Nota Bene



The ALD Archives


Newspapers

Breaking

Magazines

Book Reviews

 
June 19, 2018

Articles of Note

People hang a lot of labels on Ed Ruscha: minimalist, surrealist, neo-Dadaist, and, most of all, cool. That last one is a problem... more »


New Books

When improv comedy is done poorly, which is often, it's excruciating. But even at its best, improv is almost always inferior to prepared material... more »


Essays & Opinions

Being Leonard Bernstein’s daughter. Hearing of her dad’s sexual exploits was one thing; his showing up at Harvard to party was something else entirely... more »


June 18, 2018

Articles of Note

The Stanford prison experiment enjoys canonical status, evidence of our innate cruelty and inhumanity. Yet the study almost certainly has no scientific validity. Why does it endure?... more »


New Books

How did Germans see Nazism? Not as we see it. Habituation, confusion, distraction, self-interest, fear, rationalization, and a sense of personal powerlessness made terrible things possible... more »


Essays & Opinions

Attempts to justify the humanities are, too often, self-congratulatory fantasy: I read better books, so I’m a better person. Stanley Fish has read the best books. He's not a better person... more »


June 16, 2018

Articles of Note

The American Time Use Survey holds a mirror up to society. What does it reveal? The shift to a post-literate culture is well underway... more »


New Books

Inspired by Pride and Prejudice, Annabella Milbanke decided to fix Lord Byron’s flaws. The two were wed, but he was no Darcy, and she no Elizabeth Bennet... more »


Essays & Opinions

The gazillion books and articles, the conferences, symposia, and reading groups — all a waste of time? A scholar breaks up with James Joyce ... more »


June 15, 2018

Articles of Note

The birth of Fridolatry. Before the tote bags, keychains, and portrayal by Salma Hayek came a 1934 Harper’s Bazaar photo shoot... more »


New Books

Lorrie Moore has thought a lot about what it takes to become a writer. “Quit classes. Quit jobs. Cash in old savings bonds. Now you have time like warts on your hands”... more »


Essays & Opinions

Anthony Domestico had been a book critic for seven years when he realized that no editor had ever asked him to review a female author. He thinks of two possible explanations... more »


June 14, 2018

Articles of Note

When a monk hangs out with Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, what results is the work of Sylvester Houédard, Benedictine beatnik... more »


New Books

Pick your literary role models carefully, lest you end up chasing down disappointing lovers, or chanting The Waste Land in the desert heat... more »


Essays & Opinions

With Couples, John Updike brought “down-and-dirty sex" into the literary mainstream. Fifty years later, the novel seems less about sex than about loneliness... more »


June 13, 2018

Articles of Note

John Kidd, once the world’s leading Ulysses scholar, is said to have died in sordid conditions, communing only with pigeons. The truth is stranger... more »


New Books

Politics may be a necessary evil — but viewing everything solely through a political lens is an evil that we’re choosing. We should stop... more »


Essays & Opinions

The metaphysics of water. Lakes, river, the ocean — they spur us to reckon with the immense and the unknown, to confront life’s fluidity.... more »


June 12, 2018

Articles of Note

The unrealized promise of Harold Brodkey. As one editor put it, his “talent was large, but his ego was colossal, and it did him in”... more »


New Books

When Saul Bellow was bad. His nonfiction reads like a hodgepodge of facts combined with ideas dreamed up simply to have something to say... more »


Essays & Opinions

Paul Gauguin abandoned Paris and his wife and children to paint in Tahiti. Does his artistic brilliance justify the moral cost?... more »


June 11, 2018

Articles of Note

Classicism is undergoing one of its periodic revivals. A distinctive feature of this revival is the weirdness of its architectural precedents... more »


New Books

If there’s one thing science-fiction authors love more than cosmic terror, it’s arguing about what constitutes “real” science fiction. That's a fight with high stakes... more »


Essays & Opinions

Maybe we really have lost the vocabulary for talking about death, depending instead on euphemism, lies, and ambiguity. But there was never a time when we did death well... more »


June 9, 2018

Articles of Note

Mary Beard has delved deep into the “logic" of misogyny. Both apparent chivalry and mere Twitter trolling have darker roots, she notes... more »


New Books

In the West, the filmmaker Masaki Kobayashi is seen as an earnestly didactic opponent of authoritarianism. It’s time to move beyond such reductive political readings... more »


Essays & Opinions

“There are no easy solutions. And yet a principled compromise is possible.” Yascha Mounk wants to save liberal democracy — but is mature reasonableness the path forward?... more »


June 8, 2018

Articles of Note

Twenty years after Isaiah Berlin’s death, a revival of his work is underway. But is the interest due to his ideas, or to nostalgia for a vanishing intellectual world?... more »


New Books

Did you know that Aristotle spoke with a lisp? That Socrates enjoyed dancing? The third-century gossip of Diogenes Laërtius is fascinating, if not always factual... more »


Essays & Opinions

Robert Penn Warren and William Faulkner promoted a distinct ideology of the South. For black Southern intellectuals, things weren’t so straightforward... more »


