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Since 1998, Arts & Letters Daily has linked to more than 17,000 articles, book reviews and essays. Consider supporting us. »
Jan. 25, 2020

Articles of Note

Measure the health of the publishing industry by the books, and the diagnosis is grim. Symptoms include stultifying, plodding, overlong work... more »


New Books

“I’ve got a writer’s block as big as the Ritz and as stubborn as a grease stain on a gabardine suit,” admitted Ralph Ellison. It was “like a bad case of constipation”... more »


Essays & Opinions

The historian Gertrude Himmelfarb was a nuanced parser of the Enlightenment. When it came to Modernism, however, she could only recoil in horror... more »


Jan. 24, 2020

Articles of Note

The rise of the collapsologues. Are they developing a new science, or merely predicting imminent societal breakdown?... more »


New Books

Getting rid of the king was easy for Oliver Cromwell. Harder was what followed: governing as a dangerously ill-defined “Lord Protector”... more »


Essays & Opinions

What is the enemy of writing today? Fear — of moral judgment, public shaming, social ridicule, and ostracism. The mob has the final edit... more »


Jan. 23, 2020

Articles of Note

Reading silently was once considered outlandish. Reading aloud is one of the oldest and grandest traditions of humankind... more »


New Books

“My work is original not only in fact but in spiritual fiber.” Frank Lloyd Wright may have been a genius, but his character was appalling... more »


Essays & Opinions

Allan Bloom argued that a generation out of touch with great music, literature, and philosophy is a diminished generation. What's gleaned from reading him today?... more »


Jan. 22, 2020

Articles of Note

Since Margaret Mead’s death, her work has primarily attracted disgruntled critics. Is there anyone left to defend her ideas?... more »


New Books

"Robert Lowell’s poems are at their most unsettling when they disclose his own moral recklessness, offering only themselves — the fact of art — as recompense"... more »


Essays & Opinions

Anger, grudges, revenge — philosophers dismiss them as backward-looking and unhelpful. But there’s a moral case to be made in their favor... more »


Jan. 21, 2020

Articles of Note

Flush the spaniel was dognapped not once but thrice. It was the valor of a petite poet that saved him — and enshrined him in literary immortality... more »


New Books

Wendell Berry is probably the best-known and most influential antimodernist alive. His prose is splendid. His political strategy is disastrous... more »


Essays & Opinions

Howard Jacobson confronts his Russianness: “The only reason my father never wrestled a bear is that there were none on the streets of Manchester”... more »


Jan. 20, 2020

Articles of Note

It was never clear if Roger Scruton, who died this month, failed to realize how his words would be received, didn’t care, or just enjoyed provocation... more »


New Books

Ivan Turgenev and the birth of cosmopolitan Europe. The Russian-born, German-educated novelist was a one-man impresario of Continental culture... more »


Essays & Opinions

D.H. Lawrence's dark methods: Pseudophilosophize, free associate, conceal deficits of logic with phrases like "of course"... more »


Jan. 18, 2020

Articles of Note

It’s a golden age of long-form narrative podcasts. They’re entertaining, but often they're inaccurate. Do listeners care?... more »


New Books

Women writers struggled throughout the 20th century to be taken seriously. To an unusual degree, that struggle played out in London's Mecklenburgh Square... more »


Essays & Opinions

The philosophy of small talk. Behind our pleasantries lies an existential query: Just who do you think you are?... more »


Jan. 17, 2020

Articles of Note

Academics examine literature suspiciously, expecting it to be "productively unsuccessful." Writers are more hopeful, seeking out literary success... more »


New Books

There’s much to loathe about Silicon Valley. So why do even its critics have a hard time indicting it?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Consider hysterical critics: They point out some obvious moral lesson from art, then pivot to something more important: themselves... more »


Jan. 16, 2020

Articles of Note

Amid the literary world’s insularity and dire financial situation, critics ask themselves: Can I afford to write a bad review?... more »


New Books

How many children did Lady Macbeth have? To read fictional characters as “real” can be a balm for the soul — or an exercise in the absurd... more »


Essays & Opinions

For a time, doing philosophy meant grappling with the thought of Avicenna. Among his notable contributions: proving the existence of God... more »


Jan. 15, 2020

Articles of Note

Many museums have an ugly past. Near the top of that list: the Royal Museum for Central Africa, which is located in Brussels... more »


New Books

James Wood’s work is stately and professorial, full of close readings. Then there’s the hackwork he wrote under a pseudonym... more »


Essays & Opinions

How college became a commodity. Once-fringe libertarian ideas are now at the heart of how academe understands itself. That’s a travesty... more »


