Jan. 19, 2019 | In a life marked by grief, Elaine Pagels writes about religion without pious uplift or false comfort. In their stead: only a partial triumph over despair... more »


Jan. 18, 2019 | Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History may have been wrong, but at least it was ambitious. His new book merely summarizes arguments that already feel dated... more »


Jan. 17, 2019 | Michel Houellebecq wrote about terrorism pre-9/11 and provincial protest pre-gilets jaunes. It’s like he’s hired the zeitgeist as his publicity agent... more »


Jan. 16, 2019 | At 39, listless and depressed, Winston Churchill took to the canvas. Although some of his works evoke paint-by-numbers, he was generally a “successful amateur”... more »


Jan. 15, 2019 | The 1943 cast recording of Oklahoma! put the Broadway musical at the center of American popular culture. It didn't stay there for long... more »


Jan. 14, 2019 | His works are not Gothic; they are not parody or satire; they are funny but not jokey. It's weird how Edward Gorey's art is ubiquitous but hard to characterize... more »


Jan. 12, 2019 | In 1889, Debussy visited the world’s fair, which featured the Eiffel Tower. What impressed him more was an opera featuring “a furious little clarinet”... more »


Jan. 11, 2019 | “I will not be ‘famous,’ ‘great,’” wrote Virginia Woolf in her diary in 1933. Also revealed in her private writing: cattiness and casual racism... more »


Jan. 10, 2019 | From the French Revolution to 19th-century Germany to the founding of The New Republic, liberalism has lived many lives. Will it continue to survive?... more »


Jan. 9, 2019 | Iris Murdoch believed that description is never neutral, that our relentless egos block understanding, and that the answer to egotism is love... more »


Jan. 8, 2019 | Boethius is the patron saint of bullshit detection. His self-appointed heir apparent, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, has made it a way of life... more »


Jan. 7, 2019 | “What have I in common with the Jews?” Kafka asked in his diary, adding, “I have hardly anything in common with myself.” He had an equally ambigious relationship with Zionism... more »


Jan. 5, 2019 | The idea of Eve Babitz — sexual outlaw, polymath of pleasure, gifted annalist of the delights and despair of Los Angeles — is more compelling than the author herself... more »


Jan. 4, 2019 | What happens to dead writers at the hands of exegetes or executors? It's a question of estate management, archival avarice, popular renown, and inheritance law... more »


Jan. 3, 2019 | Germaine Greer was a colossus whose vitality and pugnacity made her impossible to ignore. Then she embarked on a path of retrograde rants... more »


Jan. 2, 2019 | Geoff Dyer once described the history of jazz as the history of people picking themselves up off the floor. Mezz Mezzrow was no exception... more »


Jan. 1, 2019 | A novel that alludes to a romance with Roth; a witty window into the world of "thought leadership"; a monumental biography of Frederick Douglass: What were the best books of 2018? ... NPR... New Yorker... The Atlantic... Christian Lorentzen... NY Times critics... Publisher's Weekly... Katy Waldman... Time... Mental Floss...... more »


Dec. 31, 2018 | Schadenfreude: the long history, complicated etymology, and many uses of one of life's grubby but essential little pleasures... more »


Dec. 29, 2018 | William T. Vollmann’s 1,300-page book on climate change is overloaded with statistics, footnotes, and citations. Buried within is an intellectual autobiography... more »


Dec. 28, 2018 | It took four years for Tolstoy to write Anna Karenina, as he complained about the work, defamed the novel, and considered killing himself... more »


Dec. 27, 2018 | For Wittgenstein, philosophy had no “problems,” only “puzzles.” This did not stop him from threatening Karl Popper with a fireplace poker over a philosophical difference... more »


Dec. 26, 2018 | Why does Nietzsche continue to beguile? It's the libertine aphorisms, unhappy life, tragic end, appropriation by the Nazis, and the extent to which he's misunderstood... more »


Dec. 25, 2018 | With her husband gone, Sylvia Plath rode horses, took up smoking, and cherished her independence. “Ted may be a genius,” she wrote, “but I’m an intelligence”... more »


Dec. 24, 2018 | To understand how fascism works, don't blur the distinction between conservatism and fascism. It numbs us to legitimate warnings, and trivializes the dangers that we face... more »


Dec. 22, 2018 | When Bach was in his mid-40s and at the height of his creative powers, he suddenly began recycling old material instead of composing original material. Why?... more »


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