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Aug. 16, 2018

Articles of Note

The years leading up to World War I were a time of radical artistic experimentation — vorticism, cubism, futurism, "anti-art." These new movements turned out to be further casualties of the war... more »


New Books

In 1837, Darwin sketched a tree of life: a common ancestor at the trunk, ever-dividing branches leading to new species. Turns out those branches aren't as separate as we thought... more »


Essays & Opinions

"A curious situation has arisen." That's how Leonard Bernstein began an unusual pre-concert address to an audience. He went on to disavow the performance he was about to conduct... more »


Aug. 15, 2018

Articles of Note

For Roland Barthes, understanding society required understanding how meaning is produced and consumed. It led him to a social psychology of human alienation... more »


New Books

More than 800 pre-Gutenberg editions of The Divine Comedy are known to exist. The history of translations and interpretations is long and fractious... more »


Essays & Opinions

Kant believed that beautiful art “must always show a certain dignity in itself.” Alfred Brendel disagrees. He believes in musical jokes ... more »


Aug. 14, 2018

Articles of Note

V.S. Naipaul was a grumpy reactionary whose sense of humor bordered on cruelty. His irascibility sharpened his vision... more »


New Books

The architecture critic Owen Hatherley has announced his last “walking around and looking at things” book. We look forward to his stopping... more »


Essays & Opinions

“Relevant” is one of the great nonsense words in art, says Jay Nordlinger. The best art doesn't speak to our time. It speaks for all time... more »


Aug. 13, 2018

Articles of Note

The physicist Leo Szilard was integral to the creation of nuclear weapons. His literary legacy, including a cabal of messianic dolphins, is less well known... more »


New Books

Pentecostal churches were hellfire preaching, general pandemonium — and music. They were where Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and James Brown learned to move a crowd... more »


Essays & Opinions

Among the Leonardo loonies. How a strange subculture of da Vinci obsessives creates elaborate, unsubstantiated theories to explain him... more »


Aug. 11, 2018

Articles of Note

The tyranny of language. European colonizers tried to stamp out indigenous languages. The legacy of linguistic imperialism lives on... more »


New Books

How would Aristotle cater a luncheon? What would he say about résumés or global warming? Such tidbits, among other fluff, make up a new book... more »


Essays & Opinions

Choosing what to read takes time and effort and often results in disappointment. Do yourself a favor: Ditch the best-seller list. Read old books instead... more »


Aug. 10, 2018

Articles of Note

What’s it like to take a psychedelic drug? Answers may tend to echo the “love conquers all” platitudes of Hallmark cards, but they're convincing... more »


New Books

The trial over The Trial. German scholars argued that Kafka’s manuscripts belonged to Germany; Israeli scholars disagreed. Then things got contentious... more »


Essays & Opinions

"Anyone ambitious who lives to be old or even old endures the inevitable loss of ambition’s fulfillment." Donald Hall on life at 90... more »


Aug. 9, 2018

Articles of Note

Black English is not a degraded form of the language. It's an alternative form. There's nothing wrong with it. So should white writers get in trouble for using it?... more »


New Books

Life finds a way — but should it? The de-extinction movement promises to bring back mammoths and dinosaurs. Perhaps this hasn't been adequately thought through... more »


Essays & Opinions

We've become indifferent to memory, allergic to tradition. Truth has been eclipsed by useful knowledge. Technocracy reigns, humanism wanes. Deep thoughts with Ross Douthat... more »


Aug. 8, 2018

Articles of Note

Simone Weil was a French pseudo-Catholic mystic and writer of monkish austerity. Her life and death are stark and memorable. But is she relevant?... more »


New Books

Why did Descartes, a social climber, leave Paris, a city he loved? His life was in danger. Or so says a new biography... more »


Essays & Opinions

The life of the mind has been overtaken by the imperatives of advertising. Welcome to the era of the promotional intellectual ... more »


Aug. 7, 2018

Articles of Note

The neuroscientist Barbara Lipska spent her career mapping the line between sanity and insanity. Then her own mind began to go wrong... more »


New Books

A curious fact about the giants of utopian literature: The authors' own lives are far more interesting than those they imagined... more »


Essays & Opinions

Anger and tenderness. Adrienne Rich wrote little while raising her three sons, but the experience changed her: “Motherhood radicalized me”... more »


Aug. 6, 2018

Articles of Note

"Bodies are unruly sites for politics," says Merve Emre. "Between the body and the political lies a vastly mediated world where belief and behavior do not always overlap"... more »


New Books

“It is a miracle that New York works at all,” wrote E.B. White. “The whole thing is implausible.” Is the city the apotheosis of America or a national outlier? Maybe both... more »


Essays & Opinions

Happy endings are rare in literary fiction. Instead we get bleak plots and pervasive pessimism. Can we really say literature is good for us?... more »


