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March 23, 2017

Articles of Note

What made Marianne Moore’s poetry modern? Her patriotism, feminism, morality, and queer-family experience. Along with her participation in a cultural genocide... more »


New Books

The novel has been declared dead so many times that such arguments are less interesting than theories about why they keep being made... more »


Essays & Opinions

"Paying attention is the only thing that guarantees insight. It is the only real weapon we have against power, too." Michelle Dean on why paying attention is a moral obligation... more »

March 22, 2017

Articles of Note

The condition is creeping rather than acute, and it manifests itself variously. "Reader's block,” as Geoff Dyer calls it, defines the cultural climate... more »


New Books

In the darkness, she saw her father perched on a ledge. “I’m going to jump!” he yelled. Her mother replied, “Why don’t you?” Just another night in the Tynan household... more »


Essays & Opinions

A libertine, but so much more. Casanova was an actor, an outcast, a priest, a gambler, and a common man passing as (and sleeping with) the aristocracy... more »

March 21, 2017

Articles of Note

Robert Silvers, who described editors as middlemen and cautioned against taking credit away from writers, is dead. The founding editor of The New York Review of Books was 87... Laura Marsh... Adam Gopnik... Mary Beard... Hillel Italie... Cass Sunstein... Louis Menand... NYRB... Ian Buruma... more »


New Books

Suicide, self-destruction, poetry. Berryman, Plath, Chatterton, Larkin, Frost, Auden: Is an unhappy end a necessary price for poetic genius?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Deconstruction: a detective story. A new play about Paul de Man shows how something monstrous can begin as a cavalier disregard for truth ... more »

March 20, 2017

Articles of Note

Now 87, Norman Podhoretz has outlived his friends and adversaries. His body is slowing, but his ego is strong.  “I’m not famous for my modesty, whether false or otherwise”... more »


New Books

Being married to Thomas Carlyle, said a friend, must be "something next worse to being married to Satan himself." Carlyle's wife, Jane, made the most of the situation... more »


Essays & Opinions

Where do novelists go when reality overtakes their absurdist visions? They escape into the past, into mythology. But the past can't adequately account for the present... more »

March 18, 2017

Articles of Note

How a little circle of Southern California Straussians became the intellectual hub of Trumpism. Meet the Claremonsters... more »


New Books

Machiavelli was not Machiavellian, but just a good-hearted guy who wrote The Prince ironically. Or so asserts a new book. Terry Eagleton is having none of it... more »


Essays & Opinions

When Barthes’s mother died, he fixated on a photo of her as a young girl. Why are mundane objects — a photo, a grocery list — so often central to grief?... more »

March 17, 2017

Articles of Note

What kind of writer would Jane Austen have gone on to be had she lived beyond her early 40s? “Of all great writers," said Virginia Woolf, "she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness”... more »


New Books

Why has The Hatred of Poetry been such a publishing success? Yes, Ben Lerner is witty and charming. But more important, he gives readers permission to be a bit philistine... more »


Essays & Opinions

Unlike some name-brand atheists, Nietzsche didn’t waste time on easy targets like miracles or relics. He laughed at God. And nothing restores a sense of proportion like a sense of humor... more »

March 16, 2017

Articles of Note

In the 1960s and '70s, Habermas, Rorty, and their generation of philosophers focused almost exclusively on language. A singular exception: Foucault, who matters now more than ever... more »


New Books

Gay Talese’s eye for detail has made him a legend. But his obsession with observation can preclude deeper insights... more »


Essays & Opinions

Hypocrisy is a limited measure of moral failing. It doesn't test for goodness, badness, efficacy, or intention. If the goal is less to be consistent than to be better, we need a more exacting metric... more »

March 15, 2017

Articles of Note

The life of a literary liar. Clifford Irving is that rare fabulist who is openly grandiose about his determination to put one over on his audience... more »


