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Jan. 20, 2017

Articles of Note

A grandfather clock the size of a stick of chewing gum, a Giacometti-style bronze in the palm of your hand. Inside the strange aesthetics of miniatures... more »


New Books

An anti-systematizer in an age of grand theories, Alexander Herzen was once as famous as Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, but died in relative obscurity... more »


Essays & Opinions

The declining authority of statistics – and the experts who analyze them – is at the heart of the crisis of liberal democracy. Welcome to the post-statistical society... more »

Jan. 19, 2017

Articles of Note

Some of our most important thoughts, feelings, and experiences are inexpressible. But can we know something if we can’t articulate it?... more »


New Books

What's the relationship between fact and fiction in Jane Austen's novels? Janeites take pride in discovering “truths," but Austen was fond of fabrication... more »


Essays & Opinions

Truth takes shape in debate. It demands doubt, patience, self-critical inquiry — not qualities of the current moment, when truth functions as a commodity... more »

Jan. 18, 2017

Articles of Note

The man who said he built a robot. Houdini was a magician, and a pilot, inventor, historian, and master of collusion as well... more »


New Books

Is psychology the key to understanding the politics of resentment, antagonism, and self-contradiction? Pankaj Mishra enjoins us to revisit Rousseau, Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche... more »


Essays & Opinions

From Emerson and Carlyle to Lamarck and Darwin, thinkers have debated agency. But where does debating the free will of squirrels, rocks, and robots get us?... more »

Jan. 17, 2017

Articles of Note

Looking for the self in self-help. Self-mastery is an illusion. We do not make ourselves, and we cannot validate ourselves... more »


New Books

How did Wallace Stevens, who lived an excruciatingly mundane and superficial life, write some of the most inventive poetry of the 20th century?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Most novelists don’t make a living at it. "The entire fiction-writing profession resembles a pyramid scheme swathed in a dewy mist of romantic yearning"... more »

Jan. 16, 2017

Articles of Note

Good writers toil without regard for money. The literary economy runs on love, not avarice. That common view, which stretches back millennia, has never been true... more »


New Books

Freud and women, Freud the clinician, Freud with his cigars, Freud and cocaine: Despite the vast materials by and about him, or perhaps because of them, we still don't know who Freud really was... more »


Essays & Opinions

What's to blame for the death of the Western artistic tradition and the beginning of something entirely new? The dangerous idea of creative genius... more »

Jan. 14, 2017

Articles of Note

Is it tenable to celebrate the rise of identity politics in the university while deriding leftist critical theory? Richard Rorty thought so... more »


New Books

Utilitarianism and other abstract theories promise elegant solutions to life’s challenges. But difficult decisions are part of what makes ethical thought ethical... more »


Essays & Opinions

Because the study of logic ended with Aristotle, Kant believed, the field had run its course. But what was logic for in the first place?... more »

Jan. 13, 2017

Articles of Note

In the Middle Ages, human flesh (especially the thigh and the upper arm) was occasionally considered an exotic delicacy. What can cannibalism teach us about culture?... more »


New Books

To read Bernard-Henri Levy is to read about Bernard-Henri Levy as told by Bernard-Henri Levy. Now he's gone in search of the "Jewish thread" of his life. Prepare for vain excess... more »


Essays & Opinions

What literary categories define the Obama age? Christian Lorentzen unpacks autofiction, the new meritocracy novel, the retro novel, and the trauma novel... more »

Jan. 12, 2017

Articles of Note

When Plimpton met Papa in Cuba. In the course of a Paris Review interview, there were executions observed, boxing, drinking, and CIA meddling... more »


New Books

Two cultures of women’s writing rarely mix: the lofty abstractions of Virginia Woolf and the vulgar, popular approach of Cosmopolitan. Enter Elena Ferrante... more »


Essays & Opinions

We know Frantz Fanon for his advocacy of violence, but behind it was a radical humanism. At a psychiatric hospital he introduced theater and a teahouse... more »

Jan. 11, 2017

Articles of Note

This is how the characteristics of an obscure Amazonian language set off an academic feud that shows no sign of letting up... more »


New Books

When Willem de Kooning heard of Jackson Pollock’s death, he celebrated: “I’m number one.” Why do some artistic relationships nourish artists, while others tear them apart?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Written with seen-it-all skepticism and pseudo-philosophical detachment, the feuilleton was part journalism, part prose poem. The reaction to the new form? Utter contempt... more »

Jan. 10, 2017

Articles of Note

It can be hard to remember that philosophical work still gets done outside of seminar rooms and academic journals. Mark Greif reminds us... more »


New Books

Barney Rosset began writing a memoir in 1987. Over the years, 20 people worked on it. Result: It’s unclear not only who wrote the book, but even who it’s about... more »


Essays & Opinions

The arriviste Montaigne’s ascent as mayor of Bordeaux was based on bribes and payoffs. But are the local politics of the father of modern liberalism beside the point?... more »

