Nota Bene



The ALD Archives


Newspapers

Breaking

Magazines

Book Reviews

Since 1998, Arts & Letters Daily has linked to more than 17,000 articles, book reviews and essays. Consider supporting us. »
Feb. 21, 2019

Articles of Note

One of Nancy Gardner Williams’s lecturers was always wearing an ascot and smoking. She married him, and became “Mrs. Stoner”... more »


New Books

Gandhi: compassionate unifier, public intellectual, holder of classist and racist ideas. As he held, every “case can be seen from no less than seven points of view”... more »


Essays & Opinions

It’s time for Diderot, long overshadowed by Voltaire and Rousseau, to receive his due: He was not only a founder of modernity; he was the first postmodernist... more »


Feb. 20, 2019

Articles of Note

A silver lining. A military miscue led to Thucydides’ 20-year exile from Athens — but only in the peace and quiet of exile was he able to write his History... more »


New Books

Isaiah Berlin’s impostor syndrome. “I remain unshakeably convinced that I have all my life been overestimated,” he confessed. “All I write … is by nature dishevelled"... more »


Essays & Opinions

Artists may pooh-pooh the idea of being cool, but a few of them had it down pat. Consider Warhol’s catatonic effortlessness or Bukowski’s timeless advice: “Don’t try.”... more »


Feb. 19, 2019

Articles of Note

Betty Ballantine, who helped introduce cheap paperbacks to the masses, is dead at 99. Her goal: “To change the reading habits of America”... more »


New Books

Humans are by nature violent, yet also cooperative. How did we evolve this way? By killing off the most violent among us, argues a new book... more »


Essays & Opinions

What do almost all ancient myths and folktales have in common? They deal with danger and death and offer highly pragmatic lessons... more »


Feb. 18, 2019

Articles of Note

What is neuroscience doing to art -- explaining away its mystery or, as Eric Kandel would have it, aiding our sense of art's wonder?... more »


New Books

Frederick the Great thought little of historians who merely compiled facts. He preferred architects of history, like himself... more »


Essays & Opinions

Revolutions in science, technology, health, and education have reshaped our world. But can things keep getting better?... more »


Feb. 16, 2019

Articles of Note

“Nightmarish and impolite.” Andrea Dworkin’s critics accused her of gender essentialism, histrionics, and dogmatism. She was undaunted... more »


New Books

Ten years ago, Roberto Bolaño was the height of literary fashion. Then the “Bolaño Bubble” burst. His work continues to limp out into the market... more »


Essays & Opinions

Look carefully, attend to people and their situations, learn what is right. For Iris Murdoch, morality was grounded in vision and action, not just metaphysics... more »


Feb. 15, 2019

Articles of Note

When early natural philosophers wrote a book, it might be read by 500 people. Then came Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle and a revolution in pop-science writing... more »


New Books

John Stuart Mill is routinely seen by liberals and conservatives as a secular saint. Turns out he was decidedly less secular than we thought... more »


Essays & Opinions

"It’s on me. I’ve said that again and again. And that is really all I’m gonna say. OK?" Jill Abramson talks with one of the writers she's accused of plagiarizing... more »


Feb. 14, 2019

Articles of Note

Jeff Koons creates banal ceramics and quasi porn and skillfully separates rich people from their money. But his real gift: deflecting criticism... more »


New Books

Can a theory based on evidence from a half-dozen continents, a dozen disciplines, several dozen species, and two million years explain the origins of morality?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Has the internet made us collectively lose our minds? Patricia Lockwood looks at our tweets and gifs and wonders what the absurd avalanche of details was for... more »


Feb. 13, 2019

Articles of Note

On display at the KGB Museum: a single-shot lipstick gun, suitcase phones, and other spy paraphernalia. Not shown: the politics... more »


New Books

All of American intellectual history in 200 pages? "Even if it is a gateway drug for heftier works of intellectual history, it’s still a pretty decent hit"... more »


Essays & Opinions

For most of history, translating the Bible has been a religious commitment. For Robert Alter, who did it by himself, it's a literary act... more »


Feb. 12, 2019

Articles of Note

Every year, rafts of research suggest that some animals have consciousness. To absorb the significance of these findings, consider Jainism... more »


New Books

Bitter cold, hunger, and trips in packed freight trains did not create a literary ambiance. Still, Józef Czapski delivered prison-camp lectures on Proust... more »


Essays & Opinions

In 1994, Sven Birkerts worried that distractedness would win out, that a diminution of reading would diminish our sense of self. Have his fears come to pass?... more »


Feb. 11, 2019

Articles of Note

Andy Warhol emerged from the commercial ooze, confining himself largely to the surface of life. Yet his gifts were substantial, especially his ability to make synthetic, mechanized art feel authentic... more »


New Books

The relationship between Catherine the Great and Diderot shows how the Enlightenment was both opposed and fostered by the monarchies it undermined — one of history’s ironies... more »


