Nov. 9, 2015 | Critics praise Room as a feminist novel (and now film) about motherhood. In fact, its message is “cynical and dangerous” ... more »


Nov. 7, 2015 | Stephen Spender lost his virginity to W.H. Auden: “Now, dear, don’t make a fuss.” Then Spender printed Auden's first collection of poetry... more »


Nov. 6, 2015 | Maybe Ezra Pound wasn't insane, but he was certainly delusional, paranoid, and megalomaniacal. His madness was destructive — and key to his genius... more »


Nov. 5, 2015 | Elizabeth Gilbert is out to sink the myth of the tortured artist. She has her own philosophy of creativity: "the Song of the Disciplined Half-Ass"... more »


Nov. 4, 2015 | Vladimir Nabokov never tired of writing to his wife. He addressed her as “Kittykin,” “poochums,” “mousikins,” “my beloved insecticle.” She rarely wrote back... more »


Nov. 3, 2015 | If you believe that “mindfulness” is a buzzword and “soul” refers to a fitness craze, then Sven Birkerts is the grievance-venting writer for you... more »


Nov. 2, 2015 | Don Quixote is a celebration of idealism. Or a warning that good intentions are not enough. It's a book that justifies any reading... more »


Oct. 31, 2015 | Urban renewal can be measured in what's lost: village-like neighborhoods, creativity, crime, serendipity, some poverty. Consider Paris... more »


Oct. 30, 2015 | Isaiah Berlin was drawn to those he disagreed with. "They uncover the cracks, the flaws, the places between the ribs where the dagger can successfully be inserted”... more »


Oct. 29, 2015 | Domineering, drunk, anti-Semitic: The composer Alma Mahler sought relationships with Jewish men. She wanted to “improve” them... more »


Oct. 28, 2015 | Stacy Schiff is brilliant at setting scenes, sketching characters, vivifying the past. She understands people, but not how history changes them... more »


Oct. 27, 2015 | Can stories about paintings teach us more than the paintings themselves? Yes, says Julian Barnes, even if the stories are false... more »


Oct. 26, 2015 | He was terrified of spiders, women, and disappointing his mother. Yet his writing was unsparing, even fearless. The question of Primo Levi... more »


Oct. 24, 2015 | As a child, Charlotte Brontë displayed creative powers that verged on insanity. Her imagination mitigated the harshness of her life... more »


Oct. 23, 2015 | Orson Welles and the myth of the self-destructive auteur. Yes, he was difficult. But his late-career slide was less a mark of failure than of integrity... more »


Oct. 22, 2015 | Dietrich and Riefenstahl: two young women from traditional German homes who led unconventional lives. Both became prisoners of their art... more »


Oct. 21, 2015 | How a question about butter and refrigerators might free philosophy from its dead end and restore some common sense... more »


Oct. 20, 2015 | In 1934, Gerdy Troost, an interior designer, set about trying to satisfy the tacky taste and lowbrow pretentions of her new client: Hitler... more »


Oct. 19, 2015 | For one year, 1692, a Massachusetts town was convulsed by ... what, exactly? Twenty people were executed in Salem, and we're still wondering why... more »


Oct. 17, 2015 | Words are not up to the task of describing visual art. To experience art, focus on seeing, not telling... more »


Oct. 16, 2015 | Alexander von Humboldt: He hiked the Andes barefoot. He sailed straight into a hurricane. His quest for knowledge was voracious... more »


Oct. 15, 2015 | Can you make it through a review of a book about distraction without  checking your phone? Yeah, didn’t think so... more »


Oct. 14, 2015 | “The Donald Trump of American academia.” In an era of critical homogeneity, the contrarianism of brash and noisy Stanley Fish stands out... more »


Oct. 13, 2015 | The ennui of the killer in A Yi’s novella, A Perfect Crime, is both a critique of contemporary China and a question: “Is this all there is?”... more »


Oct. 12, 2015 | Before "ugly" there was "igly," "wgly," "oogly," "ungly," "hoggliche": Whatever the word, unattractiveness has a surprising cultural history... more »


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