Jan. 9, 2017

Articles of Note

Derek Parfit was a philosopher of unusual novelty and insight. His gift rested on his indifference to individuals, relationships, and institutions... more »


New Books

With three hearts pumping blue-green blood, eight tentacles, kaleidoscopic skin, and half a billion neurons, the octopus is a distinct experiment in the evolution of the mind... more »


Jan. 7, 2017

Articles of Note

Byron ate egg yolks; Whitman paced for miles and miles; Plath swallowed one pill after another: Why are poets so weird about sleep?... more »


New Books

His name is synonymous with seduction and charm. His life was a nonstop, transcontinental parade of fornication. Why was Casanova so horny?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Success in parenthood is uncertain, and apparent only after a lifetime of battle and worry. Is this why so many fathers of philosophy remained childless?... more »

Jan. 6, 2017

Articles of Note

Remember the Sokal hoax? It's been 20 years since a physicist published a sham article in an academic journal. Why he did it, and how, still matter... more »


New Books

Thanks to the CIA, the Cold War's so-called “free market of ideas” was hardly free. But weaponizing ideas is a tricky business... more »


Essays & Opinions

Science's biggest dilemma isn't funding, replicability, or lack of public respect. It's language. Science has an English problem, and that means a lot of lost knowledge... more »

Jan. 5, 2017

Articles of Note

Secrets of Stradivari. What explains the rich, dark, high-frequency, impossible-to-replicate sound of the peerless violin? ... more »


New Books

P. G. Wodehouse was no stranger to the joys of booze. He developed his own euphemisms -- “tanked to the uvula” -- and a taxonomy of the six varieties of hangover... more »


Essays & Opinions

What would Plato tweet? Social media feels like liberation because it seems to unburden us of our shame. But a man without shame, Plato warned, is a slave to desire ... more »

Jan. 4, 2017

Articles of Note

Depicting the dead was a fixture of 19th-century painting. The genre is marked by skewed bodily proportions and blunt symbolism ... more »


New Books

Jonathan Swift's underwear. He anticipated anti-consumerism, anti-makeup feminism, and animal rights. He was also ahead of his time on matters of personal hygiene... more »


Essays & Opinions

John Brockman's Edge question for 2017 asks scientists and other thinkers: What scientific term or concept ought to be more widely known?... more »

Jan. 3, 2017

Articles of Note

John Berger, art critic, novelist, screenwriter, essayist, counterculture celebrity, cattle herder, is dead. He was 90... more »


New Books

Sometimes the point of a sentence is to jar, sting, or offend. In that case, nothing performs quite like profanity. So why use a euphemism?... more »


Essays & Opinions

If Kepler, Darwin, and Einstein had not come along, would their theories have been discovered by others? Were they indispensable? An alternative history of great ideas... more »

Jan. 2, 2017

Articles of Note

For the past 52 years, The Economist was housed in a London tower. The height, perhaps, facilitated its handing down of Olympian judgments... more »


New Books

Alcohol has been ubiquitous in the history of war, and stimulants have fueled conflicts since World War II. Whatever the substance, war is rarely fought sober... more »


Essays & Opinions

Delmore Schwartz made his debut in 1937. Ten years later, he was the most widely anthologized poet of his generation. Twenty years later, he died alone in the hallway of a sleazy New York hotel... more »

Dec. 31, 2016

Articles of Note

Beyond the Black Notebooks. Heidegger’s newly revealed letters expose his anti-Semitism as a scholarly and moral disaster for German intellectual history... more »


New Books

Günter Grass was a mischief maker, a master of hypocrisy as well as of metaphor. He knew that his last work wouldn’t be his finest, but he wrote it anyway... more »


Essays & Opinions

We think of Beethoven as socially inept: fiercely individualistic, careless about hygiene, occasionally rude and abrupt. Yet he longed for companionship... more »

Dec. 30, 2016

Articles of Note

Close reading with Marlene Dietrich. She had a sexually charged, cerebral relationship with Hemingway. Her true literary love, however, was Goethe... more »


New Books

Part artist, part scientist, Andrew Solomon has written on Libya, identity, and Chinese food. His work is so wide-ranging, he seems to come from an earlier century... more »


Essays & Opinions

The Argentine novelist Antonio Di Benedetto was imprisoned and tortured by the military government in 1976. His coping mechanism: therapeutic forgetting... more »

Dec. 29, 2016

Articles of Note

Cinderella meets sadomasochism. Fairy tales have always departed from conventional morality, but in fin-de-siècle France, their deviance went further... more »


New Books

The Holocaust historian Saul Friedländer smiled and said the right things, but his friends were not fooled. “You are incapable of emotion,” they told him. “Your soul is arid”... more »


Essays & Opinions

The power of “yuck!” and “ew!”. Disgust, which comes from our evolutionary fear of germs, goes a surprisingly long way toward explaining our manners, morals, and religion... more »