June 7, 2018

Articles of Note

Black-light yoga, a sensory-deprivation chamber, magical gold medallions, psychedelic drugs, an overly friendly robot, and Noam Chomsky. Is this the world’s strangest academic conference?... more »


New Books

Picture Mary Shelley summoning Percy to a tryst; imagine her pregnant and seasick, eloping across the English Channel. Do these scenes reveal or obscure her personality?... more »


Essays & Opinions

"Every truth becomes false when you take it to its extreme," says David Brooks. Affluence, for example: "People take money and translate it into loneliness"... more »


June 5, 2018

Articles of Note

Yukio Mishima’s Sun and Steel is a minor work, but a major one in the bizarro universe of white-supremacist arts and letters... more »


New Books

Benedict Arnold's treason seems not to matter much anymore. But it's fascinating: Spies and counterspies, suspense and close calls, a beautiful woman, Alexander Hamilton... more »


Essays & Opinions

Gullibility is alive and well among us. Consider the intellectual rot at the foundations of physics. Or the persistent popularity of anti-rationalism... more »


June 4, 2018

Articles of Note

Georges Borchardt spent his childhood fleeing Nazis. For the next seven decades, he toiled in the book business. "Did I know I was an agent? Of course not. I really didn’t know what that was”... more »


New Books

Social scientists study beauty as physical appearance. The natural sciences study it as pattern and structure, fractals and spheres. But a messier form of beauty is coming into view... more »


Essays & Opinions

Cumberland Clark was a Shakespeare scholar, a serious writer and critic, and no fool. Yet he's also the author of reams of ludicrous doggerel. Is he the second-worst poet in English?... more »


June 2, 2018

Articles of Note

At the turn of the 20th century, the dream of motion transfixed Monet. He rushed from canvas to canvas as if from scene to scene, in effect a motion picture... more »


New Books

A rose is red because we experience it as red. But our experience is itself mysterious. Daniel Dennett ponders the manifest and the scientific image of the world... more »


Essays & Opinions

Goldman Sachs has been depicted as the central villain of the Great Recession. Yet little has been said about its most egregious sin: the lobby art... more »


June 1, 2018

Articles of Note

Aristotle’s ethics of virtue offers a flexible philosophy for the 21st century. Yet few people read him today. The problem: his academese... more »


New Books

We're hooked on mirages: meaningless stimuli from an algorithm. Jaron Lanier offers 10 arguments for quitting social media right now... more »


Essays & Opinions

Jordan Peterson is many things, most notably an archetypal victim and beneficiary of our polarized times. One thing he is not: a dangerous far-right radical... more »


May 31, 2018

Articles of Note

It was “dreadful,” a “Potemkin city,” a “social hell.” Why did the great artists of fin de siècle Vienna hate their own city so much?... more »


New Books

Richard III, Macbeth, Lear, Mark Antony: Shakespeare's tyrants can tell us much about the puzzling psychology and spectacle of villainy... more »


Essays & Opinions

Cheating and drinking and child-raising and defying the prevailing fantasies of a woman’s place: Country music is the soundtrack of American domesticity... more »


May 30, 2018

Articles of Note

Jürgen Habermas, 88, is still working and increasingly worried. The infrastructure that has maintained intellectual life is no longer intact... more »


New Books

The dominant image of Samuel Beckett is that of a man not merely apolitical but antipolitical, a disengaged pessimist offering disempowering despair. Don't believe it... more »


Essays & Opinions

“Past results are no guarantee of future performance, yet in book publishing they are pretty damn reliable.” Is a minor writer destined to a career of mediocrity?... more »


May 29, 2018

Articles of Note

Stig Abell, a sports-loving, Guns N' Roses-listening veteran of the British tabloids, attends no book parties and has no literary relationships. How did he become editor of the TLS?... more »


New Books

We live in an age that prizes efficiency. So how to explain the proliferation of pointless jobs? They make little economic sense. Their function must be political... more »


Essays & Opinions

As a teenager, Reynaldo Hahn composed hymns to love and sang in Parisian salons. An affair with Proust, who called him “Mon petit Reynaldo,” followed... more »


May 28, 2018

Articles of Note

Tom Wolfe was the great statustician, exposing the pretensions, hypocrisies, fraudulence, and anxieties of others. He was ruthless to sad social climbers and intellectuals alike... more »


New Books

Barbara Ehrenreich doesn’t meditate. She doesn’t believe in self-care, wellness, or mindfulness. They are coercive, exploitative, and futile. We are not in charge of ourselves... more »


Essays & Opinions

Jordan Peterson has much to say about masculine despair. But he offers no antidote, instead trying to make men feel better while failing to address the problems: misogyny and racism... more »


May 26, 2018

Articles of Note

When great thinkers feared beans. Pythagoras thought fava beans contained the souls of the dead — an idea that had surprising currency in the ancient world... more »


New Books

A memorable dinner at the White House. William Styron and James Baldwin attended. J.D. Salinger, a budding recluse, declined. Mary Hemingway bored JFK immensely... more »


Essays & Opinions

Heinrich Heine was neither deep nor strikingly original, and he did little to advance the intellectual debates of his time. What made him a major figure was his indomitable spirit... more »


