St George's Kermis with Maypole

Everyday Life as Literary Concept

As mundane as the phrase everyday life may seem, it can be an extraordinary notion. Think about how the major players in the French salons during the ancien régime believed their everyday lives would be relevant after they were long gone because they were advancing human gracefulness and intelligence. They were certainly right, as they […]

The Subtle Magnetism of Nature

There’s no better way to celebrate nature than a complete immersion like I experienced during a day-hike on the Appalachian Trail in 1989. I share it today as a call to action given another Earth Day approaches next Saturday, April 22nd. Twenty-seven of them have passed since I walked those trails, and while some measures toward […]

A rainy Saturday at Yale is my secret to happiness

The Secret of Happiness

Nestled into her chateau in St. Brice, France, during the summer of 1924, Edith Wharton wrote in her diary, “The secret of happiness is to have forgotten what it is to be happy.” As a writer, I interpret this sentiment as being so absorbed in work that no feelings register at all. Whether she meant it […]

Edith Wharton's home in France

What Libraries Might Teach Us

I’m on my way back to Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University tomorrow and it occurred to me that it would be a good time to share with you what I’ve learned so far from delving into the papers of some heavyweight writers at some of the country’s finest libraries. I’ve reserved […]

Ernest Hemingway in his Paris apartment in 1924

The Difficulty of Writing Well

Becoming a writer: a phrase rife with pitfalls, rewards, angst, celebrations, stumbling blocks, euphoria, despair and every other type of emotion one can imagine. Writing well has preoccupied my mind for more than three decades during which I’ve experienced pretty much all of these (as well as a host of others). When my quest to […]

Classical and Modern architecture meet at Yale

Touching Literary History

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University reopened yesterday following a 16-month renovation to upgrade the 50-year-old building’s climate-control system, expand its classroom space, and restore the landmark to its original luster. The building’s architectural features—an exterior grid of granite and Vermont marble panels, a six-story glass-stack tower, and a sculpture garden […]

Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald before This Side of Paradise

This Side of Paradise

I looked forward to meeting Michael Berman during the Spring 2016 High Point Market when he was there to debut his Califolio collection for Theodore Alexander, and, not at all a surprise, the party was packed. As more and more people filed in, I noticed the serene setting he had created with more than 75 […]

Reception at Malmaison in 1802 François Flameng

Transitory Spaces

The beginning of one of Napoléon Bonaparte’s earliest letters to Joséphine de Beauharnais simply oozes sensuality: “Seven in the morning. I awaken full of you…the memory of yesterday’s intoxicating evening has left no rest to my senses…Sweet and incomparable Joséphine, I draw from your lips, from your heart, a flame which consumes me…A thousand kisses, […]

Pandora de Balthazar fine lace curtains

Rewriting the Myth of Pandora

I’ve always been fascinated by the myth of Pandora because the most widely accepted explanation of this parable—that feminine curiosity “is responsible for all the woes from which mankind suffers”—may not be accurate according to some scholars. The quote, from Frances E. Sabin’s book Classical Myths That Live Today, goes on to say, “Another version […]