Dec. 28, 2016

Articles of Note

Karl Polanyi: Is the mid-20th-century economic theorist an example of the impracticality of left-wing thought? Or a guide for our times?... more »


New Books

Sensory overload. After 500 years, Bosch’s demonic art continues to confound. How to understand an oeuvre that took one observer a year to absorb?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Fielding vs. Richardson, McCarthy vs. Hellman, Nabokov vs. Wilson. Literary feuds, which once raged over serious intellectual disagreements, have been ruined by tweets and TV... more »

Dec. 27, 2016

Articles of Note

Was Bach a bully? He was a teenage thug, drawing a dagger in an altercation with a bassoonist. Then there are the hints of anti-Semitism... more »


New Books

His previous novel said too much. "The true work of art is the one that says the least," he now believed; silence invites readers to imagine depth. How Camus wrote The Stranger ... more »


Essays & Opinions

John Stuart Mill believed that nobody can be a good economist who is just an economist. Yet most study nothing but economics. "Economists are the idiot savants of our time"... more »

Dec. 26, 2016

Articles of Note

Feeling down about the state of the world? Cheer up, says Steven Pinker. Look at trend lines, not headlines, and you'll see that most long-term trends are heading in the right direction... more »


New Books

To consider Pablo Neruda is to raise questions about politics and poison. But, as his lost poems show, he spoke to quiet, humanistic moments as well... more »


Essays & Opinions

At college, things should get more complicated, not less. But students today are told not to think through complex issues themselves — that's been done for them... more »

Dec. 24, 2016

Articles of Note

Seventy percent of museum visitors go for “a social experience” — indeed, serenity is in short supply in crowded galleries. That's why miniature exhibits matter... more »


New Books

Patrick Leigh Fermor sought both the upper crust and peasant bread. He seduced duchesses but for much of his life had no home of his own... more »


Essays & Opinions

The pursuit of productivity seems to exacerbate the anxieties it's meant to allay. What if the idea of efficiency is what makes us feel inefficient?... more »

Dec. 23, 2016

Articles of Note

"The most important thing for any intellectual to have is a sense of proportion," and liberal academics have lost it, says Mark Lilla. "Our campuses are not Aleppo”... more »


New Books

Minae Mizumura, a Japanese novelist, reflects on the possibility of sustaining literatures other than English. To work in the hegemonic language isn't always an advantage... more »


Essays & Opinions

Modern sounds in classical music. Innovation used to take place within the confines of the traditional musical grammar. Now there's a radical break in symphonic sound... more »

Dec. 22, 2016

Articles of Note

If someone changes drastically, does he or she become a different person? The answer to this old philosophical riddle may be in the nature of the change... more »


New Books

How to think about rock. Before the biographies, blogs, and building of brands, it was the music that blew our minds. Behold the manic brilliance of David Bowie... more »


Essays & Opinions

Patrick Modiano: novelist, Nobel laureate, compulsive fabricator. Consider the sinister prank calls, swindling of booksellers, and lies about his age. Are these aesthetic deceptions?... more »

Dec. 21, 2016

Articles of Note

In 1964, Marshall McLuhan was unknown. By 1967, he was a star. How did an obscure professor from Canada transform himself from pious agrarian to media mystagogue?... more »


New Books

What’s new in poetry? Ashbery imitations, Johnny Cash’s scraps, and data-driven drivel. In short: word soup, with a dash of originality... more »


Essays & Opinions

The world’s great minds have argued about the essence of time and the feeling of inhabiting it. To consider time, Augustine argued, is to glimpse the soul... more »

Dec. 20, 2016

Articles of Note

Fake news is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, fake news is older than real news. As facts recede, the power of concocted stories will only grow... more »


New Books

Everything old is new again. Preservationists, as well as Ph.D.s, love recapturing neglected aesthetic styles. The latest beneficiary: Brutalism... more »


Essays & Opinions

“Modern poetry is supposed to be difficult," said T.S. Eliot. It’s an influential view, with disastrous consequences. Christian Wiman is an antidote... more »

Dec. 19, 2016

Articles of Note

Next year, Russians will observe the centenary of the Russian Revolution. And their government will make sure they know almost nothing about it... more »


New Books

Kafka liked swimming, hiking, zooming around on a motorbike, illustrating erotic fiction, and frequenting brothels. Did any of that inform his writing?... more »


Essays & Opinions

You are not necessarily a more intelligent reader at 65 than 25, but you are more subtle. Rereading -- a pleasure and necessity of age -- sometimes means changing your mind... more »

Dec. 17, 2016

Articles of Note

Best-selling books, it’s said, provide “a snapshot of an age.” Yet in every age, while characters and settings may have changed, the narratives are familiar... more »


New Books

What is a longtime marriage like for the French theorists Julia Kristeva and Philippe Sollers? It’s an intellectual exercise, an elegant performance... more »


Essays & Opinions

Evelyn Waugh was cruel and ornery through a misunderstanding. He thought his vocation was to instruct a godless world. But his true calling was as a humorist... more »