Dec. 7, 2017 | "So far as we love seriousness, as well as life," Susan Sontag wrote, "we are moved by it, nourished by it.” But what does it mean to love seriousness?... more »


Dec. 6, 2017 | A showdown with Pelé, a reconciliation with Edmund Wilson. Nabokov’s dream diary moves from the mundane (lost dentures) to the cosmic... more »


Dec. 5, 2017 | People make music, dance, paint, tell stories, adorn objects and themselves. The creative impulse is universal. Why? E.O. Wilson on the invention of art... more »


Dec. 4, 2017 | Sex and communism. Max Eastman — poet, editor, nudist, suffragist, war resister, socialist, libertarian conservative — lived a life of ideological and personal displacement... more »


Dec. 2, 2017 | Historically, books were read out loud, to an audience — lighting was expensive, illiteracy common, and reading was deemed dangerous... more »


Dec. 1, 2017 | “Let me confess something.” “Let me summarize.” “Let me give a couple of examples.” Writers don't ask permission. It’s your book, do what you want... more »


Nov. 30, 2017 | Clifton Fadiman was desperate to break into the WASP intellectual establishment. His plan: signal refinement by drinking the best wine... more »


Nov. 29, 2017 | What can we learn from a tell-all on literary women of the 1970s? That gossip is gold, and that the literary world is naturally mean, sad, and predatory... more »


Nov. 28, 2017 | “I had no idea that ____ was so interesting!” Canoes, oranges, the Merchant Marine – how does John McPhee get us to care about such subjects?... more »


Nov. 27, 2017 | Utopian ideas are supposed to be unrealistic. So can there be such a thing as a “utopia for realists”? It’s a question of improvement: progress, not perfection... more »


Nov. 25, 2017 | Politics and the prairie. Laura Ingalls Wilder "lamented the arrival of the grasshoppers on her land but accepted it as divine retribution for the New Deal"... more »


Nov. 24, 2017 | Modernity makes us forget history. Or so argues a new book. But who or what is “modernity,” and how does it manage such a feat?... more »


Nov. 23, 2017 | Edward Garnett, who launched the careers of Joseph Conrad and D.H. Lawrence, was a businessman, critic, and muse — the sort of character unique to literary London in the 1890s... more »


Nov. 22, 2017 | “I’ve taken to eating the occasional date,” writes Alan Bennett in his diary, an exhausting but entertaining catalog of the mundanities and absurdities of contemporary life... more »


Nov. 21, 2017 | Some 165,000 years ago, people on the South African coast started to eat molluscs and to use the shells as adornments. That’s when humans became human... more »


Nov. 20, 2017 | To join the Martin Amis Canon of Approved Writers, you must be a virtuoso at the sentence level. It also helps to be male, straight, and white... more »


Nov. 18, 2017 | “In my poetry a rhyme / Would seem to be almost insolent,” Brecht wrote in “Bad Time for Poetry,” just before the Nazi invasion of Poland. He nonetheless kept crafting quatrains... more »


Nov. 17, 2017 | Techno-optimists once prized testicular material from apes; today they plan to upload human minds. As always, one person’s dream is another’s nightmare... more »


Nov. 16, 2017 | Millennials are portrayed as brittle. But they're not fragile — they're overstretched. "Efficiency is our existential purpose, and we are a generation of finely honed tools”... more »


Nov. 15, 2017 | Odysseus loses all the men under his command, cheats on his wife, lies, and gets help at every turn from the gods. What kind of “hero” is he?... more »


Nov. 14, 2017 | Zora Neale Hurston co-founded Fire!!, a journal seeking to take down respectable, middle-class black literature. After one issue, its headquarters burned to the ground... more »


Nov. 13, 2017 | Sabina Spielrein was a pioneer psychoanalyst, a student of Carl Jung and also his victim. Her ideas were "borrowed,” and then her memory was defamed... more »


Nov. 11, 2017 | “A landscape of jade, teak, bamboo, fried dog.” So wrote Susan Sontag about China — not that she’d been there. Her fiction was, like all her work, uneven... more »


Nov. 10, 2017 | The history of the book, once the domain of collectors, has been seized by scholars who've built a field around how people used to interact with print... more »


Nov. 9, 2017 | After five decades, it's unlikely that Daniel Dennett will change his views on consciousness. He is a fanatic — an intellectually consistent fanatic... more »


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