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 […]

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 […]