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Nota Bene Archive

A permanent calendar?
When China rules
Fukuyama was wrong
Philosophy of food
A dangerous age?
Country with no books
Vendler v. Dove
Beer me, sommelier
A bankable title
Right and wrong
Chess and politics
Drinking and writing
Art and brain
High-tech gender gap
Acemoglu on inequality
Internet Compulsion Disorder
History of recipe cards
Microeconomics of poetry
Immigration hack
New Kinsey’s scale
Notes on shoes
Impractical burgers
Museums as playgrounds
Culinary tattoos
Stalin’s daughter
Flap Rules
Free to be fat
Opera house effect
Ferguson v. Mishra, again
Data furnace
Maharishi Arianna
Turkeys in America
Authors and their books
Hockney v. Hirst
Private Eye at 50
Occupation as fairness
Adam Gopnik, observed
Atheism and morality
Ferguson v. Mishra
Bad for K
Shakespeare, gangster
Questions for Žižek
Editing Beckett
Quitting Facebook
Keynes v. Hayek
What happened to irony?
Marx and prostitutes
Longhand is better
Drink cheap wine
Stalking Derrida
Cover your ears!
“Last place aversion”
A sister’s eulogy
Know your wine!
Illustrating the Joy of Sex
Art Spiegelman: Why mice?
Future of punctuation
Bram Stoker’s notebook
Steven Pinker’s world
Menand on Menand
Life of a journal
Best time and place
Over-rated thinkers
Why Niebuhr now?
Was Van Gogh murdered?
Rock and literature
Confucius and Beethoven
Reviews of history
The Solo cup
Hitchens on mortality
Grand Map
Silly Prize
The Steve Jobs I knew
Dissolve my Nobel Prize
Writing a love poem
Michael Lewis effect
Love among equations
An erotic poem
Book of illusion
Distressed chic
Etiquette of autographs
Noses know it
How to stop e-mail
Loving chain stores
$2 a word?
New new journalism
On Joan Didion
MFA sham rankings
How Google translates
Meme weaver
Kazin’s journals
Bedtime stories
Economics of modeling
Hemingway’s letters
Secret life of pronouns
Memorializing 9/11
Confessions of a typomaniac
Against Comic Sans
Reunion with boredom
Who discovered E=mc2?
Hurricane lit
Crimes and publishers
Birth of the nerd
Technology and music
Beauty justifies wealth
Cartooning for The New Yorker
See like a bee
Finding fake reviews
French mind games
Harold Bloom’s canon
Lingua preservation
Megatrends that weren’t
Write faster
Elusive big idea
Bug nuggets
Literary protectionism
Hated houses
Cult of cats
Bad websites
Slang for boomers
Who killed Camus?
Shoplifting myths
Price of publishing
Lost art of postcard
Woolf’s letter
God’s Blog
Novelists and critics
Killed plots
Best on booze
Writers and prisons
Afghanistan in Hipstamatic
An Uh, Er, Um Essay
Spying on Northrop Frye
Largest library in history
Iced coffee and tea
Goodbye, Jim Beam
The most misused word
Recycling butts?
Pope’s Tweets
Shakespeare for Twitter
Myths about Jane Austen
Just say ‘non’
Theodore Roszak, R.I.P.
Wittgenstein’s camera
Pollock’s physics
On acknowledgments
Chick-lit helps
Happy Birthday: ‘Catch-22’
Cy Twombly, R.I.P.
Worn-out words
What does Newt know?
Museum Barbie
Free Frida!
Ancient PTSD
Nobel-winning sentences
Skinny Marilyn myth
A Rawlsian Egypt?
Author-on-author insults
Peter Falk, R.I.P.
Sarah Palin, the poet
The Leary trove
Chug for growth
Gaga and Žižek
Enigmatic René Magritte
Lessons from Libya?
Babies prefer Picasso
How to do a Grayling
Mismeasure of S.J. Gould
Reasons against E-books
Please wash your hands
Novel academic novels
No jokes, please
Was Neruda poisoned?
Smurfs are bad people
Mao’s ghostwriter
SlutWalks and feminism
If Eagleton ruled the world
Dirty Talk of the Town
Writers and islands
Dogs in China
Faces of philosophy
Tyler Cowen’s mind
Why the Arab Spring
Hitchens’s cancer essays
Translations lost
Return of Odysseus
The Baffler is back
Why animals play
Most will be missed
(Fake) Prison diary of DSK
Picasso’s erotic code
Feminism and fiction
What happened
Today’s Steinbecks?
Logical punctuation
Kerouac’s house
Perverse incentives
Buddhist economics
Niall Ferguson, history boy
Tina Brown
Book culture
Dead authors on Twitter
Canon fodder
Norman Mailer’s apartment
Covering Lolita
Buying expensive wine?
Physical criticism
Legal untruths
Ian McEwan’s reading list
Lost Wittgenstein
Apprentices and interns
World’s best blogger?
Poetry as a career
Holy Warcraft
Larry Summers is back
Origins of language
Martin Amis on Royal family
Lyudmila Ulitskaya
The God particle
Literature and dictators
Eichmann in Jerusalem
Literary allergy
First homosexual caveman
Most incredible cookbook
Insulted by authors
Political science goes awry
Manning Marable, R.I.P.
Worst jobs in history
Noise kills
Clowns: a eulogy
Airport carpets
Tasting durian
Da Vinci’s slip-up
Harvard boys go nation-building
Young pundits
Is God making you fat?
Genetic typo
A cure for writer’s block
Photos of the Western Frontier
Tarzan goes global
Simone de Beauvoir revival
Fukushima is not Chernobyl
Margin notes?
German plagiarist
Schlesinger’s Papers
Al-Qaeda beauty tips
End of the road
Art of police report
Daisy Buchanan's mansion
David Broder, R.I.P.