New Books

When failure to get the story was the story. The trope pervaded the New Journalism. Now Joan Didion shares her journalistic defeat: the South... more »


Essays & Opinions

A democracy with an exceptionalist heritage is unprepared to respond wisely when arrogance takes over. That's the lesson of Athens and Plato: Greatness has to be earned again and again... more »

March 14, 2017

Articles of Note

Not just neurons. Materialism, our most celebrated way of understanding the mind, on closer examination looks woefully inadequate... more »


New Books

Karl Miller was an editor at The Spectator and the New Statesman, and co-founded the London Review of Books. He was pugnacious, wise, and, not least, a good father... more »


Essays & Opinions

Survival of the buzziest. In our clickbait culture, critics are dying off. But popularity is not a substitute for value, or so we keep telling ourselves... more »

March 13, 2017

Articles of Note

Slavery and higher education. "I don’t know how you conduct research that shows that your very existence is rooted in a great crime and just say, ‘Well,’ shrug—and maybe at best say, ‘I’m sorry’"... more »


New Books

Il Duce's last lover. The myth of Mussolini as the leader who never flagged, a man of power and daring, cast a spell on Claretta Petacci. "I’d like to jump onto your bed like a big tomcat"... more »


Essays & Opinions

Two cultures, then and now. When C.P. Snow lamented the gulf between the literati and scientists, in 1959, he posed a problem that can never be fully solved. But it could be better understood ... more »

March 11, 2017

Articles of Note

In 1936, a middling novelist went to live among the poor and unemployed in the north of England. He returned as George Orwell, champion of democratic socialism... more »


New Books

When it comes to precise and memorable extended descriptions, Elizabeth Bishop is unrivaled. Yet great poets provoke strong emotions, and her verse lacks fire... more »


Essays & Opinions

To be cultured is to know how much you want to know, and what you don't want to know. Think Jacques Barzun: formidable without being stuffy, he was an authority on French prosody, baseball, and detective fiction... more »

March 10, 2017

Articles of Note

Catching up with Camille. In the 1990s she showed up at photo shoots with whip and sword. Now she claims to crave anonymity. Still, the cult of Paglia persists... more »


New Books

Tennyson despaired at the existence of fossils; Darwin mocked such thinking as “catastrophist.” Our notion of extinction rests on the relationship between the arts and sciences... more »


Essays & Opinions

In his lifetime, Georg Lukács was attacked from both right and left. He was too philosophical, “bourgeois,” a “deviationist.” His political troubles hardly ended when he died... more »

March 9, 2017

Articles of Note

Think of a powerful person. You probably pictured a man. To empower women, a different way of thinking about power is called for. Mary Beard explains... more »


New Books

Angela Carter’s becoming a feminist icon and darling of academics was an unhappy development for her. "The thought that I’m taught in universities makes me feel rather miserable”... more »


Essays & Opinions

Of ice and art. From Burke’s sublime to Freud’s unconscious to Hemingway’s theory of artistic ingenuity, the iceberg has come to represent the creative process. Why?... more »

March 8, 2017

Articles of Note

What do artists do, mostly? They tweak what they've already done. George Saunders finds it helpful to imagine a meter on his forehead... more »


New Books

The impediments of style. Terry Eagleton’s writing proceeds by jokey elaboration, winking asides, and absurdist flights of fancy. It’s fun, but frustrating... more »


Essays & Opinions

Professions colonize our imaginations. So thought Ivan Illich, who was against schools, medicine, transportation, law, psychotherapy, and the media... more »

March 7, 2017

Articles of Note

Kafka spent most of his nights alone, embracing asceticism and avoiding social obligations. But it was love that shaped the end of his life... more »


New Books

Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac grew up speaking joual, a working-class dialect of Canadian French. Later, going by “Jack,” he would shape the nature of Americana... more »


Essays & Opinions

Selective private colleges have become religious schools. Adherents believe they possess the moral truth. This is dogma, not scholarship... more »

