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Since 1998, Arts & Letters Daily has linked to more than 17,000 articles, book reviews and essays. Consider supporting us. »
May 25, 2020

Articles of Note

How well do we know Philip Roth? Too well? Or not well enough? Let’s check his archive... more »


New Books

Coffee, “the most grateful lubricant of the human machine,” has made — and destroyed — entire societies... more »


Essays & Opinions

The value of science as a credential seems stronger than ever. Is this ubiquity a symptom of its decline?... more »


May 23, 2020

Articles of Note

Everyone wants a glimpse of the post-Covid world, so the public square is thick with prophets. Ignore them... more »


New Books

The poetry of Paul Valéry seems the work of a man behind his times. But beneath the old-fashioned veneer is the shock of the modern... more »


Essays & Opinions

John Cage stroking bits of wire, Leonard Bernstein conducting Beethoven’s Ninth: The strangely addictive joy of classical YouTube... more »


May 22, 2020

Articles of Note

We know Raphael as a painter, but his life might have turned out far differently — he was also a formidable architect... more »


New Books

The art critic Hal Foster separated “good” from “bad” postmodernism. How real is that distinction?... more »


Essays & Opinions

The rise of individualism is linked to that of infectious diseases. Leo Robson traces the inevitable effect on literature... more »


May 21, 2020

Articles of Note

Behind Kepler’s discoveries was remarkable data compiled by Tycho Brahe, a fierce astronomer with an artificial golden nose... more »


New Books

With his puncturing of ideology and his wild, hallucinatory tales, Robert Stone reshaped what the American crime thriller could be... more »


Essays & Opinions

For Locke and Rousseau, home schooling was ideal. For many parents now, not so much. What’s the basis of a moral education?... more »


May 20, 2020

Articles of Note

It's a trope of science fiction that machines will become human-like. The real threat: Humans will become machine-like... more »


New Books

Shame is about dishonor, vulnerability, and disgrace. It's also a tool of politics and power... more »


Essays & Opinions

The impulse to compare contemporary political events to the past lives on. But such analogies hinder more than they help... more »


May 19, 2020

Articles of Note

“What conditions are necessary for the creation of works of art?” Virginia Woolf’s question has always been thorny for women... more »


New Books

The Anglo-Boer War is remembered, when it's remembered at all, for those who improbably played a part: Churchill, Gandhi, Kipling, Conan Doyle... more »


Essays & Opinions

Greil Marcus isn’t afraid, as one reader put it, to let “everything remind him of everything else.” It's both a gift and a liability... more »


May 18, 2020

Articles of Note

What did Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and Walter Benjamin read? One woman was keeping track... more »


New Books

Clive James was perhaps Philip Larkin's best reader. But his Larkin is a projection — the poet that James wanted to be... more »


Essays & Opinions

“Art breathes from containments and suffocates from freedom,” said Leonardo da Vinci. Contemporary art is suffocating... more »


May 16, 2020

Articles of Note

Love and theft. How a stolen de Kooning ended up in the master bedroom of a pink stucco house in New Mexico... more »


New Books

There are lots of supposed polymaths. They’re brilliant in one field, but mediocre in others. True polymaths are rare... more »


Essays & Opinions

During London’s Great Plague, Samuel Pepys was resigned to his fate yet found much to rejoice in. Pandemics are complicated... more »


May 15, 2020

Articles of Note

Magical mummy masks; the “finding” of a first-century fragment — why was the world’s leading papyrologist involved in such shenanigans?... more »


New Books

In 1979, Richard Rorty suggested that philosophy was over; graduate students might as well give up. One of his own, Robert Brandom, has now proven that thought absurd... more »


Essays & Opinions

Heiner Müller was a poet, playwright, and Stasi informant. The messiness of his life speaks to the complexity of postwar Germany... more »


May 14, 2020

Articles of Note

Deep-speare is a computer that composes poetry. But an original sonnet isn’t necessarily a good sonnet... more »


New Books

When Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson met, they debated the nature of fiction and griped about — what else? — money... more »


Essays & Opinions

Critics once assessed the value of books. Now they use reviews as opportunities to showcase their erudition... more »


May 13, 2020

Articles of Note

Lexicographer extraordinaire, paragon of learning, purveyor of practical wisdom, Samuel Johnson was above all a moralist... more »