Confessions of a book slob
Wole Soyinka on Lagos
Paris and Chagall
Gadhafi’s enablers
Eugene Fodor, R.I.P.
Dr. Seuss, social scientist
Ben Franklin on older women
A Seminar With Gadhafi
The real Ginsberg
Ken at 50
Prison economics
House of pain
Tourist photos
Tyra Banks at Harvard
Do islands make us fat?
Poetry, fact-checked
Lure of lists
Shakespeare, revised
Lethem on the Left Coast
Heart-shaped history
Martin Amis and children
Hegel in Cairo
Pancho Villa’s finger
Céline, absolute bastard
Why are professors liberal?
A night with Salinger
Amis Out, Tóibín in
NFL: No more Roman numerals
Why Tunis? Why Cairo?
Brain Sparks Bright Ideas
Leon Uris, Macho Man
Egyptian antiquities looted
Milton Babbitt, R.I.P.
Tyranny of the alphabet
Mona Lisa, Muslim?
Reynolds Price, R.I.P.
Amazing abs
Hockney’s iPad
Melville and Hawthorne
Wilfrid Sheed, R.I.P.
Dogs in cars
Michelin sham
Heart of toilet roll
John Gross, R.I.P.
Darwin’s rape whistle
Ancient winemaking
American tragedy
Haiku economics
Fukuyama on Huntington
Tears and signals
Indian rat-catchers
Modern novels
Maurizio Pollini
Study vs. study
Freud, by Bacon
Unmasking food critics?
No more Kodachrome
Discover Britten!
China will be next
Stalin’s super-warriors
White swans of Xmas
Wallace and Wittgenstein
Was Christmas German?
Evolutionary cannibalism
Alcohol myth
Top 14 astronomy pictures
Schama on Arianna
Philosophy of wine
How to write a student paper
Liu Xiaobo’s empty chair
Real da Vinci code
Out of the gutter
Idaho loves food stamps
John Cage’s 4'33"
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“When I cleared out my Moscow apartment, they found wiring in the walls,” says Mikhail Gorbachev. “They were spying on me all along”... more»
Adam and Eve never existed, or so some evangelical intellectuals now believe. But if there was no original sin, what need is there for a savior?... more»
Wikipedia is “intellectual mob rule,” says Jaron Lanier, who is that rare beast: a techno-guru who dislikes what technology has become... more»
Strange bedfellows. The gun-rights movement aligned black radicals with the National Rifle Association against a common foe: Ronald Reagan... more»
The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was horrific, but it didn’t force Japan’s surrender. So why did the war end?... more»
In 1725, a feral boy stumbled out of the woods and posed a challenge to Europe’s secular intelligentsia: What separates man from animals?... more»
By the end of the 19th century, torture was “as extinct as cannibalism.” Then it came back. What happened? Guerrilla warfare... more»
On August 21, 1911, a man in a smock walked out of the Louvre with the Mona Lisa. Some suspected Picasso; others blamed the Jews... more»
Cold War Disneyland. Once a blemish, the Berlin Wall is now home to kitschy, costumed reenactments, pickle-eating contests, and Darth Vader... more»
Getting old takes getting used to – loss of appetite, constant urinating – but Jerry Lewis is adjusting. “I keep my fly open all day”... more»
St. Augustines eccentricities were said to be the result of “a mind steeped too long in too few books.” Of whom can that be said today?... more»
New words for the male member: “thundertube,” “seedstick,” the “Malcolm Gladwell.” Who thinks up this stuff? Nicholson Baker... more»
Does Islam stifle innovation? Meet the entrepreneurs of Anatolia. However you explain their success, Islam has not impeded it... more»
The emotional life of bees. The gentle curl of their mouths, the hesitant flicks of their antennae: Are bees sentient creatures?... more»
Ecological nativism. Why the fuss over non-native species? Today’s suspicious-looking foreigner might be tomorrow’s local treasure... more»
Silver Spoons may be forgettable, but Ricky Schroder has made a lasting contribution to science: He can make you cry... more»
Fear reigns at Punjab University, where Islamists pistol-whipped free thinkers into submission. Well, almost. The philosophers are fighting back... more»
The patent war. Nathan Myhrvold is a polymath with a knack for making money. Is his latest venture a shakedown of Silicon Valley?... more»
The politics of yuck. Sewage on a hot day is simply gross. Disgust, however, is actually quite complex. In fact, it’s dangerous... more»
Aging and innovation. We spend billions to live longer, yet give little thought to how to live longer, better. Here comes the silver tsunami... more»
In the basement of the Empire State Building, Dinesh D’Souza prepares an “A-teamof Christian intellectuals to thrive in a fallen world... more»
The Code War isn’t about brandishing stockpiles of cyber weapons. It’s about big ideas and a shadowy arms dealer named Mr. Fusion... more»
Lucian Freud, divisive, bleak portrait artist, old-school bohemian, wry conversationalist, is dead at 88... NYTimes... BBC... Wash Post... Telegraph... Guardian... AP... Martin Gayford... Peter Schjeldahl... Laurie Fendrich... Jerry Saltz... Forward
Growing up Jong. The home decor was pornographic, and Erica’s boyfriends tended to be motorcycle-riding drug dealers. But Molly survived... more»
Catch-22 puzzled critics but delighted readers, including Heller’s fledgling agent: “I thought my navel would unscrew and my ass would fall off”... more»
“Let’s speak frankly,” says Slavoj Žižek. “The left hates me even though I am supposed to be one of the leading communist intellectuals”... more»
A nose for history. Napoleon’s cologne, the resurrected stench of a Viking latrine: Can odor offer a sense of the past? Take a whiff... more»
If Leonardo da Vinci were alive today, he might produce a cookbook like Nathan Myhrvold’s 2,400-page, 50-pound, $625 tome... more»
A woman walks into a male-dominated, money-losing start-up. Now Facebook turns a billion-dollar profit. What’s the lesson?... more»
On the New York art scene, the avuncular, ubiquitous Irving Sandler is Herodotus, Livy, and Thucydides rolled into one... more»
Bribery is an art, and the art business in China – rife with forgeries, crooked scholars, corrupt auction houses – is brush-stroked by bribes... more»
Most Americans don’t want to be Rotarians or Kiwanians; they prefer to bowl alone. But civic groups are thriving – in authoritarian countries... more»
In defense of Rihanna. Pop music might be superficial, misogynist, and stupid, but it isn’t to blame for our cultural slide into self-love... more»
