Edith Wharton

For Love of an Author: The Value of Being a Completist

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I finished reading Jane Austen’s major works (and unfinished novels) in ninth grade, with Mansfield Park, and thereby officially became a completist, although I later read more of her juvenilia and claimed that title more firmly. Being a completist, or a near-completist, was nothing new to me then, coming towards the end of the era of full-on immersive early-teen reading.
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20 Great Writers on Motivating Yourself To Write, No Matter What

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As April ushers in sunshine and flowers, and the spring holidays have adherents talking about new beginnings, the writing world is overflowing with people setting goals. Some are participating in the 100 days project, which begins today and requires doing something creative each day for 100 days straight. Others are embarking on Camp NaNoWriMo, a “practice run” month of novel-writing, and the more verse-inclined are scribbling a poem a day for National Poetry Month (either through the auspices of NaPoWriMo or not).

And even if we’re doing none of those things, but simply contemplating Ken Cosgrove’s choice to abandon his writing to get revenge on his advertising colleagues on the premiere of Mad Men, today is a good day to rededicate oneself to the craft. So here’s a collection of words from writers beyond the usual suspects — writers of color, feminists, genre writers, and even a Renaissance poet — talking about the hard work of building habits, agonizing over the writing process, and wrestling with the muse. If they don’t have you waking up at dawn tomorrow with a pen and a notebook, nothing will.
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50 Great Books About 50 Inspiring Women

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There’s never a bad time to read about historically badass ladies, but since March is Women’s History Month, now is a particularly perfect moment to bust out your library card and take in some stories of women who’ve changed art, culture, and history as we know it. Here you’ll find 50 great biographies and autobiographies of famous, fascinating, and inspiring women, from Frida Kahlo to Mina Loy to Marie …Read More

The 50 Greatest Poems About Sex

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It would be unwise, unfair, and impossible to list the sexiest poems in the Western tradition. Sex, you don’t need me to tell you, is variable, personal, and subjective. “Greatness is, too,” you might add. Maybe it is. But there is something about the poetry on this list that transcends the merely “good.” These poems, which span from antiquity to today, are great poems. There is something egalitarian, too, about this selection, which more or less chose itself. Sex as a poetic subject has a way of equalizing discourse by way of its …Read More

Girl Canon: 50 Essential Books About the Female Experience

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Everyone knows that, statistically at least, girls read more than boys. But the classic, canonical growing-up books, at least in American culture, tend to represent the male experience — I’m thinking On the Road, The Catcher in the Rye, everything ever written by Bret Easton Ellis or Michael Chabon — and while these are great books, suitable for boys or girls, the question remains: where are the books for girls to grow up on? Well, they’re definitely out there, if perhaps assigned less often in schools to readers of both genders. And so I propose a Girl Canon, populated by books not necessarily for girls but which investigate, address, or represent the female experience in some essential …Read More

50 Essential Literary Biographies

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Literary biography is a hugely significant, if often overlooked, enterprise. Today, much of what we know about the authors we admire is filtered through an ocean of online mini-biographies, nearly all of which are copies of copies. The original source of an enormous amount of this information is the literary biography, and in the case of most authors, there are precious few examples of such books. Even exceedingly famous authors are gifted only a handful of quality biographies. With this in mind, I’ve come up with a list of 50 essential literary …Read More

30 Legendary Literary Mean Girls We Love to Hate

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Literature loves a mean girl, an archenemy, or just an undermining frenemy. Let’s face it: this archetype is often (though not always) realized as a charming blonde who’s either a snob guarding her place against interlopers or a determined social climber. For every spunky heroine, she’s the prissy antagonist who scorns our protagonist’s rough ways, while her nimble feet fight for their place on the rungs of a given novel’s social ladder. She represents the apex of the idea that men can fight each other out in the open, but women are forced to be underhanded in their jockeying for alpha status. Her machinations make plots get thicker and tension ratchet up. Here’s a selection of literature’s most delightfully nasty mean girls. We love to hate …Read More