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June 26, 2017

Articles of Note

Bernard-Henri Lévy can barely read Hebrew and hasn't devoted much time or energy to studying Judaism. That hasn't stopped him from writing a book of pronouncements on the topic... more »


New Books

The brief rise of "prince poo." How the Enlightenment's sensory awakening reached its apex (or nadir) during a French craze for garments the color of baby poop... more »


Essays & Opinions

If economists aren't questioning the effectiveness of economic theory, they should be. Simply put: Their claim to scientific expertise is no longer tenable... more »


June 24, 2017

Articles of Note

A passion for the mundane. A scuffed old bread knife, a glass vase, a coffee table — ordinary objects delighted, inspired, and confounded Matisse... more »


New Books

Even Bach, musical savant and master of counterpoint, did not escape critique. For one journalist, his work contained “too much art”... more »


Essays & Opinions

Fraud, lies, and the importance of the group. Via attachment theory, Arendt, and Milgram, a former cult member considers the psychology of brainwashing... more »


June 23, 2017

Articles of Note

Politics run through Shakespeare’s plays, but we know little of his own political opinions. His characters speak, they do not lecture. Yet certain themes recur... more »


New Books

After decades of literary labor, Bulgakov had published little: some short stories, part of a novel. The problem? His failure to understand what was wanted from his work... more »


Essays & Opinions

Orchestras of the Third Reich. Austro-German musicians’ admiration for Hitler strains any belief that high art is ennobling to the spirit... more »


June 22, 2017

Articles of Note

Float nude in saltwater, pee in a gold toilet, lounge in a field of phalluses. Participatory art preys on our narcissism. Is that a bad thing?... more »


New Books

Mickey Mouse, Jack the Ripper, Proust, mutton chops, ghost stories, comics: Joachim Kalka can write interestingly about almost anything... more »


Essays & Opinions

Whose bohemia? Ida Nettleship married the painter Augustus John, had five children, competed with his 21-year-old muse, and went unmentioned in his memoir... more »


June 21, 2017

Articles of Note

Jonathan Haidt is famous for explaining how liberals and conservatives think. Now he's wagering that social psychology can calm the campus culture war... more »


New Books

What's the meaning of red? It's the first color. It has the most powerful poetic and aesthetic associations. It warns, prohibits, condemns... more »


Essays & Opinions

A.E. Housman was a classicist-poet and voice of England. He was gaunt, gray, fond of isolation. For fun he wrote caustic takedowns of other scholars... more »


June 20, 2017

Articles of Note

You probably know of Charles and Ray Eames for their furniture design. But they also made more than 125 films. Why? “To get across an idea”... more »


New Books

For Terry Eagleton, culture is “the opium of the intelligentsia.” To understand this, along with his other epigrams, consider his anti-philosophical stance... more »


Essays & Opinions

Literature enriches the public sphere but speaks most powerfully in private. Andrew O’Hagan asks: What future does literature have in an age drenched in social media?... more »


June 18, 2017

Articles of Note

As Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote, “The intellect is a muscle; it must be exercised.” But that exercise varies. Consider the reading habits of book critics... more »


New Books

At least since Orwell, bad writing has been linked with bad politics. But is good writing really a panacea for social, economic, legal, and political ills?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Neuroscientists working on the “hard problem” of consciousness may be doomed to fail. But there is meaning — even pleasure — in the Sisyphean task... more »


June 17, 2017

Articles of Note

It’s one thing to preserve a painting, quite another to preserve art made from bologna or bubble gum. Should art be made to last?... more »


New Books

Why we act as we do: neurons, neurotransmitters, hormones, teachers, peers, and society. Yet every “cause” of our behavior is linked to dozens of other variables... more »


Essays & Opinions

In 1965 a young New Yorker writer’s story ideas were rejected, one after another by the editor. Finally he said, “Oranges.” “That’s very good,” replied William Shawn... more »


June 16, 2017

Articles of Note

Newark, N.J., has figured in half of Philip Roth's novels. It is an unusually expansive literary portrait of an American city, a chronicle of urban decline... more »


New Books

“Identity is never singular but is multiply constructed,” wrote Stuart Hall, founder of cultural studies. Do his reflections on his identity help us understand our own?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Virginia Woolf's diary includes her thoughts on other people’s diaries. She read lots of them, seeing them as a valuable literary genre... more »


June 15, 2017

Articles of Note

Why keep a diary? Benjamin Franklin sought to log 13 virtues a day, Samuel Johnson “to methodise” his life. For Susan Sontag, private writing was a source of strength... more »


New Books

Inside Wagner's head. The composer's essence was self-dramatization wrapped in contradiction. He was, himself, an all-embracing work of art... more »


Essays & Opinions

Eric Hobsbawm became, perhaps, the world’s most-read historian. Still, he was puzzled over: How did a scholar so perceptive fail the test of anticommunism?... more »


