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April 28, 2017

Articles of Note

For centuries the peat bogs of Northern Europe have yielded remarkably well-preserved ancient cadavers. At least we know how they died... more »


New Books

We think we know more than our ancestors, but as individuals we know less. We comfort ourselves with an illusion of knowledge... more »


Essays & Opinions

In 1973, Jerry Saltz was 22, full of himself and making art obsessively. He battled self-doubt and lost. But he learned how to be a critic... more »


April 27, 2017

Articles of Note

The seeker. Rod Dreher is a spiritually and intellectually restless writer: He's confessional, sincere, and sometimes overwrought. Can he ignite a turn toward modern monasticism?... more »


New Books

Why did Les Misérables, a 500,000-word novel composed over 16 years, conquer the world? Because Victor Hugo, who believed in progress, told a story of irrepressible optimism... more »


Essays & Opinions

The idea that free speech is contrary to social inclusiveness represents a pernicious shift in Western culture. Stifling hate speech does not safeguard the oppressed. It empowers the oppressors... more »


April 26, 2017

Articles of Note

Virginia and Leonard Woolf started Hogarth Press to escape the limitations of publishers. Soon, however, those limitations became their own... more »


New Books

Stalin once thought that under Communism alcohol could be abolished because people would be so happy they wouldn’t want it. Moonshine flourished in the USSR... more »


Essays & Opinions

"To believe that change is driven by technology, when technology is driven by humans, renders force and power invisible," says Jill Lepore... more »


April 25, 2017

Articles of Note

If you're in Reykjavik and want to say “heavy snowfall with large flakes occurring in calm wind,” there's a word for that: Hundslappadrifa. Can it survive AI?... more »


New Books

Arthur Krystal isn't so much literary critic with theories to peddle as an enthusiast with pleasures to share and enemies to fend off... more »


Essays & Opinions

In 2010, Google said it would scan all 129,864,880 books in the world, building the greatest library that's ever existed. It failed, sort of  ... more »


April 24, 2017

Articles of Note

Scholars are painstakingly reproducing all of Emily Dickinson's faintly penciled jottings. The undertaking is necessary and laudable. It's also misguided ... more »


New Books

Czeslaw Milosz, who witnessed Stalinist repression firsthand, is remembered as a political writer. Yet he always chafed against the label... more »


Essays & Opinions

Nabokov was self-involved, even callous. His fiction isn't praised for its compassion. But was he so uncaring as to leave a wounded man to die?... more »


April 22, 2017

Articles of Note

The defiant conformists of Bloomsbury. “Only in Great Britain did the modern intelligentsia conform to the ruling class rather than rebel against it”... more »


New Books

Snobs: we hate them, but can we live without them? Insolence, ostentation, and the cultivation of arbitrary superiority help make us all who we are... more »


Essays & Opinions

Why are we still interested in the story of the Benson family? Sure, it includes eccentrics, Victorian patriarchs, and repressed sexuality. But also: That clan couldn’t stop writing... more »


April 21, 2017

Articles of Note

Long skeptical of the value of philosophy, Silicon Valley may be coming around. “When bullshit can no longer be tolerated,” they turn to a sort-of Chief Philosophy Officer... more »


New Books

More than Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, or Henry Ford, it was Norman Bel Geddes, a theater designer turned industrial designer, who invented 20th-century America... more »


Essays & Opinions

We suffer from “nature-deficit disorder” and the accompanying pretenses of citified life. Take a cue from Hobbes, Rousseau, Einstein, Dickens, and Hazlitt: Take a hike... more »


April 20, 2017

Articles of Note

The sculptor Camille Claudel spent 30 years in an asylum. Some blame her breakdown on a failed relationship with Rodin — but it was she who broke his heart... more »


New Books

Merriam-Webster's offices aren't velvet-curtained or oak-trimmed. They're less refined: drug deals in the parking lot, bullet holes in the safety glass ... more »


Essays & Opinions

Once upon a time, a bar-brawling but talented malcontent could make a career as a professor. Consider the improbable 30-year employment of Harry Crews... more »


April 19, 2017

Articles of Note

The legend of Zelda Fitzgerald. She was ahead of her time, a proto-feminist, a victim of the patriarchy and of her husband. Or something like that... more »


New Books

Behold the Thought Leader, a thinker so deft and deluded he can flatter great wealth even as he pretends to challenge it... more »


Essays & Opinions

Transhumanists tend to see religion as a threat. But the movement's appeal is fundamentally religious, a secular outgrowth of Christian eschatology... more »


April 18, 2017

Articles of Note

Should public art be affirmative? Kara Walker makes provocative, monumental works that challenge the idea... more »


New Books

Good monsters, like good art, replace conventional ideas with something weird, troubling, and potentially heroic... more »


Essays & Opinions

A dyspeptic crank? The music critic Virgil Thomson slept through performances, dismissed beloved works, and reviewed his own compositions. Yet he changed classical music for the better... more »