Essays & Opinions

Since when is reading James Baldwin out loud in class an academic crime? Randall Kennedy on the anti-intellectualism and illiberal conformity ascendant in parts of the academy... more »


Feb. 9, 2019

Articles of Note

A talent for unhappiness. Sylvia Plaths letters to her analyst, composed in the depths of rage, are a triumph of eloquence... more »


New Books

Happiness, trust, and life expectancy are on the decline — or so we're told. Doom-mongering is in fashion. Why?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Instagram-friendly, immersive art spaces promise to transport to your happy place. But beyond the confetti dome is a bleak, desperate reality... more »


Feb. 8, 2019

Articles of Note

“Tiki taka,” “guzuguzu,” “ribuy-tibuy” — ideophones are words whose sound evokes a meaning. Once dismissed as oddities, they are now reshaping linguistics... more »


New Books

"The peculiar burden of nonrecognition, of invisibility, that is the condition of being an Asian man in America." Wesley Yang on the bitterness of being ignored... more »


Essays & Opinions

Beware the surveillance capitalists. “Forget the cliché that ‘if it’s free, you are the product.’ You are not the product; you are the abandoned carcass"... more »


Feb. 7, 2019

Articles of Note

A middling writer, Mikhail Sholokhov somehow rose to fame at the age of 22. Critics said it was too good to be true. They were right... more »


New Books

The understated Nietzsche. Far from a bombastic prophet, he was mild-mannered, “uncomplicated,” a perfect gentleman... more »


Essays & Opinions

What is most remarkable about the opprobrium heaped on Jonathan Franzen is how little it has to do with his actual work... more »


Feb. 6, 2019

Articles of Note

Stoicism teaches us how to face adversity with equanimity. As a philosophy, it's appealing. But not for our age... more »


New Books

Middlemarch turns on the beating of a squirrel’s heart; Dickens turns dogs into social commentary — what was it about Victorians and animals?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Studying American history used to mean studying the American nation. Then, in the 1970s, national history fell out of favor. Is it too late to restore?... more »


Feb. 5, 2019

Articles of Note

Ursula K. Le Guin gravitated toward science fiction in part because it was a “despised, marginal” genre. Unsupervised by literary criticism, its authors remained free... more »


New Books

A new book attempts to defend Henry Miller. But despite his talents, an insurmountable hurdle remains: He did not think hard enough about women... more »


Essays & Opinions

The unlikely return of Eric Hobsbawm to political fashion in the 1980s obscured the sharp-edged qualities that made him so interesting in the first place... more »


Feb. 4, 2019

Articles of Note

Social media have spawned a generation that regards punctuation as optional, and grammar as something for the elderly. Benjamin Dreyer is here to help... more »


New Books

An anthropologist sets out to prove Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism. Was architecture better under socialism, too?... more »


Essays & Opinions

An adjunct professor of art tries to make rent. The result: a Thoreauvian quest for radical simplicity — and the birth of America’s tiny-house movement... more »


Feb. 2, 2019

Articles of Note

After a cruel imprisonment that sought to subdue his “weak mind,” Diderot sought revenge against the state. His revolutionary weapon: the Encyclopédie... more »


New Books

Mikhail Sholokhov is remembered as a Soviet hack, ungenerous crank, and mouthpiece for Stalin. He was all of that, and a genuine literary talent... more »


Essays & Opinions

Lionel Trilling belonged to the last generation of academics who believed that they had something of social importance to communicate... more »


Feb. 1, 2019

Articles of Note

What's new about today's conservative critique of the academy? It’s the populist suggestion that universities reinforce class hierarchies... more »


New Books

“Cheer up,” implore the New Optimists — human history is full of progress. But that progress often results from pessimism and discontent... more »


Essays & Opinions

"He who thinks great thoughts often makes great errors," said Heidegger, who would know. How should we read such dangerous thinkers?... more »


Jan. 31, 2019

Articles of Note

Since the end of the Cold War, economics has enjoyed a kind of intellectual hegemony, first among equals in the social sciences. That reign is over... more »


New Books

“This age has always displeased me.” Petrarch cultivated a crotchety reputation to keep visitors away and his focus on the distant past... more »


Essays & Opinions

The bad behavior of artists is now used to dismiss their work. Who pays for this new puritanism? The arts consumer, says Lionel Shriver... more »


Jan. 30, 2019

Articles of Note

Marlon James misses the bygone era of bookish braggadocio. Think Norman Mailer and Philip Roth. “When did we get so nerdy?”... more »


New Books

When did campy misandry become contemporary shorthand for communicating one’s feminist bona fides?... more »


Essays & Opinions

A mathematician tasked with translating Wittgenstein, Frank Ramsey was a crucial link between pragmatism and analytic philosophy... more »


