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Jan. 20, 2018

Articles of Note

Babies are like aliens. Parental manuals promise to make that alien less daunting and more manageable. It's a diabolically genius conceit... more »


New Books

Is the U.S. president’s spontaneous philosophy in line with key features of conservatism, or peripheral to them?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Gone is the century of the self. Now we inhabit the century of the crowd. What will it do to literature? Early indications are not promising... more »


Jan. 19, 2018

Articles of Note

Only 700 publications existed in 1865. More than 4,400 existed by 1890, letting readers make tangible connections to other lonely readers... more »


New Books

Joseph Conrad hated being called a writer of “sea stories.” Yet his experience of travel and displacement is what makes his work resonate today... more »


Essays & Opinions

An angry woman can make people uneasy, while a sad woman tends to summon sympathy. But anger can be a responsibility, says Leslie Jamison. It's about accountability... more »


Jan. 18, 2018

Articles of Note

Until recently, Jordan Peterson was a little-known psychology professor who wrote a book almost no one read. Now he leads a growing flock of die-hard disciples... more »


New Books

Denis Johnson was a prodigy, an American Rimbaud. Then, suddenly, he wasn’t. Heroin, alcohol, and the IRS followed, as did great writing... more »


Essays & Opinions

Is the basis of seemingly disinterested criticism really just willful schadenfreude, with a hidden killjoy locked inside even the noblest critic?... more »


Jan. 17, 2018

Articles of Note

This should be the golden age of free speech. And it is, if you can believe your lying eyes. Zeynep Tufekci explains... more »


New Books

“William, you’re very boring.” Empson, in the middle of a poetry reading, ignored the heckler. “William, you are very boring,” she said again. It was his wife... more »


Essays & Opinions

A revolution against boredom, punk music was the 20th century’s last avant-garde movement. What does its demise mean for creative life?... more »


Jan. 16, 2018

Articles of Note

“Literature has only done harm to art,” thought Degas. When looking at a painting, he advised, don’t read the label or the critics. Simply let the art itself speak... more »


New Books

The loves of Mary Shelley. Her husband was openly hostile to her. After his death, she was intimate with several women. Her sexual orientation was clear, perhaps even to herself... more »


Essays & Opinions

Fire and Fury shows that the political and moral problem of this president — a "real-life fictional character" — is also a literary problem: How to get below the surface of a man who is all surface... more »


Jan. 15, 2018

Articles of Note

Why did the French publisher Gallimard seek to republish some of Louis-Ferdinand Céline's notoriously anti-Semitic writings? To make a quick buck, of course... more »


New Books

Ezra Pound: His name is synonymous with the need to separate the life (fascist-sympathizing anti-Semite) from the work (visionary poet and critic) — and the impossibility of doing so... more »


Essays & Opinions

What to do with the works of artists whose conduct has been abhorrent? If a work of art speaks, it does so in a way that transcends the limitations and imperfections of the artist... more »


Jan. 13, 2018

Articles of Note

A writer’s private preoccupations emerge in his writing. Take D.H. Lawrence and posteriors. They are “like hillocks of sand.” They are “globes.” They “thrust"... more »


New Books

Jews and jokes. The Old Testament isn't funny. Jews, however, produce so much humor. Why? Theories abound, few of them funny... more »


Essays & Opinions

Art and the Awokening. As politics and pop culture converge, we must distinguish between what's engineered to flatter contemporary taste and what says something new... more »


Jan. 12, 2018

Articles of Note

Our perception of color cannot be reduced to physics or to psychology. It’s neither external or internal, but somehow in between... more »


New Books

The British writer Ann Quin wrote novels that took aim at aesthetic orthodoxy. They didn’t catch on in the 1960s, but has their time arrived?... more »


Essays & Opinions

We’re awash in life-hacking tips and self-optimization. Do yourself a favor: Put away the self-help guides. Read a novel... more »


Jan. 11, 2018

Articles of Note

Most literature and film is mediocre or worse. Yet reviewers spout effusive praise. Why aren’t critics critical enough? Ben Yagoda has a few thoughts... more »


New Books

Why did George Bernard Shaw, in his final decades, cozy up to Stalin and Mussolini? It was part intellectual isolation, part weakness for flattery... more »


Essays & Opinions

With stylish prose and showy erudition, The New Criterion respectably skewered academic jargon and defended high culture. Then came Roger Kimball... more »


Jan. 10, 2018

Articles of Note

Before Locke and Newton was Zera Yacob. The Ethiopian philosopher hid from persecution in a cave, where he created some of the highest ideals of the Enlightenment... more »


New Books

A radical turn to the past. While much of feminist thought centers on the future, Audre Lorde made herself “a mouthpiece for history"... more »


Essays & Opinions

We tell ourselves that animals lack thought, emotion, and an understanding of death. Those are frail distinctions — they’re more like us than we think... more »


