Hotel Russell by Tara Bernerd

The Sensuous Delight of Place

Like Katherine Mansfield’s enigmatic stories, the book Place by Tara Bernerd feels like “a thread with a subtly woven texture embracing ecstatic feeling, sensuous delight.” The quote is from an essay by Angela Smith in a remarkable book titled The Modernist Party. Edited by Kate McLoughlin, the collection of literary explorations surveys the dinner party through […]

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 […]

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 […]

A dory glides across the ocean in Costa Rica

The Stuff of Literature

  I opened a recent diary entry with this quote by Richard Ford: “A lot of people could be novelists if they were willing to devote their lives to their responses to things.” Tomorrow is my three-year anniversary here on The Diary of an Improvateur, and this is my 100th post on this blog, so […]

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 […]

I saw the Arc de Triomphe with new eyes

Seeing with New Eyes

  Day two of my Parisian literary adventure follows a foray I wrote about last week. It turned out to be a long excursion because I decided to walk all the way from my hotel, Le Meridien Etoile in the 17th arrondissement near the Périphérique, along the spine of Avenue de la Grande Armée, past the Arc de Triomphe, onto […]

Chambre Bleu painting

A Backward Glance on rue de Varenne

  The narrow sidewalks push their black iron batons up out of the ground to protect the buildings hemming them; the rain turns the cobblestones to muted mirrors of damp light—I’m visiting her again on the anniversary of her 155th birthday, and it dawns on me that I’ve never seen the statuesque green door with […]

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, one of my all-time favorite research libraries, 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 […]