“At the age of twenty, Jacques Derrida took the entrance exams for the prestigious École Normale Supérieure a second time, having failed, as many students do, in his first attempt the previous year. Fueled by amphetamines after a sleepless week, he choked on the written portion and turned in a blank sheet of paper.”

Emily Eakin reviews a new biography that traces Derrida’s lifelong sense of exclusion and his complicated relation to first French and then American academics.

Photo: Jacques Derrida at the Sorbonne, June, 1979 (Martine Franck/Magnum Photos)

“At the age of twenty, Jacques Derrida took the entrance exams for the prestigious École Normale Supérieure a second time, having failed, as many students do, in his first attempt the previous year. Fueled by amphetamines after a sleepless week, he choked on the written portion and turned in a blank sheet of paper.”

Emily Eakin reviews a new biography that traces Derrida’s lifelong sense of exclusion and his complicated relation to first French and then American academics.

Photo: Jacques Derrida at the Sorbonne, June, 1979 (Martine Franck/Magnum Photos)

Francine Prose, Making Up Edith Wharton

When Edith Wharton—then Edith Jones—was a little girl, her favorite game was called “making up.” “Making up” involved pacing around with an open book and (before she could read) inventing and then later half reading, half inventing stories about real people, narratives that she would chant very loud and very fast. The constant pacing and shouting were important parts of the game, which (according to Wharton’s memoir, A Backward Glance) had an enraptured, trance-like, slightly erotic aspect. Her parents spied on her, and it made them nervous.

(Photo: Edith Wharton Collection, Beinecke Library, Yale University)

Francine Prose, Making Up Edith Wharton

When Edith Wharton—then Edith Jones—was a little girl, her favorite game was called “making up.” “Making up” involved pacing around with an open book and (before she could read) inventing and then later half reading, half inventing stories about real people, narratives that she would chant very loud and very fast. The constant pacing and shouting were important parts of the game, which (according to Wharton’s memoir, A Backward Glance) had an enraptured, trance-like, slightly erotic aspect. Her parents spied on her, and it made them nervous.

(Photo: Edith Wharton Collection, Beinecke Library, Yale University)