“The internet teems with writerly advice, almost all of which suggests that creativity is served best by monasticism, a quiet life filled with pencils—but that kind of advice seems to take a very short view of history, overlooking the one classic way to rouse the capricious Muses: sexually transmitted disease.” According to The Hairpin, maybe it’s not an MFA you need, just syphilis. After all, it seems to have worked for James Joyce, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Oscar Wilde and many, many others.
W.H. Auden lived a secret life, not as a man with a second family or an illicit habit but as, weirdly enough, a genuinely kind human being. He paid for a friend’s costly operation and camped outside the apartment of a woman who suffered from night terrors until she felt safe enough to sleep on her own again. So why did the poet want to hide his good deeds? He claimed he didn’t want to be admired for basic decency.
Recommended reading: Pankaj Mishra and Benjamin Moser debate the continued possibility and relevance of Ezra Pound‘s “Make it New” for The New York Times Books Bookends.
Need some inspiration? These quotes from Joan Didion are sure to make your day. Picked by noted Ayn Rand scholar Mallory Ortberg, they include such gems as “I’m from Sacramento, but it’s honestly not a big deal” and “California doesn’t remind me of the apocalypse at all.”
Sex ed for teenagers is a famously knotty subject, which explains why Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s children’s ombudsman, wants to eschew sex ed classes in favor of literature courses. “It is unacceptable to allow things that could corrupt children,” he said in a television interview. “The best sex education that exists is Russian literature.” (No word yet on what he thinks of Crime and Punishment.) (h/t The Paris Review)
This Tuesday marked the celebration of Ada Lovelace Day, commemorating the world’s first computer programmer (who also happened to be Lord Byron’s daughter). Sydney Padua has published a graphic novel about Lovelace and Charles Babbage, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer. Check out scenes from the story and read more about Lovelace at Brain Pickings.