Jan. 14, 2020

Articles of Note

Why rank all 5,279 movies of the 2010s? Or watch 31 consecutive hours of superhero movies? Welcome to the age of extreme film criticism... more »


New Books

Randolph Bourne had no time for the well-to-do. His tribe was “the incompetent and the ugly, the queer and crotchety”... more »


Essays & Opinions

For Hume, poets were “liars by profession.” For Sir Philip Sidney, the poet "affirmeth" nothing and "therefore never lieth.” When, exactly, does literature lie?... more »


Jan. 13, 2020

Articles of Note

As a signifier of absolute evil, the Holocaust seems incomparable. But does that make it off-limits to historical analogies?... more »


New Books

Where Greta Garbo discussed how to play Hamlet; Charlie Chaplin discovered his musical ghostwriter; and Arnold Schoenberg chatted with Arthur Rubinstein... more »


Essays & Opinions

You've seen the studies: Reading fiction makes you more compassionate and generous. The bookish lap it up — and miss the bigger point... more »


Jan. 11, 2020

Articles of Note

Elizabeth Wurtzel, who died this week, was the literary world's favorite person to hate. She found a way to weaponize the criticism... more »


New Books

From fleuron to frontispiece, the history of book design is odd and fascinating. Who knew that the dust jacket was invented in 1829, or that the epigraph has architectural origins?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Rock ’n' roll died between December 14, 1979, and October 17, 1980, a period bookended by London Calling and The River. It died of natural causes — mostly... more »


Jan. 10, 2020

Articles of Note

The papyrus thief. Dirk Obbink is eccentric, even by Oxford standards. But could the eminent papyrologist also be a crook?... more »


New Books

Much about Rembrandt is known. But not this: How a miller’s son from a provincial Dutch city became one of the most famous painters in the world... more »


Essays & Opinions

Most people think inequality is bad. But when asked to define what kind of equality is best, frustrations and complexity emerge... more »


Jan. 9, 2020

Articles of Note

A book-to-film boom is transforming how Americans read and tell stories — and not for the better... more »


New Books

An ironist in a literal time, Malcolm Gladwell takes unending flak from scientists and the self-serious, who miss that he’s OK with being wrong... more »


Essays & Opinions

Harold Bloom was deranged, oracular, and arrogant. Is it even possible to create art with his musings in mind?... more »


Jan. 8, 2020

Articles of Note

How did the public image of economists morph from aloof but harmless mathematical mandarins to blameworthy for the ills of the world?... more »


New Books

For Mel Brooks, excess was always the point. His comedy has a manic vitality. In private, however, he's deadpan, sullen, without personality... more »


Essays & Opinions

“The vehemence against yesterday’s martini-swilling, sport-coat-wearing taste-makers can lose sight that criticism is a discipline, not easily mastered”... more »


Jan. 7, 2020

Articles of Note

The other Nabokov. Nicolas seemed the embodiment of cosmopolitan charm, the “cultural generalissimo” of the non-Communist West... more »


New Books

When Gustav Klimt propositioned Alma Schindler, she quoted from Faust: “Do no favors without a ring on your finger”... more »


Essays & Opinions

Nell Zink: “Dead writers are open yet thick-skinned, supreme angels of self-assurance, impossible to scare off — just the kind of friends I like best”... more »


Jan. 6, 2020

Articles of Note

The two Bertrand Russells. It's common to believe that the philosopher gave way to the political hack. But that account is simplistic... more »


New Books

Melville became a poet after a decade of writing fiction. It was a midlife turn he pursued with great frustration... more »


Essays & Opinions

“Own less stuff. Find more purpose.” Minimalism is a banal, saccharine exercise in faux epiphany... more »


Jan. 4, 2020

Articles of Note

A century from now, what will historians remember about the 2010s? “Populist threats.” “Irony abounded.” “A period of paralysis"... more »


New Books

“An orderly anarchy of words.” Can a new book accomplish the nigh-impossible: making learning Greek seem sexy?... more »


Essays & Opinions

How the restaurant review — "a journalistic luxury liner, designed to exalt lavish spending and indulgent dining" — became a vehicle of political protest... more »


Jan. 3, 2020

Articles of Note

The poet Rupi Kaur has mastered Instagram, selfies, and an affected style. Loathed by critics, is she nonetheless the writer of the decade?... more »


New Books

Richard Feynman in 1964: “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics." That remains more or less true... more »


Essays & Opinions

Thanks to social media, celebrities now out-paparazzi the paparazzi. But self-surveillance comes at a steep cost... more »


