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Oct. 22, 2018

Articles of Note

Russell Kirk was more littérateur than leader. But just think how different things might be had he, not William F. Buckley Jr., been the public face of conservativism... more »


New Books

It’s tempting to think that enchantment ended with the Enlightenment. But what of Isaac Newton’s alchemy, the Frankfurt School’s occult leanings, Americans’ belief in demonic possession?... more »


Essays & Opinions

An orthodoxy has taken hold of intellectual, cultural, and academic life. Its hallmarks: moral preening, lazy attitudinizing, and grim-faced virtue-signaling. The remedy: Marxists against wokeness... more »


Oct. 20, 2018

Articles of Note

Francis Fukuyama's instinctively dialectical habit of mind is at once precisely what America needs and what is precisely being ousted from the discourse... more »


New Books

A strange first job. After Oxford, Anthony Powell joined perhaps the only publishing house run by someone who hated books and considered authors “a natural enemy”... more »


Essays & Opinions

"The university has nurtured many partisan causes to which its members can devote themselves, but there seem to be few partisans of the university itself left"... more »


Oct. 19, 2018

Articles of Note

In medieval texts, the planning and execution of a war might take up a paragraph. In modern writing, much less happens. How thinking supplanted action in literature... more »


New Books

The literature of identity can be self-obsessed, isolating, and overwhelmingly aggrieved. But it can also rally us to the cause of individual freedom... more »


Essays & Opinions

What happens when our writers and thinkers express themselves through Facebook instead of on the page? Imagine Herzog in the era of the status update... more »


Oct. 18, 2018

Articles of Note

Manure, wood shavings, hot peanuts, greasepaint, popcorn, burning sugar, sweat, despair: There's nothing like the smell of the circus... more »


New Books

Cy Twombly fell for Robert Rauschenberg, an Italian heiress, and, reportedly, his own assistant. His art, like his love life, was inscrutable... more »


Essays & Opinions

Precision "pervades our lives entirely, comprehensively, wholly," says Simon Winchester. But does the abstract concept have a precise history? Yes. It begins in 1776... more »


Oct. 17, 2018

Articles of Note

Sotheby's and spectacle. Banksy’s autoshredding stunt reinforces how contemporary art is not so much about art but the documentation of an event... more »


New Books

George Scialabba is a mind out of time. His temper — a radical who demonstrates the virtues of conservatism — is the very opposite of what passes for serious thought these days... more »


Essays & Opinions

The pernicious social dynamics of the internet. We overshare about our personal lives and fail to understand those of others. Narcissism spreads; empathy vanishes... more »


Oct. 16, 2018

Articles of Note

Descriptions of the future are hopelessly tied to the gadgets of today. Ideas, not technology, drive the biggest historical changes... more »


New Books

Gandhi: Behind the cuddly icon was a relentlessly counterintuitive thinker — self-sacrifice over self-interest, obligations over rights, dying over killing... more »


Essays & Opinions

What is the point of a bookish life? It's not to become knowledgeable or clever, and certainly not to become learned. It is to become wiser... more »


Oct. 15, 2018

Articles of Note

Steven Pinker believes that we take the Enlightenment’s gifts for granted; Homi Bhabha believes that we must calculate the cost of those gifts. A debate... more »


New Books

The Iliad and Odyssey shaped behavior in the Greek world. How so? One example: they tarnished the reputation of daytime sex for well over a millennium... more »


Essays & Opinions

When his aged father and newborn son died within a few years of each other, William James took an interest in "ghosts and clairvoyances and raps and messages from spirits"... more »


Oct. 13, 2018

Articles of Note

Kandinsky has long been seen as the father of abstract painting. But Hilma af Klint predated him. Her art was informed by seances — what the spirits said, she did... more »


New Books

Unambiguous identities – and the politics of identity – may be illusions. But when they are widely accepted, illusions become very powerful social facts... more »


Essays & Opinions

Women do the lion’s share of the book reading, editing, agenting, and buying. Still, we live in a literary culture that ignores women... more »


Oct. 12, 2018

Articles of Note

The New York Intellectuals changed the system, and the system changed them: a story of hollow affirmation, fading honor, and flamboyant decay... more »


New Books

Life has sped up. We ruthlessly divide our time into efficient units. We even walk faster than we used to. Time to slow down... more »


Essays & Opinions

What was the Frankfurt School? Twentieth-century Europe had exposed civilization’s dark impulses. Did the new reality demand a new style of critique?... more »


Oct. 11, 2018

Articles of Note

William Hazlitt’s style, in the early 19th century, was strikingly modern. So were his challenges as a freelance writer: urgent deadlines and financial struggle... more »


New Books

Work: The Greeks reviled it; the Judeo-Christian tradition thought it could lead to redemption. We think it’s simply what one does... more »


