Susan Sontag

20 Books Every Woman Should Read in Her 20s

Recently, we stumbled upon this list of “fun” books that every woman should read in her 20s — needless to say, if you’re even a casual visitor to this space, the books (Confessions of a Shopaholic, Bitches on a Budget) aren’t exactly the ones we’d choose. So, perhaps rather predictably, we decided to put together our own list instead. Now, don’t forget, these are books for women in their 20s — we assume you’ve already read as much Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott as you care to, we expect that you’ve already tackled To Kill a Mockingbird and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Jane Eyre. And though women should read all books about all kinds of things and by all kinds of authors, this list sort of necessarily skews towards  both female writers and characters, given the topic of the day. Click through to check out our reading list — and since every woman should read more than 20 books in her 20s (hundreds, ladies!), add your own favorites in the comments. … Read More

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Extremely Silly Photos of Extremely Serious Writers

[Editor's note: In celebration of the holidays, we're spending the next two Tuesdays by counting down the top 12 Flavorwire features of 2012. This post, at #8, was originally published May 11th.] Every writer, no matter how serious, needs to let off a little steam now and then. Those oh-so-important mental health days might be filled with hobbies (from baking to beekeeping) or drinking (every writer’s default hobby), or just plain goofing around with friends. Luckily for us, some of these author’s kookiest, most candid moments have been captured on film, so we can all feel a little closer to our favorite literary heroes. Click through to check out our gallery of refreshingly silly photos of famous writers, and if you’ve seen a photo we haven’t, share the wealth and link to it in the comments! … Read More

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Writers Praising Writers: 15 of the Best Compliments from One Author to Another

We all know authors can insult one another with aplomb, but do those bitter wordsmiths ever have anything nice to say? Well, yes, of course. If we had to guess, we’d say that most authors’ biggest fans are other authors, who might understand a given piece of literature better than any mere mortal — or they might just be more likely to write about it. In the excellent collection Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story, which hit shelves last week, 20 famous writers choose and introduce the short stories from the periodical that moved and thrilled them. In honor of the book’s publication, we’ve put together a few of our favorite author-on-author compliments. Click through to spread the love, and if we’ve missed your favorite compliment, add to our list in the comments. … Read More

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20 Famous Writers on Death and Mortality

Today marks the publication of Mortality, confrontational journalist Christopher Hitchens’ posthumous work about his experiences with the cancer that killed him. We’ve lost a lot of great minds recently — Nora Ephron, Maurice Sendak, David Rakoff, and Hitch himself — and we think this end-of-life memoir in essays, full of Hitchens’ trademark wit and his clear-eyed dissection of life as he sees it, may just heal us a little bit, as books tend to do. To celebrate the book’s publication, and to help recalibrate our own perspectives on the loss of so many of our intellectual heroes, we’ve put together this selection of passages on death and mortality from a few of our favorite authors. Read through after the jump, and since there are an infinite number of these, add your own favorite to our collection in the comments. … Read More

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15 of the Greatest Lists in Literature

This week, Threaded reminded us of one of our favorite moments in Joan Didion’s The White Album — when she lists her packing list, incredibly simple and yet so revealing. Lists, of course, are no rare thing in literature, and have many uses, from adding quirk to showing off knowledge, and have storied positions in classic texts like The Faerie Queene (so many different kinds of trees) and The Illiad (200+ lines of Greek chieftains). Inspired by Didion, we spent some time thinking about our favorite lists in literature, from short to impossibly long, from lists that catalogue items to those that follow the train of imagination. Click through to check out the literary lists we think are the funniest, most revealing, most interesting or flat out strangest, and if we’ve missed your own favorite, tell us about it in the comments. And yes, it does not escape us that this is a list of lists. Meta is the way we like it.
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Pop For Skeptics #5: Judging Eurovision 2012 Entries by Susan Sontag’s ‘Notes on Camp’ Criteria

“Many things in the world have not been named; and many things, even if they have been named, have never been described. One of these is the sensibility — unmistakably modern, a variant of sophistication but hardly identical with it — that goes by the cult name of ‘Camp.’”
- Susan Sontag, Notes on Camp

The 57th annual Eurovision Song Contest kicks off later this month, and it’s no a secret that a lot of participating nations aspire toward a little American coverage of their perennially campy offerings. But America’s always had a contentious relationship with camp. It’s unfortunate, really, that despite living in a nation where the president now openly endorses gay marriage — albeit with a few caveats — our cultural consciousness remains so camp-ophobic. We are, after all, the people who failed to give Mean Girls an Oscar, John Waters the big budgets of Jerry Bruckheimer, and B*witched a chance at a career here that spanned more than one single.

