July 24, 2019 | Racist. Exploiter of children, animals, and the disabled. Abolitionist. Humorist: Who was P.T. Barnum?... more »


July 23, 2019 | Rudyard Kipling was born in India to English parents. How did he come to spend his most creative years in Vermont?... more »


July 22, 2019 | A historian’s historian and a scholar prized by a popular audience, Eric Hobsbawm was Zelig-like in his presence at world-historical moments... more »


July 20, 2019 | For all the praise of Robert Caro, some aspects of his process go unremarked. He doesn’t psychoanalyze or generalize — he is the antitheoretical reporter ... more »


July 19, 2019 | Plato associated laughter with loss of self-control. Epictetus never laughed at all. What's the philosophical significance of funny?... more »


July 18, 2019 | “We do not,” says Nicholas Christakis, “find a functional society without love, friendship, cooperation, or personal identity.” How hard has he looked?... more »


July 17, 2019 | Iris Murdoch has fallen out of fashion, but her work is worth retrieving as a moral philosophy with a steely-eyed suspicion of intellectual confidence... more »


July 16, 2019 | Big books remind us how hard the work of understanding can be. Aphorisms offer "a micro-model of empirical inquiry"... more »


July 15, 2019 | Jenny Odell’s defense of empathy, attention, and doing nothing contains much that is true and little that is fresh... more »


July 13, 2019 | Chaucer has been reduced to “Jolly Geoff,” an unserious and ribald writer. Time to repair the reputation of the father of English poetry... more »


July 12, 2019 | Why miniatures matter. Alluring and inaccessible, they represent possibility and impossibility at once. They are tiny, but infinite in what they evoke... more »


July 11, 2019 | A literary celebration of the condom’s invention, 1744’s The Machine, or Love’s Preservative hailed he who “arm’d thus boldly wages am’rous Fight”... more »


July 10, 2019 | Telepathy, metamorphoses, fairy counterparts that haunt us in the shadows — so proposed a serious-minded 17th-century Scottish minister... more »


July 9, 2019 | What becomes of science when evidence is absent – as it is in some areas of physics? Other criteria, including aesthetic ones, come into play. So does speculation... more »


July 8, 2019 | Funny, aphoristically cynical, wisely paradoxical: Walter Bagehot could also be priggish, condescending, and just plain wrong, but he was piercingly intelligent in his views of Victorian economics... more »


July 6, 2019 | John Updike had a rule for book reviewing: Judge an author for what he wished to do, not what you wish he had done. Can we hold him to his own standard?... more »


July 5, 2019 | To love one’s country, one must acknowledge its past. In America, that means unpacking false universalism and examining its history of ideas... more »


July 4, 2019 | Will Google rule? We accede to governance by “objective” algorithms, writes Matthew B. Crawford, but at a high political cost... more »


July 3, 2019 | Our swimming pools, our selves. In place of the 20th-century throng of public bathing, we have the immersive solipsism of the infinity pool... more »


July 2, 2019 | “The Soviet Union, it must be remembered, was a regime founded by freelance writers and editors. In other words, a nightmare.”... more »


July 1, 2019 | On loving Wordsworth. He was “a solemn and unsexual man” with a talent for making you believe things without really telling you what they were... more »


June 29, 2019 | A history of human imagination. Why the ability to see what isn't there is "the most essential bit of machinery we have"... more »


June 28, 2019 | The complex history of gestures. Our nonverbal communication — from the “flagrant pelvis” to fascist salutes to Friends — is deeply rooted... more »


June 27, 2019 | Lillian Ross’s brilliant viciousness spanned American letters: Capote was a leech, Nora Ephron a liar. And you wouldn’t have wanted to get her started on the NYRB... more »


June 26, 2019 | In the 1980s, George Will’s conservatism was prophetic. Today his political sensibility is antiquated, addressing problems that no longer exist... more »


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