by a woman, according to new poll<p>Can Harry Potter change your life? Apparently so, as JK Rowling’s stories have been named in a list of the most life-changing novels written by a woman.<p>Harper Lee’s …

7 Ways J.K. Rowling Changed Childhood For A Whole Generation

Today, July 31, is J.K. Rowling’s birthday -- a birthday she famously shares with her most beloved character, Harry Potter. Though she’s long since turned her formidable storytelling skills toward the adult fiction world, most recently publishing two mystery novels under the pen name Robert …

3 Books Every Girl Should Read Before Starting College

With back-to-school season approaching sooner than most of us would like to admit, incoming college freshman are beginning to prepare for their university careers. While much of this preparation includes tasks like purchasing dorm supplies, registering for classes, and meeting roommates, there is …

We Asked Helen Mirren To Pick Favorite Scenes From Her Own Movies

In "The Hundred-Foot Journey," Helen Mirren plays the matriarchal owner of a snooty French restaurant. When an Indian family transforms a run-down building across the street into a festively lit eatery of their own, Mirren's Madame Mallory launches a good, old-fashioned turf war. (As if the dame …

The Book We're Talking About: 'Bad Feminist' By Roxane Gay

<i>Bad Feminist: Essays</i><p>by Roxane Gay<p>Harper Perennial, $15.99<p>Publishes August 5, 2014<p><i>The Book We're Talking About is a weekly review combining plot description and analysis with fun tidbits about the book.</i><p><b>What we think:</b><p>Feminism needed Roxane Gay.<p>She certainly isn’t the first writer to point out that …

Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle: does it get under Dorothy's skin?

<b>Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994)<br>Director: Alan Rudolph<br>Entertainment grade: C<br>History grade: A</b><p>Dorothy Parker is widely remembered as one of the wittiest and sharpest writers of the 20th century. She was a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, a legendary lunching group of writers, …

Lydia Davis Delivers Drama With Her Intimate New Book

A strong and beguiling round of stories from an American master.<p>Reading a Lydia Davis story collection is like reaching into what you think is a bag of potato chips and pulling out something else entirely: a gherkin, a pepper corn, a truffle, a piece of beef jerky. Her stories look light and crisp, …

Books

Enough About Lena Dunham’s Book Deal: Let’s Discuss Her Very Public Love of Literature

In the new issue of <i>Zoetrope All-Story</i>, Lena Dunham contributes a short essay on her discovery of Alice Munro’s work. Fueled by a lazy night with the …