Celebrating the Everyday, and Other News


On the Shelf

Detail from an 1870s photograph in the Loewentheil Collection.


  • In June 1941, Stefan Zweig, having fled Austria for England and then New York, sat down to elaborate on the circumstances of Hitler’s rise—a story he feared would be lost to history if it weren’t told often and in great detail. George Prochnik explains, “Zweig set to furious work on his autobiography—laboring like ‘seven devils without a single walk,’ as he put it. Some four hundred pages poured out of him in a matter of weeks. His productivity reflected his sense of urgency: the book was conceived as a kind of message to the future. It is a law of history, he wrote, ‘that contemporaries are denied a recognition of the early beginnings of the great movements which determine their times.’ For the benefit of subsequent generations, who would be tasked with rebuilding society from the ruins, he was determined to trace how the Nazis’ reign of terror had become possible, and how he and so many others had been blind to its beginnings.”

  • Prince’s longtime recording engineer, Susan Rogers, elaborates on the key to his creative success and his prolific, generative spirit—he made the space for himself, and he stayed there: “Here’s why his life was possible. He was that much of a genius. Joseph Campbell talked about this in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, about the archetypal myth. In order to express a universal, archetypal truth, you have to go to a deep place in your psyche. You have to go into that deep well of creativity … In order to write that much, and be that prolific, you must protect your psyche, because you go to this dangerous place, really easily and often. You put up a wall, and you tell your management, ‘Don’t let anyone approach me. I’ve got my system. Here’s the system that allows me to create. These are my people who I’m familiar with. These are my places. This is a system where, within this circle, I can create.’ That allows you to have a very long career, because you’ve figured out an armor to protect yourself … Prince was smart enough, as a young man, to know that he’d need to do that if he wanted to have a long career, so he did it. But, to the outside world, he appeared as a big enigma … He valued being invisible, because he valued the work.”