March 6, 2017

Articles of Note

Anthony Burgess began writing because he thought he had a year to live and wanted to make money for his widow-to-be. He didn't die and couldn't find a job, so he kept on writing... more »


New Books

Every perished democracy died in its own way. In 1930s Germany, what mattered most was that so many citizens were willing to allow Hitler to do what he did ... more »


Essays & Opinions

In praise of “useless” knowledge. The best scientific minds — Einstein, Faraday, Planck — have been driven by curiosity and intellectual challenge, not practical applications ... more »

March 4, 2017

Articles of Note

Eat like a 16th-century pope. Delicacies included monkey brain, parrot tongue, and Turkish fish. Silverware was tossed out the window after each course... more »


New Books

Find the moral landscape of our times rather impoverished? You're not alone. Rod Dreher suggests taking a cue from a sixth-century monk and retreating from modernity... more »


Essays & Opinions

There is excitement in the air. Writers are anxious but not unhappy. Political upheaval has given them a fresh sense of militancy and purpose. How galvanizing — and disturbing... more »

March 3, 2017

Articles of Note

Shyness is both common and mysterious. Is it a mere feeling? A chronic condition? A form of anxiety? It’s certainly misunderstood... more »


New Books

The myth of Machiavelli as an amoral schemer is just that — a myth. But as to whether he had a dim view of women, even by the standard of Florentine men of his era: guilty as charged... more »


Essays & Opinions

Daniel Dennett thinks consciousness is an illusion. This, says Thomas Nagel, is the sort of sad contortion that materialists make to follow the narrow rules of physics... more »

March 2, 2017

Articles of Note

Shakespeare's language tics — “gentle,” “answer,” “beseech,” “tonight” — reveal the sometimes vague line between authorship and influence among Elizabethan playwrights... more »


New Books

Didion in Faulkner country. In her 1970 travels, she discovered the morbidity of New Orleans, the rarity of bikinis, and the difficulty of ordering dinner after 8 p.m.... more »


Essays & Opinions

Claude Monet became synonymous with money. What sparked the 19th-century love affair between American wealth and innovative French art?... more »

March 1, 2017

Articles of Note

Is writing about the arts self-indulgent in a time of political upheaval? No. Cultural criticism is a community service... more »


New Books

Why do writers write? Narcissism, rage, a quest for ecstasy, a therapeutic impulse. Then there’s J.M. Coetzee, who writes out of apathy... more »


Essays & Opinions

When John Berger died this year, obituaries depicted him as a Marxist rabble-rouser. And he was. But that was only one of his modes... more »

Feb. 28, 2017

Articles of Note

Britain's political establishment is self-confident, intellectually flexible, and increasingly out of favor. Is the problem that its pillars all have the same degree from Oxford?... more »


New Books

Possessing, per Orwell, a “general hatred of humanity,” Jonathan Swift was a peerless misanthrope. He told Alexander Pope he wanted “to vex the world rather than divert it”... more »


Essays & Opinions

In times of historical turmoil, we gravitate to dead writers. The stories they tell — or we tell ourselves — tend to be comforting. But that doesn't mean they're convincing... more »

Feb. 27, 2017

Articles of Note

The idea of willpower has an intuitive hold on our imaginations, rooted in social attitudes and philosophical speculation — not science ... more »


New Books

Evelyn Waugh, the funniest writer of his generation, was a famously charming companion. Unless you were a member of his family... more »


Essays & Opinions

Inside David Gelernter's eclectic mind. The computer scientist on the recursive structure of architecture, why Schubert is the greatest composer, and the ideological narrowness of commercial magazines ... more »

Feb. 25, 2017

Articles of Note

Andy Warhol, dead 30 years, anticipated our times. He celebrated commercialism, celebrity, and had an opinion of Donald Trump: "I think Trump's sort of cheap"... more »


