According to Agnes de Mille:

“The greatest thing [Martha Graham] ever said to me was in 1943 after the opening of Oklahoma!, when I suddenly had unexpected, flamboyant success for a work I thought was only fairly good, after years of neglect for work I thought was fine. I was bewildered and worried that my entire scale of values was untrustworthy. I talked to Martha. I remember the conversation well. It was in a Schrafft’s restaurant over a soda. I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be. Martha said to me, very quietly: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open… No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.””

How is literary success defined?
Moonshots: how to make them
16 uncomfortable feelings that actually indicate you’re on the right path
Ira Glass on taste and the creative process
How should one read a book? by Virginia Woolf
Why the pressure to be happy is driving people mad

First episode of TAKE MY WIFE, the new FAN-FUCKING-TASTIC show by Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher
Vintage photos of lesbians
Baroness Von Sketch video of hilarity
More vintage photos of lesbians
FUCK YEAH androgynous girls

The CIA is lying to the President and functioning as its own wing of government outside the purview of the Constitution

Soy yo
Rhiannon Giddens wins the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass

Dolphins recorded having a conversation for the first time
Great diagrams in anthropology, linguistics, and social theory
NASA photos

Image Credit and link to more sexy Rhea Butcher and Cameron Esposito
Pro-tip: email subscribers, click title for badass pic of Rhea Butcher


Anna Nolan and The Syria Campaign’s White Helmets documentary will be out on Netflix Sept. 16
The Scofield (literary magazine) features an excerpt of D. Foy’s new book
Daniel Miller goes “Full Jew”
Livin’ and Lovin’ in NYC talks about “when we don’t wanna bang”
My latest column on the limits of self-love and how to cope with the on-and-on
Jessica Pishko profiles an autistic kid accused of terrorism by the FBI
Jonathan Russell Clark on why any story worth telling doesn’t need spoiler alerts

Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale profiled on the Guardian
No, Alan Moore isn’t a recluse
The long, steady decline of literary reading (NOOOOOOOO!!!)

12 writers reflect on the high school English teacher that changed their lives
Things native English speakers know and don’t know they know
Why grammar snobbery has no place in social justice movements
Inescapably, you’re judged by your language
On literacy privilege

8 lady surrealists who are not Frida Kahlo
Artist in Residence stranded at sea

Test your knowledge of city populations in the U.S. (interactive bracket game by
Dancing pig

Image Credit: click to support the Syria Campaign
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I spent the hurricane weekend without electricity and thinking hard about what it means to pursue art, to choose your own voice over the mean of one’s peers, to live outside the (once?) art hubs of New York and Los Angeles, and what might be possible if the goal is expression and not “success” (are these mutually opposed? complementary?). I came to no conclusions. I ate thai food. I scratched the heads of my cats. Tye and I drove into the countryside and walked by the crumbling brick edifices of old railroad towns. I continue to mull. —LJ

Marilyn Monroe’s personal library
Truman Capote’s remains are being auctioned off in Los Angeles
The best facts Kathryn Schulz learned from books in 2015

Top 10 words I’m sick of seeing on artist statements
May-Linn Aaslie
Mike Lacher

Women Nerd Superheroes
Winter dreaming: snowflake gallery

Squid and Owl designs
An exceptional design website (from Korea)

Exceptional films: Westward the Women (1951)
Jean Genet’s Un Chant d’Amour (NSFW early erotic queer film)

A Russian fan’s tribute to Freddie Mercury
Freddie was Bi
Munich interview

A comic about Introversion

Image credit
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No Way Out But Through

Bless you, of course, you’re keeping me from work,
But the thing of it is, I need to be kept.
There’s work enough to do—there’s always that;
But behind’s behind. The worst that you can do
Is set me back a little more behind.
I sha’n’t catch up in this world, anyway.
I’d rather you’d not go unless you must.

—from A Servant to Servants, by Robert Frost

Worst U.S. disaster since Hurricane Sandy: Louisiana is suffering (what you can do: pick one)
Syria is still burning (what you can do: pick one)

The Road Not Taken is nearly always misquoted; maybe this illustration will help you or someone you love not do that
Wonder Bread: come with us to a place called Brooklyn, where the stories are half-baked and their endings bland and soft
Eileen Myles on the excruciating pain of waiting for love

Masud Olufani
Ellsworth Kelly
Sarah Hobbs
Maurizio Cattelan
Jeffrey Gibson
Kehinde Wiley

The Voynich Manuscript
Le Grand Grimoire
The Magus
The Goddess Isis and her various other names and symbols

INSANE freestyle
Killer b-boy dance battle

How many giant squids are being eaten by sperm whales RIGHT NOW?
The best of cardistry (card tricks, yo)

Image credit: Sarah Hobbs, Untitled (perfectionist), chromogenic print, 48″ x 60″, 2002.
(Pro-tip: email subscribers, click title for the art of Sarah Hobbs)

Monday Whoa

Short mailing today. Some Mondays are like holding your breath and diving into the chaos. Today is such a day.  —LJ

The hidden entrance in the Astor Place subway station and the New York City Shakespeare riots of 1849
Peg Leg Pete and the Haunting of St. Mark’s Cathedral
The New York City Transit Authority Graphical Standards Manual, 1970

Library of Vintage Fruit Crate Labels
Graphic designer dad illustrates offspring’s daily sandwiches
BLANKA Posters

The United States of Literature
Kids who die, by Langston Hughes

Image creditLangston Hughes, 1940, Carl Van Vecten
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What Kind of Times Are These

What Kind of Times Are These


There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled
this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.

The choreographic moment, ideas from Jeanine Durning
Anna Sperber at New York Live Arts

Twenty-seven by Amy Klein
Laura Gibson on KEXP

A comprehensive list of public figures who have supported Trump
Pictures of Nazi rallies at Madison Square Garden

A comprehensive guide to psychedelic drug combinations

The staggering toxicity of Vice Principals

I replaced the word Millenials with 43-year-old White Man and now these headlines are…
Longhorn cow scratches itch with his horns

The literature of pregnancy and new motherhood
Why I’m glad I was raised by a sex-positive mother
Photoessay of birth (NSFW)

Women get paid less than men and it’s not women’s fault
Hillary Clinton answers 40 years of ridiculous questions

Image credit
(Pro tip: Email subscribers, click title for pic of young Adrienne Rich)