June 21, 2016 | A “masterpiece” once meant a singular work by a master. Nowadays, the word is used to praise collectively created work. We've lost sight of what makes a master masterly... more »


June 20, 2016 | Wallace Stevens, having failed at journalism and law, began a long career in insurance. He didn't publish his poems until he was 35. His life is not crying out to be told. And yet ... more »


June 18, 2016 | The Shelleys, Byron, and friends in Switzerland one cold and rainy summer were like a writer’s colony from hell: love triangles, sharp tempers, and the birth of Frankenstein... more »


June 17, 2016 | In the mid-1950s, when Primo Levi traveled to Germany on business as a chemist, he relished awkward chitchat with the locals. “My name is Levi. I am a Jew, and I learned your language at Auschwitz”... more »


June 16, 2016 | Wallace Stevens, Vladimir Nabokov, David Lynch — why do artists swoon over snow? From its seductive nothingness to its narcotic effects, snow manifests a state of mind... more »


June 15, 2016 | Elon Musk suggests that we may all be living in a simulation, giving an old idea fresh cachet. But why listen to Musk on such a matter?... more »


June 14, 2016 | The stories of Whittaker Chambers, James Burnham, Ronald Reagan, Norman Podhoretz, David Horowitz, and Christopher Hitchens are accounts of how we come to un-believe... more »


June 13, 2016 | How Hemingway became Hemingway. He gathered a group of friends, headed to Pamplona, and returned a middlebrow revolutionary... more »


June 11, 2016 | Laurie Penny is a romantic. She has a tender, squishy heart. She likes weddings but is wary of marriage. There's just too much else to do... more »


June 10, 2016 | Gershom Scholem and Theodor Adorno disagreed about many things. And they did it over the course of a three-decade correspondence — a dialogue between survivors... more »


June 9, 2016 | We love trivia, quiz shows, picking up strange tidbits of knowledge. Why? “The world is the totality of facts, not of things,” wrote Wittgenstein ... more »


June 8, 2016 | Dave Hickey writes about art but issues no judgments. He's not trying to convince you of anything. He doesn't write criticism. He writes love songs... more »


June 7, 2016 | On the morning of March 5, 1953, Joseph Stalin struggled for breath at his dacha. He lifted his left hand, pointed menacingly, and died... more »


June 6, 2016 | The Price of Salt, adapted into the film Carol, depicts the beginnings of the kind of lesbian relationship Patricia Highsmith herself could never enjoy... more »


June 4, 2016 | Whose interests should the translator serve? Those who want to be entertained, or those “of the more masochistic school” who want to know what the original was like?... more »


June 3, 2016 | Walk the Nile, see Shakespeare in China, voyage by train as a well-dressed hobo — and be sure to write about it. We’ve never had more travel writing, but is it any good?... more »


June 2, 2016 | The most influential Jewish philosopher is the one Jewish philosopher to have been excommunicated. Spinoza paved the way for modern Judaism. It’s time to rethink his ban... more »


June 1, 2016 | Reading Dawkins in the time of Crispr. It’s been 40 years since The Selfish Gene was published. He regrets the title, but the book holds up... more »


May 31, 2016 | The Shostakovich wars. Was he a conflicted yet compliant Stalinist sympathizer? Or a subtle dissident? What's certain is that he struggled to live a life devoted to music... more »


May 30, 2016 | The faulty logic of a problematic metaphor: human brain as computer. The comparison is so silly, why is it so sticky?... more »


May 28, 2016 | When T.S. Eliot’s writing was good, it was very, very good. When it was bad, it neared horrid. Cue the snobbery, the schoolboy nastiness, the racism... more »


May 27, 2016 | Poets and their birthdays. An annual excuse for mopey and rueful words: It's their party and they’ll cry if they want to. And poets want to... more »


May 26, 2016 | Reading Edward Said in a warming world. The critic had no time for tree-huggers, who he felt lacked a proper cause. But tree-huggers should make time for Said... more »


May 25, 2016 | Edgar Allan Poe and his admirers. Baudelaire revered him, as did Tennyson, Hardy, and Yeats. Edmund Wilson thought him the finest critic America ever produced... more »


May 24, 2016 | Speak, butterfly. How the intricate structures of Pnin, Lolita, and Pale Fire were inspired by Nabokov's dissections of butterfly genitalia... more »


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