Man is What He Hides

In “We Are What We Hide,” a piece about the (seemingly) double lives of Norman Rockwell, Ernest Hemingway, and J.D. Salinger, Lee Siegel concludes with, what I think, one of the best paragraphs I’ve read this week:

The miserable, repressed, cheerily idealizing Norman Rockwell is not so strange, after all. Rather, the law of opposites is a universal condition. The psyche is a clock with at least four hands that move in different directions simultaneously. We live amid the riot of our own secret counterpoints, some of which complete and fulfill our human promise, some of which betray it. As Malraux, the Resistance hero, adventurer, diplomat, and novelist, who is said to have suffered from Tourette’s syndrome, once wrote: “Man is not what he thinks he is; he is what he hides.”

I agree with this:

But the law of opposites is too rich, too weird, too universal to be classified and dismissed as a character defect.

Worth reading.


Readings: J.D. Salinger, Free Writing, Charles Darwin

Three things I’ve read today, all worth twenty minutes of your time:

1) “An Evening with J.D. Salinger” [Paris Review] – Blair Fuller recounts a very interesting evening with one of his favorite writers, J.D. Salinger. In attendance are Blair’s younger sister, Jill and her husband, Joe:

He [J.D. Salinger] asked us to call him Jerry, then asked some routine questions about what we were doing and why, but with a pleasing sympathetic intensity. He made several comments that put him on our side, the side of people starting out rather than the people settled in to lifelong careers. The conversation warmed, and we found that we could make each other laugh.

But as the evening progresses, things turn for the worse. The narrative in this piece is wonderful — you have to read the entire thing.

2) “No One is Forced to Write for Free” [Anna Tarkov’s blog] — the day after the huge AOL purchase of Huffington Post, Anna Tarkov writes an excellent piece about why Huffington Post writers continue to write for free (and why it’s not as bad as some people make it out to be). Great argument:

No, the reality as we all know is that people chose to write on Huffington Post for free. They chose to do it because HuffPo gave them a platform where a lot of eyeballs would potentially see what they wrote. Most people can’t get that kind of visibility on their own blog. Maybe Dan Gillmor can, but I can’t. So if I decide to write on HuffPo for nothing more than attention, then I’m getting paid in a sense, just not in dollars. How is this different than a business buying a billboard on a busy expressway?

I’m curious whether people in other professions feel similarly about exposing their work for free: photographers, artists, etc.

3) “Charles Darwin’s Little Known Psychology Experiment” [Scientific American] – Darwin wasn’t just well-known for advancing his theory of evolution. This is a great read:

In 1872, Darwin published The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, in which he argued that all humans, and even other animals, show emotion through remarkably similar behaviors. For Darwin, emotion had an evolutionary history that could be traced across cultures and species—an unpopular view at the time. Today, many psychologists agree that certain emotions are universal to all humans, regardless of culture: anger, fear, surprise, disgust, happiness and sadness.

(Hat tip: @matthiasrascher)