June 19, 2018 | When improv comedy is done poorly, which is often, it's excruciating. But even at its best, improv is almost always inferior to prepared material... more »


June 18, 2018 | How did Germans see Nazism? Not as we see it. Habituation, confusion, distraction, self-interest, fear, rationalization, and a sense of personal powerlessness made terrible things possible... more »


June 16, 2018 | Inspired by Pride and Prejudice, Annabella Milbanke decided to fix Lord Byron’s flaws. The two were wed, but he was no Darcy, and she no Elizabeth Bennet... more »


June 15, 2018 | Lorrie Moore has thought a lot about what it takes to become a writer. “Quit classes. Quit jobs. Cash in old savings bonds. Now you have time like warts on your hands”... more »


June 14, 2018 | Pick your literary role models carefully, lest you end up chasing down disappointing lovers, or chanting The Waste Land in the desert heat... more »


June 13, 2018 | Politics may be a necessary evil — but viewing everything solely through a political lens is an evil that we’re choosing. We should stop... more »


June 12, 2018 | When Saul Bellow was bad. His nonfiction reads like a hodgepodge of facts combined with ideas dreamed up simply to have something to say... more »


June 11, 2018 | If there’s one thing science-fiction authors love more than cosmic terror, it’s arguing about what constitutes “real” science fiction. That's a fight with high stakes... more »


June 9, 2018 | In the West, the filmmaker Masaki Kobayashi is seen as an earnestly didactic opponent of authoritarianism. It’s time to move beyond such reductive political readings... more »


June 8, 2018 | Did you know that Aristotle spoke with a lisp? That Socrates enjoyed dancing? The third-century gossip of Diogenes Laërtius is fascinating, if not always factual... more »


June 7, 2018 | Picture Mary Shelley summoning Percy to a tryst; imagine her pregnant and seasick, eloping across the English Channel. Do these scenes reveal or obscure her personality?... more »


June 6, 2018 | How not to write a biography: Choose a figure about whom we known almost nothing, make liberal use of the word “presumably,” invent a timeline where none is justified... more »


June 5, 2018 | Benedict Arnold's treason seems not to matter much anymore. But it's fascinating: Spies and counterspies, suspense and close calls, a beautiful woman, Alexander Hamilton... more »


June 4, 2018 | Social scientists study beauty as physical appearance. The natural sciences study it as pattern and structure, fractals and spheres. But a messier form of beauty is coming into view... more »


June 2, 2018 | A rose is red because we experience it as red. But our experience is itself mysterious. Daniel Dennett ponders the manifest and the scientific image of the world... more »


June 1, 2018 | We're hooked on mirages: meaningless stimuli from an algorithm. Jaron Lanier offers 10 arguments for quitting social media right now... more »


May 31, 2018 | Richard III, Macbeth, Lear, Mark Antony: Shakespeare's tyrants can tell us much about the puzzling psychology and spectacle of villainy... more »


May 30, 2018 | The dominant image of Samuel Beckett is that of a man not merely apolitical but antipolitical, a disengaged pessimist offering disempowering despair. Don't believe it... more »


May 29, 2018 | We live in an age that prizes efficiency. So how to explain the proliferation of pointless jobs? They make little economic sense. Their function must be political... more »


May 28, 2018 | Barbara Ehrenreich doesn’t meditate. She doesn’t believe in self-care, wellness, or mindfulness. They are coercive, exploitative, and futile. We are not in charge of ourselves... more »


May 26, 2018 | A memorable dinner at the White House. William Styron and James Baldwin attended. J.D. Salinger, a budding recluse, declined. Mary Hemingway bored JFK immensely... more »


May 25, 2018 | Deontologists, consequentialists, virtue ethicists. Philosophers are hopelessly divided on how to reach the truth about morality ... more »


May 24, 2018 | The private writing of Roland Barthes reveals his crushes, his musical and literary preferences, and his desired thesis adviser — Claude Lévi-Strauss, who turned him down... more »


May 23, 2018 | Bleakness was his birthright. Despite the ministrations of academics, Joseph Conrad endures as a modern master of a tragic sense of life... more »


May 22, 2018 | For decades Thomas Kuhn struggled to square the thought of an independent reality with the thesis of a changing world. He died feeling like a failure... more »


(Page 1 of 40) next »