Given real-time information about their actions, people change their own behavior. Technology makes feedback loops more effective than ever... more»
At call centers in India, aspirants to the middle class study clips of Seinfeld. Trainers impart “international culture” — which is no culture at all... more»
Marc Howard has an interest in prisons and a passion for tennis. On the asphalt court at San Quentin, he learned about the humanity in both... more»
Effective, irresponsible populism: Western European leaders find blaming multiculturalism useful because it is both vague and misdirected... more»
Lip-syncing at his workstation on an Army base in Iraq, the Wikileaker downloaded top-secret data onto a CD markedLady Gaga”... more»
The wages of sex selection. More than 160 million women are missing from Asia. Is Western-style feminism to blame?... more»
Ice and immortality. What exactly happens to a brain when it’s pumped full of cryoprotectant chemicals and frozen at -124°C?... more»
Dan Savage is out to save marriage. His pitch: Monogamy destroys families; infidelity can save them... more»
Looking for love? There is powerful software for that. Still elusive is an algorithm for hiding bald spots and back fat... more»
Forget Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. Much of America’s female power elite was groomed at a small, austere, obscure Catholic college... more»
Jorge Arbusto is a brilliant, freshly minted Ph.D. He is also an illegal immigrant in America. What’s his future? Probably a job in construction... more»
Beijings chattering class. China has 400 think tanks, where opinions vary from government-approved to government-approved... more»
If a tumor can make you a pedophile, is that your fault or your biology’s? Wrong question, says David Eagleman. They are inseparable... more»
Boozing with the ancients. Nothing gives beer a bite like mugwort, dried doum-palm fruit, and liberal doses of hemp and poppy. Cheers... more»
Harun Yahyas media empire spans the Muslim world. His message is clear and influential: Darwinism is a “satanic plot”... more»
The collapse of the Soviet Union was startling, but today it’s clear that Russia is inching toward another perestroika moment... more»
Sex and pseudonyms. When Story of O appeared it sent a rush of blood to the nonthinking parts. The author had no shame – and no identity... more»
Morality is mediated by biology, not intuition and certainly not God, says Patricia Churchland. Consider the prairie vole... more»
“I envied her for her heart,” Simone de Beauvoir said of Simone Weil, who abandoned intellectual life for the joyful suffering of manual labor... more»
Nazis and nudity. Mein Kampf sold well in the Third Reich, as did a book of naked, well-oiled Germans exercising. You’re surprised?... more»
Feeling blue? There’s an app to manage your emotions – your cognitive ability, weight, and attention span, too. How about an app for narcissism?... more»
Errol Morris is promiscuous with his enthusiasms. They include levitating frogs and Thomas Kuhn, who once threw an ashtray at his head... more»
Patrick Leigh Fermor, warrior, scholar, autodidact, travel writer, extraordinary raconteur, is dead at 96... Telegraph... Jan Morris... Christopher Hitchens... Paul Rahe... Robert Kaplan... William Dalrymple
William F. Buckley long ago faulted academe for its failure to engage unfashionable topics. Is ignoring anti-Semitism the latest example?... more»
Dangerous minds. If a brain scan could determine that your child is likely to become a violent criminal, would you want to know?... more»
Last requests. In death, John Ross wanted his ashes mixed with pot, rolled into a joint, and smoked at his funeral... more»
The city that Darwin built. Can evolutionary theory bring aimless, shabby Binghamton, N.Y. back to life?... more»
“To thine own self be true,” said Polonius. Timeless advice, but who are you, really, other than an enigma to yourself?... more»... more»
When it comes to excavating the history of consumerism, never underestimate the value of a good dung-fork... more»
Among the countless pleasures of profanity is versatility. Noun, verb, adverb, or adjective, four-letter vulgarities are indispensable... more»
Quantifying Hamlet. Franco Moretti doesn’t so much read as data-mine literature, looking for a new understanding of character... more»
Beyond branded tchotchkes. Big Pharma is putting its marketing muscle toward something more valuable: the contents of medical journals... more»
David Eagleman fancies himself the Carl Sagan of neuroscience. Maybe he is. Or maybe his ambition is little more than chest-thumping hubris... more»
Lying and art spring from a common impulse: to escape reality. Art is in fact a kind of lying, and lying a form of art... more»
Paul Theroux loathes luxury. He set off 50 years ago in search of miserable, difficult places; forbidden cities; and back roads... more»
Michael Lind has a question: Why do the American media lavish attention on a vulgar and shallow huckster like Niall Ferguson?... more»
Pronghorn antelopes sprint at 60 mph, and elite marathoners are chasing them on foot to test a new explanation of how humans became hunters... more»
Think Yiddish, act British. As a child, the Anglophilic David Brooks named his turtles Gladstone and Disraeli. Now the trans-Atlantic love is mutual... more»
Growing up Qaddafi. Saif’s reformist ideas earned him a contract with Oxford University Press. Now the despot’s son is the face of tyranny... more»
We are known by the trail of 0’s and 1’s we leave in our wake. Who owns that information? Is sharing it – creating a data commons – a civic duty?... more»
Henry Kissinger has lots to say about China, the subject of his new book. And he’s happy to talk, so long as you don’t ask about human rights... more»
Al Jazeera is a Rorschach test: anti-American propaganda arm of a Gulf monarchy or populist voice of the Arab Spring?... more»
Hegel goes west. In the 1870s, an odd idea took hold on the American frontier: History had a direction, and it pointed toward St. Louis... more»
At MIT, everyone is eccentric – and it certainly pays. Alumni have founded 25,800 companies, which generate revenues of about $1.9 trillion... more»
By all accounts, Vivian Maier was a quiet, standoffish woman. Her street photographs, however, are intimate, even exhilarating... more»
