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Since 1998, Arts & Letters Daily has linked to more than 17,000 articles, book reviews and essays. Consider supporting us. »
Aug. 22, 2019

Articles of Note

Is “world literature“” a framework for engaging works one might otherwise neglect, or just an excuse to raid and profit off international writing?... more »


New Books

In America, science was shaped by the CIA, the State Department, and the Cold War. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily without intellectual integrity... more »


Essays & Opinions

Where books matter. Americans usually assume that literature exists to depict life, while Russians often speak as if life exists to provide material for literature... more »


Aug. 21, 2019

Articles of Note

The case of the counterfeit Animal Farm. Inundated with fakes, Amazon says authors and publishers will have to police the market... more »


New Books

To understand Whitman’s impact on present-day writing, look no further than a poetic project on delight — delight in cardinals, in log piles, in nicknames... more »


Essays & Opinions

No, Sally Rooney is not the “great millennial novelist.” This generation is too diverse for that — its books seek specific audiences, not universal ones... more »


Aug. 20, 2019

Articles of Note

During World War I, Thomas Mann performed “intellectual military service” for Germany; by World War II, he was Hitler’s personal antagonist... more »


New Books

Lincoln was out of his depth politically. Moral hazard in banking isn’t a serious threat. Walter Bagehot had a talent for epic miscalculation... more »


Essays & Opinions

Alcoholic writers are mythologized — but consider their pain. “Heavy drinking is a substitute for companionship,” Bukowski said, “and it’s a substitute for suicide”... more »


Aug. 19, 2019

Articles of Note

Our Graham in Havana. Graham Greene’s interventions in Cuban politics were hardly fictional — he actually contributed to Batista’s downfall... more »


New Books

The intellectual coward. Victor Serge knew the type: playing word games, dabbling in fashionable politics, inciting “nothing but a revolt of literary cafes”... more »


Essays & Opinions

Charles Sanders Peirce was an intellectual titan, an American Aristotle. His obscurity stems from the abstruseness of his ideas and the machinations of his rivals... more »


Aug. 17, 2019

Articles of Note

Ayn Rand always held a certain appeal to precocious, contrarian youngsters. Now all the cool kids want to be socialists... more »


New Books

The rise and fall of an imperial discipline. Economics once wielded vast political influence, but is the intellectual marketplace now moving on?... more »


Essays & Opinions

The doomsayers rant that English is in decline, that we're speaking a degraded, faltering tongue. They've been saying so since the 14th century... more »


Aug. 16, 2019

Articles of Note

“Natural and unconstrained.” Nudism in America was shaped by Whitman, Thoreau, German philosophy, and the American Sunbathing Association... more »


New Books

Eric Hobsbawm's parents died within a span of two years, from heart attack and lung disease. The teenager found a new family in the Communist Party... more »


Essays & Opinions

Wake up, stay woke!” How a famously liberal liberal-arts college came to act like a small-minded, vindictive corporation... more »


Aug. 15, 2019

Articles of Note

Beware of book bandits. Aspiring authors are easy marks, or so suggests the history of swindling and literary scams... more »


New Books

Were Beethoven’s works politically charged? The historical context encourages such a view, but the music itself suggests something murkier... more »


Essays & Opinions

When Umberto Eco died, obituarists struggled to explain his project. It was to explode the line dividing high and popular culture... more »


Aug. 14, 2019

Articles of Note

Against petitions. "Being confronted with an arsenal of experts is about as conducive to conversation as a firing squad"... more »


New Books

Iris Murdoch likened language to a net cast over the mind, constraining thoughts according to the landings of its knots and threads... more »


Essays & Opinions

Democracy is in crisis! Or so warns a gaggle of alarmist books — all of which seem to poorly grasp how democracy actually works... more »


Aug. 13, 2019

Articles of Note

Baloney, hooey, bullshit: The social dynamics of debunking are a strange collaboration among debunker, charlatan, and dupe... more »


New Books

Let us praise the semicolon, the punctuation that helps us pause and think as it pushes us forward to what's next... more »


Essays & Opinions

Efficiency for what? We talk of “optimizing” our diets, exercise, and appearance, but rarely of optimizing child care or political representation... more »


Aug. 12, 2019

Articles of Note

Born into a famed Indian literary family, Dom Moraes mingled with Eliot and Auden. But just when his career in poetry took off, he stopped writing... more »


New Books

Sexism and anthropology. Margaret Mead was fearless in her investigations of culture. But later, who could protect her academic reputation from vicious attacks?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Being David Foster Wallace’s pen pal meant, at least for Susan Barnett, quips, dog discussions, and tolerating endless come-ons... more »


