Jane Austen Used Pins to Edit Her Manuscripts: Before the Word Processor & White-Out

Before the word processor, before White-Out, before Post It Notes, there were straight pins. Or, at least that's what Jane Austen used to make edits in one of her rare manuscripts. In 2011, Oxford's Bodleian Library acquired the manuscript of Austen's abandoned novel, The Watsons. In announcing the acquisition, the Bodleian wrote:

The Watsons is Jane Austen’s first extant draft of a novel in process of development and one of the earliest examples of an English novel to survive in its formative state. Only seven manuscripts of fiction by Austen are known to survive.The Watsons manuscript is extensively revised and corrected throughout, with crossings out and interlinear additions.

Janeausten.ac.uk (the web site where Austen's manuscripts have been digitized) takes a deeper dive into the curious quality of The Watsons manuscript, noting:

The manuscript is written and corrected throughout in brown iron-gall ink. The pages are filled in a neat, even hand with signs of concurrent writing, erasure, and revision, interrupted by occasional passages of heavy interlinear correction.... The manuscript is without chapter divisions, though not without informal division by wider spacing and ruled lines. The full pages suggest that Jane Austen did not anticipate a protracted process of redrafting. With no calculated blank spaces and no obvious way of incorporating large revision or expansion she had to find other strategies – the three patches, small pieces of paper, each of which was filled closely and neatly with the new material, attached with straight pins to the precise spot where erased material was to be covered or where an insertion was required to expand the text.

According to Christopher Fletcher, Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian Library, this prickly method of editing wasn't exactly new. Archivists at the library can trace pins being used as editing tools back to 1617.

You can find The Watsons online here:

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in August, 2014.

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An Animated Introduction to the Existentialist Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre… and How It Can Open Our Eyes to Life’s Possibilities

Among the vogue names of midcentury Western philosophy, few ever rose to such cultural heights as that of Jean-Paul Sartre. Fans once dropped it whenever they could, and made sure to be seen reading Being and Nothingness wherever they could. But why did his particular ideas so captivate his readers, and what — now that French philosophy fever has, for the most part died down — do we still stand to gain from familiarizing ourselves with them? This six-and-a-half-minute animated Sartre primer from Alain de Botton's School of Life can get us started understanding them.

Sartre's entry in the accompanying site The Book of Life breaks his existentialist philosophy down into four key insights: "Things are weirder than we think," "We are free," "We shouldn’t live in ‘Bad faith’," and "We’re free to dismantle Capitalism."

Or in other words, everyday logic can give way to sheer absurdity; that absurdity provides us glimpses of the vast and usually unacknowledged possibilities of life (which exist not least because nothing has any fixed purpose); we have an obligation to acknowledge those possibilities and our freedom to choose between them; and we need not live under a system that operates to limit those possibilities. But how do we actually act on any of this?

On the most basic level, Sartre helps us realize that "things do not have to be the way they are." He "urges us to accept the fluidity of existence and to create new institutions, habits, outlooks and ideas. The admission that life doesn’t have some preordained logic and is not inherently meaningful can be a source of immense relief when we feel oppressed by the weight of tradition and the status quo." That notion must have exuded a special appeal in the postwar West, when the enormous growth of large-scale industrial and corporate organizations started to make life seem frighteningly regimented.

Things may look quite different here in the 21st century, nearly 40 years after Sartre's death, but even after all our supposed enlightenment and empowerment since then, we'd do well to heed his insistence that nothing in our lives, or thoughts, or our economy really has to be the way it is. And since none of it, in his view, came down to us divinely ordained, we can change any of it whenever and however we wish. We have that great power, but with great power, as the Spider-Man comics say, comes great responsibility. No wonder we so often prefer to pretend we have no choice.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Enroll in Harvard’s Free Online Architecture Course: An Introduction to the History & Theory of Architecture

So, you want to be an architect. Where to begin? It seems like a very big aspiration. One theorist argues that modernist architecture has been “characterized by a thaumaturgic… ambition which would heal the ‘diseases’ of individuals and society.” As anyone who’s spent much time in a housing project, faceless office park, or strip mall might attest, more recent approaches can also have “the power of hurting.”