Excavation of the oldest known religious structure has unearthed a tantalizing question: Did a sense of the sacred give rise to human civilization?... more»
At the border between knowledge and belief, where science flirts with philosophy, you’ll find experimental physicist Rolf-Dieter Heuer ... more»
In January, 1917, Lenin described a Communist uprising in the near future as exceedingly unlikely. Let’s face it: Revolutions are hard to predict... more»
Bello Maasaba believes in marriage. He has 86 wives and 133 children. So how does he...? “If I didn’t satisfy them, they would leave”... more»
In Bloomsbury, wedged between a cafe and a beauty salon, is the School of Life, Alain de Botton’s latest venture in telling us how we ought to live... more»
Are creative-writing programs to blame for the homogenization and deterioration of literary culture? The short answer: No... more»
In France, intellectuals are lionized – and even listened to. In Britain, this is evidence that the French are unsound... more»
Diagnosing Darwin. The naturalist’s chronic vomiting has been attributed to any of 40 diseases. Now there’s a new diagnosis... more»... more»
The most extensive, expensive Judaica library was sold at auction in December for more than $25-million. So why is it still languishing at Sothebys?... more»
The art of biomathematics: Viruses are geometrically arranged bundles of genetic material. To attack them, change their shape. Paging Dr. Euclid... more»
For hawkish humanitarians, Libya is a necessary intervention. Doing nothing while others suffer is not an option. Or maybe it is, suggests Tolstoy... more»
In a remote corner of Shenzhen, the world’s largest genome-mapping facility shares a cityscape with an auto-repair shop and a scrap yard... more»
The deep future for humans looks grim. Only .01 percent of species that ever existed still do so. You think we’re special?... more»
The vanity of Uncle Sam. Sagging with debt, America has taken to nipping, tucking, and Botoxing its economic indicators... more»
Wily tactician of seduction, the bad girl is supposed to be everything men want – and fear. What explains her diminished allure?... more»
David Eagleman is a man transfixed by the mutability of time. Supposedly fixed and defined, time is stretched and compressed inside our minds... more»
A manly man: Werner Herzog has walked across a rain forest, arranged to kill a man, and been shot in the stomach. All of it pleases him... more»
The data ninjas of Silicon Valley are obsessed with eyeballs. “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads”... more»
Whats left of the left is Paul Krugman, whose self-certain empiricism amounts to this: Important people have no idea what they’re doing... more»
Maurice Sendak sees his death drawing near. “I'm getting out just in time,” he says. “We’ve lost the knack of living in the world”... more»
That the archaeologist Zahi Hawass, Mubarak’s friend, is praising the revolution is a surprise. That he is allegedly corrupt is not... more»
Why is it that Martin Amis – maligned as a spent talent, and a racist, self-hating reviler of women to boot – arouses such antipathy?... more»
The best ideas prevail. Well, maybe not. We’re hard-wired to reject evidence and views that contradict our beliefs – these days, more than ever... more»
Ideas, fads, hoaxes: Ours is the age of the meme, in which information spreads faster and farther than ever before. But who’s in charge, us or our memes?... more»
Cultural looting reached its apex under the Nazis, who were efficient but careless. What kind of idiot hangs a Leonardo painting above a radiator?... more»
The Bible brims with contradictions, says Timothy Beal, but no matter: The Good Book is best read as a catalog of questions, not answers... more»
Selfless behavior has long baffled evolutionary theorists. But E.O. Wilson now claims that he can explain altruism. The response has not been kind... more»
Pity modern man. College-graduation rates, sperm counts, and testosterone levels are all down. “Emasculation is a national blood sport”... more»
Gore Vidal advised Christopher Hitchens never to miss a chance to have sex or to appear on television. Hitchens took the advice to heart... more»
Francis Fukuyama says that his break with neoconservatism is “about ideas and policies,” but it’s become personal. Old friends won’t talk to him... more»
For an economist like Peter Orszag, two career paths beckon: public intellectual or Wall Street mandarin; Stiglitzism or Rubinism... more»
Fed up with being called an “imperialist scumbag,” Niall Ferguson offers this warning: “Never underestimate the irate Professor Ferguson”... more»
Over-stressed parents, Bryan Caplan has some advice: Stop trying so hard. Have more kids. Pay less attention to them... more»
A.C. Grayling is donnish, leonine, and without self-doubt: “My wife gave me a card that says, 'I used to be an atheist until I realized I am God'”... more»
Sidney Lumet, director of more than 40 films, including 12 Angry Men, Serpico, and Network, is dead at the age of 86... NY Times... LA Times... Roger Ebert... Richard Brody... Forward... Guardian... Philip French... Obit Mag... John Lahr
Maybe a rising tide does lift all boats. Or maybe you’re a heartless crank for thinking so. Joseph Stiglitz has a view on that... more»
Chaos of war? Maybe not. Insurgent attacks in Afghanistan might conform to a mathematical pattern. If violence can be forecast, can it be averted?... more»
We’ve been shamed, nudged, and educated, but nothing seems to work: Were still fat. Matt Ridley has an idea: healthy-living vouchers... more»
The herculean new National Museum of China has opened with an exhibit on the European Enlightenment. Can museums shape social attitudes?... more»
About Salvador Dalí, Orwell believed two things: “A good draughtsman and a disgusting human being.” Unfair? Consider Dalí’s views on Jews... more»
Drugs, sex, political corruption: David Grann reveals the ruthless world of Guatemalan politics and unravels a labyrinthine murder mystery... more»
Semiotics, deconstruction, New Criticism, blah, blah, blah. Poetry is in crisis, says Joseph Wood, and careless theorizing is to blame... more»
Dan Savage fancies himself the world’s smuttiest advice columnist. Is he also America’s foremost ethicist?... more»
Can science explain the soul? Well, a preternaturally self-assured scientist like Nicholas Humphrey can try... more»
