Joseph John Campbell was born in White Plains, New York, on this day in 1904.

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually...
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Thomas Lanier Williams III was born in Columbus, Mississippi on this day in 1911.

“'I pray to the emptiness that is the page,' Tenn said, 'and I pray to the emptiness that is my mind, and I ask that I be filled'.”
―from Follies of God: Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog by James Grissom

This remarkably illuminating portrait of Tennessee Williams lifts the veil on the heart and soul...
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Walt Whitman died in Camden, New Jersey, on this day in 1892 (aged 72).

“His chosen medium—writing—had, he believed, a high potential for holding America together. America was a nation of readers, known worldwide for its high literacy rates. At midcentury, a full 90 percent of white American adults could read, as opposed to about 60 percent in England. Whitman crowed hyperbolically: “In...
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F. Scott Fitzgerald's debut novel, THIS SIDE OF PARADISE, was first published on this day in 1920.

"Here was a new generation, shouting the old cries, learning the old creeds, through a revery of long days and nights; destined finally to go out into that dirty gray turmoil to follow love and pride; a new generation dedicated more than the last to the fear of poverty and the worship of...
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“Memory, I realize, can be an unreliable thing; often it is heavily coloured by the circumstances in which one remembers, and no doubt this applies to certain of the recollections I have gathered here. ”
―from A PALE VIEW OF THE HILLS (1982) by Kazuo Ishiguro

The story of Etsuko, a Japanese woman now living alone in England, dwelling on the recent suicide of her daughter. In a story where...
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\“Dogs have evolved to understand us better over the millennia, but in modern pet culture we appear doomed to understand them less.”
--from PIT BULL: The Battle Over an American Icon

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“We'd die here, old together, safe with each other's secrets. We were each other's juvenilia”
― PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS by Allan Gurganus

With great narrative inventiveness and emotional amplitude, Allan Gurganus gives us artistic Manhattan in the wild 1980s, where young artists–refugees from the middle class–hurl themselves into playful work and serious fun. Our guide is Hartley Mims Jr., a...
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“For a full minute Jiggs stood before the window in a light spatter of last night's confetti lying against the windowbase like spent dirty foam, lightpoised on the balls of his greasestained tennis shoes, looking at the boots.”
―from PYLON: The Corrected Text by William Faulkner

One of the few of William Faulkner’s works to be set outside his fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Pylon, first...
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“Everyone else felt the need to assure me that Mother's death was part of God's plan. Exactly, I wanted to shout after reading this sentiment half a dozen times--- his plan is to kill us all, and if an innocent child dies in agony and a wicked man breathes his last at an advanced age in his sleep, who are we to call it injustice?”
―from PROPERTY by Valerie Martin

Valerie Martin’s Property...
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“My protagonists are my mother's voice and the mind I had when I was thirteen.”
―from STORIES IN AN ALMOST CLASSICAL MODE (1988) by Harold Brodkey

These 17 short stories represent the best of Brodkey’s work over three decades.
Lorene Cary's BLACK ICE was first published on this day in 1991.

“I had not expected the gentle, tentative surge of gratitude I began to feel...for St. Paul's School, the spring, and the early morning. I needed the morning light and the warbling birds. I needed to find a way to live in this place for a moment and get the good of it. I had tried to hold myself apart, and the aloneness proved...
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Toni Cade Bambara was born Miltona Mirkin Cade in New York City on this day in 1939.

“Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well?… Just so’s you’re sure, sweetheart, and ready to be healed, cause wholeness is no trifling matter. A lot of weight when you’re well.”
―from THE SALT EATERS

Set in a town somewhere in the South, here is the story of a community of black people searching...
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"Knots" by R. D. Laing

The patterns delineated here have not yet been classified by a Linnaeus of human bondage.
They are all, perhaps, strangely, familiar.
In these pages I have confined myself to laying out
only some of those I actually have seen. Words that
come to mind to name them are: knots, tangles,
fankles, impasses, disjunctions, whirligogs, binds.
I could have remained closer to the...
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"There is now the capacity to make tyranny total in America. Only law ensures that we never fall into that abyss—the abyss from which there is no return."
---from THE SHADOW FACTORY: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America by James Bamford

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Bookstore humor
“I have no more to say except this: We must live with our own conscience.”
—from A LESSON BEFORE DYING by Ernest J. Gaines

From the author of A Gathering of Old Men and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman comes a deep and compassionate novel, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. A young man who returns to 1940s Cajun country to teach visits a black youth on death row for a...
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"Then I heard an exotic familiar squinch, and taking my chin to the floor I saw... the silver sandals of Doctor Zuk.... I heard, illegibly vibrating, the low tobacco-cured c-string of her voice. She was sort of crooning sumpm. My heart drowned." - Bogeywoman by Jaimy Gordon

National Book Award Winner Jaimy Gordon’s bold and daring coming of age novel combines the teenaged angst of Catcher In...
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RADICAL HOPE: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times, edited by Carolina De Robertis (Vintage, May 2): "This anthology is like the book version of a Justice League of superheroes: a collection of writers to guide us through tumultuous political times. They share our fear, our frustration, our concerns, and our rage way more eloquently than your second cousin can do on Facebook. With...
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Spring Preview: Letterman, Strout, and 8 More Books We Can’t Wait to Read

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"If there is good to be said, the writer should say it. If there is bad to be said, he should say it in a way that reflects the truth that, though we see the evil, we choose to continue among the living."
- John Gardner, THE ART OF FICTION: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

John Gardner was almost as famous as a teacher of creative writing as he was for his own works. In this practical,...
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"Any man who reaches for a book when he thinks about you is a man that you should think about."
-- from OUR LADY OF ALICE BHATTI by Mohammed Hanif

The patients of the Sacred Heart Hospital for All Ailments need a miracle. Alice Bhatti may be just what they’re looking for. She’s the daughter of a part-time healer in the French Colony, Karachi’s infamous Christian slum, and it seems she has,...
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