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Since 1998, Arts & Letters Daily has linked to more than 17,000 articles, book reviews and essays. Consider supporting us. »
April 1, 2020

Articles of Note

The Russian battle against death began in the second half of the 19th century. It continues to this day... more »


New Books

Whoever has the most galleries when he dies, wins. Such is the consensus among art collectors like the particularly ruthless Larry Gagosian... more »


Essays & Opinions

The case for Don DeLillo. By every metric of literary greatness, he is in the highest percentile. Give him the Nobel Prize. This year... more »


March 31, 2020

Articles of Note

The genius of Heinrich von Kleist — writer, newspaperman, tragic figure — was in using plain, reportorial language toward grotesque ends... more »


New Books

Stylish novelists like Ottessa Moshfegh and Ling Ma give us curiously passive, apathetic characters. What’s behind this tedious tendency?... more »


Essays & Opinions

"You can live alone without being lonely, and you can be lonely without living alone," says Jill Lepore, "but the two are closely tied together, which makes lockdowns, sheltering in place, that much harder to bear"... more »


March 30, 2020

Articles of Note

Influence is difficult to measure, but however you calculate it, Encounter had it. How a magazine shaped the intellectual climate... more »


New Books

William Blake's flint cottage, Rudyard Kipling's stone manor: What role do houses play in the lives of creative people?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Two years ago, Joseph Epstein set out to learn Latin. As his dream of mastery has given way to reality, what remains is his love for the language... more »


March 28, 2020

Articles of Note

A sensational Parisian scandal in 1386 escalated into France’s last trial by combat. Was it all just a case of mistaken identity?... more »


New Books

If you elide crucial historical context, it’s easy to make religious notions of the afterlife look like freakish curiosities. A recent book does just that... more »


Essays & Opinions

Auden was filthy, strewing old food, cigarettes, and martini glasses everywhere. Such squalor, he protested, was necessary for a man of letters... more »


March 27, 2020

Articles of Note

Zach Baron is a profiler, involving a strange and ephemeral genre of magazine journalism. He spends time with someone and writes about the experience. Now he can't leave the house... more »


New Books

No modernism without lesbians. More than a sexual preference, lesbianism created the conditions for an artistic revolution. Or so claims Diana Souhami... more »


Essays & Opinions

A pandemic is a time for rethinking everything, for changing one’s mind, for putting down books by fashionable theorists... more »


March 26, 2020

Articles of Note

Orwell and the left. Would this foremost cant-detector find a whiff of it on the contemporary left? He would cast a baleful eye on identity politics and be dubious about diversity... more »


New Books

In his letters, Robert Frost is never tedious, always fun, appallingly crafty, and unusually trusting in people he barely knew... more »


Essays & Opinions

The literature of contagion is vile, says Jill Lepore. "Every story of epidemic is a story of illiteracy, language made powerless, man made brute... more »


March 25, 2020

Articles of Note

From the Sator Square to anti-riddles, word games have a long and delightful history. Crosswords weren’t invented until 1913... more »


New Books

Freud was a social philosopher, using a scientific guise to lend his ideas more authority. Or so argues a new book... more »


Essays & Opinions

The critical theorist as coronavirus denier. Giorgio Agamben uses outdated jargon to make once-fashionable arguments that now seem absurd. Who's listening?... more »


March 24, 2020

Articles of Note

“In all the creative occupations, there’s no stability unless you’re a superstar of some sort.” Barbara Ehrenreich reckons with success... more »


New Books

During the 16 months Einstein spent in Bohemia, he did nothing much. But the banality of his experience there is itself worth consideration... more »


Essays & Opinions

In praise of marginalia. "Like having a child or planting a garden, annotating a book is an expression of hope for the future"... more »


March 23, 2020

Articles of Note

There’s a lot we can numb ourselves to in order to survive, says Meghan O'Rourke. But can we ignore our inability to come together to mourn the dead?... more »


New Books

Could it be that loneliness was invented around 1800? The separation of self and society has deeper roots, as Hamlet or Othello might testify... more »


Essays & Opinions

Any critic who wants to write something lasting must do so in part from aggression. Few have been more successful than T.S. Eliot... more »


March 21, 2020

Articles of Note

In the 1790s, muslin gowns, hoops earrings, and madras were the height of European fashion. They were all shamelessly appropriated from the West Indies... more »