No bright line necessarily marks the moment when a person becomes a corpse. So how dead is dead enough to become an organ donor?... more»
Will the Arab Spring falter? Or will revolutionary fervor sweep away the authoritarian status quo? Pick your analogy: 1989 or 1848... more»
For Richard Dawkins, life is poetic and beautiful because it’s explicable. As for his critics, well, they’re “deluded to the point of perversity”... more»
“70 years on we can come to terms with reality.” Maybe not. A damning exposé of French complicity in Nazi crimes has Paris in a panic... more»
From Missouri to Florida, more than 70 caves feature mysterious drawings thousands of years old. What do they mean?... more»
In the 90s, the literary critic Dale Peck was an invective-spewing hatchet man. Now the butcher has reinvented himself as literature’s savior... more»
Plutarch claimed, “There is nothing useful” about graffiti. Wrong. Those doodles of genitalia now bring the ancient world alive... more»
Tim Wu is opinionated, tattooed, and likes to dress up as a bear. Now the godfather of Net neutrality is attempting life as a Washington bureaucrat... more»
The inquisitive types at gallery openings – highbrows – are disappearing. Can the fine arts survive without them?... more»
The tsunami staggered a country stuck in a rut: anemic growth, inept trade policies, an aging work force. Might disaster improve Japan?... more»
Are you forgetting how to remember? Here’s a tip: Try picturing Lady Gaga swimming in a giant tub of cottage cheese... more»
New York in the 1970s was known for crime and drugs – and dance, which was for a terpsichorean moment the most vital performing art in America... more»
Leo Steinberg, art historian, critic, provocateur, raconteur, has died... NY Times... Laurie Fendrich... Artnet... Artinfo... Kim Hartswick... U of Chicago Press... Art in America... Big Think... 2002 Lecture
In 1984 Thomas Pynchon wondered if it was “O.K. to be a Luddite.” Today, is it even possible?... more»
Craving solitude: It's been deemed suspect - or worse, evidence of a psychological ailment. But being alone makes us better social animals... more»
His father had been hacked to death with an ax; his mother left for dead. The son - the prime suspect - took his seat in Ellen Laird's classroom... more»
"We have a lot of so-called crap," Gildas Illien admits. No surprise there: He's spent the past five years archiving the Internet... more»
Your iPhone was very likely assembled by an exhausted, alienated factory worker in China. Suicide is prevalent. This is your conscience calling... more»
The area around Chernobyl's destroyed nuclear reactor has become, of all things, a Garden of Eden for wildlife. How about a post-apocalyptic safari?... more»
Humans continue to evolve. What's in store for the species? Think shorter and fatter. So the future belongs to Danny DeVito... more»
Hamada Ben Amor was an unknown Tunisian rapper. Then he uploaded a furious song to Facebook and helped start a revolution... more»
On August 2, 1943, PT-109, JFK's boat, went down in the Pacific. Blunders abounded, but the Kennedy clan turned disaster into triumph... more»
Jeanette has a new hobby: Feigning elaborate illnesses in online support groups. "I have never felt more loved and cared for in my entire life"... more»
Biological and cyberwars are stealth businesses. Fingerprints are rare; the perpetrators often unknown. Does retaliation have a future?... more»
The Cornell professor Daryl Bem claims to have scientific proof that ESP is real. If so, perhaps he anticipated the outrage of colleagues... more»
A Russian art collective is under arrest. Its crime? Staging a public orgy at a Moscow science museum... more»
It's easy to scoff at 20-something former frat boys, maladroit geeks, slackers who resist the trappings of adulthood. Kay Hymowitz takes the bait... more»... more»
Is Europe poised for a revival of fascism? The conditions seem ripe: economic collapse, political volatility, antipathy toward minorities... more»
Stuttering is "an obdurate barrier thrust into my throat," said John Updike. For him and others, verbal transcendence has existed only on the page... more»
Brash, pompous, and ubiquitous, Niall Ferguson would be insufferable were he not also a little bit charming... more»
Researchers in Siberia have managed to breed foxes as tame as dogs. It's a feat that might unlock the genetics of violent behavior... more»
The current blueprint for political revolution blends Gandhi, Monty Python, and corporate-style marketing savvy... more»
Lev Vygotsky died in 1934. His writings were left unpublished for decades. Yet when it comes to the science of play, no one looms larger... more»
Nobody likes a grammar scold, but it must be said: Ambiguity has a death grip on our syntax. The principles of effective speech are in tatters. Verbal chaos reigns... more»
Privacy is passé - if not dead. Confessional tweets, narcissistic status updates: We are the Wikileakers of our own lives... more»
Does spreading unrest in the Middle East mean a spike in oil prices and doom for the fragile U.S. economy? Maybe not... more»
Are you an aspiring adulterer? Noel Biderman is there for you. The motto of his budding Internet empire: "Life is short. Have an affair"... more»
Does anyone still care about dangling modifiers? An emphasis on sales and marketing has led publishers to ignore an important truth: Editors are supposed to edit... more»
Computers can fly airplanes, but they can't make plausible small talk. We forget how impressive humans are. Computers are reminding us... more»
Frances Fox Piven has been depicted by Glenn Beck as the mastermind of a plot to destroy capitalism. Is the sociologist an enemy of America?... more»... Piven responds
We've exploded them, shot them with dry ice, and electrified them, but when it comes to manipulating clouds, human ingenuity has met its match... more»
Paul Haggis considers himself a curious man. Yet for 35 years he did not question the tenets of his religion: Scientology. Why? The incentive to believe is high... more»
For East German teachers of Marxism-Leninism, 1989 wasn't the year the walls of tyranny came down. It was the year their lives fell apart... more»
Sexual violence is rampant in Haiti. Now women wear whistles: Three short toots: "I am being attacked"; one long toot: "Someone has been raped"... more»
