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 […]

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 […]

An abandoned home on the Great Plains. Image © Saxon Henry.

The Soul of Great Leaders

Whenever I see a photograph of a Native American, I can’t help but think of Crazy Horse, and I’ve seen a fair number of them in my lifetime given the years I spent in the mission field, traveling to and from the Sioux and Athapaskan reservations in South Dakota and Alaska. During one late autumn […]

Antonio Cotti paints "Dante in Verona"

Reading Dante in Milan

  “I’d like that sunny table near the windows under the beautiful mirror,” he says to the hostess at Le Vrai, pointing to the niche set with two café tables, perfect for reading Dante all afternoon. Only a few decades earlier, the waistcoat and watch fob dangling from its pocket would have been out of […]

Whitehall Palace with the Banqueting House

The Built Legacy of Henry VIII

  The 2016 Academy Awards are handed out this coming Sunday so I’m celebrating a film that showcases the built legacy of Henry VIII to delve back into the subject I began here on February 2nd. The movie that showcases Henry VIII’s architectural heritage so beautifully is A Man for All Seasons, which swept the Oscars in […]

Three children painted in the Elizabethan style.

Narratives That Illuminate Design

If you believe that design-centric coffee table books contain nothing more than visual surveys of portfolios, I am out to change your mind today by presenting my choices for narratives that illuminate design. What has prompted this quest? Two intelligently written books in Rizzoli’s holiday catalog—both of which were published earlier this year. Narratives That Illuminate Design […]