May 25, 2018

Articles of Note

Aesthetically empty and running on a broken business model, art fairs are bad for art. Jerry Saltz on the menacing art-fair industrial complex ... more »


New Books

Deontologists, consequentialists, virtue ethicists. Philosophers are hopelessly divided on how to reach the truth about morality ... more »


Essays & Opinions

A work of art can be incisive, beautiful, discomfiting, or representative, but not necessary. So why do critics keep using that word?... more »


May 24, 2018

Articles of Note

Philip Roth, master chronicler of the American berserk, is dead. He was 85... Zadie Smith... Paul Berman... Dwight Garner... Stephen Metcalf... Nathan Englander... Talia Lavin... James Wood... Bernard Henri-Levy... Sam Lipsyte... Roger Cohen... Ron Charles... Marc Weitzmann... Nicole Krauss... Wash Post...Guardian... The Forward... The New Yorker... David Marcus... Elizabeth Pochoda... Marco Roth... more »


New Books

The private writing of Roland Barthes reveals his crushes, his musical and literary preferences, and his desired thesis adviser — Claude Lévi-Strauss, who turned him down... more »


Essays & Opinions

Leonardo and the riddle of authentication. His works have resurfaced with surprising frequency. Can an expert eye really detect when it's the real thing?... more »


May 23, 2018

Articles of Note

A star of book publishing, Peter Mayer was known for his charm, his temper, his savvy, and his smoking. An appreciation... more »


New Books

Bleakness was his birthright. Despite the ministrations of academics, Joseph Conrad endures as a modern master of a tragic sense of life... more »


Essays & Opinions

Performance art” once involved raucous Dadaists; now it’s a Lady Gaga performance or Kanye West tweet. Why have pop stars started dealing in high-concept abstractions?... more »


May 22, 2018

Articles of Note

“I’m the kind of writer that doesn’t know jack shit about anything,” says Stephen King. That might not put you off The Stand, but what about his poetry?... more »


New Books

For decades Thomas Kuhn struggled to square the thought of an independent reality with the thesis of a changing world. He died feeling like a failure... more »


Essays & Opinions

In higher education, the ubiquity of innovation-speak masks a dearth of actual innovation. The latest fad: design thinking. It's a boondoggle... more »


May 21, 2018

Articles of Note

No one questions Oscar Hammerstein’s historical significance. But what explains the gap between his popularity and the middling esteem in which he is held by critics?... more »


New Books

Do the sex lives of Surrealists tell us anything about their paintings? Not much. But it does make for wonderfully bizarre — if somewhat frivolous — reading... more »


Essays & Opinions

When erotic misadventures and poetry became tiresome for Byron, he turned to military command, with 600 Greek troops and an audacious plan. Fiasco followed... more »


May 19, 2018

Articles of Note

In 1985, a pilot program called Mozart-in-the-Parking-Lot discovered something surprising: You can fight crime with orchestral music... more »


New Books

Espionage has inspired literature since Stendhal. The CIA even produces a partly classified journal devoted to the spy novel: Studies in Intelligence... more »


Essays & Opinions

The Enlightenment started with philosophical insights spread by a new technology. We face a dominant technology — artificial intelligence — in search of a philosophy... more »


May 18, 2018

Articles of Note

Precious and lilting, odd and interminable pauses, hanging in the air like "a thick cloud of oratorial perfume." What, exactly, is Poet Voice?... more »


New Books

Life is a cacophony — cellphones, TVs, traffic. But there is probably no more noise than there used to be. What's changed is the amount of distraction... more »


Essays & Opinions

Dickens heard his characters speak. Woolf heard birds singing in Greek. The treatment for hearing voices has long been: ignore them. What if we listened instead?... more »


May 17, 2018

Articles of Note

Tom Wolfe, journalist, novelist, contrarian, man of many verbal tics and white suits, is dead. He was 88... Louis Menand... Dwight Garner... Kurt Anderson.... Laura Miller... The Paris Review... Christian Lorentzen... Paul Elie... Graeme Wood... Christopher Bonanos... Elon Green... Adam Gopnik... Ron Charles... more »


New Books

Lucian Freud ignored the rise of abstraction; David Hockney unfashionably persisted in depicting love and happiness. Britain’s postwar painters had a talent for taboo-breaking... more »


Essays & Opinions

Is an intellectual’s responsibility to think, or to enact a political argument? The question once distinguished little magazines from think tanks, but that has changed... more »


May 16, 2018

Articles of Note

Useful in crime-scene investigations since China’s Qin dynasty, fingerprinting confounded Darwin and absolved Picasso. Where, exactly, does the technique come from?... more »


New Books

An aesthete traipsing nimbly through an age of brutal rupture. Alain Locke, the first black Rhodes Scholar, advanced cultural pluralism even as the odds were against him... more »


Essays & Opinions

Travel writing is a genre prone to indulgence but also capable of carrying considerable weight. Patrick Leigh Fermor was a master at managing that tension... more »


May 15, 2018

Articles of Note

When the Times called to tell Alice Dreger that she's part of a powerful alliance — the "intellectual dark web" — she laughed. Then she got worried... more »