If you’re intent on wielding the power of architecture for good, you’ll need many years of study and apprenticeship. But whether you’re just getting your feet wet or have already waded into the field, you’ll likely gain quite a lot of understanding from “The Architectural Imagination,” a free online course from Harvard's Graduate School of Design, in which you will “learn how to ‘read’ architecture as a cultural expression as well as a technical achievement.” The course, which begins on February 28th, is free, but for $99 students can also receive a certificate of completion.

“Architecture is one of the most complexly negotiated and globally recognized cultural practices,” notes the course introduction. Building design “involves all of the technical, aesthetic, political, and economic issues at play within a given society.” In addition to creating single-family dwellings, architects are tasked with designing harmonious spaces through which thousands of people might move on a daily basis.

Successful design requires more than an understanding of the necessary relationships between form and function. “In some ways,” the course trailer video above tells us, “it’s just what exceeds necessity that is architecture. And it’s the opening onto that excess that makes architecture a fundamentally human endeavor.”

Healing society? Grasping the big issues in arts, politics, and engineering? Designing for the “fundamentally human”? These are deep briefs indeed. A more lighthearted approach to the field—the tongue-in-cheek “I Am an Architect” rap above—suggests a couple simpler prerequisites for the aspiring architect: a lifelong passion for making things (with blocks, Legos, Jenga, etc.), and, of course, a pair of black plastic glasses. If you can relate, sign up for Harvard’s “The Architectural Imagination” and find many more edX Architecture courses here.

via Arch Daily

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Hear a 19-Hour Playlist of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Favorite Music: Schubert, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and… Yvette Guilbert

Among his many varied interests—which, in addition to philosophy, included aeronautical engineering and architectureLudwig Wittgenstein was also a great lover of music. Given his well-deserved reputation for intellectual austerity, we might assume his musical tastes would tend toward minimalist composers of the early 20th century like fellow Austrian Arnold Schoenberg. The “orderly serialism,” of Schoenberg’s atonal music “does seem an obvious complement to Wittgenstein’s philosophy,” writes Grant Chu Covell. “Observers have wondered why the famously arrogant thinker who attempted to infuse philosophy with logic didn’t find Schoenberg’s 12-tone system attractive.”

But indeed, he did not—in fact, Wittgenstein despised almost all modern music and seemed to believe that “nothing of value had been composed after the 19th century’s demise.” While his philosophical work made as radical a break with the past as Schoenberg’s theory, when it came to music, the philosopher was a strict traditionalist who “liked to say that there were only six truly great composers: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Labor.”

This last name will hardly be familiar to most readers. Labor, a blind organist and composer, was a close friend of the Wittgenstein family and a teacher of Ludwig’s brother Paul (and of Schoenberg as well). Although he lived into the twentieth century, Labor mainly drew his influence from early music.

The extravagantly wealthy Wittgensteins were a musical family—both Ludwig’s older brothers became musicians. Wittgenstein’s parents and grandparents knew Brahms, adopted violinist Joseph Joachim, a distant cousin, into the family, and frequently hosted such luminaries as Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. Ludwig himself learned to play the clarinet and “was a fastidious listener,” Covell notes. “Acquaintances marveled at his virtuoso whistling. His repertoire included Brahms’ Haydn Variations and other symphonic works. He would unhesitatingly correct others’ inaccurate humming or singing.” He supposedly had an “untiring obsession with perfect recreations of the classics.”

The philosopher’s perfectionism lead to some harsh critical judgments. “Brahms is Mendelssohn without the flaws,” he wrote. He declared Mahler “worthless… quite obviously it took a set of very rare talents to produce this bad music.” What did Wittgenstein value in music besides an ideal of perfection? Grammar, silence, and profundity. “The music of the Baroque era… made use of the special effect of silence,” writes Yael Kaduri at Contemporary Aesthetics. “The general pause of the Baroque was used to illustrate concepts such as eternity, death, infinity and silence in vocal music.” These concepts “did not disappear in the transition to the classic era.” Haydn’s music in particular “contains so many general pauses that it seems they form an intrinsic component of his musical language.”

Wittgenstein had other criteria as well, much of it, surely, as enigmatic as the principles that governed his thought. What does become clear, Covell argues, is that “Wittgenstein could only have been attracted to common-practice tonality, with its codified rules and delineation between ornament and form.” He needed “a system the details of which enhance an underlying structure.” In the playlist above, you can hear a selection of the philosopher's favorites. Compiled by Wittgenstein biographer Ray Monk, the playlist omits Haydn, for some reason, but includes Wagner and Romantic composer Georges Bizet.