Jan. 29, 2019

Articles of Note

Who has the authority, in a democracy, to determine what counts as truth? This epistemological concern feels timely — but is, in fact, timeless... more »


New Books

Jill Abramson’s new book is not a serious reckoning with journalism. It’s a poor swan song for the era of pre-internet news reporting... more »


Essays & Opinions

Gregg Easterbrook wants to make optimism “intellectually respectable again.” First step: Don't confuse optimism with complacency... more »


Jan. 28, 2019

Articles of Note

Once you start making money, writing becomes work and ceases to be fun, said Russell Baker, who died last week. But “when writing is fun, it’s not very good"... more »


New Books

When Chopin died, at the age of 39, it was after a lifetime of dodging close calls. How did physical frailty shape his creative choices?... more »


Essays & Opinions

"For God’s sake, for Dartmouth’s sake, and for everyone’s sake, keep the damned women out." Fifty years of coeducation at American colleges... more »


Jan. 26, 2019

Articles of Note

The term “liberalism“” first appeared around 1812. Its evolution has been marked by ruptures, setbacks, and cringe-worthy instances of hypocrisy... more »


New Books

Robert Conquest enjoyed poetry, pornography, and palling around with Amis and Larkin. This was good training for becoming a Sovietologist... more »


Essays & Opinions

The philosophy of Josiah Royce: When evaluating your life, don’t ask, “How happy am I?” Ask, “How loyal am I, and to what?”... more »


Jan. 25, 2019

Articles of Note

From his description of cypress trees as candles to his meditation on the shoulders of a kangaroo, D.H. Lawrence remains our perpetual contemporary... more »


New Books

Dissidents are always a little crazy by definition. Solzhenitsyn, a bold and eccentric man of ideas, was no exception... more »


Essays & Opinions

Modern conservatism was shaped by defectors from left to right: Chambers, Burnham, Kristol. Why the shortage in the other direction?... more »


Jan. 24, 2019

Articles of Note

During World War II, the Nazis stole millions of books. Many of them are still hiding in plain sight on library shelves throughout Europe... more »


New Books

Descriptions of Reddit tend to be accurate but unable to capture what it is. Here's a start: The website's struggles have been society’s struggles... more »


Essays & Opinions

The New Atheists are no longer new. Long past the movement’s height, its critique of liberalism lives on, with help from friends in the “intellectual dark web”... more »


Jan. 23, 2019

Articles of Note

Before populism was an object of media fascination, it was an object of study. Scholars agree that the topic is important but not on what it is... more »


New Books

We make pro and con lists, conduct moral algebra, study emotion and logic. Does any of it actually help us make a decision?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Journalism is faster, edgier, needier, angrier. As for its future, the problems are well understood, but solutions hard to see... more »


Jan. 22, 2019

Articles of Note

The war on bric-a-brac. Long before Marie Kondo, Unitarian ministers and interior designers fought against Victorian-era excess with calls for “Simplicity!” and “No junk!”... more »


New Books

A tale of two composers. Liszt had a gargantuan personality and regularly played to sold-out crowds; Chopin, who rarely played in public, had incapacitating stage fright... more »


Essays & Opinions

“Electric buttons have become the masters of the world,” complained a French nobleman in 1903. Technophobia has spread, but getting rid of technology isn’t the answer... more »


Jan. 21, 2019

Articles of Note

Nathan Glazer, a seminal sociologist and nonideological neoconservative of a decidedly pragmatic bent, is dead at 95... NY Times... WSJ... The Bulwark... Adam Wolfson... John Podhoretz... Martin Peretz... more »


New Books

Gary Indiana was for a few years art critic at The Village Voice. He couldn't have cared less about those columns. That others did was a source of irritation... more »


Essays & Opinions

How Martin Seligman stopped worrying and learned to love writing pop psychology. “‘I’m rich,’ I announced to my mother on the phone”... more »


Jan. 19, 2019

Articles of Note

“A clueless lot of scruffs, potentially quite dangerous.” Were Hobsbawm, E.P. Thompson, and like-minded historians really Stalinists, as MI5 feared?... more »


New Books

In a life marked by grief, Elaine Pagels writes about religion without pious uplift or false comfort. In their stead: only a partial triumph over despair... more »


Essays & Opinions

Is Twitter ruining book publishing? Lionel Shriver hits out at “morality clauses,” which make publishing contracts vulnerable to the whims of online outrage... more »


Jan. 18, 2019

Articles of Note

Happy birthday, Norman Podhoretz. The author, at 89, reflects on committing “intellectual heresy” and the irony of the New York Review’s republishing Making It... more »


New Books

Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History may have been wrong, but at least it was ambitious. His new book merely summarizes arguments that already feel dated... more »


Essays & Opinions

How do we judge abstract art? Do narratives make us more empathetic? These aesthetic riddles are suddenly the domain of experimental psychology... more »