Tag Archives: biography

The Outer Fringe

Americans: A Book of Lives ©1946 by Hermann Hagedorn has been really fun and informative.  In this excerpt, he shared horticulturist Luther Burbank’s concept of life, the universe, and everything: “Life,” Burbank wrote, “is not material… the life-stream is not a substance. Life is a force– electrical, magnetic, a quality, not a quantity.” He saw …

Continue reading

Phonograph

In this excerpt from Americans: A Book of Lives ©1946. Hermann Hagedorn describes the moment Thomas Edison first tested his new invention to record and play back sounds: Three weeks after his interest had first been stirred, he (Thomas Edison) handed his chief mechanic a rough sketch of a queer-looking instrument, including a metal cylinder …

Continue reading

Rivals

“The important thing for him was to see himself as part of the cosmos and related to it, not a ‘rival god,’ shaking his fist at the skies.”  ~Hermann Hagedorn’s description of Oliver Wendell Holmes, from his book Americans: A Book of Lives ©1946

Continue reading

In a world seduced by easy understanding…

This short excerpt from the preface to E.E Cummings: A Life by Susan Cheever, ©2014, was a big help to me in understanding his poems.  It’s a tremendous relief to know I’m not supposed to “get it” right away: Modernism as (E.E.) Cummings and his mid-twentieth-century colleagues embraced it had three parts. The first was …

Continue reading

Slow Down the Inexorable Rush

Excerpted from the preface to E.E Cummings: A Life by Susan Cheever, ©2014 Princeton poet Richard P. Blackmur said (E.E.) Cummings’s poems were “baby talk,” and poetry arbiter Helen Vendler called them repellent and foolish: “What is wrong with a man who writes this?” she asked. Nothing was wrong with Cummings– or Duchamp or Stravinsky …

Continue reading

Time, Time, Time; Look What’s Become of Me…

Excerpted from Toward One World: The Life of Wendell Willkie by Bill Severn, ©1967: Another difficulty was his lack of any sense of time. When he was interested in something, time meant little to him and he found it hard to become used to the military day with activities regulated to specific hours. In later …

Continue reading

This Luminous Beggar

Excerpted from Misia by Robert Fizdale and Arthur Gold © 1980, Misia Natanson writes of her friendship with the poet Paul Verlaine: It was there that I struck up a friendship with Paul Verlaine. Usually between benders, and always sad, he would come in the early evening, sit down with me, drink, read me beautiful …

Continue reading

Little White Lies

Excerpted from A Remarkable Mother by Jimmy Carter, © 2008: When the reporter arrived at the Pond House, Mama (Lillian Carter) instructed her that she would not answer any questions about my boyhood, because all of it was covered in my book Why Not The Best? Soon, however, an inevitable question came: “Miss Lillian, your …

Continue reading

I could have told you, Vincent

Three things I learned about Vincent Van Gogh from reading Van Gogh by Pierre Cabanne, © 1961: When Van Gogh took up painting, late in life, he began by taking lessons, visiting museums to study the works of the masters, and inviting established artists to critique his work.  In the popular imagination he simply sat …

Continue reading

She was dancing for herself…

This excerpt from Zelda by Nancy Milford, ©1970, describes an incident that took place when she was in her mid-twenties, before mental illness consumed her life.  She must have been quite a force of nature: When Zelda indulged in high jinks that summer there was a quality about the performance that was striking; she seemed …

Continue reading