Humans of New York
For In a land far Away
Under a Blanket of the stars
On a moonless night
a child was born in a kingdom
Of Basketball Gods
In a county they called
north of the capital
a rubber city
Where the Akronites run it
This child earned
the labors of his love
From watching his neighbors
Rise above hard work
At the local mills
Watching the sweat of their brow
Seeing his comrades growing up
Trying to Conquer the hill
A steep field of wheat
worn from cleats and cold
pounding the bottom of their soles
Against tough Ohio winters
and unconditional vertigo
But he rose
from the Dusk
of Elizabeth Park
And her projects
till the arrival of the dawn
rose from a high school Phenom
Straight to the pros
never forgetting how
the sun set on Lake Erie
How the rough waters
of the spotlight
Flow savagely along
always high tide
Knowing the odds against him
Yet his will to compete
Remained Hickory Street strong
For In all this love for his land
He learned to live
by the code of a warriors Song
and glorious were the
to the back of the wall
from the top of the rafters
For all the world to see
this man child rise up
against the odds
under the Akronite philosophy
In his mind ever burned:
Talent is given
Greatness is earned.
A horrible feeling of desolation pinched my heart. I listened rigid but heard nothing but the creep of blood in my ears. Great and shadowy and strange was the world and I drifted solitary through its vast mysteries.
A remote faint question, where I might be, drifted and vanished again in my mind. I found myself standing astonished, my emotions penetrated by something I could not understand.
I felt naked. I felt as perhaps a bird may feel in the clear air knowing the hawk wings above and will swoop.
I began to feel the need of fellowship. I wanted to question, wanted to speak, wanted to relate my experience. What is this spirit in man that urges him forever to depart from happiness, to toil and to place himself in danger?
It was this restlessness, this insecurity perhaps that drove me further and further afield in my exploring expedition. As the hush of the evening crept over the world, the sun touched the mountains and became very swiftly a blazing hemisphere of liquid flame, and sank.
Then, slow and soft and wrapping the world in fold after fold of deepening blue, came the night. And then, the splendor of the sight — in the sky, one bright planet shone kindly and steadily like the face of an old friend. The full temerity of my voyage suddenly came upon me. At last I began to feel the pull of the earth upon my being, drawing me back again to the life that is real, for men.
-Adapted from works by H.G. Wells
"Hinnon, TX", "Wash", "I Can’t Make You Love Me", "Babys", "Beth/Rest"
Kendrick Lamar Freestyle on Big Boy’s Neighborhood
This post is part of “How We Will Read,” an interview series exploring the future of books from the perspectives of publishers, writers, and intellectuals. Read our kickoff post with Steven Johnson here. And check out our new homepage, a captivating new way to explore Findings.
This week we were extraordinarily lucky to get some of the precious time of Maria Popova, the Internet’s most awesome curator. Maria is best known for her site Brainpickings, in which she and her co-curators find the most interesting stuff on the web, consistently — typically, what is the most beautiful, inspiring, and poignant. Maria, unlike many of the rest of us, approaches the vastness of the web with a sense of wonder that is infectious. Her work always communicates the passionate belief that the connectedness and openness of the Internet can foster creativity, curiosity, innovation, and growth. We all adore Maria and were thrilled she could talk to us — because in addition to her extraordinary insight on creativity, she also loves reading, and had much to say not just on what books are, but also on what books ought to be.
How do you do most of your reading and annotating these days?
I prefer digital — Kindle on iPad is my weapon of choice. (Despite its many design and usability flaws, which are the subject of another conversation.) I’m an active marginalian and like being able to switch between my reading and Evernote, where I save quotes from and notes on the reading material in question. I also read a fair amount of longform on Instapaper, mostly at the gym during my morning workout. It’s safe to say I only ever use the iPad for Instapaper, Evernote, and Kindle. In fact, reading is the sole reason I got one.
That said, I read a lot of old books, most of which are not available on Kindle. Because I didn’t grow up in the U.S. and only moved here for college, I’ve always felt like I have this vast literary debt. I try to do an old book for every “new” book I get. And because most of my reading springs from the wonderful mesh of allusions and references of which literature is woven, this creates an interesting bipolar rabbit hole of past and present driving my discoveries and decisions on what to read next. It’s a beautiful process of controlled serendipity, but it can also get very overwhelming.
Because I’m a writer as much as a reader, I often take notes with the awareness that I’ll be writing about what I’m reading. I think this changes the lens of reading significantly, and marginalia play an enormous part of that. As I mentioned, I save a lot of clips and quotes and notes, but that’s a surprisingly — or perhaps unsurprisingly — laborious task. On the one hand, when I’m reading on paper — which tends to be the case with all the vintage books I read — saving something to Evernote means manually transcribing it. I do that a shameful amount, sometimes transcribing entire pages I know I’ll need to refer to. I estimate I type anywhere between 1,000 and 5,000 words a week just transcribing what I’m reading. (I eagerly await the day our technology is good enough to automatically and perfectly transcribe text you take a photo of. Until then, an intern would suffice.)
On the other hand, with digital, DRM regulations are making it extremely difficult, or purposely impossible, to export highlights. (This is partly why Findings makes my life easier.) Which means we’re either back to manual transcription or, my recent embarrassment of choice, taking a screenshot of the highlight on the Kindle iPad app, then emailing the photo to my Evernote email. Evernote has optical character recognition, so searching for a keyword will also fetch results from images of text, not just typed text.
How has reading become more social for you?
I have a friend who “skims” books by turning on the popular highlights feature in Kindle and only reading those. It works for her, but to me that’s the death of reading.
Reading is a bootcamp for developing and exercising critical thinking. Without that — intellectual apocalypse! And critical thinking is about developing a point of view, and all writing is — or, should be — about arguing a point of view, implicitly or explicitly. When you bring the crowd into the equation, this concept completely disappears — because a crowd cannot have a point of view, at least not one that is simultaneously focused and authentic to each individual in the crowd.
I don’t need a focus group of strangers to tell me what I should be reading or, more dangerously, how to read what I’m reading. Decision by committee doesn’t work in creative labor, and it certainly doesn’t work in intellectual labor.
Mortimer Aldler, in the wonderful How to Read a Book, says that marginalia are your private dialogue with the author, the intellectual tug-of-war that is really the greatest compliment you can pay an author. Being guided by other people’s marginalia is like letting a thousand voices into your head while trying to hold a challenging debate. Have those conversations, by all means, but do so over dinner or tea with people whom you respect and only after you have read the very thing you’re going to discuss and made up your mind about it.
"Listen, then make up your mind," Gay Talese famously said about the secret of writing. It’s only logical that this should be inverted when it comes to reading: “Make up your mind, then listen.”
That said, I find it intriguing to see what and how individual people I respect — as opposed to an amalgamated “crowd” — are reading. I subscribe to Steven’s findings via RSS, for instance, and have made it a game of trying to figure out what his next article or book will be based on what he’s reading. I often add those items to my own reading list — I think there’s nothing wrong with complementing your own literary diet and curiosity with discoveries from individual readers you respect.