Aug. 10, 2019

Articles of Note

A shadowy publisher who calls himself “El Jefe,” royalty checks gone missing, a crisis: Behold, the literary equivalent of the Fyre Festival... more »


New Books

Film’s forgotten man Robert G. Haines appeared, as an extra, in many of the greatest movies ever made. What does his omnipresence mean?... more »


Essays & Opinions

For Claude Lévi-Strauss, studying man is like studying a mollusk: One must find the geometric beauty of the task... more »


Aug. 9, 2019

Articles of Note

The revolt of the feminist law profs. When social-justice goals were advanced at the cost of due process, Jeannie Suk Gersen stepped in... more »


New Books

The way we think about derivative translations and pure originals is all wrong. It rests on clichés and lazy approaches... more »


Essays & Opinions

Despite a plethora of aesthetic points of view, there is still a line between respecting bad taste and being complicit in it... more »


Aug. 8, 2019

Articles of Note

Was email a mistake? We check our inboxes every few minutes, wearied by the deluge, yet applaud ourselves for eliminating the need to speak face-to-face... more »


New Books

A poetic friendship is born: Wordsworth had just abandoned his daughter; Coleridge then abandoned his own family to spend more time with Wordsworth... more »


Essays & Opinions

"I write this because I’m dying as a poet," says Bob Hicok. "I’m a straight white guy, and the face of poetry is finally changing"... more »


Aug. 7, 2019

Articles of Note

Toni Morrison, whose work enlarged the American imagination in ways we are only beginning to understand, is dead. She was 88… Vinson Cunningham Dwight Garner The Paris Review Washington Post Hannah GiorgisTracy K. Smith... Wesley Morris... Ron Charles... Doreen St. Félix... Troy Patterson... Kevin Brown... Hilton Als... Roxane Gay... Michelle Obama and others...... more »


New Books

The challenge facing any biographer of Frederick Douglass: Work your way behind the self-made public hero of the autobiographies and find the private man... more »


Essays & Opinions

H. G. Wells, diviner of the future. The art of prediction is difficult, he determined, and thus warrants an academic solution: “Professors of Foresight”... more »


Aug. 6, 2019

Articles of Note

Wittgenstein said you could write a whole philosophy of the human condition using only jokes. So what can we learn from the jokes told under Stalin?... more »


New Books

Simone Weil was devoted to alleviating the suffering of others. André Weil, her brother, was devoted to numbers. He became a great mathematician; she became unhinged... more »


Essays & Opinions

John Ruskin’s literary reputation is in tatters, but he offered some wisdom. For example: “The most beautiful things in the world are the most useless”... more »


Aug. 5, 2019

Articles of Note

The publisher Faber & Faber was derided at first as “a bunch of Oxford amateurs; won’t last.” Passion, shrewdness, and luck have kept it afloat for 90 years... more »


New Books

Digressions galore, head-scratching logic, and a 26-sentence paragraph. A new biography of Chaucer is “a jargon-ridden exercise in academic colonialism”... more »


Essays & Opinions

“We are sick of you and your weird diseases, go home!” A tour of the red-light district of Amsterdam with Oliver Sacks... more »


Aug. 3, 2019

Articles of Note

A tale of murder in the wild. Where the Crawdads Sing, the “feel-good publishing story of the year,” faces some uncomfortable allegations... more »


New Books

How do we spend our time? We overestimate how much we work and exercise, and we're no busier than we were a few decades ago. We just think we are... more »


Essays & Opinions

“You sit in a plaza and it occurs to you that other people have been in your situation, whatever it is, and this knowledge is at the heart of civility”... more »


Aug. 2, 2019

Articles of Note

Italian humanists wrote with a mishmash of dots, dashes, swoops, and curlicues. Their most successful experiment in punctuation? The semicolon... more »


New Books

Moral panics have traditionally been an indulgence of the right. Now they're associated with the woke left. What happened?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Science has a data problem — its reliance on “statistical significance” has thrown it into disarray. An alternative standard beckons... more »


Aug. 1, 2019

Articles of Note

Kwame Anthony Appiah on dispensing ethical advice, the ephemerality of pop music, and the psychic benefits of being a sheep... more »


New Books

Who kicked the snakes out of Ireland? For 500 years, that honor went to a Celtic saint, Columba. Then the cult of Patrick intervened... more »


Essays & Opinions

To celebrate a work, Jackson Pollock got drunk, arrived naked at a party, and urinated in the fireplace. Or so said Peggy Guggenheim... more »


July 31, 2019

Articles of Note

Ain't no party like an existentialist party. De Beauvoir smoked joints. Sartre took amphetamines and mescaline. But alcohol was tops... more »


