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April 21, 2018

Articles of Note

Algorithms and the end of taste. Taste is a moral capacity, an ability to recognize truth and beauty. It was once a human quality. Now it's a digital product... more »


New Books

“Young men should prove theorems,” a mentor told a young Freeman Dyson. “Old men should write books.” Now 94, Dyson is following that advice... more »


Essays & Opinions

The field of complexity science tackles questions like: Why are there 10,000 species of birds on Earth, but only 5,000 species of mammals? A key insight: Scale matters... more »


April 20, 2018

Articles of Note

“Hollywood is corrupting the language,” sniffed the Telegraph. But British culture doesn't need saving from the Americans. English is thriving, and all the better for its new imports... more »


New Books

The artist the public loved and the critics loved to hate. Who but Leonard Bernstein would begin a New York Philharmonic performance by singing the Kinks?... more »


Essays & Opinions

“Poetry makes nothing happen,” thought Auden. But properly understood, books are a type of magic: “To write is to sell a ticket to escape, not from the truth but into it.”... more »


April 19, 2018

Articles of Note

Who can afford to write? Magazines haven’t raised their rates since the 1950s. Even New Yorker staff writers typically don’t get health insurance... more »


New Books

The political intrigue, the horseback escape from arrest, the serial cheating — Pablo Neruda’s life was meant for telling. So how does a new biography fall flat?... more »


Essays & Opinions

43 years ago, Laura Mulvey coined the term “male gaze.” Is it still artistically justifiable for a man to paint a naked woman?... more »


April 18, 2018

Articles of Note

She was in Paris with the Lost Generation, fled Europe in 1941 with Peggy Guggenheim, got arrested with Joan Baez. Kay Boyle went everywhere and saw everything... more »


New Books

In 1778, two women abandoned their routines and took to the Welsh countryside to write, think, read, and entertain literary guests. Is such a life still possible today?... more »


Essays & Opinions

We express our emotions physically, but now we mediate them digitally as well. As Don DeLillo put it, “Nobody knows how to feel and they’re checking around for hints”... more »


April 17, 2018

Articles of Note

Neuroscience, social science, and history give us radically different ways of approaching empathy. But is empathy a moral force? Or a shibboleth?... more »


New Books

At least since Aesop, animals were seen as symbols useful for understanding human morality. Then, in 1668, Descartes’s work changed everything... more »


Essays & Opinions

"We won. ... But having won, we have no sense of balance or modesty or graciousness," Jaron Lanier says about those who built the internet. "So we kind of turned into assholes"... more »


April 16, 2018

Articles of Note

We are all cyborgs. Our minds extend into the world and develop in response. That's the opinion of the philosopher Andy Clark, who sees this as an excellent thing. Is it?... more »


New Books

Not content with absolute power, dictators write long and tedious books. That's not to say tyrants are always poor stylists. Stalin's strengths were modest, but real... more »


Essays & Opinions

Did Orwell really did shoot an elephant in Burma? Did Sontag accurately represent a get-together? The vagaries of memory pose a special threat for writers... more »


April 14, 2018

Articles of Note

Benjamin Franklin, “Dear Abby,” Dale Carnegie: America is unique in its hankering for advice on how to date, mourn, work, and raise children... more »


New Books

For Hannah Arendt, thinking was a form of political engagement. She didn't just want to find a place for herself in the world. She wanted to change it... more »


Essays & Opinions

The true story is always the oppositional story. Or so goes the logic of both literature professors and the right-wing media. What have the radical politics of humanities professors wrought?... more »


April 13, 2018

Articles of Note

The first dissertation on Jane Austen appeared in 1883. Ever since, the field has given rise to many Austens — moralist, humorist, ironist — and little consensus... more »


New Books

What undergirds our commitment to equality? For Bernard Williams, it’s our ability to love and to suffer. For Jeremy Waldron, it’s something broader... more »


Essays & Opinions

How to be an intellectual. Find three uninterrupted hours per day; overcome boredom; mind the distinction between intellectuals and academics... more »


April 12, 2018

Articles of Note

Bill Buckley’s conservative irregulars. In its early days, the National Review’s staff included a former spokesman for Leon Trotsky, a nocturnal ex-Communist, and Russell Kirk... more »


New Books

Edward Lear would produce paintings as a hostess gift, regale companions with jokes and stories, and sing while accompanying himself at the piano. Best dinner guest ever?... more »


Essays & Opinions

John Gray takes a dim view of reason. Indeed, he takes a dim view of humanity. He is a "card-carrying misanthrope for whom human life has no unique importance"... more »


April 11, 2018

Articles of Note

“I want his youth.” A deathly spirit, channeled at a séance, had it in for the literary prodigy Raymond Radiguet. He was rich, famous, fêted by the avant-garde, and doomed... more »


New Books

For Joseph Conrad, international politics was subject matter — but with what kind of global vision? To Chinua Achebe, he was simply a “bloody racist”... more »


