Feb. 21, 2018 | Animal-voiced poems tend to be quirky and quaint, like T.S. Eliot’s on cats. Enter Don Marquis, a fatalistic newspaperman who wrote cockroach-based poetry... more »


Feb. 20, 2018 | The anti-Habermas. Peter Sloterdijk made his career sparring with the Frankfurt School and predicting the demise of liberal democracy. The times have caught up to him... more »


Feb. 19, 2018 | Picasso’s erotic year. In 1932 the artist, 50, had a torrid affair with his 22-year-old model. Even his banal subjects — a fruit platter, a shadow — turned phallic... more »


Feb. 17, 2018 | The comprehensive John Stuart Mill. He was out to combine Bentham with poetry, the Enlightenment with Romanticism, and to span the entire philosophy of his time... more »


Feb. 16, 2018 | A robot Rembrandt? Artificial intelligence cannot yet make fine art. When it can, the results will be both painfully boring and beyond our wildest imagination... more »


Feb. 15, 2018 | In praise of bibliomancy. The idea that literature could predict the future captivated 17th-century royals. Today it reminds us that books possess a rare magic... more »


Feb. 14, 2018 | Samuel Clemens and Olivia Langdon: he was poor, uneducated, and smitten; she was rich, pious, and uninterested. On their first date, they went to a Dickens reading... more »


Feb. 13, 2018 | The case of the libelous letters. In 1920s Britain, a neighborhood dispute engrossed the nation. Why? The written word was a new and exhilarating weapon... more »


Feb. 12, 2018 | In search of a sacred combe, a place of retreat and artistic genesis. It's not a real place, except when it is. Thoreau found Walden Pond; Yeats found the Isle of Innisfree... more »


Feb. 10, 2018 | To say freedom of conscience had a difficult birth would understate the matter, writes Marilynne Robinson. So she's surprised to find it disappearing before her eyes... more »


Feb. 9, 2018 | How Shakespeare wrote. He leaned heavily on George North, a minor figure in the court of Queen Elizabeth. The clue: “trundle-tail”... more »


Feb. 8, 2018 | An unconfessional poet. While Lowell, Plath, and Rich plumbed personal experience, W.S. Merwin embraced formalism and erudition... more »


Feb. 7, 2018 | Feted and then forgotten. Charles Sprawson, the bard of swimming, was hailed for his literary debut. Now he wanders a hospital ward looking for a pool... more »


Feb. 6, 2018 | Jacques Barzun was all elegance and quiet authority. Lionel Trilling was melancholic and disaffected. Their improbable friendship shaped literary scholarship... more »


Feb. 5, 2018 | The history of Smell-O-Vision. The 1960 film Scent of Mystery used a renowned osmologist to revolutionize cinema. The result smelled like cheap cologne... more »


Feb. 3, 2018 | A “mouth breather with a silver spoon,” Henry Green was the greatest listener in the history of British letters, and an unlikely one at that... more »


Feb. 2, 2018 | Unlike French, English has no academy to protect it. The fate of the language is left to market forces, a battle between Berks and Wankers... more »


Feb. 1, 2018 | He was the greatest choreographer of the 20th century. But his treatment of female dancers looks a lot like sexual predation. What will become of George Balanchine's reputation?... more »


Jan. 31, 2018 | She swears magnificently, is the author of The Good Working Mother’s Guide, and wants a pink streak in her hair. She is also the world’s most famous classicist... more »


Jan. 30, 2018 | Irrelevance is the fate of most political magazines. Yet there are times when they change the course of history. Now might be one of those moments... more »


Jan. 29, 2018 | Cuttlefish were “hyacinth red and chestnut brown,” sea slugs “primrose yellow,” soft coral “light auricular purple”: Darwin, one admirer noted, was “a first-rate landscape painter with the pen”... more »


Jan. 27, 2018 | In an 18th-century cannon foundry in Woolwich, a neighborhood in southeast London, 3,000 feet of shelving is where magazines go to survive... more »


Jan. 26, 2018 | Daniel Bell did not foresee the smartphone, but he glimpsed the appeal of its antecedents. And he understood how a culture can undermine itself... more »


Jan. 25, 2018 | Charles I acquired works by Caravaggio, Bruegel, and Raphael. He learned early on that a prestigious art collection was a prerequisite of dynastic power... more »


Jan. 24, 2018 | Obscurity is a common fate for writers. What’s curious about William Melvin Kelley is that, after the early acclaim passed, he kept at it, every day, never doubting himself... more »


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