New Books

A new book on the culture of UFO believers shows how the scholarly study of strange things can have strange effects... more »


Essays & Opinions

How to rebuild Notre-Dame? Make it modern, some say, with a spire of glass or even crystal. Witold Rybczynski dissents... more »


July 30, 2019

Articles of Note

Corbin Gwaltney, visionary and mercurial founding editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education, is dead. He was 97. Arts & Letters Daily wouldn't exist without him... more »


New Books

Bruno Schulz dreamed of writing “The Book” — a singular, ideal work of literature. But magical imaginings can’t withstand the ordeal of their realization... more »


Essays & Opinions

A cache of Saul Bellow letters is discovered in the attic of a private residence — more evidence that the man was incapable of writing a boring sentence... more »


July 29, 2019

Articles of Note

The diary of Samuel Pepys, from 1660 to 1669, reveals a moral mess of a man living and thriving in a particularly messy time ... more »


New Books

"Are we having fun, or are we in a hell where we’re merely communicating, learning too little too quickly, melting our brains into the abyssal portal?" How we talk online... more »


Essays & Opinions

Nineteenth-century Paris was not a good place for female artists, as Berthe Morisot and her sister discovered. As Manet put it, “It’s annoying they’re not men”... more »


July 27, 2019

Articles of Note

College teaches us to read professionally — to extract useful information with scientific precision. Sometimes that’s a skill we must abandon... more »


New Books

Is the recent vogue for socialism sufficent to revive the moribund reputation of Nelson Algren, arch-poet of destitution and degradation?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Against mindfulness. Sold as a remedy for all occasions, it oversimplifies the difficult business of understanding oneself... more »


July 26, 2019

Articles of Note

It is no secret that John Keats was intensely fascinated with death. But was he a grave robber?... more »


New Books

When his fiancée wanted to try mesmerism, Hawthorne panicked: “There would be an intrusion into thy holy of holies — and the intruder would not be thy husband!”... more »


Essays & Opinions

When Max Weber began his talk "Politics as a Vocation," he did so with ambivalence. "This lecture," he said, "will necessarily disappoint you"... more »


July 25, 2019

Articles of Note

Three anthropologists, caught in a gin-fueled, malarial fog, believed they had cracked the riddle of culture. They hadn't... more »


New Books

The ways we come to change our minds demonstrate the richness and strangeness of human reason... more »


Essays & Opinions

There are many casualties in trying to quantify student learning. Is the link between metaphor and imagination one of them?... more »


July 24, 2019

Articles of Note

“Believe me, I am not mad!” insisted Herman Melville, in response to frequent questions. Helping keep him sane: his beloved farm... more »


New Books

Racist. Exploiter of children, animals, and the disabled. Abolitionist. Humorist: Who was P.T. Barnum?... more »


Essays & Opinions

What does it cost to be a citizen of the literary world? Time, for one thing. But the demands we make of women writers are outsize ... more »


July 23, 2019

Articles of Note

Alan Lomax changed the music Americans listened to and the way they listen. Why is his work rejected by most ethnomusicologists today?... more »


New Books

Rudyard Kipling was born in India to English parents. How did he come to spend his most creative years in Vermont?... more »


Essays & Opinions

The December 1937 issue of Partisan Review featured works by Trilling, Wilson, and Picasso. But that's not why it was a milestone... more »


July 22, 2019

Articles of Note

The wit and wisdom of the writers of the Algonquin Round Table are legendary. As for the group's larger significance, there isn’t much of one... more »


New Books

A historian’s historian and a scholar prized by a popular audience, Eric Hobsbawm was Zelig-like in his presence at world-historical moments... more »


Essays & Opinions

"Our most elite universities are today running away from their elitism.” But elitism, argues Anthony Kronman, is "something to be cherished and cared for"... more »


July 20, 2019

Articles of Note

In 1965 the varied landscape of book publishing began its consolidation into the conglomerate era. Has that changed the stories we tell?... more »


New Books

For all the praise of Robert Caro, some aspects of his process go unremarked. He doesn’t psychoanalyze or generalize — he is the antitheoretical reporter ... more »


Essays & Opinions

When it comes to syntax, Lionel Shriver throws in her lot with the pedants. How else to arrest semantic drift?... more »


July 19, 2019

Articles of Note

A conundrum lies at the heart of Georges Perec’s work: Is it possible to write about the unimaginable cruelty with the infantile levity of a jigsaw puzzle?... more »


New Books

Plato associated laughter with loss of self-control. Epictetus never laughed at all. What's the philosophical significance of funny?... more »


Essays & Opinions

John Stuart Mill was famous; Lord Byron was a celebrity. The distinction is rooted in history, culture, and how we consume our icons... more »