June 5, 2020 | To Richard Russo, time spent arguing over cultural appropriation might be better spent extolling the triumphs of the literary imagination... more »


June 4, 2020 | We have developed an ill-advised self-seriousness about the novel — so much so, says Dave Eggers, that we have overlooked one of the wittiest books ever written... more »


June 3, 2020 | Literary culture is tactile, embedded in our social environment. When cities go quiet, and intellectual life happens remotely, much is lost... more »


June 2, 2020 | Do aphorisms convey wisdom or merely impersonate it? For Plato, they were enigmatic evasions — the scattered utterances of clever men... more »


June 1, 2020 | After the pandemic. Bill McKibben, Noam Chomsky, and others try forecasting a dark future... more »


May 30, 2020 | A culinary mystery: Vinaigrette has been hailed as a triumph of French culture — but is its origin actually Italian?... more »


May 29, 2020 | "The trolley-problem problem." Thought experiments are as old as philosophy itself, but are they a useful way to reason about ethics?... more »


May 28, 2020 | As an experience and an idea, solitude is no simple matter. It is both a necessary refuge and a public health menace... more »


May 27, 2020 | Success requires flirting with the public, said George Bernard Shaw. He was more accomplished as a flirt than as a playwright... more »


May 26, 2020 | László Földényi leads an assault on rationalism. In his prosecutorial zeal, is he missing the bigger picture?... more »


May 25, 2020 | The value of science as a credential seems stronger than ever. Is this ubiquity a symptom of its decline?... more »


May 23, 2020 | John Cage stroking bits of wire, Leonard Bernstein conducting Beethoven’s Ninth: The strangely addictive joy of classical YouTube... more »


May 22, 2020 | The rise of individualism is linked to that of infectious diseases. Leo Robson traces the inevitable effect on literature... more »


May 21, 2020 | For Locke and Rousseau, home schooling was ideal. For many parents now, not so much. What’s the basis of a moral education?... more »


May 20, 2020 | The impulse to compare contemporary political events to the past lives on. But such analogies hinder more than they help... more »


May 19, 2020 | Greil Marcus isn’t afraid, as one reader put it, to let “everything remind him of everything else.” It's both a gift and a liability... more »


May 18, 2020 | “Art breathes from containments and suffocates from freedom,” said Leonardo da Vinci. Contemporary art is suffocating... more »


May 16, 2020 | During London’s Great Plague, Samuel Pepys was resigned to his fate yet found much to rejoice in. Pandemics are complicated... more »


May 15, 2020 | Heiner Müller was a poet, playwright, and Stasi informant. The messiness of his life speaks to the complexity of postwar Germany... more »


May 14, 2020 | Critics once assessed the value of books. Now they use reviews as opportunities to showcase their erudition... more »


May 13, 2020 | According to Peter Turchin and others in cliodynamics, historical material can be used to predict the future. Historians are skeptical... more »


May 12, 2020 | Fiction is no good in a crisis, and it dislikes confronting world events head-on. So you'll have to wait for that coronavirus novel... more »


May 11, 2020 | “Thou art a boil / A plague-sore, or embossed carbuncle.” Shakespeare didn’t write much about the bubonic plague, but it did provide good insult material... more »


May 9, 2020 | The word "nostalgia" did not originally mean what it means now. It was coined with a longing for a time when there was no word for what it described... more »


May 8, 2020 | Our reading problem. Yes, we shouldn't idealize the past. But that doesn't mean we have no crisis in the present... more »


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