Hermann Hesse on Solitude, the Value of Hardship, the Courage to Be Yourself, and How to Find Your Destiny

Photograph by Maria Popova “Solitude is not chosen, any more than destiny is chosen. Solitude comes to us if we have within us the magic stone that attracts destiny.” BY MARIA POPOVA “No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life,” the young Nietzsche wrote as he contemplated what it takes to find oneself. Somehow, this man of stark contradiction, cycling between nihilistic despondency and electric buoyancyalong the rim of madness, has managed to inspire some of humanity’s most surefooted spirits — among them, the great German poet, novelist, painter, and Nobel laureate Hermann … Continue reading Hermann Hesse on Solitude, the Value of Hardship, the Courage to Be Yourself, and How to Find Your Destiny

“Dracula” Author Bram Stoker’s Extraordinary Love Letter to Walt Whitman

One of Margaret C. Cook’s illustrations for a stunning rare edition of Leaves of Grass. “How sweet a thing it is for a strong healthy man with a woman’s eye and a child’s wishes to feel that he can speak to a man who can be if he wishes father, and brother and wife to his soul.” BY MARIA POPOVA A quarter century before his now-classic epistolary novel Dracula catapulted Abraham “Bram” Stoker(November 8, 1847–April 20, 1912) into literary celebrity, the twenty-four-year-old aspiring author used the epistolary form for a masterpiece of a different order. Still months away from his first published short story, he … Continue reading “Dracula” Author Bram Stoker’s Extraordinary Love Letter to Walt Whitman

Photographer Uses Personal Experience to Visualize Years of Depression

By Sara Barnes Photographer Gabriel Isak finds solace in the notion of art imitating life. For years, it has helped him cope with depression. Using surreal photography ideas and a minimalist palette, Isak depicts solitary figures who often exist among blue and gray grandiose landscapes. Their backs are to the camera—or their faces are otherwise obscured—to symbolize the struggles faced in unconscious states of mind. The photographs offer a blank canvas of sorts and allow us space to reflect on our own mental health. Isak began photography over a decade ago, and it coincided with the first time he faced depression. “Photography allowed me … Continue reading Photographer Uses Personal Experience to Visualize Years of Depression

Laurel and Hardy: Two angels of our time

Stan and Ollie have always had a special place in the affections of British comedians ( Rex ) As ‘Stan & Ollie’ is released in UK cinemas, Martin Chilton reflects upon the duo’s astonishing impact on modern culture “If you don’t like Laurel and Hardy, you are no friend of mine,” said Star Wars actor Mark Hamill, one of millions of people who have been charmed and inspired by the greatest comedy duo of all time. Their impact on modern culture is astonishing: they influenced artists, writers, musicians and actors – everyone from Alec Guinness to JD Salinger, from René Magritte to Samuel … Continue reading Laurel and Hardy: Two angels of our time

The Language the Poet Knows

ALEXANDER NEMENOV / AFP / GETTY A new collection of essays attempts to lend some objective shape to a timeless-seeming challenge: the ongoing balance of voice and form. by NICHOLAS CANNARIATO We Begin in Gladness: How Poets Progress BY CRAIG MORGAN TEICHER GRAYWOLF PRESS It is one of writing’s oldest cliches: Find your voice. Developing this ineffable quality—unique to a given writer, derived largely from reflection and experience—can seem like an elusive goal. Particularly for poets, with their highly personal interaction with language and the challenge of adapting it to form, the quest can seem highly subjective. We Begin in Gladness, a collection of … Continue reading The Language the Poet Knows

Geographical Fun: A Victorian Teenage Girl’s Impressive Cartographic Caricatures of European Countries and Their National Stereotypes

Within a humorous gem, a serious reminder of how malleable even the seeming solidities of geopolitics are. BY MARIA POPOVA It is in times of uncertainty and complexity, particularly the kind catalyzed by political tumult, that we are most drawn to caricature — the art of parodic exaggeration and oversimplification. Political satire of the visual sort seems to hold a special allure to artistically gifted and precocious teenage girls — from fifteen-year-old Jane Austen’s parodic history of England, illustrated by her sister, to sixteen-year-old Elissa Jane Karg’s brilliant visual satire of 1960s counterculture. In 1868, a century and a half before London-based … Continue reading Geographical Fun: A Victorian Teenage Girl’s Impressive Cartographic Caricatures of European Countries and Their National Stereotypes

Incubation, Ideation, and the Art of Editing: Beethoven on Creativity

Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler “I carry my thoughts about with me for a long time, sometimes a very long time, before I set them down.” BY MARIA POPOVA “Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos,” Mary Shelley observed in contemplating how creativity works in her preface to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein. “It is strange the way ideas come when they are needed,” the physicist Freeman Dyson wrote nearly two centuries later in his account of the “flash of illumination” by which creative breakthrough occurs. It is a chaotic strangeness familiar to every creative person, be … Continue reading Incubation, Ideation, and the Art of Editing: Beethoven on Creativity