Essays & Opinions

Are you charming? (Hint: If you think you are, you’re probably not.) But what is charm? Easier to determine what it isn't... more »


Oct. 10, 2018

Articles of Note

The critic as curmudgeon. Before literary reviewing got so nice, even legendary writers could expect to be savaged, usually by Martin Seymour-Smith... more »


New Books

For Marilynne Robinson, the culprit behind our ills is disbelief, which neatly fits her theological disposition. But are we really suffering a surfeit of rationality... more »


Essays & Opinions

Is the “grievance studies” hoax an effort to spotlight fashionable nonsense in the academy, a salutary correction, or a reactionary hit job?... more »


Oct. 9, 2018

Articles of Note

William Dudley Pelley was a novelist and screenwriter. He was also “Chief” of the Silver Shirts, a 15,000-member Nazi-copycat group... more »


New Books

The average person consumes 100,000 words a day. But are we paying close attention to what we read?... more »


Essays & Opinions

To be called a plagiarist is arguably the most existential accusation a writer can face. But perhaps borrowing is simply part of art... more »


Oct. 8, 2018

Articles of Note

A humorless, misogynistic Nazi? Nietzsche does not deserve his bad rap. After all, as Hitler said of him, “He is not my guide”... more »


New Books

Translators should themselves be artists, argues a new book. The goal: not just to accurately recreate a work of literature, but to enhance it... more »


Essays & Opinions

The painter Sam Rothbort’s pacifist ideals led him to open a no-kill egg farm in the 1920s. His unlikely past: fighting in an armed resistance... more »


Oct. 6, 2018

Articles of Note

Vicious infighting, secret identities, a whiff of plagiarism, plenty of money — the world of Instagram poetry is a huckster’s paradise... more »


New Books

“I did not feel guilty,” said Doris Lessing of the children she abandoned in Africa. But she also compared guilt to an iceberg, with “ninety-nine hundredths hidden”... more »


Essays & Opinions

Soft murmurs, the shuffling of papers, the groan of book carts. Libraries have a steady, timeless feel, as if there we can live forever... more »


Oct. 5, 2018

Articles of Note

We have plenty of “information” but not enough wisdom. It is the job of the novelist to turn information — and misinformation — into wisdom... more »


New Books

Young Oscar Wilde: Physically unprepossessing – overgrown, clumsy, “slab-faced” – he was nonetheless magnetic. But his talent was to annoy as much as to amuse... more »


Essays & Opinions

A new culture war. The moralizers are young, and their quest is for representation and social justice. The result? Dull art... more »


Oct. 4, 2018

Articles of Note

An improbable thesis: At the center of Dickens’s genius was not his prolific output or his public performances or public works, but his knowledge of ravens... more »


New Books

The reluctant genius and the relentless promoter. Though Max Brod turned out his own books, his life was defined by the items he seized from the late Kafka’s desk... more »


Essays & Opinions

The apostle of pastiche, Leonard Bernstein flitted between high and low, sacred and profane, romanticism and kitsch. He was music’s public intellectual... more »


Oct. 3, 2018

Articles of Note

After 17 years in the gulag, Varlam Shalamov sought a radically new form of writing. In his bleak work, days churn by and nothing progresses... more »


New Books

Lionel Trilling's letters reveal a man who was deft, a bit dull, and often depressed. Above all, a man exquisitely attuned to small slights... more »


Essays & Opinions

“It was tedious & futile & fatiguing. I found I was not at all frightened; only very bored & very weary.” Evelyn Waugh at war... more »


Oct. 2, 2018

Articles of Note

Only pessimists survived the Holocaust, and Walter Laqueur was one of them. The scholar of seemingly everything is dead, at 97... more »


New Books

Yes, utopian projects deserve deep suspicion. Moral progress is, after all, fragile. But can our highest aspiration really be a purpose-free life?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Alarmed at the progress of his research, the German nuclear physicist Felix Houtermans sent a secret telegram to America: “Hurry up. We are on the track”... more »


Oct. 1, 2018

Articles of Note

And now his struggle is ended. After six volumes, an open question about Knausgaard: Is he too self-centered to write of anything but himself?... more »


New Books

For 25 years, Irad Kimhi has perfected the résumé of an academic failure. Or is the philosopher a hidden giant hampered by his perfectionism?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Most novels include one or two mediocrities flitting about. Those are B.D. McClay's people. She writes in praise of books that linger on the unattractive and uninteresting... more »


Sept. 29, 2018

Articles of Note

In 1924, Paul Jordan-Smith founded a one-man art movement: Disumbrationism. It was an elaborate hoax — or was it?... more »


New Books

Plennie L. Wingo set out to walk around the world backward. He thought he’d strike it rich. Instead he got $4 and calves in the front of his legs... more »