New Books

“Advertising was like art, and more and more art was like advertising. … Ideally, the only difference would be the logo.” So it went at the Warhol Factory... more »


Essays & Opinions

Society, Durkheim held, was a social fact irreducible to psychology or economics. In a time of pandemic, we’re all Durkheimians... more »


March 20, 2020

Articles of Note

Crossword editors are strange arbiters of cultural relevance. But it really matters what reaches the grid — and what's kept out... more »


New Books

George Gershwin attacked a “crude, vulgar, and unadorned” version of jazz. But were his experiments in the genre just cultural appropriation?... more »


Essays & Opinions

When Alex Perez praises Philip Roth and Henry Miller, people react as if to an atrocity. And yet he can’t get enough of these problematic white dudes... more »


March 19, 2020

Articles of Note

Inigo Philbrick is the art world’s mini-Madoff. A young and charming dealer who dabbled in drugs, prostitution, and endless scams... more »


New Books

Lucian Freud’s art was an obsessive quest to exert maniacal control over contour, color, and light. He was a King Lear of the brush... more »


Essays & Opinions

What does a writer do when his words stop working? Wait for the muse to recharge or dwell in the struggle to overcome your own silence... more »


March 18, 2020

Articles of Note

Judith Shklar, critic of liberal triumphalism, was no system builder. But her thought resonates in our disenchanted, skeptical world... more »


New Books

Tarred as elitist and conservative for its New Critical roots, formalism is making a comeback. Will it stick this time?... more »


Essays & Opinions

“Be of good cheer,” advises Geoff Dyer, reflecting on the pandemic. But inwardly he’s clutching his head like Munch’s screamer... more »


March 17, 2020

Articles of Note

As Furtwängler and Shostakovich showed, classical music has the ability to bind a nation. Why hasn’t that happened in America?... more »


New Books

Before the 1600s, the workplace drug most commonly consumed in the West was beer. Then capitalism brought a craze for something new: coffee... more »


Essays & Opinions

In literature, a disease is not just a disease. It is a return of the repressed, a manifestation of an eternal crisis... more »


March 16, 2020

Articles of Note

War, corruption, oppression, and misogyny were facts of life in Renaissance Italy. Are the period’s great artistic achievements complicit in those brutalities?... more »


New Books

Shrinking news coverage, online consumer reviews, the withering of literature in public esteem: an audit of book reviewing in uncertain times... more »


Essays & Opinions

Much of the poetry we love most is wistful and regret-filled. Why? The all-too human hankering for things to be other than they are. Michael Dirda explains... more »


March 14, 2020

Articles of Note

Why do American cemeteries look the way they do? The answer lies in a 19th-century passion for rural, rustic design... more »


New Books

Explainer journalism never lets actual events get in the way of big ideas. Exhibit A: Ezra Klein’s new book... more »


Essays & Opinions

Through Umberto Eco’s eyes, the library functions not to enlighten, but to disorient — to overwhelm your self-confidence... more »


March 13, 2020

Articles of Note

From The Decameron to Station Eleven, there has always been a literature of pandemic because there have always been pandemics... more »


New Books

Writing about music is a difficult thing, saying in words that which words cannot say. Philip Kennicott gets it exactly right... more »


Essays & Opinions

In 1948, Camus discovered Simone Weil’s manuscripts. They revolutionized not only his sense of suffering but his sense of self... more »


March 12, 2020

Articles of Note

When Dora Maar, Picasso’s lover, suffered a jealousy-fueled breakdown, he blamed Surrealism and “that whining, weepy phony, Jean-Jacques Rousseau”... more »


New Books

How was America transformed from a “rabidly anti-theatrical” society to one that, by 1833, viewed Shakespeare as its great national author?... more »


Essays & Opinions

George Steiner, an unrepentant elitist, was a moral force for high art. Among his virtues was a hunger to be more serious... more »


March 11, 2020

Articles of Note

A medical mystery to unravel: Jordan Peterson was in a drug-induced coma in Russia. When he awoke, he was unable to speak or write... more »


New Books

The battle between Noah Webster and Joseph E. Worcester still matters because it was over the words Americans use to understand themselves... more »


Essays & Opinions

Long gone are the days of Dickens and Kafka — the novel has been brought low. Are its days numbered?... more »


March 10, 2020

Articles of Note

In 1967, William Styron, a white novelist, fictively entered the mind of a black man. What would happen if The Confessions of Nat Turner appeared today?... more »