Jean Toomer insisted that he wasn't black. But it now seems that the author of Cane was an African-American who passed as white. Does it matter?... more»
The government of India is gathering biometric data on its 1.2 billion citizens. But there's a hitch: The fingerprints of peasants are unreadable after years of manual work... more»
The apparent randomness of scratch lottery ticket numbers is a mathematical lie. A geological statistician in Canada has cracked the code... more»
A self-taught lepidopterist, Vladimir Nabokov speculated about butterfly evolution. His ideas were long dismissed by scientists. Until now... more»
Max von Oppenheim - archaeologist, diplomat, lothario - amassed a stunning collection of Syrian antiquities. He also charmed sheiks and Nazis, and bought slaves... more»
The financial crisis revealed a grim truth: Too much prosperity, for too long, tends to devour itself. We crave booms, but they bring on busts... more»
Fans of "ruin porn" - artful photos of boarded-up houses and factories - don't want people in the pictures. They just get in the way... more»
William Dalrymple is the literary don of Delhi. The secret to his success? He chews up multiculturalism. "It's hard being an Orientalist these days"... more»
Roger Bannister proved that athletic barriers are figments of our imagination. Except when they aren't. Has athletic performance peaked?... more»
Ai Weiwei's art is seen as a menace by the Chinese government; so, in turn, the government menaces Mr. Ai. "Police beat me, I nearly died"... more»
Daniel Bell, sociologist of big ideas, cultural critic, founding editor of The Public Interest, is dead... NY Times... Washington Post... The Chronicle... Economist... Sam Tanenhaus... Forward... The Guardian... Slate... John Summers... Boston Globe... National Post... New Criterion... Harvard Crimson... Michael Kazin... Daniel A. Bell... Frum Forum... Morris Dickstein... Michael Aronson... Russell K. Nieli... Financial Times... Lindsay Waters
Psychoanalysis is routinely derided, even by those in its intellectual debt. But what it lacks in empirical stature, it gains in humanity... more»
The WikiLeaks cables read like good literature. Both diplomacy and fiction, after all, feature plots, moral ambiguity, and casual deception... more»
Mark Augustus Landis is responsible for the longest, strangest art-forgery spree in American history. But did he break the law?... more»
If bird watching embodies our desire to observe nature without destroying it, is the rise of birding a reflection of our anxiety about the environment?... more»
Alexander the Great could not conquer Afghanistan, but he did leave behind the drug that ultimately would: Opium. Can the country be weaned from it?... more»
The Lisbon neighborhood of Casal Ventoso was a junkie nirvana. Then drugs were decriminalized, and everything improved... more»
The 1979 revolution was just one battle in a centuries-old culture war in Iran. A look back suggests a bleak future for the Tehran regime... more»
Bill Gates wants to overhaul America's schools, but his imperious foundation is both damaging public education and undermining democracy... more»
Once upon a time, Sherry Turkle had a crush on a robot named Cog and became a celebrity among the geek set. Her passion has cooled... more»
Black culture causes black poverty? That view is resurgent, and it's a perverse obfuscation of American history... more»
Why is Galileo portrayed as a stony rationalist when it was his engagement with the arts - The Divine Comedy in particular - that inspired him?... more»
A nation unto themselves, today's super-rich have a geeky enthusiasm for innovation and ideas. They're changing the meaning of wealth... more»
The search for Robert Capa's lost Spanish Civil War photos ended when contact sheets turned up in a suitcase in Mexico... more»
Traditional desserts - cake, pudding - are being eclipsed by peculiar blends of sweet and savory. Parmesan ice cream, anyone?... more»
Conferences, books, an academic archive - David Foster Wallace is the focus of a robust scholarly enterprise. "He's the next canonized American writer"... more»
In 2003 a man with a bomb locked to his neck robbed a bank. A short time later, the bomb exploded, killing him. Did he rob the bank to save his life?... more»
World population could climb to 10.5 billion by 2050. How many people can the Earth support? "The worst-case scenario may be realized"... more»
Bedbugs arouse such fierce disgust. Why? Maybe it's the prospect of their tiny beaks burrowing into our skin that keeps us awake at night... more»
It's true, our politics has been reduced to sound bites. But it's not a symptom of Twitter-sized attention spans. Rather, it's a sign of progress... more»
Banele Shabangu is scared. Rightfully so: A man in a mask is about to stick a needle into the base of his penis. Can circumcision save Swaziland?... more»
A new specter is haunting our prose: baggy, even illogical sentences. The problem, says Ben Yagoda, involves the elements of "clunk".... more»
Modern fashion took shape during the Renaissance. Chic accessories made the rounds; doctors urged cosmetic surgery... more»
Denis Dutton, philosopher, man of ideas, founding editor of Arts & Letters Daily, is dead at the age of 66... NY Times ... LA Times ... WSJ ... The New Yorker ... The Atlantic ... The Guardian ... New Zealand Herald ... Reason ... Edge ... Globe and Mail ... 3 Quarks Daily ... D.G. Myers ... Catallaxy Files ... Lester Hunt ... National Review ... Washington Post ... spiked ... New Criterion ... Sydney Morning Herald ... The Australian ... AP ... Slate ... City Journal ... Open Letters Monthly ... American Spectator ... Cognition and Culture ... Racjonalista ... Mark Bauerlein ... The Chronicle ... Roger Kimball ... Open Democracy ... Eric Crampton ... The Press (NZ) ... NYRB ... TED Talk
Libertarianism is having a moment. But it remains the crazy uncle of American politics: loud and cocky, often profound, sometimes unhinged... more»
The fifth blow ripped open the back of his head, forcing fragments of skull into his brain. He was dead. The violence, however, went on... more»
"When we learn to tolerate boredom, we find out who we really are," says Naomi Alderman, one of a growing number of boredom enthusiasts... more»
"I know I shall hang," Hermann Goering said from his prison cell. "But in 50 or 60 years there will be statues of me all over Germany"... more»