Perhaps that’s where Eurovision steps in as our forbidden fruit. It’s distant enough that American audiences needn’t feel debased by (or risk identifying with) the camp, but simultaneously, it satisfies our curiosity. It’s not that we have no appetite for camp — it’s that our pop consciousness needs to be tricked into appreciating it. (Hello there, Lady Gaga.) Eurovision, then, is a delightful, drawn-out yet comfortingly foreign opportunity to revel in camp. … Read More

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A Look at the Titles in Famous Authors’ Libraries

Since we discovered an ongoing crowdsource project called Legacy Libraries, we haven’t been able to tear our eyes away from it. The organization gathers information about the libraries of historical people — authors, artists, scientists, and more. By compiling data from bibliographies, auction catalogs, library holdings, manuscript lists, wills and probate inventories, and from the personal verification of extant copies, Legacy Libraries is able to conjure a snapshot of the titles resting on famous bookshelves.

The group started out reconstructing the library of Thomas Jefferson in 2007, which has since been handed over to librarians at his Monticello estate. Since then, the database has expanded to include everyone imaginable, like Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe (at one point she was reading How to Eat Your Way to Glowing Health, Why I Am Not a Christian, and Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment) and Tupac (who had a thing for books about psychics and enjoyed Henry Miller and Anais Nin).

We imagined the bookshelves of well-known authors also contained some fascinating reads, and we were right. Click through to see what books your favorite writers curled up with, in many cases offering an interesting view into their personal lives and mindset. Head to Legacy Libraries where you can create an account to see if your own library matches that of any famous faces. … Read More

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10 of the Best Memoirs About Mothers

This week saw the release of cult cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s second work of non-fiction, Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama, a graphic memoir that investigates her relationship with her mother in all its fraught, tender weirdness. We’ve loved Bechdel ever since we read her 2006 memoir Fun Home, about her father’s suicide, and her newest work doesn’t disappoint — it’s at once poignant and goofy, alarming and sweet, and filled with vignettes of mother-child relations that will have you squirming with recognition, no matter who you are. After we zipped through the book, we felt a hankering for more memoirs about mothers, so in case you feel the same way thanks to a certain holiday on the horizon, we’ve collected a few of the best examples in recent memory here. Click through to check out our list, and let us know if we missed your favorite mommy memoir in the comments. … Read More

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10 of the Most Precocious Authors in Literary History

The 150th anniversary of Edith Wharton’s birth has brought all sorts of fun biographical information to our attention. For example, we recently learned about her favorite childhood game “Making Up,” a strange combination of chanting, pacing, and inventing stories. This vile behavior of course concerned Edith’s blue-blood parents, but as we all know, it was only a precursor to the genius that was to come. Which got us thinking: what were other famously precocious authors doing as kids? (Hint: Stephen King was the coolest.) Click through to see what we found and be sure to add those we missed! … Read More

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Cultural Icons Reflect on September 11th

Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001? What errands were you running, what classes were you taking, and what job were you arriving to on that fateful day? As the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks approaches, we’ve decided to run a group of quotes by writers and public intellectuals (as well as a graphic designer and comedian) who had something to say about the state of the city and the country in the days and years to follow. As David Remnick wrote in the New Yorker, “we pay tribute to the resilience of ordinary people in the face of appalling destruction.” But we also pay tribute to those who had the courage to discuss real issues when there was so much political showboating happening. So read on, dear readers, and let us know what words got you through this incredible shock to the system. … Read More

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