You’ll also find one rare exception to Wittgenstein’s obsession with classical musical order: cabaret actress and singer Yvette Guilbert, favorite subject of artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and onetime star of the Moulin Rouge. The famously solitary, severe, and ill-tempered philosopher may have, it seems, nurtured a softer side after all.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Is Charles Bukowski a Self-Help Guru? Hear Five of His Brutally Honest, Yet Oddly Inspiring, Poems and Decide for Yourself

I don't know if he’s been replaced as a major influence on young, restless (and almost exclusively male) aspiring writers, but once upon a time—if you weren’t into the romantic wanderlust of Kerouac but still considered yourself a fringe character—it might be to the hard-boiled shit-talking of wise old man Charles Bukowski that you turned. Upon first learning this, and being a busy college student, I decided to take a crash course and checked out a documentary.

I did not find myself charmed all at once. But one can fall in love with an author’s persona yet loathe them on the page. Bukowski’s crudeness and bad humor on film could not hide the deep wells of sadness in which he seemed to swim, as if—like some ancient cynic philosopher—he knew something profound and terrible and spared us the telling of it by posing as a drunken, half-mad street-corner raconteur. I had to go and read him.

In his idiom—that of an eloquent streetwise barfly—Bukowski can be every bit as passionate and profound as his hero Dostoevsky. His unforgettable mixing of comic seediness and casual abuse with a deeply tragic mourning over the human condition, while not to everyone’s taste, make his decades-long struggle out of penury and obscurity a feat worthy of the telling in his semi-autobiographical prose and poetry.

But does it make him a role model? For anyone but certain young, mostly male, aspiring writers maybe spending more time drinking than writing, that is?

A fair number of people seem to think so, and I leave it to you to decide, first by listening to the Bukowski poems read here, posted on YouTube with heavy, inspirational background music. Some are given new titles to sound more like self-help seminars—such as “Reinvent Your Life” at the top (originally “No Leaders, Please”). The video reading called “Go all the way,” second from top, changes the title of “Roll the Dice,” a classic picture of Bukowski’s uncompromising commitment to “going all the way,” even if it means “freezing on a park bench” and “losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs and maybe your mind.”

Solidly middle-class parents might approve of the first poem’s sentiments, which could be wedged into a suitably vague, yet bold-sounding commencement speech or a job recruiter’s pep talk. But “Roll the Dice” simply goes too far. “It could mean jail, it could mean derision, mockery, isolation”? This won’t do at all. Hear another reading of “Roll the Dice” by inspirational rock star Bono further up, just after the more Bukowski-like Tom Waits reads “The Laughing Heart,” frequently referenced for its intensity of feeling. Like Thomas Hardy or Leonard Cohen, the bard of the barstools could look life straight in the eye, see all of its bleakness and violence, and still manage at times to catch a divine glimmer.

And for the many aspirants to whom Bukowski has appealed, we have, further up, “So, You Want to Be a Writer?” Before you hear, or read, this poem, be advised: these are not warm words of encouragement or helpful life-coaching in verse. It is the kind of raw talk no respectable writing teacher will give you, and maybe they’re right not to, who’s to say? Except a man who went all the way, froze on park benches, went to jail, lost girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs and maybe his mind? Read an excerpt of Bukowski’s writing advice below, and just above, hear the author himself read “Friendly Advice to a Lot of Young Men,” which urges them to do virtually anything they like, “But don’t write poetry.”

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Finding Meaning in Music: A Short Documentary on How a Young Tech Pioneer, Confronting His Mortality, Prepared for His Final Violin Performance

The doctor breaks the news. You have terminal cancer, and you might have only a few months to live. How would you spend those final days? That's a question that Eric Sun had to confront when doctors told him he had a glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, in 2016. Only 32 years old, Sun had studied computer science and economics at Stanford, then went to work at Facebook in 2008. Everything was on track. Until it wasn't. Then big decisions had to be made.

