The Love Lives of Authors

Love is dangerous—best to leave it to the experts.

Spend your Valentine’s Day living vicariously through these writers and their passionate love lives. Because let’s face it, you’d rather be draped in chocolate wrappers than a volatile amour, right? Just me?

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Lord Byron

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The 6th Baron Byron was a Romantic with a capital ‘R,’ but that doesn’t mean he was particularly gentlemanly. His first partner in scandal, Lady Caroline Lamb, described him aptly when she professed he was “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” Indeed, she was just one of many public conquests that rocked British society, several of which produced children. Only one of these was legitimate, the Honorable Augusta Ada Byron, also known as the co-creator of the first computer, Ada Lovelace. Others, save for a daughter he had with Mary Shelley’s sister, were never proven or recognized by Byron. In essence, he was a cad with a weakness for women, or so we can assume from his poem “Don Juan.” I mean, not even his own half-sister was off-limits to him.

But still some come to his defense. Poet Katha Pollitt excused Byron’s bad boy behavior with an interesting take on his contribution to feminism: “Byron’s great insight, in an era where women were expected to be placid and insipid (not that they were!), was to see that women were much like men: They wanted sex and went after it eagerly, if secretly.”

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This Week in Poetic History

Just for fun: we’re celebrating the lives of three poets that were changed this week in history, many years ago, and examining the curious ways one turn of events can change a legacy. Here are three world-altering events from three years in poetic history…

“The Raven” Is Born

Tenniel-TheRavenOn this day in 1845, Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” one of the best-known poems in the English language, was first published. But it was no easy feat getting it into print. Poe first submitted the poem his friend and owner of Graham’s Magazine George Rex Graham, who declined. He did, however, give Poe $15 out of what could best be described as pity. The poem was eventually bought by The American Review, for $9. Still, Poe was not yet to become the household name he would shortly be; the magazine printed it under the pseudonym “Quarles.”

It was in the Evening Mirror that the poem first appeared with Poe’s name beneath it. Thanks to this publication, Edgar Allen Poe and his “Raven” achieved Read the rest of this entry »


Double, Double, Toil and Trouble: Branagh’s Macbeth is a Wonderfully Tempestuous Production

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For a brief week, the Seattle International Film Festival was able to bring Manchester International Festival’s production of Macbeth to the Uptown Theater in Seattle. As a part of a series called National Theater Live (which includes Othello with Adrian Lester and Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller), this production stars the illustrious Kenneth Branagh as the titular Scottish King. I was lucky enough to get tickets to see this thunderous play.

Co-directed by Branagh and Rob Ashford, the production was spectral, but appropriately stark. A lot of the eerie desolation came from the fact that it takes place in a deconsecrated Manchester church. The floors of the church were ripped out, so the stage was a pit of austere earth across which the witches skulked and the Scottish thanes clashed bloodily. Rain was poured unsparingly onto the actors. The dim lighting was the perfect harshness for this sinister play.

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Top Ten Dishes from the Classics

For her series “Fictitious Dishes,” photographer Dinah Fried staged her favorite food scenes from literature. Via The Picture Show, here’s a sample of her amazing work to delight foodies and book lovers alike.

“I’m interested in creating something that evokes an emotional feeling for myself and others. I wanted to see how other people who had read the books would connect on that level.”

On the Road

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“I ate apple pie and ice cream — it was getting better as I got deeper into Iowa, the pie bigger, the ice cream richer.”

The Bell Jar

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“Then I tackled the avocado and crabmeat salad. Avocados are my favorite fruit. Every Sunday my grandfather used to bring me an avocado pear hidden at the bottom of his briefcase under six soiled shirts and the Sunday comics.”

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On the Road, the Illustrated Scroll

Calling all On the Road fans! The following project is a work in progress by illustrator Paul Rogers we think you’ll love.

on the road illustrated

That’s right, one day soon lucky Kerouac fans will be able to read the Beat writer’s seminal work, accompanied by some very cool drawings–one for each of its 300+ pages, in fact. Rogers selects his favorite passages and draws an accompanying pic. Check out a selection of some of the best below. To see the progress of the project thus far, see Paul Rogers’ blog entries for On The Road: Illustrated here!

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Top Ten Books Recycled for Art

These artists give books a second life as beautiful works of art, converting everything from outdated computing books to children’s classics into visual masterpieces, all using little more than a scalpel and some imagination. In no particular order (they’re too awesome to rank) here are the top ten artworks created from old books:

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“Pandora Opens Box” by Sue Blackwell.

It is the delicacy, the slight feeling of claustrophobia, as if these characters, the landscape have been trapped inside the book all this time and are now suddenly released. A number of the compositions have an urgency about them, the choices made for the cut-out people from the illustrations seem to lean towards people on their way somewhere, about to discover something, or perhaps escaping from something. And the landscapes speak of a bleak mystery, a rising, an awareness of the air.

Wild-Waters

A landscape created out of cut up paper by Scottish artist Georgia Russell.

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One of the masterfully crafted book landscapes from Canadian interdisciplinary artist (and part time anthropologist) Guy Laramée.

We are currently told that the paper book is bound to die. The library, as a place, is finished. One might ask so what? Do we really believe that “new technologies” will change anything concerning our existential dilemma, our human condition? And even if we could change the content of all the books on earth, would this change anything in relation to the domination of analytical knowledge over intuitive knowledge? What is it in ourselves that insists on grabbing, on casting the flow of experience into concepts?

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“Eight Million Stories”: Humans of New York Project

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“There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.” –  From The Naked City

In 2010, Brandon Stanton lost his job as a trader in Chicago.  Despite his mother’s objections, Stanton moved to New York City to pursue the latest thing with which he had become “borderline-obsessed“:  photography.

At first, Stanton was only snapping pictures of the city’s residents. His original goal was simply “to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their photos on a map.”  But after a few months, Stanton began adding captions and commentary to the photographs.   “Taken together,” the photographer explains,  “these portraits and captions became the subject of a vibrant blog, which over the past two years has gained a large daily following. With nearly one million collective followers on Facebook and Tumblr, HONY now provides a worldwide audience with glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City.”

In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald called New York City the “wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.”  Some eighty-eight years later, it still holds all that mystery and beauty, and through his lens and careful attention, Stanton helps develop those stories in colorful resolution.

The following are just a few of my favorite images and stories. Follow Humans of New York here.

 

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