“What I didn’t know then was that these decorations evolved from the Jewish menora, the Hebrew festival of lights. I don’t think my mother knew that either, but if she did she never mentioned it. And I certainly never contemplated the resemblance of a sleigh to a cradle. A sleigh is basically a very large cradle.” Mary Ruefle on Christmas trees.
There is going to be a documentary about Joan Didion. We repeat: a documentary about Joan Didion. This is not a drill. Watch the opening trailer and consider donating to the Kickstarter campaign here, and be sure to read our own Michael Borne‘s review of Blue Nights and S.J. Culver‘s Millions essay on “Getting Out: Escaping with Joan Didion.”
We’ve all read some version of this story before. In the newest iteration of Listicles for People Just Like You over at McSweeney’s, Rufi Thrope helpfully provides Ten Signs Your Name is James and You Are Teaching English at a Fancy Boarding School.
Why do we strain ourselves to apply scientific methods to the humanities, when the results of such studies always miss the point, asks Maria Konnikova. For those looking to do some field research on the fruits of the growing digital humanities movement before condemning them, the latest issue of the Journal of Digital Humanities is packed with interesting (and chart-filled) reads.
“How can you write a complete story without a conventional plot? We often hear that in short stories, the main character must change. But in some stories, including some by Grace Paley, the characters don’t change. Instead, her stories change the reader. You’re different by the time you reach the end.” We’ve told you about The Atlantic’s “By Heart” series plenty of times before. This week, it’s Alice Mattison, who touches on everything from character development to the strange stories of Grace Paley.
The British critic, essayist, and novelist John Berger died yesterday at his home in France, reports The New York Times. Probably best known for his book of art-criticism-as-philosophy Ways of Seeing, which was turned into a popular BBC series and sold more than a million copies, Berger also won the Booker prize for G. in 1972 and was nominated again in 2008 for an epistolary novel, From A to X. The Guardian has rounded up some of his quotes, including the apt-feeling “[h]ope is not a form of guarantee; it’s a form of energy, and very frequently that energy is strongest in circumstances that are very dark.”