Feb. 2, 2018 | Darwinism is loaded with cultural and aesthetic baggage rarely found in science. Has evolutionary theory become a religion?... more »


Feb. 1, 2018 | The fascinating, if now largely forgotten, life of John Selden: known as “England’s chief rabbi,” expert in Arabic chronicles, imprisoned in the Tower of London... more »


Jan. 31, 2018 | Martin Amis's nonfiction includes a fair share of chestnuts. He is most alive when engaged in the scrupulous celebration of other writers' prose... more »


Jan. 30, 2018 | It may feel as though we read less now than we did before smartphones and social media. But statistics do not bear that out. So why is the feeling so prevalent?... more »


Jan. 29, 2018 | Joni Mitchell's authenticity is quintessential. But authenticity in art is, of course, also an aesthetic effect. And her art was a product of artifice as much as honesty... more »


Jan. 27, 2018 | Why do people in certain cities — London, New York, Paris — become radicalized, sparking revolutions that expand the limits of what's politically imaginable?... more »


Jan. 26, 2018 | To call out falseness is to risk being accused of condescension. So there are reasons to hold your tongue, some more legitimate than others... more »


Jan. 25, 2018 | “Tell me what you eat," it's been said, "and I shall tell you what you are.” But a person’s diet is just as often the least interesting thing about her... more »


Jan. 24, 2018 | The Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Epic of Gilgamesh were preserved through oral tradition. What has been gained, and lost, from writing things down?... more »


Jan. 23, 2018 | What was a sensitive Jewish intellectual doing with a brutal Cossack regiment? Isaac Babel would take any risk to experience unexpected situations and strange people... more »


Jan. 22, 2018 | Pity John Milton. The 350th anniversary of Paradise Lost passed with hardly a word about the man or the poem. One reason: It's an unabashedly religious work... more »


Jan. 20, 2018 | Is the U.S. president’s spontaneous philosophy in line with key features of conservatism, or peripheral to them?... more »


Jan. 19, 2018 | Joseph Conrad hated being called a writer of “sea stories.” Yet his experience of travel and displacement is what makes his work resonate today... more »


Jan. 18, 2018 | Denis Johnson was a prodigy, an American Rimbaud. Then, suddenly, he wasn’t. Heroin, alcohol, and the IRS followed, as did great writing... more »


Jan. 17, 2018 | “William, you’re very boring.” Empson, in the middle of a poetry reading, ignored the heckler. “William, you are very boring,” she said again. It was his wife... more »


Jan. 16, 2018 | The loves of Mary Shelley. Her husband was openly hostile to her. After his death, she was intimate with several women. Her sexual orientation was clear, perhaps even to herself... more »


Jan. 15, 2018 | Ezra Pound: His name is synonymous with the need to separate the life (fascist-sympathizing anti-Semite) from the work (visionary poet and critic) — and the impossibility of doing so... more »


Jan. 13, 2018 | Jews and jokes. The Old Testament isn't funny. Jews, however, produce so much humor. Why? Theories abound, few of them funny... more »


Jan. 12, 2018 | The British writer Ann Quin wrote novels that took aim at aesthetic orthodoxy. They didn’t catch on in the 1960s, but has their time arrived?... more »


Jan. 11, 2018 | Why did George Bernard Shaw, in his final decades, cozy up to Stalin and Mussolini? It was part intellectual isolation, part weakness for flattery... more »


Jan. 10, 2018 | A radical turn to the past. While much of feminist thought centers on the future, Audre Lorde made herself “a mouthpiece for history"... more »


Jan. 9, 2018 | A.R. Ammons was one of the great curmudgeons in the history of poetry. He made an aesthetic out of fuddy-duddiness, but he was more than a lovable grouch... more »


Jan. 8, 2018 | Elizabeth Hardwick said real literature should elicit criticism worthy of the achievement in question. That meant, among other things, a stubborn commitment to good, clear prose... more »


Jan. 6, 2018 | Mencken once estimated that he had published some 10 to 15 million words, everywhere riddled with verbal obscurities: Blattidae, chandala, chrestomathy... more »


Jan. 5, 2018 | F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed to have left the Catholic church in 1917. But his commitment to its rituals, as well as the moral urgency of his writing, suggests that he never escaped its influence... more »


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