In early childhood I saw the first snow-shovellers in thin shabby clothes. Asking about them, I was told they were men without work who were given this job so that they could earn their bread. Then they get what they deserve, having to shovel snow, I cried out in rage, bursting uncontrollably into tears.
—  Adorno, Minima Moralia III.122: “Monograms.” Translated by E.F.N. Jephcott.
Circumstances Under Which John Cleese is Funnier Than You: An Incomplete List

1. While taunting kings with a rideeculous accent:


2. While making fun of taylorswift's cat:


3. When throwing shade:


4. When self-disciplining:


5. When, well, walking: 


6. While in denial:


7. While meting out punishment:


8. While doing… whatever this is:


9. When writing a memoir:


10. While doing literally everything else:


I have no tolerance for people who are not thinking deeply about things. I have no tolerance for the kind of small talk that people need to fill silence, and I have no tolerance for people not being a part of the world and being in it and trying to change it.

Brown Girl Dreaming author Jacqueline Woodson

When author Jacqueline Woodson was growing up in Greenville, S.C., in the ’60s and ’70s, she was keenly aware of segregation.

"We knew our place," Woodson tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. “We knew our place was with our family. We knew where it was safest to be. There wasn't a lot of talk about the white world and what was going on in it; it didn't really have a lot to do with us, except in situations where there was the talk of resistance.”

You can find the rest of Woodson’s interview with Fresh Air here.

"In a book I found at the library, a camp song about a watermelon vine was illustrated with caricatures of sleepy-looking black people sitting by trees, grinning and eating watermelon. Slowly, the hideousness of the stereotype began to sink in. In the eyes of those who told and repeated the jokes, we were shuffling, googly-eyed and lesser than.

Perhaps my allergy was actually a deep physical revulsion that came from the psychological impression and weight of the association. Whatever it was, I could no longer eat watermelon.”

The Pain of the Watermelon Joke is a powerful op-ed essay in today’s New York Times from Jacqueline Woodson. Her memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Image credit: Eleanor Taylor

Tomorrow: We’re replaying our interview with Anjelica Huston from last year. 

Anjelica Huston is best-known for her performances in Prizzi’s Honor, The Grifters, The Addams Family, The Royal Tenenbaums and the TV series Smash. But her memoir about her early life, A Story Lately Told, ends just as her successful acting career begins. That part of her life will be in a second volume. 

Anjelica Huston Tells Her ‘Story’ Of Growing Up With A Director Dad

People who have recently lost someone have a certain look, recognizable maybe only to those who have seen that look on their own faces. I have noticed it on my face and I notice it now on others. The look is one of extreme vulnerability, nakedness, openness. It is the look of someone who walks from the ophthalmologist’s office into the bright daylight with dilated eyes, or of someone who wears glasses and is suddenly made to take them off. These people who have lost someone look naked because they think themselves invisible. I myself felt invisible for a period of time, incorporeal. I seemed to have crossed one of those legendary rivers that divide the living from the dead, entered a place in which I could be seen only by those who were themselves recently bereaved. I understood for the first time the power in the image of the rivers, the Styx, the Lethe, the cloaked ferryman with his pole. I understood for the first time the meaning in the practice of suttee. Widows did not throw themselves on the burning raft out of grief. The burning raft was instead an accurate representation of the place to which their grief (not their families, not the community, not custom, their grief ) had taken them.
—  Joan Didion, from The Year of Magical Thinking

Today in Book News: Random House is promising tweaks to Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl to clarify her use of pseudonyms in an essay on sexual assault.

Also in the news, Richard Flanagan is donating his share of a prestigious Australian literary prize to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting indigenous communities in Australia.

And Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has been legally blocked from publishing his autobiography, according to the Nigerian Tribune. The Melville House blog explains that Obasanjo’s My Watch won’t be hitting Nigerian store shelves next week because of a high-level libel dispute involving Obasanjo, current Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and a man named Buruji Kashamu, who is the chieftain of Nigeria’s ruling party.

Read more here.

I can only recall a few occasions when the mix was less than ideal.

The ER star Alex Kingston was clearly not a big fan of the American actor Rob Lowe and questioned the way he was talking about his former conquests. As if to prove her point, he said something about her playing a nurse. No, Rob, Alex played a doctor. Women can do that.
—  Graham Norton, The Life And Loves Of A He Devil [x] (October 2014)
My grandmother died this past January, and I did not attend her funeral.

I live in Boston now and she lived in Hisarya, Bulgaria, and I could not afford the plane ticket. This is the equation every emigrant tries to solve: distance times the cost of travel equals helplessness equals heartache equals guilt.

I carried my grief like a bruise on a part of my body hidden from others. I told my husband about my grandmother’s passing but did not want to discuss it, and I didn’t tell any of my friends except one, weeks after the fact, in a text message. I could not bring myself to talk about losing my last living grandparent, because talking about her would mean talking about the literal and figurative ocean between where I come from and where I am now.
"You have your wonderful memories," people said later, as if memories were solace. Memories are not. Memories are by definition of times past, things gone. Memories are the Westlake uniforms in the closet, the faded and cracked photographs, the invitations to the weddings of the people who are no longer married, the mass cards from the funerals of the people whose faces you no longer remember. Memories are what you no longer want to remember.
—  Joan Didion, from Blue Nights

Image via Getty

Today in Book News: Poised atop the pitcher’s mound, Mo’ne Davis was all but unhittable for much of this summer. Dealing a 70 mph fastball that belied her age, Davis became the first female pitcher in Little League history to toss a postseason shutout — and quickly caught the media’s eye. Since the start of her remarkable run, she has graced a Sports Illustrated cover and even starred in a commercial shot by Spike Lee.

Now, she’ll be telling her own story in text. Her memoir, Mo’ne Davis: Remember My Name,will be released in March, The Associated Press reports.

Also today, Entertainment Weekly reports thatDan Harmon, the showrunner of the TV show Community and idol to an expansive Internet cult following, will test the waters with his first collection of essays.

Read more here.

if you want to obtain confidence, I will tell you to start somewhere modest yet so substantial and delicate; your mind. Learn, teach, struggle, seek, experiment, renovate, and most crucially love. Love your mind, and yourself will follow.
—  (via eeccentric
How hard it is to separate a thing from how it looks! I’ve nearly given up thinking I can ever be vulnerable in an essay, not because I won’t risk it, but because I don’t know how I can. Writing is the easiest, most consequence-free way to bare the naked soul. It’s not your lover’s face. It’s not your mother. Vulnerable’s etymology ties to wounds and physical injury, so when I’m surrounded by my ideas and when I’m delivering them to a receptive audience it’s hard to feel the way Gary Gilmore did, hooded before a firing squad. That is, it’s wrong to feel this way. To publish opens the personal essayist to possible attack—attack from strangers (often anonymous)—but no real injury, and thus what might seem at first like attack is more like attention, and why publish other than to get attention, to show off what one’s amassed on the page, like so many shoes in a closet?