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Aspiring writers must navigate the legions of advice from the legends who came before — not a simple task in a world that idolizes both Faulkner and Hemmingway. Read about teachers who advise their students against the use of the word “said,” and graduate programs that reject the use of anything but. (The Wall Street Journal, The Smart Set)

Romanticism, though hard to define, aims to transcend medium, create pure feeling, and remain subject to the whims of chance, sometimes resulting in art that takes the form of blank canvases and bathroom fixtures. Read about unusual copyright claims to John Cage’s romanticist piece “4’33” and Duchamp’s lifelong struggle to find the paradoxical non-medium. (Pigeons and Planes, The Smart Set)

They bite at night and are the scourge of humanity. Read about the math of mutually-assured vampire-human destruction and the existential dilemma of bedbugs. (Atlas Obscura, The Smart Set) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.

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In her Histoire de Ma Vie, the author George Sand describes an encounter with Frédéric Chopin upon returning one night from a trip to Palma. Chopin was playing a melody on the piano, in the grip of a strange delirium. “He saw himself drowned in a lake,” she wrote:

 

heavy and ice-cold drops of water fell at regular intervals upon his breast, and when I drew his attention to those drops of water which were actually falling at regular intervals upon the roof, he denied having heard them. He was even vexed at what I translated by imitative harmony…. His genius was full of mysterious harmonies of nature, translated by sublime equivalents into his musical thought, and not by a servile repetition of external sounds.

The work that Chopin was playing that night — according to “The hallucinations… More…

The old man has always been a Romantic. It is easy to picture him there in the military boarding school in Lima, 1950. He describes it to us in four words; damp, gray, boring, unhappy. That was Mario Vargas Llosa 60 years before he won the Nobel Prize for literature.

 

In the face of the doldrums, Vargas Llosa turned to Victor Hugo. Who else is a sensitive young lad living in Peru going to turn to? I say this jokingly, but also, not. In a curious and enjoyable little book Vargas Llosa wrote about Hugo’s Les Misérables (The Temptation of the Impossible: Victor Hugo and “Les Misérables”), he describes being carried away by Hugo’s world of “extreme misfortune, love, courage, happiness, and vile deeds.”

But more than that, Vargas Llosa speaks about being caught in the horns of… More…

The Roberto Bolaño craze has been in full swing for a few years already. It is to the point that publishers are publishing anything they can find (Bolaño died at age 50 in 2003). Lost works are creeping out of their hiding places. First came Diorama and The Troubles of the Real Police Officer. Now there is a novel about a board game called The Third Reich. All this from the drawers of his desk — God knows what will be revealed should someone finally stumble into the man’s attic or basement.

Morgan Meis has a PhD in Philosophy and is a founding member of Flux Factory, an arts collective in New York. He has written for n+1, The Believer, Harper’s Magazine, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. He won the Whiting Award in 2013. Morgan is also an editor at 3 Quarks Daily, and a winner… More…

 

 

An army of dark clouds slid over Brooklyn today. They came from the north, whence come the wicked. We don’t know who sent them, but we don’t have to. Dark forces are dark forces. It was a Romantic painting in Kings County, New York, something, maybe, by J.M.W. Turner.

Charles Baudelaire once said, “Romanticism is precisely situated neither in choice of subject nor exact truth, but in the way of feeling.” That’s a vague definition perfectly fitting to a vague subject matter. For all the use of words like “precisely” and “exact” it is neither. Romanticism, in short, barely exists. It is more of a mood than a movement. But what is a mood? It’s not a mental state exactly. Mood is more like the color of consciousness. But that merely adds vagary to vagary. Fact… More…