“In 1865, Karl Marx confessed that he considered his chief characteristic ‘singleness of purpose,’ and that his favorite occupation was ‘bookworming.’ Five years later, Oscar Wilde wrote in an album called ‘Mental Photographs, an Album for Confessions of Tastes, Habits, and Convictions’ that his distinguishing feature was ‘inordinate self-esteem.'” Over at The New Yorker, take a look at how Marcel Proust’s questionnaires inspired a generation of question-by-by-question introspection.
Walter White is the new Walt Whitman. “Both are intellectual pioneers in their fields, their legacies—centuries apart—demanding risk, casting them outside of society, gliding out into the world, liberated from societal constraints,” Kera Bolonik writes about Whitman’s influence on Breaking Bad.
Boston has announced the country’s first “Literary Culture District,” marked by memorials to Edgar Allen Poe and Sylvia Plath. It also includes some arguably less interesting sites – the buildings that used to house The Atlantic Monthly and Little, Brown and Company, for example. Caroline O’Donovan writes critically about the new district for The Baffler and concludes that “we’ve allowed glib cultural ideals to occlude economic realities, and tourism tax dollars to triumph over a candid conversation about the origins of art and the sustainability of its production.”
The 2014 National Book Awards were just announced earlier this week. In celebration, The Paris Review took a look back at the American Book Awards, which “serve as a reminder that ostensibly prestigious institutions—institutions whose authority and taste depend on their perceived stability—are just as susceptible to whims and trends as the rest of us, which is to say very.”