Last month, the New Yorker published a poignant profile on Sun, documenting how, facing mortality, he found refuge--and maybe some kind of deeper meaning--in music. The related video above, "Finding Meaning in Music," lets you see Sun returning to his lifelong passion--playing violin--and getting ready for his final performance. In the end, it's art that nourishes the soul.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

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The Brian Eno Discography: Stream 29 Hours of Recordings by the Master of Ambient Music

45 years have passed since Brian Eno left Roxy Music to strike out on his own, launching a more or less unprecedented career spread across music popular and experimental as well as other forms of art entirely. It seems to have worked out for him: young stars like James Blake, Owen Pallett, and Seun Kuti continue to seek out the boundary-pushing creative oversight he previously brought as producer to acts like David Bowie and U2, and his own work as a "non-musician" (which began with him twisting knobs and pushing buttons almost at random with Roxy Music) continues apace, his latest album Reflection having come out just last year.

If you looked for Reflection at the record store, physical or digital, you might well find it filed under "ambient," a genre Brian Eno often gets credited with, though never seems to claim credit for, inventing.

Whether or not he came up with that atmospheric, almost spatial form of music single-handedly — or its computer-composed cousin generative music, which you can experience with Reflection in app form — matters less than the intellectual framework he's built, and that he continually dismantles and rebuilds, around it.

Though Eno has always insisted on the importance of deep feeling in music, perceiving a kind of sacredness in acts like singing and dancing, the creation of his own music has also involved no small amount of cogitation, the fruits of which you can hear in the 29-hour Spotify playlist above. (If you don't have Spotify's free software, you can download it here.) If you got into Eno through his ambient work, what you hear on much of this sonic journey through his discography might surprise you: the jaggedness of a "Sky Saw" from Another Green World, the cyberpunk beats of Nerve Net, or the nervy grooves on his collaborations with former Talking Heads David Byrne. All of it evidences that Eno never runs out of musical ideas, nor the fascination to execute them; no wonder Roxy Music leader Bryan Ferry, nearly half a century later, wants to collaborate with him again.

The playlist starts with Eno's first album, 1974's Here Come the Warm Jets, and then moves through the rest of his discography chronologically. It may not include every album Eno ever made. But it certainly seems to include every Eno album currently available on the streaming service.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Tim Minchin Presents “9 Rules to Live By” in a Funny and Wise Commencement Speech (2013)

Tim Minchin isn’t much of a role model in the hair brushing department, but in every other way the prolific comedian/actor/writer/musician/director inspires.

He’s unabashedly enthusiastic about science, a lifelong learner who’s a strong believer in the power of exercise, travel, and thank you notes….

He uses his stardom and talent for penning controversial lyrics to raise awareness and money for such causes as the UK’s National Autistic Society and a local charity formed to send adults who, as children, were sexually abused by Catholic clergy, to Rome.

His creative output is prodigious.

And he’s one helluva commencement speaker.

In 2013, his alma mater, the University of Western Australia, awarded him an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters and invited him to address the graduating class.

The speaker insisted up front that an “inflated sense of self importance” born of addressing large crowds was the only thing that positioned him to give such an address, then went on to share a funny 9-point guide to life that stressed the importance of gratitude, education, intellectual rigor, and kindness toward others.

If you haven’t the time to watch the entire 12-minute speech, above, be sure to circle back later. His advice is hilarious, heartwarming, and memorable.

In extrapolating the essence of each of his nine “life lessons” below, we discovered many bonus lessons contained therein (one of which we include below.)

Tim Minchin’s 9 Rules To Live By

  1. You don’t have to have a dream. Be micro-ambitious and see what happens as you pursue short-term goals…
  2. Rather than chasing happiness for yourself, keep busy and aim to make someone else happy.
  3. Remember that we are lucky to be here, and that most of us - especially those of us with a college education, or those actively seeking to educate themselves to a similar degree—will achieve a level of wealth that “most humans throughout history could not have dreamed of.”
  4. Exercise. Among other things, it helps combat depression. 
  5. Identify your biases, prejudices, and privileges and do not exempt your own beliefs and opinions from intellectual rigor.
  6. Be a teacher!  Swell the ranks of this noble profession.
  7. Define yourself by what you love, rather than what you despise, and lavish praise on the people and things that move you.
  8. Respect those with less power than yourself, and be wary of those who do not. 
  9. Don’t be in a rush to succeed. It might come at a cost. 

