Writing the Darkness: American Writers and Mental Illness

In his 1936 essay for Esquire, “The Crack-Up,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote loosely, as if looking sideways at something he didn’t wish to see again, on the fuzzy details of his struggles with alcoholism and resulting depression. He writes of a time when he began to question the surroundings of his own life, and seemed […]

“Toto, I Don’t Believe We’re in Illinois Anymore:” L. Frank Baum’s Chicago Connection

In October of 2016, the Smithsonian Museum of American History began a Kickstarter campaign to raise money toward the conservation of Dorothy’s ruby slippers that were used in the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz. The slippers in the museum are one of several pairs made for the movie. While I was familiar with the […]

Welcome to City Lights

“Welcome to City Lights. A literary meeting place since 1953.” So reads the hand-painted sign hung high on the wall in one of the many book-filled rooms in City Lights Bookstore, the famed San Francisco institution. I recently made a pilgrimage of sorts to this literary hub, founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin in […]

Five Books That Can Help Us Find Hope

There’s no doubt that it is a dark and divided moment in American society—one that both echoes some of our darkest prior periods and presents its own unique and evolving challenges. In such a moment, literature can feel like at best an irrelevant luxury, and at worst a distraction from the collective work we should […]

Siri Hustvedt and Atul Gawande: When Science Meets Art in Literature

We’re all amazed by people who have skills we don’t. It’s part of the magic of watching the Olympics: seeing people with the same number of arms and legs as the rest of us, the same amount of hours in the day, perform incredible feats of strength and speed. I get the same feeling of […]