Aug. 4, 2018

Articles of Note

Holocaust-deniers, anti-vaccinators, climate-change skeptics: The psychology of denialism runs deep and affects us all... more »


New Books

Yuval Noah Harari dwells on big subjects – war, terrorism, nationalism, God. He does so by combining great swaths of padding with observations of crushing banality... more »


Essays & Opinions

Reading Lolita in the age of #MeToo. The book never pardons us for the sin of participating in it. The revulsion is why it endures. Caitlin Flanagan explains... more »


Aug. 3, 2018

Articles of Note

The mythic personification of evil has been around for a long time, and our sense of its reality has not vanished with the steady march of rationalism... more »


New Books

Oscar Wilde’s American book tour. He reclined sensuously on a fur rug for publicity stills, mastered the pungent axiom, and faced down rowdy hecklers... more »


Essays & Opinions

Learning French has been likened to joining a gang. Both involve "a long and intensive period of hazing.” Why bother? It forces you to rethink your approach to language itself... more »


Aug. 2, 2018

Articles of Note

The big business of the “war of ideas.” In front of 6,000 people, Jordan Peterson riffs on the human brain, God, and genocide, mining mass ennui for money... more »


New Books

For 19th-century British poets, to die in Italy was a guarantee of sanctification. Exhibit A: Oscar Wilde throwing himself on the ground at Keats’s grave... more »


Essays & Opinions

We used to reach for metaphors, idioms, and images to convey abstract ideas, says Steven Pinker. Now our prose is more efficient, but more lifeless... more »


Aug. 1, 2018

Articles of Note

In defense of ugly art. From da Vinci’s “series of disgusts” to such works as “A Grotesque Old Woman,” viewers tend to gawk at the hideous. They should look deeper... more »


New Books

Every generation gets the Emily Brontë it needs. The latest iteration: Proto-feminist who chafed at traditional gender roles; bread-making maven; skilled musician... more »


Essays & Opinions

The cult of Evelyn Waugh included Graham Greene and Kingsley Amis. The modern Waughian wears tweed, rides a bike, and, most likely, blogs... more »


July 31, 2018

Articles of Note

Recondite, scholarly works on human evolution or the history of trade have topped the best-seller list. Is this a boom in “brainy” books?... more »


New Books

“Work is a good thing in small doses,” wrote Philip Larkin, who proved an efficient librarian. Today, however, labor often goes hand in hand with soul-crushing misery... more »


Essays & Opinions

Russia came early to the idea that "the people" carry the moral solution to the world’s ills. These populists, fueled by a guilty idealism, failed utterly... more »


July 30, 2018

Articles of Note

Have people said that you should write a book? Hate to break it to you, but they're almost certainly wrong... more »


New Books

In 1948, Hemingway set sail for Europe with more than 30 pieces of luggage and a royal-blue Buick convertible. He was in search of a second act. Improbably, he found it... more »


Essays & Opinions

Peter Berger did as much as anyone to illuminate the place of religion in the modern world. He was more opaque about his own religious identity... more »


July 28, 2018

Articles of Note

What English has wrought. It's everywhere. Meantime, a language goes extinct every two weeks; up to 90 percent of the world’s 6,000 languages are at risk of disappearing... more »


New Books

All utopias are not progressive, and progressive utopias are not liberal. Indeed, as close as liberalism gets to utopia is a society flawed, like our own, but less cruel... more »


Essays & Opinions

If art can do harm -- and it can -- it can also do good. If it’s beautiful enough or moving enough or original enough, maybe it can even atone for the sins of the artist... more »


July 27, 2018

Articles of Note

Welcome to the David Foster Wallace Conference, where “DFDubs” was, by turns, venerated and exhaustively flayed for being a misogynist... more »


New Books

Handsome, smart, and devious, George Villiers ascended in King James I’s court. But his rise ended with sexual shenanigans and, it seems, murder... more »


Essays & Opinions

Charles Mills is sensitive to the weaknesses and limitations of liberal political theory. His critique is a reckoning, and an effort to save liberalism... more »


July 26, 2018

Articles of Note

Long before the invention of modern recording technology, scholars captured the music of Ukrainian Jewry. It is the sound of a vanished world ... more »


New Books

Judith Shklar was a pessimist in an era of triumphalism. At odds with the political philosophy of her own time, her ideas are finally resonating... more »


Essays & Opinions

Diogenes Laertius may have been a flaming mediocrity, but he deserves our admiration: He's our best source on ancient philosophy ... more »


July 25, 2018

Articles of Note

The intellectual hucksterism of AlienCon. Thousands gather to learn about iridology, divine muscle testing, and ancient astronaut theory — for a price, of course... more »


New Books

The prestige of books has declined. But that hasn't dimmed tyrants' longtime desire to collect their dull thoughts between two covers... more »


Essays & Opinions

An unfortunate side effect of democracy is that it incentivizes ignorance, irrationality, and tribalism. So says Jason Brennan. He has a cure: epistocracy... more »


