Jan. 4, 2018 | Biographers: Henry James feared them as predators. James Joyce ridiculed them as “biografiends.” Saul Bellow compared them to coffin-makers... more »

Jan. 3, 2018 | Reading aloud is slow, but it used to be the norm. The rise of the novel was what shifted reading habits toward private and speedier consumption... more »

Jan. 2, 2018 | Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist, has read hundreds of books about Darwin and his work. Many are not good, but A.N. Wilson's is by far the worst... more »

Jan. 1, 2018 | As old as cave paintings, the umbrella — mundane yet magical — is a reminder of the elements of nature we have still not mastered... more »

Dec. 30, 2017 | Mailer at his height. Consider his Pentagon protest epic, now grievously out of fashion. At the time it was the longest article ever to appear in an American magazine... more »

Dec. 29, 2017 | Ecclesiastical control of universities, the Galileo affair, the Inquisition — what happens when science and religion clash? Dialogue is impossible; conflict, inevitable... more »

Dec. 28, 2017 | The bookishness of Bolsheviks. Their acceptance of apocalyptic violence wasn’t suppressed by the literary fraternity of their upper echelon... more »

Dec. 27, 2017 | By itself, travel does produce epiphanies. But it also makes clear that the language of location is relative — everywhere is to the east of something and to the west of something else... more »

Dec. 26, 2017 | Africa did not live up to Michel Leiris’s expectations. The Nile seemed a “common canal”; the insects were awful. His conclusion? “Writing a travel book is an absurd undertaking”... more »

Dec. 25, 2017 | Christian Wiman has written about the correlation between the quality of a poem and a poet’s capacity for suffering. But does he understand joy?... more »

Dec. 23, 2017 | “To Be Liked by You Would Be a Calamity.” Marianne Moore’s poems could be funny, tart, and conversational. But they had to have intensity... more »

Dec. 22, 2017 | Desire for booze lubricated the course of history: agriculture, civilization, revolution. What is it about getting drunk that we love so much?... more »

Dec. 21, 2017 | Joseph Conrad fell out of favor long ago. There's the racism, of course, and his obsession with courage and honor. Yet he anticipated our world... more »

Dec. 21, 2017 | For all the claims of paranoia, dislocation, and fragility, Joan Didion offers what none of her critics suspect: solidity. Patricia Lockwood explains... more »

Dec. 20, 2017 | For a time, Edward Garnett was known as the best reader in London. In reality, he was something like a literary mafia boss, nurturing his "cubs" and dispensing with others... more »

Dec. 19, 2017 | The rise of the Instapoets. Often dismissed as “not real poetry” or for “greeting-card verse,” the works of Rupi Kaur and other social-media scribes deserve our attention... more »

Dec. 18, 2017 | Intellectual writing on music is not for everybody. When Mitchell Cohen attends an opera, he sees and hears layer upon layer: politically, socially, and historically... more »

Dec. 16, 2017 | David Bentley Hart is a scholar of old ideas, like those published in the New Testament. But he is a modern writer. The evidence: He is very rude... more »

Dec. 15, 2017 | “Darwin was wrong,” says A.N. Wilson, whose book is quite often wrong, too. Indeed, it's an object lesson in how not to write the history of anything... more »

Dec. 14, 2017 | Hoaxes succeed by promising us what we wish for. P.T. Barnum called it “humbug,” a form of fakery that doesn't deceive so much as fill its beholder with wonder... more »

Dec. 13, 2017 | Patrick Leigh Fermor began walking in 1933. Until his death, in 2011, he was all generosity and enthusiasm, arcane knowledge and irresistible wit... more »

Dec. 12, 2017 | Goethe was an uninhibited pagan who boasted of his "pretty wild life" and knowledge of girls. Yet biographers suggest he didn't have sex until he was nearly 40. What gives?... more »

Dec. 11, 2017 | Toril Moi believes literary theory has corrosive consequences. She wants to transform the way we think about language. But her version of literary studies has no literature... more »

Dec. 9, 2017 | Biographers describe Oscar Wilde after prison as a broken man, a spent force. Nonsense. Until his final illness, he “carried himself with a threadbare majesty”... more »

Dec. 8, 2017 | Evelyn Waugh, who dropped out of Oxford, spent much of his life keeping the academy at bay. Now, perhaps inevitably, he’s the subject of a mountain of scholarship... more »

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