April 17, 2017

Articles of Note

In 1961, a B-list Hollywood figure sought out J.D. Salinger to secure film rights to Catcher in the Rye. Their encounter reads like a "one-act play bound for the theater of the absurd"... more »


New Books

In Making It, Norman Podhoretz, consumed as much by the qualities of failure as by his own success, came to realize what he was against: "losers"... more »


Essays & Opinions

When Empson went East. The literary critic, booted from Cambridge after condoms were discovered in his room, left for Japan and China. It was a professional calamity that proved fortunate ... more »


April 15, 2017

Articles of Note

Conrad Aiken’s poetry is often dismissed as literary “navel-gazing.” But consider his sense of grandeur: His tombstone read “Cosmos Mariner — Destination Unknown”... more »


New Books

How biography works. It isn't merely a mode of historical inquiry, “but an act of imaginative faith,” says Richard Holmes, who has spent his life pursuing subjects through the past... more »


Essays & Opinions

Against celebrity profiles. They’re manufactured, devoid of connection between subject and writer, and fail to reveal the self-delusions and rationalizations that make people interesting... more »


April 14, 2017

Articles of Note

During World War I, the grim task of ferrying the wounded from the front to the hospital often fell to volunteers — an experience that altered literary history... more »


New Books

Jürgen Habermas has devoted his career to the study of democracy. But is his version of it premised on naïve, idealized, unrealistic notions?... more »


Essays & Opinions

What makes a critical judgment true? It's a question that preoccupied T.S. Eliot, whose case for the proper function of criticism is brilliant, angry, and unsatisfying... more »


April 13, 2017

Articles of Note

Arthur Balfour was not a great prime minister of Britain, but he was a serious philosopher. Intellectual politicians, once common, now are nonexistent... more »


New Books

The barfly turned graphomaniac, the hoarder turned diarist. “When an ordinary person writes exhaustively about her own life, it can be something of a nightmare”... more »


Essays & Opinions

"We’re in a culture with very few real friends, and an enormous number of unctuous sales people who will adopt the language of friendship, care and help.” Mark Greif on our dishonest times... more »


April 12, 2017

Articles of Note

The art of dream interpretation was long dominated by religious approaches. Then came the rationalists, philosophers, poets, and psychologists... more »


New Books

Charles Ives envisioned an eclectic gathering of diverse sounds. A century later, it's come to pass: rock, gamelan, hip hop, salsa, jazz, classical, klezmer: It's all one playlist... more »


Essays & Opinions

The marketplace of ideas is now the Ideas Industry. This has empowered "Thought Leaders" and undermined public intellectuals... more »


April 11, 2017

Articles of Note

“Artists are always being lectured on their moral duty,” says Margaret Atwood, but don’t count on their fortitude. “The pen is mightier than the sword, but only in retrospect”... more »


New Books

When critics look in the mirror. Memoirs from Lee Siegel and Daphne Merkin show that book reviewers, too, can suffer from debt and depression... more »


Essays & Opinions

“Dead of the world, unite!” urged the Russian school of cosmism in the 1920’s. How dissimilar is today’s refrain from Silicon Valley: “Immortality now!”?... more »


April 10, 2017

Articles of Note

Expertise is everywhere under attack, a reality that's stirred moral panic. Why? Because the flip side of faith in expertise is a belief that the public is incompetent... more »


New Books

"Universities are now terrible places to find political heterogeneity," writes Jennifer Senior. "Campus discourse has become the equivalent of the supermarket banana. Only one genetic variety remains"... more »


Essays & Opinions

In 1961, a Vienesse bibliophile purchased a mysterious text for $24,500. The Voynich Manuscript remains an enigma. It isn't a modern forgery, but it may be a medieval hoax... more »


April 8, 2017

Articles of Note

In Robert Lowell’s day, men didn’t talk about their feelings much. People in general didn’t talk about mental illness. He talked about both... more »


New Books

Particle physics helps explain astronomy; botany shapes archaeology; the moon landing informs paleontology. Does all science converge?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Long ago the ideas of equality and a common humanity were unthinkable; today they are the default position of almost all of us. How did that happen?... more »


April 7, 2017

Articles of Note

The market value and reputation of the art world's enfant terrible Damien Hirst have sunk. A new work, involving a shipwreck, will try to raise them... more »


New Books

According to A.C. Grayling, philosophy made the transition from medieval to modern in the 17th century. But does assigning a historical period actually mean anything?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Is style ancillary to an artist’s genius or fundamental to it? Consider Georgia O’Keeffe’s silk dresses, blouses, shoes, along with her self-crafted persona... more »


April 6, 2017

Articles of Note

From Soviet verse to spontaneous hoedowns. Clad in Cossack garb, Yevgeny Yevtushenko developed a passion for cowboy poetry in Oklahoma... more »


New Books

Darwin’s work set off an intellectual earthquake in America. It transformed Thoreau from a poet into a geologist, altered abolitionism, and spurred a generation of literary naturalists... more »


Essays & Opinions

The writing of John Berger can seem kitschy, deluded, masculinist, creepy. But in his strangeness were kindness and sincerity. He sought above all to help us see more clearly... more »


