Following a recent essay on the value of ambivalence, our own Mark O’Connell explores the nature of confidence in this week’s New York Times Magazine. Perhaps not surprisingly, he writes that this year’s Web Summit convinced him that tech moguls are congenitally more confident than writers.
Writers finally have a justification for their $4.00 latte habit. Even though coffee might be a detriment to imagination, the whirring of blenders and cafe chatter can boost creativity. If you want the inspiration jolt without the java, listen to Coffitivity’s recording of cafe ambient noise.
"After [WWII], the other Finnish artists formed themselves into political groups but Tove wasn’t a joiner; besides, the only political activity she enjoyed was tyrant-baiting. She decided to emigrate to the island kingdom of Tonga but the governor wrote back saying there was a housing shortage and she wouldn’t be welcome. So she created her own Tonga: Moominland." A new biography looks at the "conflicted life" and creative work of Tove Jansson, whose name has appeared several times here at The Millions.
Putting aside for a moment the racist phrenological roots of the terms "highbrow" and "lowbrow," here's an interesting conversation on what the difference between them means for literature now. For a historical take, check out this graphic from a 1949 edition of LIFE magazine, which taught me a real gentleman wears fuzzy tweed, and iceberg lettuce is never in style.
Is it possible to read fiction by an actor without thinking of them as the character that made them famous? It’s a question many people asked when reading James Franco, and it’s a question they’re likely to ask again when reading One More Thing, a new book of short stories by The Office star B. J. Novak. At Open Letters Monthly, Justin Hickey reviews Novak's collection.
Good news! According to Vinson Cunningham’s new essay in The New Yorker, beauty merely “masks and perfumes ... it freezes moral categories in place,” whereas ugliness, on the other hand, “is sometimes the closest thing to the truth.” Wait, is that good news? Bonus: Vinson wrote a Year in Reading piece for us.