July 24, 2018

Articles of Note

Wuthering Heights makes too much noise and not enough sense. But what’s significant about the novel is the fact that it exists at all... more »


New Books

Time is typically experienced as linear, uniform, and homogeneous. One appeal of books is that they function as time machines... more »


Essays & Opinions

Extremism is too often seen as a foreign threat — an infection from an alien civilization. As Hannah Arendt knew, it grows out of a local problem: loneliness... more »


July 23, 2018

Articles of Note

Aristotle wrote an essay, “On Sleep and Sleeplessness,” wondering how and why we sleep. Maybe the real wonder is why we bother to stay awake... more »


New Books

“Bitching Aplenty” could have been the title of Seymour Hersh's memoir. His antics wouldn't be tolerated today. Has journalism deprived itself of genius by depriving itself of depravity?... more »


Essays & Opinions

What is it like to be a man? We talk plenty about masculinity, but the topic resists straightforward discussion — even as men suck the air from every other conversation... more »


July 21, 2018

Articles of Note

The "intellectual dark web" is many things: crusade against political correctness, revolt against conventional beliefs, check on the illiberal left. One thing it is not: new... more »


New Books

The "problem of thinking" is a matter of overcoming discomfort, not biases. Thinking deeply is exhausting, and we instinctively avoid ideas that complicate our lives ... more »


Essays & Opinions

How is it that the gray mush inside our skulls can produce "hopes, fears, and dreams"? It's the sort of question that animates a lot of useless agonizing... more »


July 20, 2018

Articles of Note

Balzac and Paris. Faulkner and Mississippi. Thoreau and Walden Pond. Solzhenitsyn and ... Vermont? How the Russian novelist made rural New England his home... more »


New Books

Robert Caro’s five-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson will have been published over three decades. The future of the genre, via video, ebook, or podcast, will be quite different... more »


Essays & Opinions

"Disrespecting your ideological predecessors is something of a sport in modern American feminism, and it reaches varsity level when it comes to criticizing the second wave"... more »


July 19, 2018

Articles of Note

The Swedish Academy has always been consumed by self-importance. Now the bestower of Nobels in literature is consumed by scandals of sex and corruption... more »


New Books

Literary theory is choked with jargon and oracular prose, which makes John Farrell's achievement all the more remarkable... more »


Essays & Opinions

They cost 99 cents and depict glistening shirtless men. Romance e-books might seem frivolous, but the controversy over Her Cocky Doctors is anything but... more »


July 18, 2018

Articles of Note

When Mount Vesuvius erupted, thousands of papyrus scrolls were buried — the only intact ancient library. Will they finally be read?... more »


New Books

Oscar Wilde, post-imprisonment, was a broken, tragic figure. Or was he? A different story lurks in his hilarious letters and his general seduction of Paris... more »


Essays & Opinions

Writers and even academic institutes are celebrating the mystical power of psychedelics. The enthusiasm is based more on hope than on scientific evidence... more »


July 17, 2018

Articles of Note

Auden left Britain for America in 1939 — “at the first squeak of an air-raid warning,” said Evelyn Waugh. Was it mere cowardice?... more »


New Books

The imperialism of economics. The field explains away complicated realities, ignores culture, and exalts reductionism. Can it be saved?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Shakespeare and science. He was a poet of Copernican astronomy before the telescope, and a poet of microbiology before the modern microscope... more »


July 16, 2018

Articles of Note

In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee came up with the idea that became the internet. Since then he's thought of little but how to guard it — and of how he's failed to do so... more »


New Books

Life in the Matthiessen family. Hypermasculinity, CIA intrigue, multiple suicides, and literary brilliance. A member of the clan takes stock ... more »


Essays & Opinions

What does it mean to acquire a taste for something, whether classical music, coffee, or conservatism? It means shedding who we are and becoming who we aspire to be... more »


July 14, 2018

Articles of Note

For the past 25 years, in novel after novel, Michel Houellebecq advanced a case against modern sexuality. Now his dystopia is our reality... more »


New Books

In 1908, an elderly woman was murdered in her Glasgow apartment. The police had a suspect. Then Arthur Conan Doyle got involved... more »


Essays & Opinions

Science is too white, too male, too straight. So efforts to increase diversity make sense. But do they undermine scientific progress?... more »


July 13, 2018

Articles of Note

During Shoah’s, 9 1/2 hours, Claude Lanzmann, who died last week, displayed a genius for not looking away from enormities and not tolerating niceties... more »


New Books

A tale of two epics. Anthony Powell’s masterwork was as long and complex as Proust’s, and is of superior quality, writes Perry Anderson. Why has it been forgotten?... more »


Essays & Opinions

A mystical approach to translating Clarice Lispector. Hallucinations and prayers abounded; magic crystals were employed; when the dictionary failed, a psychic was consulted... more »