May 25, 2020 | Coffee, “the most grateful lubricant of the human machine,” has made — and destroyed — entire societies... more »


May 23, 2020 | The poetry of Paul Valéry seems the work of a man behind his times. But beneath the old-fashioned veneer is the shock of the modern... more »


May 22, 2020 | The art critic Hal Foster separated “good” from “bad” postmodernism. How real is that distinction?... more »


May 21, 2020 | With his puncturing of ideology and his wild, hallucinatory tales, Robert Stone reshaped what the American crime thriller could be... more »


May 20, 2020 | Shame is about dishonor, vulnerability, and disgrace. It's also a tool of politics and power... more »


May 19, 2020 | The Anglo-Boer War is remembered, when it's remembered at all, for those who improbably played a part: Churchill, Gandhi, Kipling, Conan Doyle... more »


May 18, 2020 | Clive James was perhaps Philip Larkin's best reader. But his Larkin is a projection — the poet that James wanted to be... more »


May 16, 2020 | There are lots of supposed polymaths. They’re brilliant in one field, but mediocre in others. True polymaths are rare... more »


May 15, 2020 | In 1979, Richard Rorty suggested that philosophy was over; graduate students might as well give up. One of his own, Robert Brandom, has now proven that thought absurd... more »


May 14, 2020 | When Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson met, they debated the nature of fiction and griped about — what else? — money... more »


May 13, 2020 | Edward Said and the culture wars. His attempts to woo the American academy into opposing imperialism were as fruitless as “cajoling a cat into altruism”... more »


May 12, 2020 | Franz Boas in 1888: “It is most unpleasant work to steal bones from a grave, but what is the use, someone has to do it”... more »


May 11, 2020 | William James’s critics mistake his pragmatism for simple relativism. He endures because he addressed the meaning of life... more »


May 9, 2020 | A memoir that conceals. Rebecca Solnit’s latest book promises intimacy, but it speaks more powerfully on broad, collective problems... more »


May 8, 2020 | Franz Boas inveighed against racism. But did his ideas ultimately help to strengthen its grip?... more »


May 7, 2020 | Frivolous, self-indulgent, and gloriously smutty, Wayne Koestenbaum’s essays are also cerebral celebrations of desire and imagination... more »


May 6, 2020 | Hail Sir Thomas Urquhart, royalist, duelist, self-proclaimed descendant of the gods, and creator of a universal language — not that he bothered to write it down... more »


May 5, 2020 | Ross Douthat is man of many observations, interpretations, and predictions — most of which he's all too willing to back away from... more »


May 4, 2020 | George Scialabba's doctor's notes — both mundane and revelatory — show what it means to be clinically depressed... more »


May 2, 2020 | Kierkegaard saw himself as the “Socrates of Christendom,” but his theology requires some reframing: for one thing, his church was a library... more »


May 1, 2020 | Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell is anachronistically modern: secular, tolerant, and kind to women, children, the poor, and animals... more »


April 30, 2020 | William F. Cody — Buffalo Bill — has long shaped Americans’ idealistic sense of the frontier. But look more closely: His biography is full of darkness... more »


April 29, 2020 | When David Pryce-Jones came visiting, Auden downed three martinis in a half-hour and had to be put to bed with a flask of Chianti... more »


April 28, 2020 | Frank Ramsey died at age 26, in 1930. Yet intellectuals still encounter "the Ramsey effect" — you reach a breakthrough, only to realize he got there first... more »


April 27, 2020 | "What does it mean to be an artist in an economy that actually doesn’t allow many people to make their living as artists?"... more »


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