Playboy Interview: Ta-Nehisi Coates

“Things don’t just flow out of your brain. It’s not like, Hey, I’m brilliant. Show up, paper right here, bam, another banger. No—you sit and you struggle with yourself and you stop cutting your hair. I’m not cutting my hair right now. You stop shaving, like I’m not shaving right now. You remember that you can fail. I’ve failed several times. The fact that everybody else don’t see that don’t give me the right to not see it.”

More: Ta-Nehisi Coates on the Longform Podcast

A Conversation With New York Times Film Critic A.O. Scott

“There are critics who see their job as to be on the side of the artist, or in a state of imaginative sympathy or alliance with the artist. I think it's important for a critic to be populist in the sense that we’re on the side of the public. I think one of the reasons is, frankly, capitalism. Whether you’re talking about restaurants or you’re talking about movies, you’re talking about large-scale commercial enterprises that are trying to sell themselves and market themselves and publicize themselves. A critic is, in a way, offering consumer advice.”

Mary Karr: The Art of Memoir No. 1

“People who didn’t live pre-Internet can’t grasp how devoid of ideas life in my hometown was. The only bookstores sold Bibles the size of coffee tables and dashboard Virgin Marys that glowed in the dark. I stopped in the middle of the SAT to memorize a poem, because I thought, This is a great work of art and I’ll never see it again.”

The Price of Black Ambition

“I am having a moment, but I only want more. I need more. I cannot merely be good enough because I am chased by the pernicious whispers that I might only be ‘good enough for a black woman.’”

Maya Angelou: The Art of Fiction No. 119

“But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy. It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth. Not superficial costs—anybody can have that—I mean in truth. That’s what I write. What it really is like. I’m just telling a very simple story.”