March 1, 2018 | From her harsh theater reviews to her novel My Ántonia, Willa Cather demonstrated an intensity of observation. Jane Smiley explains... more »


Feb. 28, 2018 | In 1905 the poet George Sterling established an artists' colony at Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif. Then things got dark: murders and suicide pacts... more »


Feb. 27, 2018 | At Cornell's legendary Food and Brand Lab, research is conducted in an unusual way: Collect data first, form hypotheses later. “This is not science, it is storytelling"... more »


Feb. 26, 2018 | Debussy’s idiotic ballet about a tennis match remained an avant-garde favorite 40 years later. In music, revolutionary styles and popularity are wedded... more »


Feb. 24, 2018 | By the time a new dictionary is complete, it’s out of date. Still, the quest to capture the meaning of everything remains a noble one... more »


Feb. 23, 2018 | The dean of the Harlem Renaissance was not Langston Hughes or Zora Neale Hurston, but the editor and impresario Alain Locke. Such obscurity is undeserved... more »


Feb. 22, 2018 | Edward Abbey was a bus driver, park ranger, anarchist, and philosopher of the desert. He sought solitude but secretly craved the approval of the New York literati... more »


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 »


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