Essays & Opinions

The demise of the Village Voice underscores the end of Greenwich Village bohemia — which invites a question about the beginning... more »


Sept. 28, 2018

Articles of Note

So-called “Instagram museums” claim to reinvent art. But visiting them feels like a masochistic march through an existential void... more »


New Books

Mike Davis: trucker, scholar, Marxist, expert on Turkish cinema. Now he's turned to the environment. His question: Who will build the ark?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Banned Book Week is upon us. Does this annual orgy of inaccuracy, overstatement, and self-righteousness serve any purpose? Yes... more »


Sept. 27, 2018

Articles of Note

The making of “Axis Sally.” Her Broadway career stalled, and she found herself broke in Berlin in 1940. An opportunity with Reich Radio beckoned... more »


New Books

The history of the book does not begin with books. Chinese tortoise shells inscribed 3,000 years ago; Sumerian clay tablets with cuneiform scripts; knotted string records by Incan officials... more »


Essays & Opinions

For some students, Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States is their introduction to what it means to think historically. It is a work of unalloyed certainty — and danger... more »


Sept. 26, 2018

Articles of Note

In 1921, William Faulkner went to work at the post office. He was comically ill-suited for the job. “The damndest postmaster the world has ever seen”... more »


New Books

The advice column wasn’t born in America, but it flourished there. It's a kooky genre, coming with the promise — at least the hope — of setting ourselves right... more »


Essays & Opinions

Does Ian Buruma's abrupt departure from the New York Review of Books mean that editors will be reluctant to take risks? Laura Kipnis is concerned... more »


Sept. 25, 2018

Articles of Note

“So sa-a-a-ad that you’re leaving.” With those reviled but revolutionary words, Cher ushered in the era of Auto-Tune... more »


New Books

Jill Lepore has told a story of America — its sunny ideals and its darker realities. She rejected the urge to moralize but can't resist making stern judgments... more »


Essays & Opinions

Requiem for the Gutenberg mind. The cognitive virtues of reading on paper have developed over centuries. But now the practice is in its last gasp... more »


Sept. 24, 2018

Articles of Note

How did a man endowed with unremarkable attributes become the most dangerous person in the world? The odd saga of personality-typing Hitler... more »


New Books

Bruce Lee's life was singular, abbreviated, and politically vacant. In the five decades since his death, he's become a multifarious symbol... more »


Essays & Opinions

Books just keep getting longer. We conflate physical heft with artistic or intellectual merit. Thus our new golden age of the doorstop... more »


Sept. 22, 2018

Articles of Note

The violent Kuhn, the personable Kuhn, Kuhn the careful historian, Kuhn the reckless philosopher: Who's the real Thomas Kuhn?... more »


New Books

The battle over Kafka’s literary remains, fought by reasonable people with reasonable claims, never became a dark parable befitting the man himself... more »


Essays & Opinions

As a genre, horror has been with us since cave paintings. Why? It speaks to the darkness that haunts the human condition... more »


Sept. 21, 2018

Articles of Note

"A dinosaur of an art form." Opera has never taken root in America. Is it simply too expensive to thrive — or even to survive?... more »


New Books

Old age confers a certain freedom to say what one thinks. Donald Hall, who died this year, took full advantage... more »


Essays & Opinions

For Elizabeth Bishop, solitude was bliss. It meant comfort, adventure, and jaunts around “the islands of the Imagination”... more »


Sept. 20, 2018

Articles of Note

Monologues last for hundreds of pages; sentences repeat with subtle, endless differences; the plot is indescribable. Behold: the world’s least readable book... more »


New Books

Overconfident, often drunk, a foe to feminism, Norman Mailer is an odd fit for our time. As his work comes back into print, what does it mean for our culture?... more »


Essays & Opinions

The death of the celebrity profile. It’s been supplanted by Instagram and the first-person essays of the famous. The loss to public culture is real... more »


Sept. 19, 2018

Articles of Note

Tolstoy died an eccentric, self-denying, hypocritical, despised, beloved, myopic visionary. Ever since, people have tried to follow his example... more »


New Books

A publishing romance. James Laughlin was 6-foot-6, a handsome champion skier. Tennessee Williams was hunched over and wore dirty gray pants. The rest was history... more »


Essays & Opinions

Remembering the Village Voice. Drugs were delivered to the office, writers stabbed one another in the back, headlocks were occasionally employed... more »


Sept. 18, 2018

Articles of Note

What if you could start a canon from scratch? New York magazine thought it'd be fun to try. Here's what a 21st-century canon might look like... more »


New Books

Nietzsche aimed to terrify rather than instruct. If his philosophy can be used as therapy, it’s through the ability to deliver an electric jolt to our souls... more »


Essays & Opinions

An accursed genre of personal essay has now emerged: “My Year of Being Held Responsible for My Own Behavior”... more »