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April 19, 2019

Articles of Note

The Proust of science fiction. Gene Wolfe, author of Catholic-tinged, modernist-leaning pulp fiction, died on Sunday. He was 87... more »


New Books

Schadenfreude is surreptitious and subtle. It is not, as a woeful book on the subject has it, simply the range of small, everyday miseries... more »


Essays & Opinions

Both Tolkien and Lewis experienced World War I’s Western Front. But it’s not clear how this formed either Middle Earth or Narnia... more »


April 18, 2019

Articles of Note

The New Yorker's Goreyesque rejection of Edward Gorey: “The people in your pictures are too strange and the ideas, we think, are not funny"... more »


New Books

The earliest limerick did not come from Limerick. It was in Latin and, far from being dirty, it was a call to prayer... more »


Essays & Opinions

Lévi-Strauss at his peak. He was featured in Playboy and Elle. Even the French soccer team was reorganized along his principles... more »


April 17, 2019

Articles of Note

Shakespeare relied on hundreds of books as source material. Yet we have no description of his library or a record of its dispersal when he died... more »


New Books

Believed to be dead in 1937 although he lived until 1943, Henrik Pontoppidan, author of the great Scandinavian novel, has been overlooked... more »


Essays & Opinions

We admire law and order, embrace reasons and causes, seek predictability. Except when we don't. This tension is evident in modern aesthetics... more »


April 16, 2019

Articles of Note

How does a $1,000 work of dubious origin become a $450-million masterpiece? A tale of greed and the dark arts of art speculation... more »


New Books

Leonard Cohen is remembered as a troubled troubadour and talented songwriter. Should he also be remembered as a great poet?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Philosophy demands refutation and disputation, not kindness and empathy. Fighting, done right, is a form of inquiry... more »


April 15, 2019

Articles of Note

If you're unnerved by the rise in totalitarianism, Timothy Snyder is the dark prophet you've been waiting for. But prophecy can be facile... more »


New Books

Nietzsche, self-help guru? Is a man known for bleak hilarity the sort of guide you want in a crisis?... more »


Essays & Opinions

"The time of two balls has passed. The age of one ball has begun." Colm Tóibín confronts cancer, chemo, and months on the sofa... more »


April 13, 2019

Articles of Note

Origins of an overused metaphor. Adam Smith's catchphrase, "invisible hand," is now inextricably tied to capitalism. Blame Shakespeare... more »


New Books

How did “Zionist” become a dirty word to the international left — “akin, say, to ‘racist,’ ‘pedophile,’ or ‘rapist’?”... more »


Essays & Opinions

To use words like “fugacious,” “crepuscular,” and “chthonic” is to invite accusations of pretentiousness. But that's better than language austerity... more »


April 12, 2019

Articles of Note

A most fortuitous literary hangout. Zora Neale Hurston gave Langston Hughes a ride through the South in 1927. It changed both their careers... more »


New Books

Overload! We live in an age of too much information, of an overabundance of news. Will slowing down help us regain our sense of what’s going on?... more »


Essays & Opinions

What's happening with Hans Blumenberg? Long eclipsed, the late German thinker is having a moment. On metaphors, history, and lions... more »


April 11, 2019

Articles of Note

Since the death of Carl Schmitt, legal theorist and unrepentant Nazi, his stature has grown. The worry today is not his rehabilitation, but his relevance... more »


New Books

Socialisme et Liberté. Sartre started a nonviolent anti-Nazi group in occupied Paris, reaching out to prominent intellectuals to join. No one was interested... more »


Essays & Opinions

Putting sounds into words. "Writing about food is hard; writing about perfume must be even harder; but writing about music is difficult enough"... more »


April 10, 2019

Articles of Note

Do slow drivers, slow internet, and slow grocery lines send you into a rage? You’re not alone. Patience was a virtue, but apparently no more... more »


New Books

An all-boys “club” including Johnson, Boswell, and Burke met weekly to drink and gossip. Anxiety, neurosis, and venereal disease followed... more »


Essays & Opinions

From life hacks to digital-detox schemes, the pressure to be more efficient is everywhere. Maybe it's time to try something else: Doing nothing... more »


April 9, 2019

Articles of Note

Whitman’s Boswell. Horace Traubel transcribed 5,000 pages of conversations with the poet, but he left out “the one big factor” that explained everything... more »


New Books

Behold the unbearable tedium of lyric poetry: oversensitive souls wandering the world, logging every detail, however inane... more »


Essays & Opinions

The problem with satire is not that it mocks and belittles; that's the point. The problem is that social media has rendered it both quaint and futile... more »


April 8, 2019

Articles of Note

Why did George Orwell, recently widowed and suffering from tuberculosis, move in 1945 to the remote Scottish island of Jura? He was a connoisseur of discomfort... more »


New Books

Heroes, antiheroes, loyalty, honor: The Old West may be dead, but the Western lives. How an old-fashioned genre maintains its seductive appeal... more »


