March 22, 2016 | By day Wallace Stevens was a casually racist insurance executive. By night he confronted the basic questions of art and life... more »


March 21, 2016 | Adventures in lepidoptery. Nabokov regarded his 14-hour days producing comparative analyses of butterfly genitalia as the most rewarding of his life  ... more »


March 19, 2016 | What is existentialism? The loosely defined current of thought became an intellectual movement in 1932 at a cafe in Paris... more »


March 18, 2016 | This history of the 20th-century literary world is one of artistic insecurity. “What I suffer from,” said Alfred Kazin, is “the lack of  a working philosophy”... more »


March 17, 2016 | King of the rock 'n' roll underworld? David Litvinoff was an aficionado of head-shaving, a vicious lowlife, and, says Eric Clapton, "a stupendous intellect"... more »


March 16, 2016 | Stefan Zweig’s endless retreat. Devoid of political conviction, the displaced Austrian essayist wandered Europe, writing hymns to fraternity and brotherhood... more »


March 15, 2016 | The ancient world had no conflict between science and religion. But there was a lot of doubt. Indeed, doubt about religion is as old as religion itself... more »


March 14, 2016 | How Stanley Fish, literary theorist and scholar of 17th-century poetry, became a newspaper columnist. Hint: It's the way he thinks, not the views he espouses... more »


March 12, 2016 | Sam Harris's science of morality is intuitive, appealing - and unjustified. Science itself cannot determine human values... more »


March 11, 2016 | Hannah Arendt tends to be seen as a quintessentially European thinker. But she became an American citizen in 1951. And America changed her... more »


March 10, 2016 | Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens, a sweeping and celebrated history of humankind, falls prey to the great intellectual temptation of our age: to reduce everything to science... more »


March 9, 2016 | The business of surviving as a writer has always been precarious, and it remains so: The average professional earns $16,000 a year... more »


March 8, 2016 | A book can open up the world. Death is integral to that world. Sontag, Sendak, Updike, Freud: What happens when a writer reaches the end?... more »


March 7, 2016 | What fiction is for. Offering insight into humanity that cannot be replicated by psychology, sociology, or any of the social sciences... more »


March 5, 2016 | Cynicism, romance, reality, grit: the private eye. His ambivalent appeal – a good person forced into dirty work – inspired an exacting literary style... more »


March 4, 2016 | In May 1937, Orson Welles met Ernest Hemingway, who accused him of being gay. They swung at each other, then became drinking buddies... more »


March 3, 2016 | Albert Speer had a flair for the theatrical, for colossal scale, and for self-preservation. But unlike the man he served, Speer lacked architectural imagination... more »


March 2, 2016 | The manuscript of William Empson's The Face of the Buddha was thought to have vanished in a taxi in 1947. It's been found, and it's tremendous... more »


March 1, 2016 | The men who built Hollywood. They made millions, created scandals, and, for the most part, ruined their kids. A story of
children and childish adults... more »


Feb. 29, 2016 | The story of the Brontë sisters is that of women with time. Isolated by geography, a needy father, and a drug-addled brother, they wrote constantly... more »


Feb. 27, 2016 | When Groucho Marx met T.S. Eliot. They had dinner in June 1964. Marx lectured Eliot on King Lear. It was excruciating... more »


Feb. 26, 2016 | While in the Austrian army, Wittgenstein wrote a book of philosophy. Then he quit the subject — he’d solved all its problems... more »


Feb. 25, 2016 | Lola Ridge, feminist anarchist poet, was tiny but often described as “tall.” Perhaps that had to do with her standing up to police officers on horseback... more »


Feb. 24, 2016 | The Third Inkling. The fiction of Charles Williams was beloved by Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, but he stood out for other reasons: physical cowardice and mild sadism... more »


Feb. 23, 2016 | The musical is the old standby of big-budget theater. Why do some shows work and others flop? (Hint: It isn't about artistic quality)... more »


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