Now that they’ve announced the impending publication of The Best American Infographics, it might be prudent to revisit Reif Larsen’s classic Millions article, “This Chart Is a Lonely Hunter: The Narrative Eros of the Infographic.”
What do you do if you’re Leo Tolstoy, 20 years old and being treated in isolation for venereal disease? Start a diary, of course. Because you’re Tolstoy, you’ll probably use this diary to make a plan of your day, and then comment on how your actual activities line up with your ideals (“not quite,” usually). And, to be as Tolstoy-ish as possible, why not rate all your actions on a general moral scale? An example: “Arose somewhat late and read, but did not have time to write. Poiret came, I fenced, and did not send him away (sloth and cowardice). Ivanov came, I spoke with him for too long (cowardice). Koloshin (Sergei) came to drink vodka, I did not escort him out (cowardice).” And so on. For some long-term perspective, pair with The Millions‘s perennially popular “Tolstoy or Dostoevsky? 8 Experts on Who’s Greater.”
“It is a sad irony that the snake’s rattle, which functions as a warning device, is widely regarded as a bellicose drumroll, or war-cry, instead. It may well have been in a mood of remorse for having killed a rattlesnake on impulse that [William] Bartram, vowing solemnly that he ‘would never again be accessory to the death of a rattle snake,’ painted his marvelous portrait of a coiled rattler.” Christopher Benfey on Rattlesnake Island, a sanctuary set up to protect the woodland serpents from their greatest danger — us.
“No one was more grimly adamant that the world was in mortal peril, or had more fun trying to save it from itself.” Over at The New Yorker‘s Page Turner blog, Alexandra Schwartz considers the life and work of Grace Paley, noting that Paley’s slim output “is a great shame, if not so surprising. Activism, like alcoholism, can distract a writer from the demands of her desk.” Also of note: this tribute to Paley that our own Garth Risk Hallberg wrote upon her death in 2007.
“These writers project a mythos of healing. Their work says to the world, ‘Yes, we go on in spite of the troubles and we heal. Our stories are stories of braveness and healing. We got this.’ But I don’t got this! I’m trying to affect a calm tone. I’m losing my shit.” Luke B. Goebel reflects on anxiety, medication, and creativity at Catapult. Gila Lyons, similarly, writes on how medication affected her creative life.