New Books

Edward Said and the culture wars. His attempts to woo the American academy into opposing imperialism were as fruitless as “cajoling a cat into altruism”... more »


Essays & Opinions

According to Peter Turchin and others in cliodynamics, historical material can be used to predict the future. Historians are skeptical... more »


May 12, 2020

Articles of Note

When he was 29, Mick Jagger was asked if he’d still perform at 60. “Yeah, easily, yeah." Why we never tire of the original rock ‘n’ rollers... more »


New Books

Franz Boas in 1888: “It is most unpleasant work to steal bones from a grave, but what is the use, someone has to do it”... more »


Essays & Opinions

Fiction is no good in a crisis, and it dislikes confronting world events head-on. So you'll have to wait for that coronavirus novel... more »


May 11, 2020

Articles of Note

Telling us what the pandemic means is a risky endeavor in charlatanry. But does Slavoj Žižek have a point?... more »


New Books

William James’s critics mistake his pragmatism for simple relativism. He endures because he addressed the meaning of life... more »


Essays & Opinions

“Thou art a boil / A plague-sore, or embossed carbuncle.” Shakespeare didn’t write much about the bubonic plague, but it did provide good insult material... more »


May 9, 2020

Articles of Note

Even before the pandemic forced all of us into quarantine, deprivation and isolation had become lifestyle signifiers. Meet the man who escaped into the dark... more »


New Books

A memoir that conceals. Rebecca Solnit’s latest book promises intimacy, but it speaks more powerfully on broad, collective problems... more »


Essays & Opinions

The word "nostalgia" did not originally mean what it means now. It was coined with a longing for a time when there was no word for what it described... more »


May 8, 2020

Articles of Note

“It can’t be that all of this enormous emotional, financial, and scholastic investment goes toward creating the next meaningless app”... more »


New Books

Franz Boas inveighed against racism. But did his ideas ultimately help to strengthen its grip?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Our reading problem. Yes, we shouldn't idealize the past. But that doesn't mean we have no crisis in the present... more »


May 7, 2020

Articles of Note

To understand how science works, you need to determine what makes theories fail. And there’s no better guide than the often-overlooked Imre Lakatos... more »


New Books

Frivolous, self-indulgent, and gloriously smutty, Wayne Koestenbaum’s essays are also cerebral celebrations of desire and imagination... more »


Essays & Opinions

The new, quarantined normal means getting closer with your family — too close, in many cases. Agnes Callard explains... more »


May 6, 2020

Articles of Note

Zhang Shoucheng, a brilliant scientist at Stanford, was caught between U.S. and Chinese national interests. When he was found dead, the intrigue only grew... more »


New Books

Hail Sir Thomas Urquhart, royalist, duelist, self-proclaimed descendant of the gods, and creator of a universal language — not that he bothered to write it down... more »


Essays & Opinions

“The secret of black intellectuals is that we have other interests.” Darryl Pinckney, Margo Jefferson, and others discuss race and intellectual life... more »


May 5, 2020

Articles of Note

What was most shocking about Machiavelli wasn't original, and what was original wasn't shocking: his realism... more »


New Books

Ross Douthat is man of many observations, interpretations, and predictions — most of which he's all too willing to back away from... more »


Essays & Opinions

To George Will, conservatism is “more than an attitude and less than an agenda.” It's a way of thinking, not a slate of principles and policies... more »


May 4, 2020

Articles of Note

Within 10 years, all Holocaust survivors will be dead. The Shoah Foundation has stockpiled 115,000 hours of their testimony. Is anyone listening?... more »


New Books

George Scialabba's doctor's notes — both mundane and revelatory — show what it means to be clinically depressed... more »


Essays & Opinions

John Carey has always been a strange critic: an anti-elitist don, avuncular but deadly, amiable yet formidable... more »


May 2, 2020

Articles of Note

The author of The Marburg Virus, an improbable novel, is imploring his publisher to reissue it. That author is Boris Johnson’s father... more »


New Books

Kierkegaard saw himself as the “Socrates of Christendom,” but his theology requires some reframing: for one thing, his church was a library... more »


Essays & Opinions

Amid the current crisis, memorizing a poem can be a potent talisman — a charm or a balm to help us through this dry, brittle season... more »


May 1, 2020

Articles of Note

Who gets to read Ulysses? For a book full of fart jokes, as Stephen Fry points out, it gets accused of pretentiousness quite a lot... more »


