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 »

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 »

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