Essays & Opinions

Intellectual promiscuity, of the sort Nathan Glazer epitomized, is discouraged in higher education today. His death underscores troubling changes in American life... more »


April 6, 2019

Articles of Note

“With him a whole epoch in American music culminated,” wrote The New York Times of George Whitefield Chadwick. So why has he been forgotten?... more »


New Books

A period of piety. After World War II, interested swelled St. Thomas Aquinas, Simone Weil, and especially the books of Thomas Merton... more »


Essays & Opinions

Our age of suspicion. Why are the most impressive intellectuals suspected of harboring the darkest reactionary thoughts? Consider the case of Alain Finkielkraut... more »


April 5, 2019

Articles of Note

Two famous academics, 3,000 fans, $1,500 tickets: Jordan Peterson and Slavoj Zizek will tussle later this month in Toronto. So exciting ... or so what?... more »


New Books

George Bernard Shaw on Henrik Ibsen, Vladimir Nabokov on Nikolai Gogol, Henry Miller on Arthur Rimbaud, Nicholson Baker on John Updike, Karl Ove Knausgaard on ... Edvard Munch?... more »


Essays & Opinions

We don’t get to choose our influences. Yet it still comes as a surprise to learn that the book that caused Harold Bloom the most "anxiety of influence" is a little-known 1920 fantasy novel... more »


April 4, 2019

Articles of Note

The real Socrates. We see him as pious, unremitting ethical, and committed to lofty ideas. But what about his surprisingly wide-ranging love life?... more »


New Books

The history of blue. The color wasn't used to describe water until the 17th century. Then it became linked to melancholy, sadness, and a genre of music... more »


Essays & Opinions

Prose over everything. William Gass’s indomitable lyricism obliterates the plot and ideas in his works. To read him is to surrender to style... more »


April 3, 2019

Articles of Note

“We’re slowly dying of hunger and nobody cares,” wrote Nabokov, in 1937. How was it possible, he wondered, that no one understood his desperation and statelessness?... more »


New Books

“The criterion for poetry is very romantic again, filled with the witnessing of personal pain and suffering,” says Marjorie Perloff. “It’s just not a great moment for poetry”... more »


Essays & Opinions

A hideous history of skin. In the 16th and 17th centuries, flaying caught the notice of Titian and Sir Thomas Browne, whose attentions went beyond morbid curiosity... more »


April 2, 2019

Articles of Note

As the job of a pop star has changed, the ways in which music is borrowed have become more subversive... more »


New Books

Flann O’Brien’s hard times. After losing a civil-service job, he turned to freelance literary writing, a career imperiled by his scathing attacks on the local literati... more »


Essays & Opinions

Ian Buruma on his tenure at the New York Review: "Editors should be able to take risks. Denunciation, instead of debate, will result in a kind of fearful conformity”... more »


April 1, 2019

Articles of Note

In the months following Germany's surrender, rumors spread that Hitler was still alive. The task of figuring out the truth fell to a young Hugh Trevor-Roper... more »


New Books

What's with the persistent and tedious confusion of male authors who mistakenly regard their own quotidian horniness as windows into existential wisdom?... more »


Essays & Opinions

In old age, Ingmar Bergman grew exasperated with filmmaking and turned to a mode of expression that he pursued with startling intimacy: novels... more »


March 30, 2019

Articles of Note

It's settled science that a huge asteroid caused the dinosaur extinction. But we haven't known exactly what happened on the day of impact. Now maybe we do... more »


New Books

Sex lives of the modernists. The racy relationship of Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe — nude portraits, pet names for sex organs, etc. — was mimicked but never matched... more »


Essays & Opinions

How to appreciate bad books. Works that appear devoid of value — a 17th-century history of medicine, a trashy romance novel — often contain surprising depths... more »


March 29, 2019

Articles of Note

On September 26, 1940, in a room at the Hotel Franca in Portbou, Spain, Walter Benjamin swallowed 15 morphine tablets. What happened to his suitcase?... more »


New Books

A Kierkegaardian biography of Kierkegaard — an appealing concept. And yet a “sphere of infinite depth” turns out to be a poor model for lucid writing... more »


Essays & Opinions

The digital humanities are doomed, victimized by shoddy logic and bad math. Maybe. Or maybe they promise a sunny intellectual future for a suffering field... more... more »


March 28, 2019

Articles of Note

Praise the pigeon. They are smart, fast, and can differentiate a Matisse from a Picasso. As Marianne Moore wrote, “Modesty cannot dull the luster of the pigeon”... more »


New Books

Sluicing through the sludge of paperwork. Collectively, we spend billions of hours filling out forms. Is there any hope for reducing the tedium and monotony?... more »


Essays & Opinions

"I’ve never thought about death in my entire life," says Vivian Gornick. "The people I know who talk about death are very banal and bore me to death"... more »