BONUS.  Uphold the notion that art and science are not an either/or choice, but rather compliment each other. “If you need proof—Twain, Douglas Adams, Vonnegut, McEwan, Sagan and Shakespeare, Dickens for a start. …The arts and sciences need to work together to improve how knowledge is communicated. “

Read the full transcript of Minchin’s commencement speech here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Stream the “Complete” John Coltrane Playlist: A 94-Hour Journey Through 700+ Transformative Tracks

In a contrarian take on the legacy of John Coltrane on the 50th anniversary of his death last year, Zack Graham at GQ did not recommend Giant Steps nor A Love Supreme nor Blue Train nor My Favorite Things as the most important album in the artist’s career, but a record most casual jazz fans may never encounter, and which even the hardest-core Coltrane fans never heard in his lifetime. Recorded in the year of his death, Interstellar Space—a frenetic suite of free jazz duets with drummer Rashied Ali—didn’t appear until 1974. The album has since received widespread critical acclaim, and stands, Graham argues, as “Coltrane’s most influential record, its echoes still heard today in everything from electronic music to some of the world’s biggest hip hop acts.”

Graham makes a compelling case. Hardly an accessible album, discerning listeners will nonetheless hear the sound of now in Ali’s stuttering, rapid fire beats and Coltrane’s modal bleats. Looking back, it can almost seem like he knew he was running out of time, and rushed to leave behind a blueprint for the music of the future.

“In his last months,” writes Stephen Davis at Rolling Stone, “Coltrane had changed everything about his music,” and, perhaps, everything about music in general, jazz and otherwise. His evolution as a musician and explorer of the mystical potentialities of artistic expression was so radical that from a certain point of view we are forced to work backward when approaching his catalog, as we might do with biographies of saints.

Should we pursue this line of thinking, however, we might have to grant that the posthumous Interstellar Space and its follow-up Stellar Regions—compiled from tapes Alice Coltrane discovered in 1994—are the result of Coltrane’s final musical apotheosis and thus can sound nigh-incomprehensible to most mere mortals. Interstellar Space “is a musicians’ album, for sure,” Graham admits, and an album for those fully open to the unknown: “the dissonance and enharmonic experimentation… is otherworldly.”

Working backward, we see Coltrane’s transfiguration into an avant-garde pioneer in 1966’s Ascension, an album that “still manages to confound as many listeners as it convinces,” Derek Taylor writes at All About Jazz. A Love Supreme is Coltrane’s gospel, a spiritual classic that draws everyone in with its message of transcendence and oneness. Earlier milestones My Favorite Things, Giant Steps, and Blue Train are each miraculous feats of musicianship that drew huge crowds of admirers and imitators, and then there are the years of apprenticeship, when the young Coltrane studied under masters like Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, and practiced the dharma of Charlie Parker.

A narrative of Coltrane as a kind of musical messiah explains the literal veneration of his work by the Church of Saint John Coltrane, but it is only one convenient means of Coltrane appreciation. In truth, his oeuvre is too vast and varied in scope to neatly sum up in any fully satisfying way. We might just as well start at the beginning, when Coltrane was a mostly unknown, but very hip, sideman, playing with the greats throughout the fifties. “From his Bird-emulating beginnings to his flights into the unknown in his last years,” writes Fernando Ortiz, compiler of the “Complete” John Coltrane playlist above, “the standard of his music and his passion are always at the top or very close to it.”

Comprising over 700 tracks, “or four straight days of listening,” this playlist list is still “far from perfect,” Ortiz admits, “since it is subject to availability and to the non-systematic approach to data on Spotify, but it's not that far this time.”

…no studio recording he made between 1955 and 1965 is missing (his previous years are well represented, starting with his 1946 recordings while in the Navy), which includes all his studio work as a leader during those years, as well as all his recordings as a sideman with Miles and Monk.

The weighting toward live recordings, “both from official and bootleg sources,” provides a very multifaceted view of the artist’s onstage development, and the inclusion of box sets like Heavyweight Champion: The Complete Atlantic Recordings offer panoramic surveys of his studio work. While we don’t get everything here, and some of the omissions are key, you will, if you spend quality time delving into this treasure house, understand why the name Coltrane conjures such intensity of awe, praise, and devotion.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Amanda Palmer Sings a Heartfelt Musical Tribute to YA Author Judy Blume on Her 80th Birthday

Art saves lives, and so does author Judy Blume. While some of her novels are intended for adult readers, and others for the elementary school set, her best known books are the ones that speak to the experience of being a teenage girl.