Jan. 9, 2018

Articles of Note

William James saw himself as a popularizer, not an originator. He was harsh about his own work: “No one could be more disgusted than I at the sight of the book”... more »


New Books

A.R. Ammons was one of the great curmudgeons in the history of poetry. He made an aesthetic out of fuddy-duddiness, but he was more than a lovable grouch... more »


Essays & Opinions

When work changes, companies reward new ways of feeling about it. Enter corporate mindfulness. But what about when breathing exercises aren't enough?... more »


Jan. 8, 2018

Articles of Note

People and apes. Their story is one of intimacy, estrangement, betrayal, and attempted reconciliation. It's also about what it means to be a person... more »


New Books

Elizabeth Hardwick said real literature should elicit criticism worthy of the achievement in question. That meant, among other things, a stubborn commitment to good, clear prose... more »


Essays & Opinions

The internet divides us; facts can make us dumber; debunking leads only to more bunk. Those are the tenets of our "post-truth" era. Don't believe them... more »


Jan. 6, 2018

Articles of Note

Aharon Appelfeld, who died this week, didn't speak during the Holocaust. His accent would have given him away as a Jew. So he built a language all his own... more »


New Books

Mencken once estimated that he had published some 10 to 15 million words, everywhere riddled with verbal obscurities: Blattidae, chandala, chrestomathy... more »


Essays & Opinions

There were 10 to 20 of them, scientists and philosophers. They met on Thursday evenings, calling themselves the Vienna Circle. We're still struggling with the aftermath... more »


Jan. 5, 2018

Articles of Note

W.S. Graham was a poet's poet. Everything he did was as an artist. Confronting his own death, he wrote a poem, finally allowing his frailty to be seen... more »


New Books

F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed to have left the Catholic church in 1917. But his commitment to its rituals, as well as the moral urgency of his writing, suggests that he never escaped its influence... more »


Essays & Opinions

Defying the finger-wagging consensus that rational eating means nutrition over pleasure, Henry Finck, a music critic, undertook a new crusade: showing Americans how to savor flavor... more »


Jan. 4, 2018

Articles of Note

Descartes tended to brush aside critics of his ideas. But when in 1643 a young woman wrote to raise some questions, Descartes listened... more »


New Books

Biographers: Henry James feared them as predators. James Joyce ridiculed them as “biografiends.” Saul Bellow compared them to coffin-makers... more »


Essays & Opinions

Think of how readily we accept what a female writer is, or should be. Women are best at looking inward; men are truth-tellers. Women feel, men report... more »


Jan. 3, 2018

Articles of Note

The house Lolita built. Walter Minton was introduced to Nabokov's book by an exotic dancer. Other publishers wouldn't touch it. He saw a marketer’s dream... more »


New Books

Reading aloud is slow, but it used to be the norm. The rise of the novel was what shifted reading habits toward private and speedier consumption... more »


Essays & Opinions

Liberty Under the Soviets, published in 1928, is a remarkable book. How rare to witness the mind of a man doing his best to ignore that his faith is a lie... more »


Jan. 2, 2018

Articles of Note

Foucault is best known as a philosopher of power. Yet he did not offer a philosophy of power, refusing to develop an overarching theory. How is this possible?... more »


New Books

Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist, has read hundreds of books about Darwin and his work. Many are not good, but A.N. Wilson's is by far the worst... more »


Essays & Opinions

We have inherited a lot from Martin Luther, but we misunderstand him. He was not a prophet of modernity but a fear-driven fanatic, a case study in how the reactionary mind-set evolves... more »


Jan. 1, 2018

Articles of Note

Cass Sunstein on his time in Washington: "It’s my job to put ideas out there. If that comes with the risk that someone is gonna do something horrible with it, well, that’s life”... more »


New Books

As old as cave paintings, the umbrella — mundane yet magical — is a reminder of the elements of nature we have still not mastered... more »


Essays & Opinions

Family life wants consistency, repetition, routine, clear things. Eroticism is a different story. Can Esther Perel solve the predicament of contemporary sexuality?... more »


Dec. 30, 2017

Articles of Note

Prophecies of paperless offices notwithstanding, business, ideas, and thought still get written down. Humans are, after all, material. You can’t blow your nose into an email... more »


New Books

Mailer at his height. Consider his Pentagon protest epic, now grievously out of fashion. At the time it was the longest article ever to appear in an American magazine... more »


Essays & Opinions

What, exactly, are thought experiments? Glimpses into Plato’s heavenly realm? Simple, ordinary argumentation? They may be something else entirely: mental modeling... more »


Dec. 29, 2017

Articles of Note

Every scale, spike, and tentacle. Ernst Haeckel’s detailed documentation of marine creatures shaped the way modern science developed — but not always for the best... more »


New Books

Ecclesiastical control of universities, the Galileo affair, the Inquisition — what happens when science and religion clash? Dialogue is impossible; conflict, inevitable... more »