New Books

Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell is anachronistically modern: secular, tolerant, and kind to women, children, the poor, and animals... more »


Essays & Opinions

In seeking a New Canaan, the Puritans were deeply influenced by the Jewish notion of chosenness. Roger Williams — who rejected this idea — was even exiled... more »


April 30, 2020

Articles of Note

Condé Nast was once known as “the Vogue company.” Now, as advertising revenue declines, is it “The New Yorker company”?... more »


New Books

William F. Cody — Buffalo Bill — has long shaped Americans’ idealistic sense of the frontier. But look more closely: His biography is full of darkness... more »


Essays & Opinions

Leaving the academy isn’t easy — especially when you’re drawn partially back in. Spectral conference sightings may result. Lucia Tang explains... more »


April 29, 2020

Articles of Note

When the pandemic has receded, no doubt the main takeaway will be: Don’t get caught off guard again. That is the wrong lesson... more »


New Books

When David Pryce-Jones came visiting, Auden downed three martinis in a half-hour and had to be put to bed with a flask of Chianti... more »


Essays & Opinions

Clive James and John Burnside could hardly be more different, except in this: Both are masters of appreciation and models of the poet/critic... more »


April 28, 2020

Articles of Note

Name the last novel to pass Andrew Ferguson's test: Would you be embarrassed at a cocktail party for not having read it?... more »


New Books

Frank Ramsey died at age 26, in 1930. Yet intellectuals still encounter "the Ramsey effect" — you reach a breakthrough, only to realize he got there first... more »


Essays & Opinions

Critics fixate on the role of empire in Conrad’s work. For Fredric Jameson, something else — the invention of the steamboat — reveals more... more »


April 27, 2020

Articles of Note

In 1947, Evelyn Waugh traveled to America to negotiate the film rights to Brideshead Revisited. Here’s why the trip was a disaster... more »


New Books

"What does it mean to be an artist in an economy that actually doesn’t allow many people to make their living as artists?"... more »


Essays & Opinions

The origins of Shakespearomania. His reputation as an artist of genius was essentially an 18th-century creation... more »


April 25, 2020

Articles of Note

European intellectuals are urbane, spontaneous, digressive; their American counterparts, more professional and professorial. The stereotypes are outdated, yet revealing... more »


New Books

“Pictures which are interpretable, and which contain a meaning, are bad pictures.” So holds Gerhard Richter, the art world’s great poet of uncertainty... more »


Essays & Opinions

For Manet, in art “you must constantly remain the master and do as you please. No tasks! No, no tasks!” And yet art is a task... more »


April 24, 2020

Articles of Note

Anne Case and Angus Deaton first recognized “deaths of despair.” As economic hardships swell, their work may be more relevant than ever... more »


New Books

When his "theory of the firm" went bust, the economist Michael Jensen needed a scapegoat. He found one in basic human irrationality... more »


Essays & Opinions

Previous epidemics might have prepared us for Covid-19 — if only their histories were better remembered and their victims duly honored. We could have been more like Venice, a city defined by disease... more »


April 23, 2020

Articles of Note

So what does Kierkegaard have to tell our age? A lot. First, we should stop thinking of ourselves as occupying an age at all... more »


New Books

Rebecca Solnit’s writing hits broad feminist notes, avoiding anything difficult or controversial. No one disagrees with her — which is a problem... more »


Essays & Opinions

Being friends with Philip Roth. He possessed the terrible gift of intimacy, causing people to tell him things they told no one else... more »


April 22, 2020

Articles of Note

Antonin Dvorak scavenged sounds from birds, swishing grass, stamping cows, shouts, and cries. In Iowa the music poured out of him... more »


New Books

Thoreau showed how the telegraph could alter our sense of time and space. Howard Axelrod shows us what that alteration now looks like... more »


Essays & Opinions

"Cocaine for the masses." The growth of a coffee culture has been trailed, and sometimes advanced, by a coffee literature... more »


April 21, 2020

Articles of Note

The notion that the brain is like a computer has led neuroscience down a false path. It’s drowning in data and short on theoretical insight... more »


New Books

Why do women read more than men? The answer may have more to do with masculinity than with femininity... more »


Essays & Opinions

Withdrawing from the public leads some artists, like Thomas Pynchon, to fame — and others, like Lee Bontecou, to obscurity... more »