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 […]

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 […]

Miles Stephenson with Wes Anderson

Earnest in Paris

This comparative look at Wes Anderson and Ernest Hemingway, Earnest in Paris, is a guest post by Miles Stephenson, a talented young writer whom I had the great pleasure of haunting locales touched by the Lost Generation during the trip to Paris he is presenting on The Diary of an Improvateur today.   Earnest in […]

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 […]

Edgar Allan Poe daguerreotype

The Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe

I’ve seen and heard some of my all-time favorite exhibitions and lectures at The Morgan Library and Museum, the programming they produce so exemplary I always check their site first when I know I’ll be in New York City. And no matter how many times I walk through Pierpont Morgan’s library, I’m struck by the […]

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 […]

Peace Bringing Back Abundance

Vigée Le Brun’s Passion for Painting

  A Passion for Painting   Billowing ruched fabric, pointy toes of dainty shoes visible from beneath flounced skirts hemmed in gold fringes and ornate trims. A bejeweled crown on a pillow festooned with gold fleurs-de-lis; and a red velvet tablecloth flowing downward, its gold trim cascading onto a floral rug. Sumptuousness at every turn. Painting […]

The Old Oak by Jules Dupre, admired by van Gogh

A Summer Reading List à la Vincent van Gogh

Irving Stone curated and edited down the copious letters that Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, turning the most meaningful ones into a volume titled Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent van Gogh. In these outpourings to his sibling, he speaks of books he is reading and art he is studying, even while […]