June 14, 2017

Articles of Note

James Baldwin's FBI file runs 1,884 pages. It's full of marginalia, including this, in 1964, from J. Edgar Hoover: “Isn’t Baldwin a Well-Known Pervert?”... more »


New Books

After decades of research and dozens of excellent books, is there anything new to say about Hitchcock, Welles, and Kubrick? Yes, quite a lot... more »


Essays & Opinions

Futurists dismiss religion but anoint “evangelists” of technology and “oracles” of artificial intelligence. Are futurists really as atheistic as they think?... more »


June 13, 2017

Articles of Note

Fifty years after the Congress for Cultural Freedom was outed as a CIA front, it stands as a reminder that state power can go only so far in setting the intellectual agenda... more »


New Books

"Having won California, self-esteem conquered the world. So here we are, living with the first generation raised entirely on the intoxicating mantra of its own excellence"... more »


Essays & Opinions

Austro-Hungarian modernists like Wittgenstein, Karl Kraus, and Joseph Roth were anti-utopian and anti-ideological. What were they for? Irony... more »


June 12, 2017

Articles of Note

What's the relationship among genes, race, and IQ? The near-impossibility of a definitive answer has let assertion substitute for evidence... more »


New Books

In an 1888 diary entry, Thomas Hardy reflected on a church service. His stream-of-consciousness style was a harbinger of modernist techniques to come. We are Hardy's heirs... more »


Essays & Opinions

Philosophical writing is pedantically precise. It's not much fun and doesn't much influence people. The problems are hard to settle. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it... more »


June 10, 2017

Articles of Note

Many of the statues, reliefs, and sarcophagi of the ancient world were colorfully painted. And yet the association of beauty with pristine whiteness continues. Why?... more »


New Books

What it’s like to be known as the man defeated by a machine: Garry Kasparov, an early enthusiast of chess-playing computers, rethinks Deep Blue... more »


Essays & Opinions

Quick: Think of a novel devoted to climate change. Tough, right? What explains this failure of imagination involving the fate of the world?... more »


June 9, 2017

Articles of Note

Cyril Connolly was obsessed with his own worst traits: laziness, nostalgia, gluttony, hypochondria, frivolity. His fetish for failure was, oddly, a source of inspiration.... more »


New Books

Those mean-spirited New York Intellectuals. “Everyone around Partisan Review,” wrote Diana Trilling, “had his licensed malice.” But she could be as vicious as any of them... more »


Essays & Opinions

In the end, it's been said, authors write for professors. But the scholarly fate of Thoreau is uncertain; the 7,000 pages of his journal still await full study. It is the great untold secret of American letters... more »


June 8, 2017

Articles of Note

Newton getting bonked by an apple, Archimedes problem-solving in the bath: What eureka moments say — and don’t say — about the scientific process... more »


New Books

Why is world literature dismissed as deracinated and dull, representing what’s wrong with the culture industry? Adam Kirsch defends a maligned genre... more »


Essays & Opinions

Published 50 years ago, One Hundred Years of Solitude has become a trendy text. Frederic Jameson considers its cultural, political, and aesthetic ascendance... more »


June 7, 2017

Articles of Note

How beauty happens. The purpose of a peacock's tail feathers is less utilitarian than aesthetic. Or so goes a new theory of sexual selection... more »


New Books

The boredom boom. New books defend silence and solitude, pushing back against society’s endless demands to be entertained. Has the study of boredom become boring?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Where tarot cards come from. Not ancient Egypt, but a place almost as mysterious: Paris, in 1781, with its occult-obsessed secret societies and private clubs... more »


June 6, 2017

Articles of Note

The Dreyfus affair gave us the word “intellectual.” It also redefined truth, justice, and art. Look at the impact on Proust, Joyce, Kafka  ... more »


New Books

The flip side to Goethe's self-confidence was melancholy. Writing was an exercise — often unsuccessful — in cheering himself up... more »


Essays & Opinions

The personalized internet curates our social-media feeds and individualizes our search results. It's a marvel. It's also caused an explosion of intellectual arrogance... more »


June 5, 2017

Articles of Note

Film as an art form is routinely dismissed in comparison to books. The attitude is so taken for granted that people assume even Martin Scorsese subscribes to it. He doesn't... more »


New Books

Social media is a boon to social protest. Marches grow, solidarity spreads, and movements scale quickly — too quickly to enact significant political change... more »


Essays & Opinions

Churchill and Orwell, different in so many ways, shared a determination to confront unpleasant realities. They also had a tragic understanding that their views were unlikely to prevail... more »


June 3, 2017

Articles of Note

Technological change can make even recent “contemporary” fiction feel dated. So writers of literary works are increasingly setting them in the future... more »


New Books

Exophonic writers, who write in a language other than their native one, are an odd bunch — perhaps none more so than the Surrealist, spectral Leonora Carrington... more »


Essays & Opinions

W.G. Sebald is famous for his Holocaust writing, depiction of vacant landscapes, and sense of drifting melancholy. But comedy was key to his brilliance... more »


