July 14, 2017 | Ulysses and the law. In 1899, Joyce attended a murder trial in Dublin. The case helped form the fabric of a novel that landed him in court... more »


July 13, 2017 | Black pudding, chipped beef on toast, jellied bouillon salad, protein powder stirred into diet orange soda: “Every life has a food story, and every food story is unique”... more »


July 11, 2017 | A melding of design and utility, a marvel of compression and precision, one of history’s most versatile and durable technologies. In praise of the card catalog... more »


July 10, 2017 | Confessional memoir purports to liberate its author from the past. But does self-exposure really set you free? Consider the poet Patricia Lockwood... more »


July 8, 2017 | “Can I come home with you?” Diane Arbus would follow a couple home or pick up odd-looking men on the street, all in search of authentic experience... more »


July 7, 2017 | Three hundred pages of egomaniacal longhairs: A book of album covers from the ‘60s and ‘70s reveals the centrality of Magritte, American kitsch, and bad hair... more »


July 6, 2017 | What can we learn from memoirs of the terminally ill? Universal truths, if they exist at all, are elusive. We die the way we live: idiosyncratically.... more »


July 5, 2017 | Kafka abandoned on a balcony; Kafka at an air show. We're intrigued by anecdotes about his life, but what do they tell us?... more »


July 4, 2017 | Just a contemplative philosopher? Montaigne’s life was full of misadventure: He fled mobs, was kidnapped by bandits, was exiled from the city where he was mayor... more »


July 3, 2017 | He fell into a vat of boiling water for scalding pigs; then he contracted polio. Does Harry Crews’s childhood explain his affinity for the grotesque?... more »


July 1, 2017 | Susan Sontag’s greatest work of criticism was the one she applied to herself. Her journals were not just a record of her life; they were an alternative to it... more »


June 30, 2017 | Just because you're a man who reads Julia Kristeva doesn’t mean you're not sexist. In the arts, sexism is more often a failure of empathy than of understanding... more »


June 29, 2017 | Asked about his transformation from Oxford don to thought leader, Niall Ferguson was blunt: “I did it all for the money.” He's not alone... more »


June 28, 2017 | Cockroaches, crummy days, and lousy lakes. For Grace Paley, every part of life was worthy of literary attention. There was beauty in banality... more »


June 27, 2017 | The essay, that most elegant and slippery of forms, resists being pinned down. Its strength derives from a “combination of exactitude and evasion”... more »


June 26, 2017 | The brief rise of "prince poo." How the Enlightenment's sensory awakening reached its apex (or nadir) during a French craze for garments the color of baby poop... more »


June 24, 2017 | Even Bach, musical savant and master of counterpoint, did not escape critique. For one journalist, his work contained “too much art”... more »


June 23, 2017 | After decades of literary labor, Bulgakov had published little: some short stories, part of a novel. The problem? His failure to understand what was wanted from his work... more »


June 22, 2017 | Mickey Mouse, Jack the Ripper, Proust, mutton chops, ghost stories, comics: Joachim Kalka can write interestingly about almost anything... more »


June 21, 2017 | What's the meaning of red? It's the first color. It has the most powerful poetic and aesthetic associations. It warns, prohibits, condemns... more »


June 20, 2017 | For Terry Eagleton, culture is “the opium of the intelligentsia.” To understand this, along with his other epigrams, consider his anti-philosophical stance... more »


June 18, 2017 | At least since Orwell, bad writing has been linked with bad politics. But is good writing really a panacea for social, economic, legal, and political ills?... more »


June 17, 2017 | Why we act as we do: neurons, neurotransmitters, hormones, teachers, peers, and society. Yet every “cause” of our behavior is linked to dozens of other variables... more »


June 16, 2017 | “Identity is never singular but is multiply constructed,” wrote Stuart Hall, founder of cultural studies. Do his reflections on his identity help us understand our own?... more »


June 15, 2017 | Inside Wagner's head. The composer's essence was self-dramatization wrapped in contradiction. He was, himself, an all-embracing work of art... more »


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