Martin Peretz is a born belligerent. "His anger is so much a part of him," says his ex-wife, "that he doesn't realize he's scaring people"... more»
Fat Kat had a knack for guns, drugs, and gangs; also, it turned out, for being a prison librarian. He helped fellow inmates connect to the world... more»
"All around me I observe a glowing trail of bloodshed, helping me put together the pieces of a violent puzzle," writes Angela Strassheim... more»
Why is the Hope Diamond so blue? To find out, scientists blasted the gem with an ion beam. The Hope is actually a mosaic of blues... more»
Apple sells more than sleekly designed toys; it sells a way of life. Call it Appleism. Google calls it a competitive threat... more»
Happy birthday to the suit, now 150 years old. The uniform of capitalism was born out of revolution, warfare and pestilence... more»
Puzzle-solving is an ancient, universal practice that depends on creative insight, on the primitive spark that ignited the first campfires... more»
The geocentric universe. Stress causes ulcers. A flat earth. Heavier falls faster. Many ideas we once thought were true turned out to be hard to unlearn... more»
Frankfurter called Douglas a "completely evil man." Douglas referred to the Jewish Frankfurter as "Der Führer." FDR's Court: scorpions in a bottle... more»
Saudi Arabia is to build sleek, beautiful cities in the desert. But unless they can be sustained by something more than an oil economy, they are doomed... more»
The most recent successful new religion, the only big one for 1,340 years - since Islam kicked off with the Qur'an - began in a 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction... more»
What makes music sad? Most people jump to "minor key" as the answer. But singer and lyrics can mean more than we realize... more»
Cheap fried chicken is the last thing we'd predict would send South Korean protestors into the streets. Yet, while cheap is okay for cellphones... more»
A new exhibit - politicized, manipulative, and inaccurate - argues that the West's Dark Ages were a Golden Age for Islam. Edward Rothstein isn't buying it...more»
Worried about the debt? Don't be. "If Oriental protectionists are foolish enough to send us TV sets in exchange for green pieces of paper, wonderful"... more»
Do you think there is a computer screen sitting in front of you right now? Or is the "computer screen" dependent on a mental model created in your brain?... more»
The peer-reviewed, double-blind placebo test is the gold standard of modern medical science. Yet does peer review really work?... more»
Prosopagnosia, or face-blindness, affects 2.5% of the population. The afflicted cannot recognize faces. Oliver Sacks suffers from it... more»
Caffeine addicts can get their fill with the Arts & Letters Daily coffee mug. Also tested with herbal teas. The perfect holiday gift!... Advert»
Activist judges are often objects of political dispproval. But if politicians showed more restraint, judges would not have to intervene so often... more»
Suicide bombers: fervent automatons who hate the West and its values? Maybe not. Maybe they just want to commit suicide... more»
"Appalling." The snobbish reaction in 1895 to Sherwin Cody's How To Write Fiction was as predictable as the popular reaction was positive... more»
Things certainly look very sweet for now. But what WikiLeaks wants to call "Cablegate" will very likely make life far more difficult for historians... more»
The Golden Age of comics. Superman flew across the skies, Batman lurked in the streets, and Wonder Woman unleashed her truth lasso... more»
A real-estate game for cash-strapped times, Settlers of Catan is the rage from Stuttgart to Silicon Valley. Forget Monopoly... more»
The Great Recession has placed utopian economics on the defensive, but it is too early to hail the triumph of reality-based economics... more»
"I didn't carve up the guy," says Robert Durst. "I dismembered a corpse." His sordid, mysterious crimes have now been adapted for the big screen... more»
"Art as Empathy," David Foster Wallace noted in the margins of a Tolstoy essay. Wallace's archive shows he was not such an abstruse postmodernist... more»
With Amazon, publishing is now beholden to one profit-obsessed company. What happens when you sell a book like it's a can of soup?...more»
Thank you, WikiLeaks! U.S. diplomat William Burns's account of a Dagestani wedding has the President of Chechnya, his gold-plated automatic stuck down his jeans... more» offers so much: first, the wrong style, then endless phone calls, emails, abuse and threats of violence, lasting for months or years... more»
Explicit sex scenes aim to arouse, but Howard Jacobson is not into that. Sex and serious literature, he thinks, make for uncomfortable bedfellows... more»
Ruben is six foot three, 225 pounds, neck like a waist. You can hire him: $1,000 for every bone he breaks in his victim's face... more»
We evolved to be interpreters of events, in the world at large and in our own inner lives. This narrative self is part of what makes us most human... more»
"I'm doing Facebook, YouTube, and listening to music at the same time," says Vishal. "I'll say: I need to stop and do my schoolwork, but I can't"... more»
Every day, Norman Mailer wrote in his small, stifling attic. Amy Rowland tried to write in the same place, but failed. It's hard to write in another writer's house... more»
If you thought it was only uneducated Muslims in dusty towns "over there" who burned things that upset them, think again... more»
Richard Wagner's music used to change lives. Now we hear it as setting the mood for stage magic: Rhine maidens on wires, and effects we think of as cinematic... more»
What makes a psychopath? It might in part be a deep, hard-wired inability to recognize the nature of a social contract... more»
Apologists for globalization treat it as a source of benefits, says Alasdair MacIntyre. But it must be known by its vices. Debt, in particular... more»
Albert Gonzalez's gift for deception made him one of the most valuable cybercrime informants the U.S. government has ever had... more»
Schizophrenia has long been blamed on bad genes or even bad parents. The real culprit, a new hypothesis claims, is a virus entwined in every person's DNA... more»