June 2, 2017

Articles of Note

The friendship of Gershom Scholem and Hannah Arendt ended over questions of good, evil, and historical responsibility. Their argument continues to be relevant... more »


New Books

“An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterward,” said F. Scott Fitzgerald. He was 23... more »


Essays & Opinions

"One can be taught—and one needs to be taught—how to look," says Philippe de Montebello. "This is why I am so impatient with those who want to position their museum as a form of entertainment"... more »


June 1, 2017

Articles of Note

Schools of thought in philosophy and cultural theory are transient. They coalesce, evolve, break apart. So how has the Frankfurt School endured for three generations?... more »


New Books

Philosophers agonize over AI but largely ignore nonhuman intelligence in front of us. Consider the stupendous mental abilities of honey badgers and elephants... more »


Essays & Opinions

Why we need Thoreau. His critics note that his moral vision was linked to self-righteousness. But who hasn’t felt self-righteous? His frustrations are ours as well... more »


May 31, 2017

Articles of Note

When Shirley Jackson arrived at the hospital and was asked her occupation, she said “writer.” The nurse responded, “I’ll just put down housewife"... more »


New Books

Armed conflict could go the way of slavery. But war won't become a rarity if we think of it in biological terms or treat it as a disease... more »


Essays & Opinions

After the “Midcentury Misogynists,” male American writers tended to avoid writing about sex, lest they be seen, like Updike, as “a penis with a thesaurus”... more »


May 30, 2017

Articles of Note

It's where Confucius and Lao Tzu went to think, where Li Bai and Du Fu went to find words, where Mao demonstrated his authority. In China, everything starts with a river... more »


New Books

When sports meets philosophy. Want to test ideas about mutualism and self-interest? Try succeeding inside a cycling peloton... more »


Essays & Opinions

Of all the biographers who have written about Hemingway, not one was a woman. Now comes Mary Dearborn, immune to the writer's hairy-chested legend... more »


May 29, 2017

Articles of Note

Shakespeare and the brain. Stephen Booth is a literary critic with a penetrating view of poetic language. He's transformed our understanding not only of Shakespeare but also of how we think... more »


New Books

In 1940, Czeslaw Milosz had to choose between Nazi and Soviet occupation. Nazism threatened the body, while Communism threatened the soul. For Milosz, the latter was the greater sacrifice ... more »


Essays & Opinions

What is a library? If you think it's just a place where society stores books, then you have a dangerously impoverished view of what knowledge can be... more »


May 27, 2017

Articles of Note

At 32 Nietzsche left Basel to recuperate in Sorrento. There he separated himself from Wagner, which was odd — Wagner was also in Sorrento... more »


New Books

The Midwest wasn't always written about as a second-class culture of yokels and rednecks who lack intellect. Blame Mencken and The New Yorker... more »


Essays & Opinions

Einstein hated beets. Hitchcock wouldn't eat eggs. Colson Whitehead can't stand ice cream. We are what we eat, but what's the significance of what we don't eat?... more »


May 26, 2017

Articles of Note

How can we be? The fMRI can't identify the source of consciousness, but it can bring the problem into sharper relief... more »


New Books

How the Nazis pursued a new aesthetics for a new political order  and showed how swiftly liberal principles can be hollowed out... more »


Essays & Opinions

Fifty years after her genteel verse graced the Yale Younger Poets series, Adrienne Rich had become a dissident. She hadn’t exactly chosen poetry in the first place... more »


May 25, 2017

Articles of Note

Pound and Eliot. Lish and Carver. Brod and Kafka. Fiction editors sit uncomfortably at the intersection of art and commerce. The role is ripe for recrimination... more »


New Books

Evelyn Waugh has been viewed as chiefly a comic writer. And he was funny, in his dark and malicious way. That's not to say he was amusing... more »


Essays & Opinions

Martin Luther, unfiltered. He lived in a bachelor’s chaos and hated Jews, papists, and Calvinists, among others. Then he married a runaway nun who brewed excellent beer... more »


May 24, 2017

Articles of Note

It used to be simple: dark suit, white shirt, discreet tie, black oxfords. Then came "casual Fridays" — and all we lost by dressing down... more »


New Books

Margaret Wise Brown avoided witches, trolls, glass slippers, and sleeping beauties. Instead she revolutionized picture books, even prompting Gertrude Stein to write one... more »


Essays & Opinions

There will be cats. Murakami novels feature felines, detective heroes, and creepy sex. Readers are so hooked on the formula that the variations hardly matter... more »


May 23, 2017

Articles of Note

Is intersectionality solving social ills? Or does it make us stupid? The academic theory, once obscure, is now everywhere... more »


New Books

Diana Trilling was key to her husband's literary success. But did it come at the expense of her own? “People will celebrate one member of a household but not two”... more »


Essays & Opinions

For modern interpreters, Greek tragedy boils down to lessons of power — how to get and keep it. And sexual politics, of course... more »