Essays & Opinions

While science advances, philosophy stays the same, asking the Big Questions again and again. The field is still immature... more »


April 10, 2018

Articles of Note

Muriel Spark left Edinburgh when she was 18 but held fast to a belief she associated with the place: that contradictory ideas can have equal validity... more »


New Books

James Wood was well matched to the literary style of the 1990s — aesthetics were in, politics out. Now things have changed. Does Wood still matter?... more »


Essays & Opinions

The cult of Tocqueville: How did a Frenchman who hasn’t been in the United States in over 185 years become the man everyone loves to quote?... more »


April 9, 2018

Articles of Note

The fate of handwriting. It was imperiled by the printing press, then the typewriter, the computer, and the phone. But is an elegy premature?... more »


New Books

Most remarkable about Alexander von Humboldt's scientific achievements is that he didn't accidentally kill himself long before 1859, when he died just short of 90... more »


Essays & Opinions

The death of Seamus Heaney lets us mourn not only an artist of rare verbal gifts but also the loss of a language that long mapped a way of living... more »


April 7, 2018

Articles of Note

The trouble with being a witty woman. Dorothy Parker, praised for her sharpness, was marketed for her personality. She wanted to be recognized for her intellect... more »


New Books

Our understanding of consciousness is not just a “hard problem” — it’s a scandal, a mess. Into the fray ventures Antonio Damasio with his theory of homeostasis... more »


Essays & Opinions

Samuel Beckett's relationship with his mother was long, tempestuous, and, he realized, formative. “I am what her savage loving has made me”... more »


April 6, 2018

Articles of Note

Reading Julia Kristeva's Bulgarian intelligence dossier feels like voyeurism. Turns out she used theoretical language even in letters to her father... more »


New Books

The anecdotes, the famous faces bobbing in and out of view, the reams of office lore (sex on the desk, nervous breakdowns in the bathroom stall): What is Rolling Stone’s legacy?... more »


Essays & Opinions

What makes scientific theories true? Falsifiability or observability work in some cases, but the madcap ideas that push the borders of knowledge require a different approach... more »


April 5, 2018

Articles of Note

By the mid-‘60s, Joan Didion was bored with writing film reviews. A murder case helped her hone a neat trick: how to convey a personal matter at a distance... more »


New Books

The two Tennessee Williamses. He made sure his wildly transgressive stories reached only a niche audience. His sanitized Broadway big-hitters were another case entirely... more »


Essays & Opinions

The writerly imperialism of Dave Eggers. His work is a combination of twee visual details, Muslim characters, and a well-meaning American exceptionalism... more »


April 4, 2018

Articles of Note

For 200 years, Frankenstein has been read as a warning against unfettered scientific inquiry. That reflects a profound misunderstanding of the story... more »


New Books

As Kate Manne and Mary Beard plumb the depths of the patriarchy, a question emerges: Has anything changed since The Odyssey?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Beware the grammar bullies! Morality and language are linked, argued Ursula K. Le Guin. But morality and correctness are not the same thing... more »


April 3, 2018

Articles of Note

The man behind the dictionary. Noah Webster Jr. had superiority issues, a penchant for political incorrectness, and a zeal for Americanizing English... more »


New Books

Harold Bloom has had it with comma counters, gender commissars, and literary critics. He is, to his own mind, a lone voice in the wilderness... more »


Essays & Opinions

James Baldwin in Hollywood. He was there to make a movie about Malcolm X. It didn't go well. “I would rather be horsewhipped ... than repeat the adventure”... more »


April 2, 2018

Articles of Note

In 1941, W.H. Auden taught a class at the University of Michigan that required 6,000 pages of reading. Would a college student take such a course today? Yes, it turns out... more »


New Books

Before modern philosophy, there were Erasmus and Luther. Their dispute stands as a lasting reminder that among the threats to human flourishing, misplaced certitude shouldn’t be underestimated... more »


Essays & Opinions

"Populism" is a label often used but little understood. It's incoherent an ideology yet not to be dismissed as deranged or imaginary. Populism is a disease in the body politic... more »


March 31, 2018

Articles of Note

When music went minimalist. Boos echoed around Carnegie Hall; patrons headed for the exits; a woman banged her shoe on the stage, imploring the musicians to stop... more »


New Books

Life with Doris Lessing. An author attempts to enact her radical concept of freedom. But can a life so liberated regain a conventional shape?... more »


Essays & Opinions

The poet Joan Murray died at 24. Her manuscripts, sent to be preserved, apparently fell off the back of a truck. Is it fair, then, to call her a minor poet?... more »


March 30, 2018

Articles of Note

Galileo’s invention of the telescope not only broke with the church but upset philosophers as well. “To observe through those glasses gives me a headache,” said one professor... more »


New Books

What happens to anthropology when its fundamental divisions are undone — when magic and reason, and “primitive” and “modern,” no longer organize the field?... more »


Essays & Opinions

When fiction fuels the future. Sun-powered screens, electric weather, telepathy via battery — by picturing what’s to come, does science fiction help us invent it?... more »


