March 5, 2018 | Biographers establish facts, collect anecdotes, link cause and effect so that a life can be made whole on the page. But why should a personality hang together?... more »


March 3, 2018 | Paris's Left Bank during the war: Strict rationing, shocking poverty, and yet: “I lived in a kind of blessed island, in the middle of an ocean of mud and blood”... more »


March 2, 2018 | The value of not understanding. For Grace Paley, “write what you know” was a guarantee of dullness. Art comes from exploring the unknown... more »


March 1, 2018 | The Jewishness of Jewish comedy shows itself in only obscure ways, because the comedians didn't want to identify themselves as Jewish... more »


Feb. 28, 2018 | Do animals possess language, culture, morality, a soul? “It would be less interesting to know what animals are, if it were not a means to know what we are”... more »


Feb. 27, 2018 | Wanted on charges of homosexual activity, Oscar Wilde was given time to flee to France. Even his mother urged him to go. Yet he would not... more »


Feb. 26, 2018 | In the 1920s, John W. Dunne, an aeronautical engineer and fly fisherman, set the literary world on fire with an idea: Dreams can predict the future... more »


Feb. 24, 2018 | Isaac Newton’s views included Arianism, alchemy, Egyptian theology, and the Noachian faith. Why was such a seemingly modern thinker so obsessed with ancient ideas?... more »


Feb. 23, 2018 | The East German writer Christa Wolf grew up under state surveillance. Later, in her diaries, she continued a sort of spying on herself... more »


Feb. 22, 2018 | The persistence of fairy tales. From Angela Carter onward, authors have retold, revised, and remixed classic stories. Today the genre is delightfully chaotic... more »


Feb. 21, 2018 | Zadie Smith’s talent is writing dialogue — an intellectual, imaginary impersonation. In this way she contains multitudes. Her point is that we all do... more »


Feb. 20, 2018 | The historian Yuval Harari champions “Dataism”; thinks emotions are simply algorithms; and says people will become like gods in the future. He is wrong, says David Berlinski... more »


Feb. 19, 2018 | As a young writer, Philip Roth would begin each morning by shouting “Attack! Attack!” at himself in the mirror. Why would such a man cease writing?... more »


Feb. 17, 2018 | David Jones — engraver, soldier, painter, poet— overcame war, a nervous breakdown, and episodes of erotic frustration. He was the greatest modernist Britain ever produced... more »


Feb. 16, 2018 | King Arthur was actually a Roman centurion named Artorius — or so holds an intriguing if implausible theory. Dipping into Celtic history is dangerous for writers’ reputations... more »


Feb. 15, 2018 | The historian Reinhart Koselleck proposed that world history be divided into three epochs: pre-horse, horse, and post-horse. Now horses are “ghosts of modernity”... more »


Feb. 14, 2018 | Jack Kerouac: mindless hedonist and word-vomiting miscreant. Or the humblest, most devoted American religious writer of the 20th century?... more »


Feb. 13, 2018 | Tina Brown has fame, fortune, and little respect. Even her successes are seen less as the result of her editorial vision than of her willingness to spend money... more »


Feb. 12, 2018 | We may not always know why we kiss, but we do it all the time, which is kind of disturbing, and absurd when you think about it. Kristen Roupenian explains... more »


Feb. 10, 2018 | Owls are the most human of birds, fixtures of mythology and literature. They're remarkable, but can they really cure certain medical conditions?... more »


Feb. 9, 2018 | For Rob Rieman, there's nothing wrong with Europe that its own best traditions can’t cure. Specifically, a rekindled nobility of spirit -- whatever that means... more »


Feb. 8, 2018 | Martin Amis said he was done insulting people in print, but he merely turned his ire on older writers. Is there glory in dissecting the frailties of one’s elders?... more »


Feb. 7, 2018 | Self-help has become the optimization industry. The advice remains interesting rather than useful, and the gurus are still muscular middle-aged men with shaven heads... more »


Feb. 6, 2018 | Bibliophiles dream of discovering Byron’s memoir or Plath’s missing novel. Lost books tantalize because they represent holes in the intellectual firmament... more »


Feb. 5, 2018 | Leon Kass is a scold — about higher education, liberal intellectuals, dating, sports, and especially modern science. Yet he somehow produces a bracing argument for what makes a life worth living... more »


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