April 5, 2017

Articles of Note

In some cultures, shyness is a virtue, a sign of refinement. But it befuddled Darwin, who didn't see any benefit to our species... more »


New Books

Rarely has so much catastrophe been crammed into one biography. Czeslaw Milosz, who died at 93, came to see life as an honorable defeat... more »


Essays & Opinions

How to think like a philosopher: Consider contrary cases, test grandiose claims with extreme examples, accept that it’s rare to prove anything conclusively... more »


April 4, 2017

Articles of Note

Think of a big, popular history book written by a woman other than Mary Beard. How to explain this persistent gender disparity? A few theories... more »


New Books

In the humanities, it’s not contemplation but speed that seems to matter now. Fast and efficient should not be how we look at art... more »


Essays & Opinions

Freud envisioned civilization’s advances bringing not happiness but unassuaged guilt. That's one explanation for the prestige of victims in the contemporary world... more »


April 3, 2017

Articles of Note

The story of behavioral science making the world a better place one nudge at a time is ubiquitous. But the same techniques can be used for deception and manipulation... more »


New Books

The poet and painter David Jones never got over his experience on the Western Front during World War I. "My mind can't be rid of it," he said late in a life spent mostly indoors  ... more »


Essays & Opinions

Granta asks, Is travel writing dead? Silly question, says Geoff Dyer. Dickens, Dickinson, and Dillard can all be placed in the genre. What writing isn’t travel writing?... more »


April 1, 2017

Articles of Note

Derek Parfit was born brilliant. But he took unusual care to scrub his life of anything that could distract from his work ... more »


New Books

William Empson detested the “horrible Frenchmen” of Deconstruction. Yet Empson himself, author of Seven Types of Ambiguity, anticipated many of their ideas... more »


Essays & Opinions

Darwin worked a few hours a day. Trollope wrote only between 5 to 8 a.m. — and published 47 novels. They weren't accomplished despite their leisurely schedules; they were accomplished because of them... more »


March 31, 2017

Articles of Note

Why should there be only one reality? The question drove Julio Cortázar to think of accepting the normalcy of everyday life as a painful bit of stupidity... more »


New Books

The Holocaust bisected Isaac Deutscher's life. But he remained an optimist, confident that humanity would emerge better off. Was this admirable, or foolish, or both?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Picture your ideal cultural critics. Can they weigh in on poetry, film, literature? Speak multiple languages? Write with wit and a political edge? Didn’t think so... more »


March 30, 2017

Articles of Note

Need someone to frame a house, glaze a window, build a fence, plow a field, butcher a hen, call a square dance, explain your soul? Daniel Dennett is your man... more »


New Books

Louis Kahn wanted buildings to speak an ancestral spatial language. A brick arch wasn’t just a brick arch — it was a way to connect across cultures and history... more »


Essays & Opinions

Pick a topic, say traveling while being frugal and worshipful. There's a podcast about that; it's called "Hobo for Christ." Podcasts tend to be specialized. That's the problem... more »


March 29, 2017

Articles of Note

We live in an age of offense. Never has outrage enjoyed more legitimacy or been more a marker of moral status ... more »


New Books

Dwight Garner on Camille Paglia: "Reading this book is like being stranded in a bar where the jukebox has only two songs, both by Pat Benatar" ... more »


Essays & Opinions

Long before he encountered Marx, Lenin was radicalized by literature. He read Shakespeare, Goethe, and Pushkin aloud. He was hostile to the avant-garde... more »


March 28, 2017

Articles of Note

“The boy socialist of Oakland.” At 20, Jack London spent his time on soapboxes condemning capitalism. How did his political philosophy shape his fiction?... more »


New Books

David Jones was a soldier at the Somme, a poet, and an artist. He saw his mission as rebutting the corrupting of culture -- what he called “the Break”... more »


Essays & Opinions

Writers have long been envious of the visual language of painters. Yet “We don’t read Maupassant for the colors, or Zola for the lighting,” says Julian Barnes... more »


March 27, 2017

Articles of Note

Hemingway, fed up with his Italian publisher, Einaudi, left for its arch-rival, Mondadori. So what was he up to, a few years later, when he acquired stock in Einaudi?... more »


New Books

Privilege police. When did fetishizing powerlessness become a commonplace of online debate? Dismissing someone's view because of his "privilege" isn't an argument. It's a slur ... more »


Essays & Opinions

The End of History is among the best known and least understood books of the past 25 years. Far from disproven, Francis Fukuyama deserves credit for his clairvoyance... more »


March 25, 2017

Articles of Note

Even Miltonists know that almost no one reads Paradise Lost anymore. But Wordsworth is still right: “Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour”... more »


New Books

In the mid-1930s, when Nazi jurists and politicians looked for innovations in racism and a guide on how to discriminate, they looked to America... more »


Essays & Opinions

The difficulty of Cy Twombly’s literariness. His work is about sentiment, not ideas -- and yet Romantic poetry and classical texts often populate his work... more »