“The Fault in Our Stars” is at its core a love story between two teenagers. My sister never got to have a relationship like that. She got to experience just a few weeks of being 16. Witnessing a life and a romance she could have had made me feel unbearably sad and yet, oddly, uplifted. It’s as if, through Hazel, my sister is able to continue having new experiences. As if she got a sequel.
—  Evangeline Earl, Esther’s older sister, in her beautiful op-ed in the Washington Post
Vincent van Gogh, whose depression, some say, was likely related to temporal lobe epilepsy, famously saw and painted the world in almost unbearably vivid colors. After his nearly unsuccessful attempt to take his life by shooting himself in the gut, when asked why he should not be saved, he famously replied, “The sadness will last forever.” I imagine he was right.
—  Maggie Nelson, Bluets

“I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear…”

— Walt Whitman, “I Hear America Singing”

Celebrate July 4th with this collection that reveals the diversity of the American experience.

“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” 

-Anne Frank was born today in 1929. Her diary, written during her family’s two years of hiding in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands, is a thoughtful, moving, and often amusing account that offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty.

Rapture of the deep, or nitrogen narcosis (also known as the Martini effect), is a condition that afflicts deep-sea divers, an anesthetic effect caused by a shift in gases at high pressure. At first, the effects are harmless—mild euphoria, a sense of “mastery over the environment.” It’s only when the diver goes deeper that the real danger arises—impaired judgment, loss of control and decision-making abilities. The lesson, the metaphor, is clear. Don’t plumb the depths carelessly. Don’t become reckless with love. The thing about metaphors, though, is not just their convenience. They are intrinsic to the way we understand our world. They come from the heavens and they come from the darkest reaches of the sea. They comprise the invisible web of consciousness and art and obsession and love and wonder through which we make our way here on earth.
—  Rapture of the Deep by Jessica Hendry Nelson
Watch on simonschusterca.tumblr.com

"Boy Meets World“‘s Topanga, Danielle Fishel, talks about her new memoir, Normally, This Would be Cause for Concern. Out September 9, 2014.

At age 26, Robert Timberg was a handsome young man in uniform. That was before a land mine in Vietnam left him so disfigured that he terrified little children on the street. Dr. Lynn Ketchum, a respected plastic surgeon who did reconstructive surgery on many injured soldiers, wrote in his personal journal that he had many patients in his career with facial burns, but none as bad as Bob Timberg. Timberg’s new memoir, called Blue Eyed Boy, is the story of his long struggle to recover from his wounds and find his place in the civilian world.

Listen to the interview. 

anonymous said:

I am working on a memoir under a pen name, about an abusive relationship with my mother. I also want to include how her abuse affected my other relationships and self worth within them. One of which was with a narcissist. I'm fearful of him and am wondering if perhaps I shouldn't even mention him. How would I go about this? Also have you any tips on how to build a platform and get readers interested in my material? *My mom doesn't read English well so I'm not worried about her reading my memoir.

There’s some general advice on memoirs here.

For hiding/protecting your identity and other people’s identities:

  • Change Names: When you change the names, really change them. Don’t keep the initials the same, don’t use similar sounding names, and don’t only change the surname. You can even neglect to use surnames at all.
  • Change Locations: Changing the locations will change other details as well, but I’ll get to that later. If something happened at a grocery store, change it to a clothing store or a bookstore. The overall story is the same, but changing smaller details can help deviate from the absolute truth.
  • Change People: If you’re fearful of this one particular person, you can change your relationship with him. You can make him a teacher or a neighbor or a family member and still work in parts of your relationship with him. You’ll have to change a lot of details, but you can still make it work. You should also change or leave out specific details, such as tattoos, physical appearance, scars, etc.
  • Change Details: You’ll probably have to change other small details, which happens in most memoirs. Certain events in your memoir might happen in different places, might happen at a different time, might involve different people, might involve different objects, or might last longer/shorter.

