March 2, 2015 | When it came to self-destruction, Edgar Allan Poe was without peer. Liar, plagiarist, drunk, he died in a gutter wearing another man's clothes... more »


Feb. 28, 2015 | The biographer: glutton for anecdote, scavenger of detail, prisoner to tired conventions of chronology and storytelling... more »


Feb. 27, 2015 | From Gilgamesh on, the afterlife has taken many guises. Our view is an incoherent projection of needs and impulses, irreconcilably at odds... more »


Feb. 26, 2015 | Fame is the basic demand of our age. Attention must be paid to tweets, posts, pictures. Literary fame is a different beast, though no less grubby... more »


Feb. 25, 2015 | The physicist Bruno Pontecorvo was repeatedly accused of spying. But was the real problem our idea of secrecy?... more »


Feb. 24, 2015 | The last theatrical song to hit big, Sondheim's 'Send in the Clowns,' was written in 1973. Behold the parlous state of the American musical... more »


Feb. 23, 2015 | 'Love shook my senses, / Like wind crashing on the mountain oaks.' Taylor Swift? No, Sappho. The love song is a timeless form... more »


Feb. 21, 2015 | The twee sensibility ? think ukuleles and Wes Anderson ? claims to celebrate beauty and goodness. Don't be fooled... more »


Feb. 20, 2015 | Few things are less funny than a book about humor. A joke explained is a joke failed. Especially if the explainer is Slavoj ?i?ek... more »


Feb. 19, 2015 | The campus novel has much to draw on: comedy, sex, self-importance. For David Lodge, academe is a target for satire but also a source of social mobility... more »


Feb. 18, 2015 | When ?New Atheism? becomes ?nice atheism.' Philip Kitcher's soft secular humanism enters the God debate... more »


Feb. 17, 2015 | Academic historians condemn the past to somehow reform the present. The tendency isn't new, says Gordon Wood. But it's getting worse... more »


Feb. 16, 2015 | The alphabet is an arrangement of convenience ? maybe a temporary one. Letters are born, grow, fight, change, or die... more »


Feb. 14, 2015 | Most animals that possess hair depend on it. Only humans seek to remove it, using increasingly strange and impressive methods... more »


Feb. 13, 2015 | Art and the Third Reich. Why did artists cooperate with the regime? Their motivation came down to ? what else? ? self-interest and ego... more »


Feb. 12, 2015 | Max Weber never founded a school of thought or capitalized on his academic fame. But his intellectual rigor set an example for today... more »


Feb. 11, 2015 | Did Western liberalism grow out of Christianity? It's a popular idea on the right and the left. But proving it poses problems... more »


Feb. 10, 2015 | Aquinas, Machiavelli, Montaigne, Hobbes, Diderot, Rousseau: Esotericism ? disguising real meaning through surface contradiction ? was an art that is all but lost... more »


Feb. 9, 2015 | Thomas Cromwell was complex, cultivated, and craven. How else to navigate the paranoid infighting and cruel realities of Tudor politics?... more »


Feb. 7, 2015 | Schubert was chubby, syphilitic, and dead at 31. No wonder he created that most bleakly melancholic song cycle, Winterreise... more »


Feb. 6, 2015 | Yeats called Poe's poetry ?vulgar and commonplace?; Henry James called it ?decidedly primitive.' Poe was simply too far ahead of his time... more »


Feb. 5, 2015 | Looking for ?a mild affair,' T.S. Eliot married Vivien Haigh-Wood. It was a union of two damaged people. The marriage failed. But Eliot's poetry took off... more »


Feb. 4, 2015 | Vladimir Mayakovsky was two poets: an idiosyncratic, avant-garde visionary, and a lackey who put his rhymes to use for Lenin... more »


Feb. 3, 2015 | Edmund Burke tells us more about how to think than what to think. So how did he think? He cherished certain abstract ideals unconditionally... more »


Feb. 2, 2015 | The head-neck problem. Humans are easy to decapitate: the price we pay for standing upright. Beheadings are horrifying ? and fascinating... more »


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