March 29, 2018

Articles of Note

Joanna Russ isn't much remembered in the annals of science fiction, nor women’s writing, and certainly not American literature. But her influence is felt all the same... more »


New Books

The world’s least orthodox literary salon: a fascist lecturing to literary titans in an asylum. Ezra Pound’s visitors, the “Ezrologists,” pioneered the tale of the “bughouse” visit... more »


Essays & Opinions

Hyper-liberalism is the academy's legitimating ideology, says John Gray. "The result is a richly entertaining mixture of bourgeois careerism with virtue-signaling self-righteousness"... more »


March 28, 2018

Articles of Note

The surprisingly successful addict. During her battle with alcohol, Leslie Jamison got prestigious degrees, sold a novel, and took the world by storm... more »


New Books

Baffled cows, depressed does, and conniving roosters. Science paints an ever-fuller picture of the inner lives of animals. But are we any closer to understanding their minds?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Our old photos follow us online, and it’s become increasingly difficult to achieve distance from the past. That’s changed our politics and, perhaps, our thinking... more »


March 27, 2018

Articles of Note

Ian Buruma as a young man: From 1975 to 1981 he lived in Japan, appearing in whiskey ads and on stage wearing only a scarlet jockstrap... more »


New Books

Fatalism is a permanent temptation of politics. Optimistic fatalism competes with the pessimistic variety. Democracy requires finding a way between them... more »


Essays & Opinions

For James Wood, the novel is “the slayer of religions.” Rationalist writers like Ian McEwan agree — they want their craft to be more scientific, less spiritual. Is it?... more »


March 26, 2018

Articles of Note

Nautilus has asked scientists what they would be if they weren’t scientists. The most popular response: Filmmaker. How to explain this interest?... more »


New Books

Don't underestimate the power of an impertinent question. That’s what drove Oriana Fallaci, whose interview subjects usually regretted giving her the time. “Being a journalist means being disobedient”... more »


Essays & Opinions

In Shakespeare's time, there were no directors. Plays were performed without scenery, on open stages. It's still something of a mystery what directors do... more »


March 24, 2018

Articles of Note

When artists had jobs. Philip Glass was a plumber; James Dickey, a sloganeer for Coca-Cola. Day jobs provided artists with space for stray thoughts. Can they still?... more »


New Books

Each generation of historians conveys the Jewish past in a way that's bound up with its vision of the Jewish future. Those visions generally turn out to be wrong... more »


Essays & Opinions

When did the sum total of a college’s intellectual value become reducible to its willingness to host controversial speakers?... more »


March 23, 2018

Articles of Note

Reading Crime and Punishment today, we are reminded of the need to take willful self-destruction seriously. There is no rationale to human behavior... more »


New Books

Is criticism influential? If so, is that influence beneficial or malign? The first answer is yes. The second answer is complicated... more »


Essays & Opinions

Communing with art won’t make you money, burn calories, or help you network. It may, writes Claire Messud, help you find joy in the superfluous and glory in each day... more »


March 22, 2018

Articles of Note

The mysterious Cormac McCarthy. He’s intensely private about interviews and public appearances. But why, at 83, has he ventured into nonfiction?... more »


New Books

“The two ways," Kierkegaard wrote. "One is to suffer; the other is to become a professor of the fact that another suffered.” But few suffered as much as the woman who loved him... more »


Essays & Opinions

Science is thought to be cold and clinical, art warm and encouraging of wonder. The drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal reveal that divide for what it is: nonsense... more »


March 21, 2018

Articles of Note

Profanity was long considered low and dirty, the opposite of the sublime. Then came Philip Larkin, Eileen Myles, and the rise of poetic profanity... more »


New Books

Many of our best theories are not true in a strict sense, but rather are idealizations. Such concepts, useful in everyday life, are intellectually dangerous... more »


Essays & Opinions

"I am sick to death of hearing about Karl Marx. I am sick of his name, his -isms, his undoubted genius, and his 'philosophy.' Most of all, I am sick of his 'relevance'"... more »


March 20, 2018

Articles of Note

In the room where Mailer and Talese and Capote got drunk, about a dozen people — mostly women — vie to become the next editor of The Paris Review ... more »


New Books

We used to know what people meant when they spoke about someone’s "reputation." Now it's supposedly an elusive concept... more »


Essays & Opinions

Workers get more education; their productivity and income go up. A nation gets more education; its productivity and income go up. Hogwash, says Bryan Caplan... more »


March 19, 2018

Articles of Note

Ivan Ilyin, an apologist for political violence, wrote 40 books. His aim was to advance a moral justification for totalitarianism. It's working... more »


New Books

The notion that history consists of a single grand narrative is almost universally regarded as a comforting myth. But not to Marcel Gauchet ... more »


Essays & Opinions

A crisis stalks the modern world: the hunt for manliness. It began in the 19th century and continues to contaminate politics and culture... more »