Aug. 9, 2016 | For four years, William Styron pushed his No. 2 pencil across the page, writing The Confessions of Nat Turner. He'd “unwittingly created one of the first politically incorrect texts of our time”... more »


Aug. 8, 2016 | Did the Inquisition judge Galileo on the basis of theology, or did it rely on the scientific standards of the day? The answer depends on a peculiar piece of punctuation ... more »


Aug. 6, 2016 | Nabokov suffered from adenoma, heart palpitations, neuralgia, lumbago, pleurisy, and psoriasis. Did epilepsy cause his hallucinations?... more »


Aug. 5, 2016 | Mikita Brottman started a reading group at a men's jail because she believed in the power of literature to transform lives. Now she's not so sure... more »


Aug. 4, 2016 | Faber in the 1960s. The atmosphere at T.S. Eliot's publishing house was much like the man himself--old, grand, and glowering. It's where Mary-Kay Wilmers got her start... more »


Aug. 3, 2016 | Two men and the city. James Joyce and Italo Svevo met in Trieste in 1907. One was an artistic prodigy and a drunk, the other was an abstemious businessman. Both were geniuses... more »


Aug. 2, 2016 | You think Jonathan Franzen is overrated and out of touch? He's OK with that. “I go to extraordinary lengths not to hear what people are saying about me”... more »


Aug. 1, 2016 | When it comes to writing, the world is divided between Pantsers and Planners. Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants; planners plan. Everyone else believes there are no rules to writing... more »


July 30, 2016 | Proust was literature's greatest mama's boy. "She takes away my life with her," he wrote when she died. He filled the void with work on his novel... more »


July 29, 2016 | Used to be that America's foremost public intellectuals were theologians on the Christian left. Their ideas triumphed, but their type disappeared. All except Marilynne Robinson... more »


July 28, 2016 | Inexplicable, almost unthinkable acts of violence; audacious, nihilistic, adolescent self-righteousness: Looking for ISIS in a 1907 novel... more »


July 27, 2016 | New ideas are necessary engines of progress. Most aren't new, however, but result from what Steven Poole calls the looping "evolution of ideas"... more »


July 26, 2016 | H.L. Mencken, who died 60 years ago, was irritable, unpredictable, bigoted, brilliant — and he's as relevant as ever... more »


July 25, 2016 | You can’t weigh, record, or export it. You can’t eat it, collect it, or give it away. But in a noisy world, silence sells. Just ask Finland... more »


July 23, 2016 | Wasps are a threat, often putting us at risk of a sting. But wasps lead exemplary lives, and they're responsible for a great shift in cultural history... more »


July 22, 2016 | Literature is full of impostors, but few have pulled off a hoax as brazen or bizarre as JT Leroy, the novelist who wasn't who he seemed ... more »


July 21, 2016 | "A story is like a human face," says Svetlana Alexievich. "We have as many stories as human faces. You might have similar facial features, but they're all a little different"... more »


July 20, 2016 | Diane Arbus is remembered for taking her camera into the street to capture images of outsiders. Her career began as the quieter half of a polite fashion-photography couple... more »


July 19, 2016 | For Martha Nussbaum, aging wisely requires coming to terms with one's body. She’s done so through opera singing, running, Botox, semi-public urination, and an unsedated colonoscopy... more »


July 18, 2016 | Victorian spiritualism was not just a fixation on death. Its history includes Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini, P.T. Barnum, and the telegraph... more »


July 16, 2016 | The agonies of H.T. Tsiang: literary rejection, an imagined feud with Pearl S. Buck, a deportation order. His life was stranger than his fiction... more »


July 15, 2016 | In his youth, Voltaire, spendthrift and gambler, met writers who were "penniless and held in contempt.” He would avoid that fate. So he gamed the lottery... more »


July 14, 2016 | Helen DeWitt went to Oxford to study Euripides and discovered she’d rather be Euripides. Now she rages against the publishing industry: “Plato did not have an editor”... more »


July 13, 2016 | Sleep was once about the spiritual, the Greek gods, the Sandman. Now it’s about physiology, medicalization, insomnia. Philosophical consequences abound... more »


July 12, 2016 | Catullus’ corpus of 116 poems teems with rage and obscenity. He was Rome’s most erotic poet, but we know almost nothing of him. Cue the dark arts of speculative historical reconstruction... more »


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