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 »


June 23, 2016 | When poets are parents. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an exemplary father; Robert Lowell, not so much. How does becoming a dad change how one writes?... more »


June 22, 2016 | A strange blend of Thoreau, Edison, and Ford, Buckminster Fuller was a consummate visionary. He was also a failure and a fraud... more »


June 21, 2016 | A progressive with a dim view of humanity, Ray Bradbury understood that tyranny is at its most potent when it seems most benevolent... more »


June 20, 2016 | The first history of Nazi concentration camps appeared in 1946. Tens of thousands of studies have followed. Is it possible to say anything new? Yes... more »


June 18, 2016 | Jenny Diski's spectacular originality relied on her ability to empathize even with those whom she failed to understand... more »


June 17, 2016 | For nearly 40 years, Arthur Conan Doyle contributed countless stories to The Strand. No relationship between writer and magazine was more fruitful... more »


June 16, 2016 | We need our hands to do something, to keep busy. Cultures are transformed when we change what we do with our hands. Here's how it happens... more »


June 15, 2016 | The gene isn't an eternal thing that awaited elucidation by humans. It's a living idea with ancestors, development, and maturation — and maybe death... more »


June 14, 2016 | Portrait of Nietzsche as a young philosopher. He was brilliant, pretentious, seemingly uninterested in sex, and suffered occasional bouts of humility... more »


June 13, 2016 | Diane Arbus was depressed. She was in an incestuous relationship with her brother. She was a mess. But that had nothing to do  with her art... more »


June 11, 2016 | Why poets hate poetry. Actual poems never live up to our hopes for them. As a result, Ben Lerner writes, “poetry isn’t hard, it’s impossible"... more »


June 10, 2016 | Taste in an age of endless choice. Aesthetic preferences help to construct identity. But in learning what we like, have we forgotten what we love?... more »


June 9, 2016 | The greatest crime in literary history was the destruction of Byron’s memoir. What was in it: Domestic abuse? Sodomy? Incest? Probably all three... more »


June 8, 2016 | Klaus Mann: published in his teens, a celebrity in his 20s, a fixture among the cultural elite. But he couldn't cope with having Thomas Mann as a father ... more »


June 7, 2016 | Evolution is “biased towards the marvelous,” says Thomas Nagel. Just picture it: “the universe gradually waking up and becoming aware of itself”... more »


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