Aug. 2, 2017 | Beware a biography of Faulkner that gets mired in source hunting. Don't just explain how his work works. Show why the man wrote as he did... more »


Aug. 1, 2017 | Critics of criticism. When did the only sophisticated stance on a cultural object become distance, deflation, and diagnosis?... more »


July 31, 2017 | Humanity has achieved unprecedented levels of prosperity, comfort, safety, and choice. We have developed powers once attributed to gods. We will subvert our own successes... more »


July 29, 2017 | John Cheever's favorite word was "venereal." Isaac Asimov's was "terminus." Such insights come from exposing language to mathematics. ... more »


July 28, 2017 | The magic mongoose? Gef, a contemporary of Nessie, was believed to speak a range of foreign languages, sing, whistle, cough, swear, dance, and attend political meetings... more »


July 27, 2017 | If these are the end times of civilization — ecological collapse, social and political unraveling — it's worth asking: What sort of art comes out of such a dire reckoning?... more »


July 26, 2017 | Oskar Milosz was a respected writer who, after a near-death experience, was transformed from decadent flâneur to full-blown mystic and mentor to his distant cousin, Czeslaw... more »


July 25, 2017 | Left-wing melancholy runs long and deep and cannot be confined to one time or place. It is our affliction as well... more »


July 24, 2017 | The essay thrives on paradox: confession and concealment, disorder and progression, concision and profusion. The best essays are never about what they claim to be about... more »


July 22, 2017 | The history of modern cool is one of strange convergences — among French intellectuals, black musicians, and white Hollywood heroes... more »


July 21, 2017 | The only thing worse than newspaper humor is newspaper humor written in dialect. So why does the rube-journalist shtick of Ring Lardner hold up?... more »


July 20, 2017 | Fiery or meek, bombastic or shy, licentious or pious, revolutionary or reactionary, cunning or naïve: Martin Luther cut a contradictory swath across history... more »


July 19, 2017 | For Stuart Hall, culture is what defines common sense and builds our identities. But how to understand the role of culture we never experience?... more »


July 18, 2017 | “I have a natural horror of letting people see how my mind works,” wrote John Ashbery at 23. Why is he now engaged in a project of self-exposure?... more »


July 17, 2017 | Mocking Thoreau is a pastime that dates back to his time. He was tagged as a hypocrite, a fraud — and a lazy one at that — even before Walden was published... more »


July 15, 2017 | A.E. Housman thought poetry's power wasn’t intellectual but emotional. For many young men — especially gay young men — his A Shropshire Lad was a secret Bible... more »


July 14, 2017 | Ulysses and the law. In 1899, Joyce attended a murder trial in Dublin. The case helped form the fabric of a novel that landed him in court... more »


July 13, 2017 | Black pudding, chipped beef on toast, jellied bouillon salad, protein powder stirred into diet orange soda: “Every life has a food story, and every food story is unique”... more »


July 11, 2017 | A melding of design and utility, a marvel of compression and precision, one of history’s most versatile and durable technologies. In praise of the card catalog... more »


July 10, 2017 | Confessional memoir purports to liberate its author from the past. But does self-exposure really set you free? Consider the poet Patricia Lockwood... more »


July 8, 2017 | “Can I come home with you?” Diane Arbus would follow a couple home or pick up odd-looking men on the street, all in search of authentic experience... more »


July 7, 2017 | Three hundred pages of egomaniacal longhairs: A book of album covers from the ‘60s and ‘70s reveals the centrality of Magritte, American kitsch, and bad hair... more »


July 6, 2017 | What can we learn from memoirs of the terminally ill? Universal truths, if they exist at all, are elusive. We die the way we live: idiosyncratically.... more »


July 5, 2017 | Kafka abandoned on a balcony; Kafka at an air show. We're intrigued by anecdotes about his life, but what do they tell us?... more »


July 4, 2017 | Just a contemplative philosopher? Montaigne’s life was full of misadventure: He fled mobs, was kidnapped by bandits, was exiled from the city where he was mayor... more »


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