March 27, 2019

Articles of Note

"Art can’t save you," says Christian Wiman. "It can give you glimpses of something beautiful, maybe even something redemptive, but there’s nothing there to hold onto"... more »


New Books

Bret Easton Ellis, the thinking man’s shock jock, has made his first foray into nonfiction. The result: a rambling, self-aggrandizing mess... more »


Essays & Opinions

Toni Morrison’s writing refuses to comfort, to seduce, or to pander to our expectations. Instead she is unabashedly, unapologetically difficult... more »


March 26, 2019

Articles of Note

A war over wool. The dour “Staplers” took on “the Company of Merchant Adventurers.” The 14th-century battle — which played out in Chaucerian verse — offers lessons for Brexit... more »


New Books

Andrea Dworkin's frizzy hair, dumpy overalls, and uncompromising positions came to epitomize radical feminist hostility. Is her work less threatening today?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Tchaikovsky, futurist? Though deeply conservative in life and in art, he embraced avant-garde concepts in order to counter them... more »


March 25, 2019

Articles of Note

Code-named “the commode,” the operation culminated a 40-year hunt for one of the most expensive books in the world... more »


New Books

Frederick Douglass, a kind of Old Testament prophet, was a pragmatist who never abandoned his radicalism. His quest for freedom gave rise to a heroic literary style... more »


Essays & Opinions

Philosophy's anti-Semitism problem. To what extent has the field's history, as well as its professional habits and pieties, been shaped by religious intolerance and other forms of bigotry?... more »


March 23, 2019

Articles of Note

Critics debate a new Hudson Yards structure  — does it resemble a beehive or a pine cone? They agree, though, that it is an exercise in architectural cynicism... more »


New Books

Early modern alchemists feared that their research would trigger social collapse. And so they employed an obfuscatory jargon not rivaled in complexity until postmodernism... more »


Essays & Opinions

Literary parties are generally awkward disasters. This holds in fiction and in life. As John O’Hara put it, they are about “terrible people” getting “gloriously drunk”... more »


March 22, 2019

Articles of Note

Literary theory was a revolution. What happens when the revolutionaries grow old? Jane Gallop on age, falling out of fashion, and why teaching is inevitably erotic... more »


New Books

Was Shakespeare a “punk poet,” a “proto-rockstar,” a “16th-century Russell Crowe,” and also a talentless middleman? Indeed so, says a new book... more »


Essays & Opinions

Hannah Arendt knew that being human in inhuman times is hard, occasionally impossible work. She is a thinker of the difficult, a thinker for now... more »


March 21, 2019

Articles of Note

Walter Benjamin in Ibiza. He escaped Nazism, went without electricity, proposed marriage and was rejected. He decided to commit suicide but didn’t. Not yet... more »


New Books

The genre of books about growing old is nearly as old as old age itself. They fall into three categories: the scientific, the personal, and the political... more »


Essays & Opinions

“I detonate around him.” It’s easy to mock bad sex writing — especially that of Lawrence, Mailer, or E.L. James. But does that get us any closer to good sex writing?... more »


March 20, 2019

Articles of Note

The mystery of Bernard-Henri Lévy: How did a man so often described as inane come to be regarded as a public intellectual?... more »


New Books

Pamela Hansford Johnson was romantically involved with Dylan Thomas and C.P. Snow. Naturally, she developed a talent for depicting conceited men... more »


Essays & Opinions

J. Edgar Hoover sought to destroy Nelson Algren’s career — and was largely successful. Now Algren’s proletarian literature is back in fashion... more »


March 19, 2019

Articles of Note

Hilma af Klint has been lauded as the inventor of abstract art. But she didn’t think of her work as abstract, and her visual approach was centuries old... more »


New Books

Has the internet changed the way we think? At the least, it convinced fans of Brain Pickings to confuse a grab bag of mildly cool factoids for real insight... more »


Essays & Opinions

A history of the color black. From Goya’s terrifying “black paintings” to Tristram Shandy’s entirely black page, the color has a singular power... more »


March 18, 2019

Articles of Note

The Second Sex is a type of book: bold, original, scholarly, criticized, refuted, yet enduring. Books like this don't die. But academics don't write them anymore. Too bad... more »


New Books

Autism was not a new term, but Hans Asperger gave it new meaning. He identified a spectrum and urged "proper understanding, love, and guidance." But his benevolence went only so far... more »


Essays & Opinions

Who has the gall to tell the entire human race how to feel? Philosophers, that's who. Their counsel: Calm down, be rational. Is anyone listening?... more »


March 16, 2019

Articles of Note

A virus has been described as bad news wrapped in a protein. When one recently colonized B.D. McClay, she got to thinking about the malicious particles that surround us... more »


New Books

Part of the allure of the British Empire was the promise of exotic thrills in distant lands. But the age of pith helmets was mostly just boring... more »


Essays & Opinions

The cheery, bland age of “books coverage.” Reviews have been replaced by listicles, gift ideas, and promotional Q&As. We deserve better... more »