Sebastian Kanczok “He would see It naked, a thing of unshaped destroying light.” Clowns are inherently scary for many people, and when Stephen King chose to make a clown the initial form of his monster in his epic novel It, he was both responding to and enhancing the public’s curious revulsion at popular painted jesters. What “it” truly is in the novel, though, is something intangible. It is the essence of fear projected and manifested. When the adults confront It… Read more »

The Joker’s constant grin is captivating and terrifying, glittering with remorselessness. It’s a signal of madness, the cold laughter of sociopathy. Smiles are often friendly, alluring, and a sign of fun, happiness and comfort. The Joker is king of the forced smile, the cruel grin of glee degenerating into icy malignancy. It turns out that this image of the clown’s face frozen in a permanent, painful grin spawned from a 19th century Victor Hugo novel (here’s a pretty cool graphic… Read more »

Assia Wevill, one of Ted Hughes’ love interests, was also a creative person. While Ted Hughes scrambled to fund his turbulent life with a poet’s living, Assia held down steady jobs in advertising. Her most famous and successful campaign, a 1965 spot for Sea Witch, was a chilling 90-second myth to sell hair dye. Called “The Lost Island,” the humorous ad features a crew of seven men lured to an legendary island of sirens. There were seven of us. Thousands… Read more »

Assia Wevill was a woman erased for a time, her existence concealed by her final lover, poet Ted Hughes. For decades, he shared very personal things with the world but always wrote Assia out of her own life. More recently, however, Assia’s existence is being retraced again, pieced back together and presented as part of the story of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. After Sylvia died, Assia stepped into Sylvia’s life for a time, like walking into a ghost’s shadow. She cared for Sylvia’s children, lived in her rooms, and finally, six years later, killed herself the exact same way Sylvia committed suicide.

Patricia Highsmith wrote The Price of Salt, the novel that was rereleased as Carol decades later, in 1949 while undergoing intense psychoanalysis in an attempt to get herself into “a condition to be married.” Being gay was so socially unacceptable at that time that even a free-thinking, tradition-bucking, iconoclast like Highsmith temporarily bowed to the intense pressure to mold herself into who society thought she was supposed to be.

In 1841, Charles Dickens was taking one of his long nighttime walks at the Canongate Churchyard in Edinburgh, Scotland, when a particular tombstone caught his eye. He scribbled down “Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie” in his journal, along with the words “mean man,” which he thought he saw carved on the man’s grave.

I haven’t seen the film, but I recently read the book version of Diary of a Teenage Girl in a few feverish sessions. It’s a devastating book in many ways, but I wanted it to go on and on. It’s shocking, heartbreaking and absolutely honest. There are some universally relatable things explored in the book, but the reason why it is so empowering and captivating is because it so raw and specific. What’s relatable isn’t necessarily the details but the bravery in the telling. My year of being 15 was very different than Minnie’s, but her story makes me feel less self-conscious about my internal world, both now and then.

David Foster Wallace was an ultimate wunderkind, and he bought into the idea of himself as exceptional to a devastating degree. He was a sensitive person, and sensitive people, especially sensitive smart people, can hold onto the evidence of their specialness like an armor. David Foster Wallace learned the hard way that this type of armor is made of paper, and you can only truly find that out if you dreams come true and you get everything you thought you needed to prove yourself.

Getting incoherency right is a hard job, but that’s exactly what Paul Thomas Anderson pulls off in his delicious adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. To further the disorientation a bit, some of the explanatory details from Pynchon’s packed prose had to be cut, like why private investigator Doc operates out of a dentist’s office. This added confusion makes the film even better, in my opinion. When you’ve entered a twisted, paranoid world like this, exposition can detract from the absurd brilliance.