New Books

Sleuthing word origins has become a game that anyone can play. Now the old founts of linguistic innovation are falling. Poor James Joyce... more »


Essays & Opinions

When Nell Zink left college she was determined to avoid the trap of femininity. Then she read The Golden Notebook and affirmed her womanhood for the first time... more »

Feb. 24, 2017

Articles of Note

Robert Lowell’s herculean strength of character. After each of 16 shame-filled, soul-killing episodes of insanity, he sought to re-establish his life... more »


New Books

Cézanne, who grew up in a mountainous region, was a master of line. Turner, from London, was expert in mist and fog. Does geology dictate art?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Francis Picabia was unpredictable, irreverent, improvisational, and not infrequently, amateurish: “A painter whose very maladroitness can leave you feeling uplifted"... more »

Feb. 23, 2017

Articles of Note

We are “unique, irreplaceable" says the humanist. We contain multitudes, says the scientist — bounded by the narrow confines of our skulls... more »


New Books

Critics are unkind to Anna Komnene, the princess who presumed to write military history. It's been suggested not only that her husband wrote her works, but that she plotted fratricide... more »


Essays & Opinions

Life among the Jargonauts. How do smart academics become insufferable windbags? By failing to ask, “When is my jargon necessary and when am I just being an asshole?”... more »

Feb. 22, 2017

Articles of Note

The idea of intelligence has justified slavery, oppression, eugenics. No wonder the prospect of artificial intelligence fills us with dread... more »


New Books

Somewhere at the uneasy intersection of art and science, Impressionism and empiricism, objectivity and subjectivity, sits the Rorschach test. Behold the blot... more »


Essays & Opinions

When consensus was king. For a generation of historians, liberalism and centrism were taken for granted. Now historians no longer know what to think about America... more »

Feb. 21, 2017

Articles of Note

How to stage a ballet in Soviet Russia. Avoid not only technical kinks but also ideological defects, which Sergei Prokofiev was unable -- or unwilling -- to do... more »


New Books

Ezra Pound's insanity spared him from execution but condemned him to the asylum. His delusions of conspiracy, persecution, and grandeur speak to the politics of our time... more »


Essays & Opinions

Karl Kraus's The Last Days of Mankind, a World War I epic, ran more than 600 pages and comprised 500 characters. A stage production would take 10 nights. Kraus wrote it for a theater on Mars... more »

Feb. 20, 2017

Articles of Note

Veneration of Shakespeare blinds us to the brilliance of other writers, to the other ways a play can and should be. The case against Shakespeare as a lone genius... more »


New Books

Silicon Valley: Live in a group house, work with a "start-up accelerator," feel like king of the world even if you're running a company that does nothing... more »


Essays & Opinions

Jerusalem is many things, a center of learning and a source of discord and derangement. But it's never been a multicultural paradise, whatever the claims of a blockbuster new exhibit... more »

Feb. 18, 2017

Articles of Note

In the mid-60s, Norman Podhoretz gave up on becoming the next Lionel Trilling. Instead he wrote about ambition, alienating almost everyone he knew... more »


New Books

At 15, he was a member of the Hitler Youth. At 24, he attacked Heidegger for sympathizing with Nazism. The complicated moral development of Jürgen Habermas... more »


Essays & Opinions

Voltaire thought Shakespeare "a drunken savage”; Mencken dismissed Gatsby as a "glorified anecdote." Why great critics make terrible judgments... more »

Feb. 17, 2017

Articles of Note

Norman Mailer helped free the convicted murderer Jack Henry Abbott, promising him work as his literary assistant. Shortly after Abbott’s release, he killed again... more »


New Books

The self-righteousness of literary style guides. They offer advice like “avoid fancy words” but often fail to practice what they preach... more »


Essays & Opinions

Juan Luis Vives in Paris, Erasmus in Venice. Does the mobility of 16th-century intellectuals explain Europe’s rise in fortunes?... more »