“Yes, he cheated, he cracked up, he was irresponsible and even cruel in the way he marshaled his life for his art. Lowell nonetheless believed that women were his intellectual and artistic equals. He spent most of his life behaving accordingly even as he treated his wives and mistresses so terribly, in romantic terms, that it was almost operatic. That is the puzzle of Robert Lowell and women.” It’s not quite Valentine’s Day yet, but this piece on the inarguably tumultuous relationship between Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick is sure to make you feel something.
Why do articles go viral? At The New Yorker, Maria Konnikova traces what makes a popular story all the way back to Aristotle, but today’s clickbait has two features: a positive message or an ability to excite the reader emotionally. This probably explains why we love those articles about puppies. Pair with: Our piece on if book titles were written for clicks.
Ahead of next week’s publication of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the battle over Stieg Larsson’s lucrative literary estate. (Thanks, Craig)
Are we now living in a golden age of the uncanny? The Millions contributor Porochista Khakpour suspects that we are, and she also suspects that our historical moment, populated as it is with alienating developments and surreal art, is key to understanding the work of Helen Oyeyemi. In the Times, Khakpour reviews Oyeyemi’s new novel. (You could also read both writers’ Year in Reading pieces.)
“[S]ometimes, one of the best ways to better understand racism is to just pick up a book.” As part of a recent tweet about his availability for racial consultation, Colson Whitehead recommended an evergreen Huffington Post piece entitled “16 Books About Race That Every White Person Should Read“, a list that includes Claudia Rankine‘s Citizen, T. Geronimo Johnson‘s Welcome to Braggsville, and The Sellout by Paul Beatty, which we reviewed here. We hope he’s collecting referral fees.
Would you eat the marshmallow or would you resist temptation? That is the question. Our own Michael Bourne gets to the meat of why the mallow experiment fascinates us at The New York Times Magazine. “The tale of the marshmallows, as presented in Goleman’s book, read like some science-age Calvinist parable. Was I one of the elect, I wondered, a child blessed with the moral fortitude to resist temptation? Or was I doomed from age 4 to a life of impulse-driven gluttony?”
Former nytimes.com design director Khoi Vinh tries to renew his digital subscription to the paper, and it doesn’t go well: “The total customer experience here is haphazard at best, and, at worst — I hate to say this because I am still friendly with many people at the company, but in truth there’s no way around it — it’s insulting.”