New Books

Americans seem headed for an “endless autumn” — plenty of free time, but creativity, warmth, and hope in short supply... more »


Essays & Opinions

George Scialabba, who has spent a lifetime suffering from depression and reading about others', has some advice... more »


March 9, 2020

Articles of Note

Hannah Arendt recognized that thinking is not necessarily a moral activity but can function as a brake on the temptation to do wrong... more »


New Books

The reality of numbers. Does it matter if numbers are, in a philosophical sense, real, as long as they work as expected? Depends on whom you ask... more »


Essays & Opinions

The University of Chicago is renowned for its commitment to open debate and rigorous inquiry. Is that still true of its English department?... more »


March 7, 2020

Articles of Note

Jeremy Bentham warned against ancestor worship. How does that square with the newly prominent display of his waxy, skeletal remains?... more »


New Books

We are confronted with two new, substantial Hitler biographies. How much more is there to say? Quite a lot, it turns out... more »


Essays & Opinions

In praise of passive protagonists. The insipidity of characters like Candide and Bartleby belies their triumphant potential... more »


March 6, 2020

Articles of Note

The paradox of authenticity: In order to reap the benefits of feeling authentic, you may have to betray your true nature... more »


New Books

iBauhaus. Was this laboratory of Modernism, founded in 1919, a progenitor of the iPhone? The case is by turns persuasive and preposterous... more »


Essays & Opinions

Faulkner arrived in Hollywood in 1932 and made a lasting first impression: He was drunk, disheveled, and bleeding from the head... more »


March 5, 2020

Articles of Note

Lunch with Freeman Dyson. The notoriously contrarian polymath, who died last week, was a slow eater. He did nearly all of the talking... more »


New Books

Newly married to George Orwell, Eileen Blair cried a lot and typed his manuscripts in the dark. Things went downhill from there... more »


Essays & Opinions

It's been said that most writers are lucky to have one original book in them. A lot of literary careers consist of rewriting it again and again... more »


March 4, 2020

Articles of Note

The millennial aesthetic: potted plants, sans-serif fonts, pastels (especially pink). It’s for those who can’t afford frills or risk failure... more »


New Books

The joyousness of dogs. We love them and they love us, as no small measure of philosophical material bears out... more »


Essays & Opinions

All is not well in the humanities. Why are its adherents so eager to convince themselves otherwise? Charlie Tyson unpacks “reassurance lit”... more »


March 3, 2020

Articles of Note

The computer is a greatly misunderstood device, and the misunderstanding matters greatly. Computers can’t think — and that's what makes them valuable... more »


New Books

The obstreperous Becketteers watched in chagrin as the literary gig of the century — writing Beckett’s biography — went to a young woman... more »


Essays & Opinions

The real Joan Didion. Her work isn’t about her family or about death, but about the allure of alienation from all that... more »


March 2, 2020

Articles of Note

Why is crispy the acme of food textures? We both hear it and feel it. Inside the scientific search for the perfect crunch... more »


New Books

Presidents and their books. Thomas Jefferson was more of a reader than a writer. John Adams couldn’t stop writing... more »


Essays & Opinions

The idea of selfhood, taken for granted in secular societies, depends on a theistic worldview. John Gray explains... more »


Feb. 29, 2020

Articles of Note

“Many shall go to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Travel and wisdom have long been connected. They are still... more »


New Books

Morbidly depressed, William James hung on not through intellectualism, but by making the value of his life a hypothesis... more »


Essays & Opinions

In 2004, Richard Rorty went to Tehran. Thousands came to hear how philosophy could build democracy. They got something different... more »


Feb. 28, 2020

Articles of Note

David Bromwich warns against the left’s complacency and presents a deeper concern: inhabiting a society without opposition... more »


New Books

What new can be gleaned from the French Revolution’s central paradox: how so many citizens were slaughtered in the name of liberté, égalité, fraternité?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Writers like V.S. Naipaul felt shame and self-loathing for Caribbean literature. Then came Kamau Braithwaite, who threw off the burden... more »


Feb. 27, 2020

Articles of Note

By 1960, Norman Rockwell's paintings had become kitschy curios at best and objects of derision at worst. Then he underwent a political transformation... more »


New Books

In Regency England, even aristocratic younger sons had to work. Their choices: the army, navy, clergy, or law. Each had its indignities... more »


Essays & Opinions

The stock market is a fickle beast. Is there such a thing as a philosophically responsible investment?... more »