Here are some tips to build a platform:

  • Blog: Start a blog. Make it relevant to your memoir. Talk about some of the stuff that might be in your memoir. Some bloggers even get book contracts for non fiction books due to their blogs. You can also move to twitter and get involved with discussions on there. If your twitter profile has your blog or website link on it, you’ll get more traffic. 
  • Find Your Audience: Your audience will probably be people who have been in similar situations as yourself, as well as their friends and family. Find them on the internet. Look around on places like experienceproject, twitter, tumblr, and other social networking sites. Reach out to some of them and tell them to check out your blog. Some of them might even be able to do a guest post and you might be able to do a guest post on someone else’s blog.
  • Speaking: This can be nerve wracking for a lot of people, especially those who might be putting themselves at risk if they make themselves known, but it’s an excellent way to reach out to people. Speaking about abusive relationships can be to a large audience (a school) or smaller audiences (a classroom, a support group, a club, etc.). If you do it enough, you can build up a reputation and thus a platform.
  • Newsletter: From your blog, set up a monthly newsletter to keep in touch. Some people might be away for a while only to forget about your blog or website. The newsletter acts as a reminder and it can also be used to give big news.

William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

Last night @craigmod tweeted:

If you cannot begin to empathize with someone taking their own life, I suggest reading Darkness Visible… Styron’s book is only 80 pages. Truly an important read

I picked it up last night and finished it today. Some bits, below.

On the inadequacy of the word “depression”:

When I was first aware that I had been laid low by the disease, I felt a need, among other things, to register a strong protest against the word “depression.” Depression, most people know, used to be termed “melancholia,” a word which appears in English as the year 1303 and crops up more than once in Chaucer, who in his usade seemed to be aware of its pathological nuances. “Melancholia” would still appear to be a far more apt and evocative word for the blacker forms of the disorder, but it was usurped by a noun with a blank tonality and lacking any magisterial presence, used indifferently to describe an economic decline or a rut in the ground, a true wimp of a word for such a major illness.

How part of the problem with depression is that it’s somewhat beyond description, and almost impossible to fathom for those of us who haven’t experienced it:

Depression is a disorder of mood, so mysteriously painful and elusive in the way it becomes known to the self—to the mediating intellect—as to verge close to being beyond description… it has to be emphasized that if the pain were readily describable most of the countless sufferers from this ancient affliction would have been able to confidently depict for their friends and loved ones (even their physicians) some of the actual dimensions of their torment, and perhaps elicit a comprehension that has been generally lacking; such incomprehension has usually been due not to a failure of sympathy but to the basic inability of healthy people to imagine a form of torment so alien to everyday experience.

Styron, however, does what he can to describe it to us:

The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come — not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute. If there is mild relief, one knows that it is only temporary; more pain will follow. It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul. So the decision-making of daily life involves not, as in normal affairs, shifting from one annoying situation to another less annoying- or from discomfort to relative comfort, or from boredom to activity- but moving from pain to pain. One does not abandon, even briefly, one’s bed of nails, but is attached to it wherever one goes.


My aunt gutted tuna in a cannery. So did my godfather. So did my dad, until he drove a bakery truck and graduated to being that guy who rents you bowling shoes and sprinkles foot powder into them then sweeps the bowling alley behind you and waits till closing time to pick up the tampons and drop menthol piss-cakes in the urinals. It took a really long time to master invisible things—how to wax the lanes so bowlers could roll true to their strikes; how to turn cracked pins on a lathe in the deafening clatter of the dark back room, getting high on the resin mixes that patched and healed their shells; how to reach in blindly and jigger the insides of huge machines that hid rats and tattered rags of boyhood dreams of grandeur and romance without losing a finger. My dad taught me how to clench my teeth and plod on. But he failed to teach me to embrace our suffering and pain.

Yeah—I was a night-shift toilet scrubber, too.

We looked down on the rich, because we saw what you leave behind.

"On Trails"

Brush, ink, and gouache on post-it notes.

Hello dear readers,

I’m putting together a bunch of tiny comics for SPX with my girlfriend. Some autobio, fiction, fan fiction, collage, etc.  I’ll post more information and comics soon. I’m working on some exciting long projects which I hope to announce soon, too.