Melville and His Influences

A fascinating read: IN THE GENERAL RARE BOOKS COLLECTION at Princeton University Library sits a stunning two-volume edition of John Milton that once belonged to Herman Melville. Melville's tremendous debt to Milton — and to Homer, Virgil, the Bible, and Shakespeare — might be evident to anyone who has wrestled with the moral and intellectual …

News that Will Either Infuriate You, or Make You Feel Incredibly Smug

If you are spending 10,000 hours trying to make yourself an expert at something, you might be wasting your time: Like many others who read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” when it came out five years ago, I was impressed by the 10,000-hour rule of expertise. I wrote a column (for a different publication) espousing the rule, …

On Samuel Johnson and James Boswell

Jorge Luis Borges: Boswell conceived of the idea of an extensive biography, one that included his conversations with Johnson, whom he saw several times a week, sometimes more. The Life of Samuel Johnson, by Boswell, has often been compared to Conversations of Goethe, by Eckermann, a book that in my opinion is in no way comparable, …

Brainbuilding

For those among us who want to make sure that we remain sharp, there is bookreading, chess, Go, crosswords, exercise, and this. I played n-back games for a while a couple of years ago, and have fallen off the wagon. I need to get back on it.

Quote of the Day

Presently before the court is the motion of the defendant, Sony Pictures Classics, Inc. (“Sony”), seeking dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The plaintiff, Faulkner Literary Rights, LLC (“Faulkner”) has responded in opposition. The court has viewed Woody Allen’s movie, Midnight in Paris, read the book, Requiem for a Nun, and is thankful …

How to Read Proust

Having done the deed, I can appreciate Morgan Meis's advice on the subject: Early readers of the novel can be forgiven for not immediately liking Swann’s Way. In a recent article for The New York Times, Edward Rothstein quotes an evaluation of Swann’s Way from the publishers who first rejected the book. The evaluator complains, “I cannot understand how a …

How the Creative Class Created

Quite fascinating:Nikola Tesla typically worked from noon until midnight, breaking at 8:00 p.m. for dinner every night at the Waldorf-Astoria. Among the many peculiarities of this ritualized repast was his practice of not starting the meal until he had computed his dinner's cubic volume, "a compulsion he had developed in his childhood." Truman Capote, who …