July 22, 2016 | Books burn at 451 degrees F. The human body burns at 1,500 degrees. “Where they have burned books," said Heinrich Heine, "they will end in burning human beings”... more »


July 21, 2016 | We love our friends. But any explanation tends to feel inconclusive, vague, banal. Friendship defies language... more »


July 20, 2016 | Among society’s greatest achievements have been ever more ways to keep our fingers busy. Fidgeting makes us human... more »


July 19, 2016 | “The art of storytelling is coming to an end,” wrote Walter Benjamin. His own humdrum attempts at fiction serve to confirm that conclusion... more »


July 18, 2016 | Our notions of “progress” are fatuous. We embrace empty ideas. We worship celebrity humanitarians. Is the key to real progress simply to forget the past?... more »


July 16, 2016 | We know Goethe for The Sorrows of Young Werther, Faust, and his other literary work. But he thought most highly of his scientific studies. Was he right?... more »


July 15, 2016 | American utopianism was not as popular with intellectuals as it might have been. As Thoreau put it, "I'd rather keep bachelor's hall in hell than go to board in heaven"... more »


July 14, 2016 | By all accounts, including his own, Evelyn Waugh had an aptitude for unpleasantness, beholden as he was to his personal trinity: religion, rudeness, and drink... more »


July 13, 2016 | To be 50 is to feel like an old coin: "worn – worn down and worn out.” Or so memoirists of a certain age tell us. When did midlife become a problem to be solved?... more »


July 12, 2016 | What distinguishes a human being from a chestnut tree? It's the sort of question that preoccupied the apricot-cocktail-swilling set at the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue Montparnasse... more »


July 11, 2016 | In the early 1960s, Eric Hobsbawm traveled to Cuba and translated for Che Guevara. Thus began a more than 40-year fascination with Latin America... more »


July 9, 2016 | Shock, camp, comedic juxtapositions: What was Robert Mapplethorpe trying to achieve? Fame and wealth, sure. But also a carefully cultivated sense of estrangement... more »


July 8, 2016 | Jonah Lehrer is back from exile. Chastened, but ready to return to the rarefied bubble of pop-science gurudom. His bid for redemption: a book about love that has no heart... more »


July 7, 2016 | A virgin bikes into Transylvania; a Good Food Guide for vampires. Inside the more-Jacobean-than-Shakespearian mind of Angela Carter... more »


July 6, 2016 | Evelyn Waugh: He dabbled at painting and homosexuality, excelled at snobbish bigotry, wrote 16 novels, had seven children and a nervous breakdown... more »


July 5, 2016 | What color were Kafka's eyes? Four accounts offer four different answers: dark, gray, blue, and brown. He was a man who preferred to go unnoticed... more »


July 4, 2016 | Benedict Anderson was a man of the left. He dressed in the style of Indonesian peasants. But he was nostalgic for classical education's broadness and lack of professional utility... more »


July 2, 2016 | Why ugliness matters. Our capacity for appreciating the revolting, disgusting, horrific, and abject is among our deepest shared responses to the world... more »


July 1, 2016 | Books aren't for diversion, distraction, or even mere reading. They are for marking up. As a 16th-century writer put it: “Using a book, not reading it, makes us wise”... more »


June 30, 2016 | Charlotte Brontë was no lonely spinster. She had suitors. "You do not know me," she told one of them. "I am not the serious, grave, cool-headed individual you suppose"... more »


June 29, 2016 | The unlikely William Empson. A socialist who revered the British monarchy, a bisexual bohemian banished from academe, a genius... more »


June 28, 2016 | Beauty tips, stock tips, a defense of anorexia, a breast augmentation at 73. Helen Gurley Brown wasn't exactly an intellectual, but she was a philosopher... more »


June 27, 2016 | Herman Melville, known in his day as a sexual adventurer, had an attractive, literary neighbor, Sarah Morewood. Was she the muse of Moby-Dick? ... more »


June 25, 2016 | The republic of letters has never been hospitable. The natives are irascible, hungry, and thirsty. The chronicle of dissolution begins in 1918... more »


June 24, 2016 | We want to believe in the idea of limitless potential, with success more a matter of willpower than of talent. But believing doesn't make it true... more »


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