It can’t be helped. It’s natural. Biological.

woman,portrait,black and white, photography

“Beauty is often treated as an essentially feminine subject, something trivial and frivolous that women are excessively concerned with. Men, meanwhile, are typically seen as having a straightforward and uncomplicated relationship with it: they are drawn to it. The implication is that this may be unfortunate—not exactly ideal morally—but it can’t be helped, because it’s natural, biological. This seems more than a little ironic. Women are not only subject to a constant and exhausting and sometimes humiliating scrutiny—they are also belittled for caring about their beauty, mocked for seeking to enhance or to hold onto their good looks, while men are just, well, being men.

The reality is, of course, far more complicated, as our best novelists show us. They train our gazes on men at not only their most shallow and status conscious but also at their most ridiculous (the clenched jaw). It’s not always easy to know what to make of these men, who certainly aren’t wholly bad. But in a world where women are so frequently judged by their looks, it’s refreshing to encounter male characters whose superficial thoughts are at least acknowledged by their creators.”

~ Adelle Waldman, in an excerpt from The New Yorker, “A First-Rate Girl”: The Problem of Female Beauty

Image of Kaya Scoderlario from Baronvonmerkens

Keep Pegging Away

brainpickingsYet, another remarkable post from Brainpickings titled 9 Rules for Success where Maria Popova shares excerpts from an essay by British novelist Amelia E. Barr (1831-1919).  Barr, despite a devastating loss of her husband and three of their six children to yellow fever in 1867, went on to become a dedicated and diligent writer, eventually reaching critical success at the age of fifty-two.  I’d encourage you to read the entire post at this link as it is that good.  Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:

1) Men and women succeed because they take pains to succeed. Industry and patience are almost genius; and successful people are often more distinguished for resolution and perseverance than for unusual gifts. They make determination and unity of purpose supply the place of ability.

2) Success is the reward of those who “spurn delights and live laborious days.” We learn to do things by doing them. One of the great secrets of success is “pegging away.” No disappointment must discourage, and a run back must often be allowed, in order to take a longer leap forward.

5) We have been told, for centuries, to watch for opportunities, and to strike while the iron is hot. Very good; but I think better of Oliver Cromwell’s amendment — “make the iron hot by striking it.” [Read more…]

Chekhov on the 8 Qualities of Cultured People


It was 127 years ago.  Chekhov was 26 years old when he wrote a letter to his 28-year old brother outlining the eight qualities that must be satisfied for people to be cultured.

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov  (1860-1904) was a Russian physician and author who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history.  He practiced as a doctor throughout most of his literary career stating: ‘Medicine is my lawful wife.  And, literature is my mistress.'”

A excellent post by Brain Pickings shares excerpts from Chekhov’s letter to his brother.  The post is worth reading in its entirety.  Here are a few of my favorites:

“Cultured people must, in my opinion, satisfy the following conditions:

1) They respect human personality, and therefore they are always kind, gentle, polite, and ready to give in to others…

2) They have sympathy not for beggars and cats alone…They sit up at night in order to help to pay for brothers at the University, and to buy clothes for their mother. [Read more…]

Would you like to be inspired? Here’s What You Should Do…

“If you’ve ever seen a painting, or watched a movie, or read a novel, or enjoyed a performance, or followed a television show that moved you on some essential level, you probably wondered: What inspired that? We’ve wondered that, too. So we asked. What follows are the answers, in all their varied glory, to that question. In part it’s an investigation into the enigmatic nature of creative inspiration. (Which, it turns out, is often not so enigmatic. Step 1: Work. Step 2: Be frustrated. Step 3: Repeat.)”

Read how inspiration fires for Alicia Keys, Anthony Bourdain, Michael Chabon, Quentin Tarantino, Al Pacino, Junot Diaz and others in The New York Times Magazine: Inspiration Issue, September 30, 2012

Blue Nights…

Joan Didion - By Alisonperry.netEarlier this month, I shared a post on Joan Didion’s essays titled “One runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.”  One of my new blogger friends, Lori @ Donna & Diablo, mentioned in her response to my post that she planned to see Didion and was more excited about meeting her after reading the excerpts.  I asked Lori if she wouldn’t mind sharing her thoughts about the meeting in a Guest Post.  (I had never met a writer/author so I was looking to live the meeting-the-famous-author-moment vicariously through Lori’s post.) She graciously agreed.  Lori also also mentioned that she didn’t know if it was good enough to post.  I’ll let you make up your own minds.  (Note to Me: If I could BANG LIKE on my own blog and keep BANG, BANG, BANGING LIKE, I would do so now…).  Here’s Lori from Donna & Diablo on her meeting with Joan Didion…ENJOY!

[Read more…]

One runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home…

Back in 2005, I read Joan Didion’s book “The Year of Magical Thinking” after hearing much acclaim for the author and the book.  I was underwhelmed and said so in my Amazon Review at the time.  Yet, it rankled me that so many others were on the other side. (Why? Perhaps, I just missed what was readily understood by the intellectuals.  Maybe you just didn’t get it Pal.)

emilydaisypage - Self PortraitSo, more than 7 years later – I trip across a post at on Joan Didion’s 1968 collection of essays in Slouching Towards Bethlehem.  My head immediately snaps to attention.

Oh what delicious irony…the excerpts are “On Self-Respect.”  (Excerpts on ‘On Self-Respect.’ Deepak Sharma would say ‘Nothing is a Coincidence.’)

The post left me shaking my head.  (Sweet Jesus.  I did miss something.  Apparently I missed everything.)

On to the excerpts…

[Read more…]

Talent < Table Salt?

talent and salt

Rebekah, thank you for sharing.

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