For many of us coming of age in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Blume was our best—sometimes only—source when it came to sex, menstruation, masturbation, and other topics too taboo to discuss. She answered the questions we were too shy to ask. Her characters’ interior monologues mirrored our own.

The honesty of her writing earned her millions of grateful young fans, and plenty of attention from those who still seek to keep her titles out of libraries and schools.

While her stories are not autobiographical, her compassion is born of experience.

Here she is on Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, a tattered paperback copy of which made the rounds of my 6th grade class, like the precious contraband it was:

When I was in sixth grade, I longed to develop physically like my classmates. I tried doing exercises, resorted to stuffing my bra, and lied about getting my period. And like Margaret, I had a very personal relationship with God that had little to do with organized religion. God was my friend and confidant. But Margaret's family is very different from mine, and her story grew from my imagination.

On It's Not the End of the World:

…in the early seventies I lived in suburban New Jersey with my husband and two children, who were both in elementary school. I could see their concern and fear each time a family in our neighborhood divorced. What do you say to your friends when you find out their parents are splitting up? If it could happen to them, could it happen to us?

At the time, my own marriage was in trouble but I wasn't ready or able to admit it to myself, let alone anyone else. In the hope that it would get better I dedicated this book to my husband. But a few years later, we, too, divorced. It was hard on all of us, more painful than I could have imagined, but somehow we muddled through and it wasn't the end of any of our worlds, though on some days it might have felt like it.

And on Forever, which won an A.L.A. Margaret A. Edwards Award for Outstanding Literature for Young Adults, 20 years after its original publication:

My daughter Randy asked for a story about two nice kids who have sex without either of them having to die. She had read several novels about teenagers in love. If they had sex the girl was always punished—an unplanned pregnancy, a hasty trip to a relative in another state, a grisly abortion (illegal in the U.S. until the 1970's), sometimes even death. Lies. Secrets. At least one life ruined. Girls in these books had no sexual feelings and boys had no feelings other than sexual. Neither took responsibility for their actions. I wanted to present another kind of story—one in which two seniors in high school fall in love, decide together to have sex, and act responsibly.

The heartfelt lyrics of Amanda Palmer’s recent paean to Blume, who turned 80 this week, confirm that the singer-songwriter was among the legions of young girls for whom this author made a difference.

In her essay, "Why Judy Blume Matters," Palmer recalls coming up with a list of influences to satisfy the sort of question a rising indie musician is frequently asked in interviews. It was a “carefully curated” assortment of rock and roll pedigree and obscurities, and she later realized, almost exclusively male.

This song, which name checks so many beloved characters, is a passionate attempt to correct this oversight:

Perhaps the biggest compliment you could give a writer ― or a writer of youth fiction ― is that they’re so indelible they vanish into memory, the way a dream slips away upon waking because it’s so deeply knitted into the fabric of your subconscious. The experiences of her teenage characters ― Deenie, Davey, Tony, Jill, Margaret ― are so thoroughly enmeshed with my own memories that the line between fact and fiction is deliciously thin. My memories of these characters, though I’d prefer to call them “people” ― of Deenie getting felt up in the dark locker room during the school dance; of Davey listlessly making and stirring a cup of tea that she has no intention of drinking; of Jill watching Linda, the fat girl in her class, being tormented by giggling bullies ― are all as vivid, if not more so, as my own memories…

Palmer’s husband, Neil Gaiman, puts in a cameo in the video’s final moments as one of many readers immersed in Blume’s oeuvre.

Readers, did a special book cover from your adolescence put in an appearance?

For more on Judy Blume’s approach to character and story, consider signing up for her $90 online Master Class.

Name your own price to download Judy Blume by Amanda Palmer here.

Related Content:

Judy Blume Now Teaching an Online Course on Writing

Hear Amanda Palmer’s Cover of “Purple Rain,” a Gorgeous Stringfelt Send-Off to Prince

Amanda Palmer Animates & Narrates Husband Neil Gaiman’s Unconscious Musings

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.





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