Essays & Opinions

“Factuality” in fiction. For Mary McCarthy, novels had to do one thing above all else: communicate the truth, unpopular as it may be... more »


Dec. 28, 2017

Articles of Note

Consider silent thinking: language amounting to a kind of behavior. But if words are mental objects, what characteristics do they have... more »


New Books

The bookishness of Bolsheviks. Their acceptance of apocalyptic violence wasn’t suppressed by the literary fraternity of their upper echelon... more »


Essays & Opinions

Knausgaard writes about doing housework, making tea, buttering sandwiches, the ordinariness of his daily existence. What makes his writing so compelling?... more »


Dec. 27, 2017

Articles of Note

You have six hairy legs, five eyes, a tongue, but no taste buds. Red looks like black, and you see in pixels: You are a bee. What does that feel like?... more »


New Books

By itself, travel does produce epiphanies. But it also makes clear that the language of location is relative — everywhere is to the east of something and to the west of something else... more »


Essays & Opinions

Romain Gary was a clown prince of French literary life. Little of what he said was true, though he was essentially honest. He personifies the distinction between fabulist and fraud... more »


Dec. 26, 2017

Articles of Note

Philosophers, savants, sages, and intellectuals have always been attracted to power. But what are the delusional propensities that led so many to embrace dictators?... more »


New Books

Africa did not live up to Michel Leiris’s expectations. The Nile seemed a “common canal”; the insects were awful. His conclusion? “Writing a travel book is an absurd undertaking”... more »


Essays & Opinions

Derided by the public, attacked by politicians, a scapegoat and strawman for left and right alike, the humanities will nonetheless endure — even if there is no case to defend them... more »


Dec. 25, 2017

Articles of Note

Mark Lilla tried to save liberalism from itself. Instead he became a punching bag, the Harry Potter-style, glasses-wearing personification of smug bourgeois centrism... more »


New Books

Christian Wiman has written about the correlation between the quality of a poem and a poet’s capacity for suffering. But does he understand joy?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Sexual liberation in fiction. Edith Wharton’s writing on sex was informed by Whitman, Nietzsche, and Wilde, and an affair with a journalist... more »


Dec. 23, 2017

Articles of Note

Dickens mania. The author hated being treated like a rock star in America. He couldn’t so much as drink a glass of water without being mobbed... more »


New Books

“To Be Liked by You Would Be a Calamity.” Marianne Moore’s poems could be funny, tart, and conversational. But they had to have intensity... more »


Essays & Opinions

What does biology teach us about human nature? That there is no such thing as human nature. We have to make it up as we go... more »


Dec. 22, 2017

Articles of Note

Child prodigies fascinate because they are auguries. What do they reveal? All children flout both our best and our worst intentions... more »


New Books

Desire for booze lubricated the course of history: agriculture, civilization, revolution. What is it about getting drunk that we love so much?... more »


Essays & Opinions

A good education provides tools for understanding the world. Indoctrination offers just one lens. On many college campuses, that lens is power and privilege... more »


Dec. 21, 2017

Articles of Note

Why was Brigid Hughes, who succeeded George Plimpton as editor of The Paris Review, omitted from the magazine's history?... more »


New Books

Joseph Conrad fell out of favor long ago. There's the racism, of course, and his obsession with courage and honor. Yet he anticipated our world... more »


New Books

For all the claims of paranoia, dislocation, and fragility, Joan Didion offers what none of her critics suspect: solidity. Patricia Lockwood explains... more »


Dec. 20, 2017

Articles of Note

How culture shapes madness. The dominant mode of psychiatry is one of brains, genes, and drugs. But what if schizophrenia is less hard-wired and more variable than we think?... more »


New Books

For a time, Edward Garnett was known as the best reader in London. In reality, he was something like a literary mafia boss, nurturing his "cubs" and dispensing with others... more »


Essays & Opinions

Even friends of Mary McCarthy could muster only backhanded praise for her work. What put them off? Her perverse honesty, for one thing... more »


Dec. 19, 2017

Articles of Note

Philosophy now comes to us in one form: the peer-reviewed article, published (preferably in English) in an academic journal. No wonder philosophy has become so irrelevant... more »


New Books

The rise of the Instapoets. Often dismissed as “not real poetry” or for “greeting-card verse,” the works of Rupi Kaur and other social-media scribes deserve our attention... more »


Essays & Opinions

The art of conducting. While you can demonstrate stick technique, you cannot teach a budding young conductor how to cultivate a magnetic personality... more »


Dec. 18, 2017

Articles of Note

Storytelling is inextricable from power: The act of reading is an act of submission. At best, reading novels is salutary. At worst, it erodes our sense of self... more »


Essays & Opinions

It does not take long to sense something false in Andrew Wyeth. His art was his artifice, and his compelling images carry the stamp of inauthenticity. James Panero explains... more »