May 4, 2016 | The value of simplicity and complexity in art is a matter of taste. In science, the search for simple theories is a requirement. But is simpler better?... more »


May 3, 2016 | When black intellectuals interpret black life for white audiences, the question of racial authenticity arises. What is authentic black knowledge?... more »


May 2, 2016 | Nationalism is back, along with a politics of grievance, belligerence, and isolation. It's a moment for Benedict Anderson, who diagnosed nationalism’s insurgent appeal... more »


April 30, 2016 | Chernobyl, the novel. How an airborne toxic event came to represent postmodernism. A story of alienation and technological hubris... more »


April 29, 2016 | Why is a 17th-century Portuguese-Jewish philosopher, a writer of dense and opaque prose, so popular? Spinoza is a heretic for our times... more »


April 28, 2016 | Contemporary poets speak only for themselves, while the poets of yore spoke for everyone. So goes one eternal critique of poetry − wrong, of course... more »


April 27, 2016 | Alec Ross went to Washington and became an important man thinking important thoughts. Adviser to the president, influencer, visionary, example of futurism at its laziest... more »


April 26, 2016 | Time eludes our understanding, defeating both philosophers and physicists in their attempts to pin it down. Does time even exist?... more »


April 25, 2016 | Why do some writers abandon their native language and adopt another? Politics, idealism, and internationalism all play a part. Opportunism, too... more »


April 23, 2016 | Essays convey observations and emotions, experiences unique to the writer. So what is the essayist’s obligation to fact?... more »


April 22, 2016 | Philosophy has been overrun by Kant and by moralistic rules. We need a version that appeals to people — we need a return to Hume... more »


April 21, 2016 | “A thing” has become a thing, as in “Is that actually a thing?” Sure, it's an irksome linguistic trend. But it fills a real need... more »


April 20, 2016 | The critic in the mood to confess. Here a personal anecdote, there a self-deprecating aside, a pose of endearing amateurism. Enough!... more »


April 19, 2016 | "I wonder why Arab prisons are not full of writers," says the poet Adonis. "I wonder why, because it means that Arab writers are not doing their jobs"... more »


April 18, 2016 | Everybody loves diversity. Nobody opposes it, especially on college campuses. But the link between demographic and intellectual diversity is, at best, tenuous... more »


April 16, 2016 | Tennis, the most isolating of games, draws the obsessive and brooding, those in search of agony and transcendence. Literary types, in other words... more »


April 15, 2016 | The tragedy of Dorothy Parker. Intelligent and clever, she won fame early in life. Death and suicide, however, were never far from her thoughts... more »


April 14, 2016 | Oppressively earnest, quick to take offense, an aggressive drunk — Grace Hartigan didn’t make things easy for her friends, who included Frankenthaler, O’Hara, and Ashbery... more »


April 13, 2016 | Baffled by the rise of ISIS? Spasms of barbarism are the norm when modernization outpaces civilization. John Gray explains... more »


April 12, 2016 | What's the Homintern? The vast network of gay creative types who have for the past century been the foremost arbiters of the arts... more »


April 11, 2016 | James Baldwin's first novel was set in Harlem. His second had all white characters. His publishers were having none of it. You're a "Negro writer," they reminded him... more »


April 9, 2016 | Marianne Moore’s poetry of the small produces “the feeling that life is softly exploding around us,” as John Ashbery put it. Is she our greatest modern poet?... more »


April 8, 2016 | We hear music with our ears, our heart, our imagination, our muscles. Do we also hear with the color of our skin?... more »


April 7, 2016 | African fiction is rarely discussed, and almost never in literary terms. The novels are read as mere political documents, catalogs of social ills and cultural themes... more »


April 6, 2016 | Decisions, decisions, decisions — so many to make. We tend to forget that the truly important ones are out of our hands... more »


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