Jan. 2, 2020

Articles of Note

The Brothers Mankiewicz. Both Herman and Joseph set out to conquer Hollywood. Instead, Hollywood conquered Herman. How did Joseph manage to thrive?... more »


New Books

Existentialism in the ring. After Gordon Marino found no success as a boxer, Kierkegaard’s works led him back to philosophy — and saved his life... more »


Essays & Opinions

Minority writing is suffused with the agony of being misunderstood. What happens, Hua Hsu wonders, when it joins the cultural mainstream?... more »


Jan. 1, 2020

Articles of Note

To understand a nation, you have to understand its moral imagination. For Gertrude Himmelfarb, who died this week at 97, that was a lifelong preoccupation... more »


New Books

An unpopular color. How did yellow shed its pleasing associations with light and life and come to suggest something more sinister?... more »


Essays & Opinions

From youthful radicalism to middle-aged centrism, Daniel Bell never found a political project that did not disappoint him. Yet he avoided cynicism... more »


Dec. 31, 2019

Articles of Note

After Louis-Ferdinand Céline's collaboration with the Nazis, his reputation was in shreds. He then weaponized his infamy, a tactic that's become all too familiar... more »


New Books

As an essayist, D.H. Lawrence could produce something brilliant on almost any topic. Consider his tour-de-force “Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine”... more »


Essays & Opinions

Jokes are exploratory as well as playful. In Stalin's Russia, though, they were no laughing matter. "The jokes always saved us," recalled Gorbachev... more »


Dec. 30, 2019

Articles of Note

The 2010s gave us A Visit From the Goon Squad, The Argonauts, and Ferrante fever. What other books helped define the decade?... more »


New Books

Architecture has adopted an “International Style” of featureless walls, horizontal windows, concrete, and metal. One problem: It’s horribly unsuited to human beings... more »


Essays & Opinions

From Spotify to Netflix, we consume culture that has been algorithmically shaped to our taste. But art is most potent when unexpected... more »


Dec. 28, 2019

Articles of Note

A decade ago, the rise of the ebook was all but assured — and yet it hasn’t come to pass. What changed?... more »


New Books

Unesco was created to support the “intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind.” Who could be against that? Many people, as it turns out... more »


Essays & Opinions

For Allen Ginsberg, mescaline brought ecstasy. For Walter Benjamin, philosophical irritation. For William James, vomiting and diarrhea... more »


Dec. 27, 2019

Articles of Note

Midcentury America was far more than Hemingway and Mailer. It was also hellfire sermons, vaudeville acts, and the National Enquirer... more »


New Books

The case for universality in music: Ethnographers have discovered that all of it has characteristics of formality, arousal, and religiosity... more »


Essays & Opinions

The problem with letters of recommendation: A teacher’s vision for her students is blinkered by her own limitations. Agnes Callard explains... more »


Dec. 26, 2019

Articles of Note

When literature mattered. During the Cold War, the CIA printed copies of Animal Farm light enough to float across borders on balloons... more »


New Books

“He was not crazy all the time.” Elizabeth Hardwick was wounded grievously by Robert Lowell. And yet they made up, sort of... more »


Essays & Opinions

Dictatorships conform to type. “We can control him,” for instance, is the perennial belief of the soon-to-be-killed collaborator... more »


Dec. 25, 2019

Articles of Note

Françoise Gilot’s romance with Picasso had its challenges. For starters, settling in his former partner’s house — which was infested with scorpions... more »


New Books

Aided by the “soft despotism of social media,” young leftists dismiss the hard-earned values of liberal democracy. Or so holds David Bromwich... more »


Essays & Opinions

Before “narrative nonfiction” or even Pulitzer Prizes, McClure’s magazine invented long-form journalism almost from scratch.... more »


Dec. 24, 2019

Articles of Note

December drips with treacly best-of lists. For some holiday respite, look no further than this list of 2019’s best hatchet jobs... more »


New Books

Virginia Woolf’s work suffered as a result of her pain and frustrations. But it suffered as well, at times, from her happiness... more »


Essays & Opinions

From Hermes’ conical helmet onward, a rich historical lineage helps explain that mystical fashion, the magic hat... more »


Dec. 23, 2019

Articles of Note

The 1619 Project advanced an authoritative new version of American history. It carries the imprimatur of The New York Times. But is it good scholarship?... more »


New Books

Literature of constraints: A detective novel written entirely without the letter E, a book of 10 sonnets that share a rhyme scheme and sound... more »


Essays & Opinions

Reading poetry aloud can be curious and complicated, says Philip Pullman, recalling the first time he read Paradise Lost — with his eyes, but also with his voice... more »