The Marginalian
The Marginalian

Reads by Maria Popova

Nick Cave on Songwriting, the Mystery of the Unconscious, and the Sweet Severity of Truth
Nick Cave on Songwriting, the Mystery of the Unconscious, and the Sweet Severity of Truth

“Metaphor can create a merciful sense of distance from the cruel idea, or the unspeakable truth, and allow it to exist within us as a kind of poetic radiance, as a work of art.”

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Sappho and the Fevered Heart: Anne Carson on Jealousy
Sappho and the Fevered Heart: Anne Carson on Jealousy

“…greener than grass I am and dead — or almost I seem to me.”

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Control for Surrender: Henry Miller’s Stunning Letter to Anaïs Nin About the Value of and the Antidote to Despair
Control for Surrender: Henry Miller’s Stunning Letter to Anaïs Nin About the Value of and the Antidote to Despair

“When you surrender, the problem ceases to exist. Try to solve it, or conquer it, and you only set up more resistance.”

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The Unphotographable #2: Alpine Transcendence with Mary Shelley
The Unphotographable #2: Alpine Transcendence with Mary Shelley

Sometimes, a painting in words is worth a thousand pictures. I think about this more and more, in our compulsively visual culture, which increasingly reduces what we think and feel and see — who and what we are — to what can be photographed. I think of Susan Sontag, who called it “aesthetic consumerism” half a century before Instagram. In a small act of resistance, I offer The Unphotographable — every Saturday, a lovely image in words drawn from centuries of literature: passages transcendent and transportive, depicting landscapes and experiences radiant with beauty and feeling beyond what a visual image could convey.

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The Great Naturalist John Burroughs on the Art of Noticing and What Artists Can Learn from Naturalists
The Great Naturalist John Burroughs on the Art of Noticing and What Artists Can Learn from Naturalists

“We think we have looked at a thing sharply until we are asked for its specific features.”

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Life and Death and More Life: Leo Tolstoy on Science, Spirituality, and Our Search for Meaning
Life and Death and More Life: Leo Tolstoy on Science, Spirituality, and Our Search for Meaning

“A caterpillar sees itself shrivel up, but doesn’t see the butterfly which flies out of it.”

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How to Be a Citizen of Earth: Learning from the Children of Palau
How to Be a Citizen of Earth: Learning from the Children of Palau

“I shall not take what is not given. I shall not harm what does not harm me. The only footprints I shall leave are those that will wash away.”

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How to Keep Life from Becoming a Parody of Itself: Simone de Beauvoir on the Art of Growing Older
How to Keep Life from Becoming a Parody of Itself: Simone de Beauvoir on the Art of Growing Older

“In old age we should wish still to have passions strong enough to prevent us turning in on ourselves.”

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In a Library: Emily Dickinson on Why We Read and the Magic of Old Books
In a Library: Emily Dickinson on Why We Read and the Magic of Old Books

A love-poem to those folds in spacetime that take us back to “when Sappho was a living girl.”

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The Soul-Slaking Joy and Body-Poetry of Swimming
The Soul-Slaking Joy and Body-Poetry of Swimming

In praise of the exquisite instrument that channels “the huge chaos of sensations — sensations of temperature, water, force, light.”

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