Philosophy is not an attempt to secure new knowledge about the mind or beauty or right conduct, says Peter Hacker. It is not even a cognitive discipline... more»
A nighttime raid, reality TV crew, and a sleeping seven-year-old. What can we learn from the death in Detroit of Aiyana Mo'nay Stanley-Jones?... more»
Online, in bookstores, every aspiring novelist faces a daily tsunami of freshly published words. So what makes any of them think they have something to say that others need to read?... more»
Freeman Dyson was a smart kid who wondered how other people could be so dumb. Some have wondered the same of Freeman Dyson... more»
"With each day I realize more and more that my mahatmaship, which is a mere adornment, depends on others." Gandhi's words were deeply true.... more»
"Stop. Security Check. Tasty." It is an odd concoction of creative, market capitalism and claustrophobic police state security you'll find in Islamabad... more»
Jacques Maritain was inspired by the example of the United States: it showed that a pluralistic democratic system could flourish with Christianity... more»
Solar ovens were a great idea for Africa. Except: they need hours to cook food, are useless in rainy seasons, or if you need to cook before dawn... more»
Brains like it real. When it comes to using text or image or the real thing in making buying decisions, the human brain prefers reality... more»
Of course, we should love, honor and cherish our species, says Mary Midgley. But do we have to worship it as well?... more»
Humanitarian aid to Africa can make us feel good about ourselves. It can also underwrite murderous conflict. It started with Biafra... more»
From the Venus of Willendorf to Picasso's jilted lovers, the male eye gazes on the objectified female body. So what of women pop artists?... more»
Willam Blake's London, written two hundred years ago, rather grandly reveals us to ourselves. He might well have called it America... more»
Stories beguile us, invite us to suspend disbelief and enjoy ourselves. They are so much more fun than statistics - which in their turn can pack so much more factual information... more»
Young conservatives make more friends than liberals, who relate to smaller groups. Conservatives like to show competence, liberals trust. Does this ring true?... more»
Subhas Chandra Bose, nationalist leader against the British rule of India, died in an air crash in Taiwan in 1945. Unless the story is a fabrication... more»
On Halloween, America market-tests parental paranoia. If a new fear flies on Halloween, it's probably going to catch on the rest of the year, too... more»
Sarah Bernhardt asked Harry Houdini to bring back her amputated leg. That would be impossible, he said. "Yes," she replied, "but you do the impossible"... more»
France, Italy, and their EU friends go all sullen on mention of Germany: amid Europe's turmoil, Germany is an oasis of prosperous tranquillity... more»
In America today, men are caught: they are shown the old breadwinner ideal in an economic era that no longer delivers a proper family wage... more»
Fifty years ago a favorite language dispute showed up in print. A reader asked Ann Landers if it was “I couldn’t care less,” or “I could care less”... more»
Greensleeves is one instance, as is the Beatles’s Eleanor Rigby. That minor third makes these songs sad. But why? Is this mere enculturation?... more»
Annie Leibovitz is both a photographer and a celebrity. But the multi-million dollar question remains, is she an artist in the highest sense of that term?... more»
Could Jane Austen spell? Tomatas as the plural of tomato? Shades of Dan Quayle. The “i before e” rule? She wrote of distant veiws and hosts who recieve guests... more» ... more»
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have tried forever to reinterpret each other, accepting the others’ sacred texts, but altering implications and meanings... more»
Why does the West rule? The biological unity of man would seem to disprove racist views of western dominance. So what about geography?... more»
When John Gravois and his wife bought a house last year in northern California, the first person to offer advice about growing marijuana was their realtor... more»
Georgian poet Titsian Tabidze wanted to use his avant-garde art to transform the Russian Revolution. For his pains, he was murdered... more»
Specialist university librarians used to choose with the help of academics the best books and journals for collections. Alas, publishers now choose for them... more»
Great statesmen, Bismarck said, hear before others the distant hoofbeats of the horse of history. What, well may we ask, does Barack Obama hear?... more»
Michael Savitz spends 80 hours a week trawling junk shops with a laser scanner. He’s not a booklover in search of a good read. He’s a dealer... more»
In case China finds itself unable to resist temptations of foreign policy adventurism, the U.S. must be forearmed. But in the meantime... more»
As agriculture spread into neolithic Europe, it gave hunter gatherers more than wheat, barley, and beer: it gave them a white revolution: milk... more»
Much of what medical research treats as fact is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong. Why is bad science used to justify treatments?... more»
Penmanship: to draw out letters by hand and connect them in cursive style has odd, even mysterious, effects on the development of the brain... more»
“I am a bit angry,” said Swedish literary critic Ulrika Milles during Swedish TV’s Nobel Prize coverage. Mario Vargas Llosa is not their sort of chap... more»
In fairy tales, good triumphs over evil., but in ways we may find quite vexing. Look at the Brothers Grimm with Snow White vs. how Disney ends it... more»
Joan Sutherland, who thrilled the world with her dazzling technique, vocal clarity, and finesse, is dead at age 83 ... NYT ... Australian ... SMH
Ants work together, share food, and send their elders into battle to protect the young. E.O. Wilson thinks they have a lot to teach us... more»
The Trolley problem. How to make an issue in moral philosophy come alive, while the thinker is still allowed to enjoy the comforts of the armchair... more»
Poetry is mathematics. Hidden in that elegant structure there may be deeper truths that touch on fractal patterns, on the theory of numbers, on primes... more»
Mario Vargas Llosa, Peruvian writer, won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature... NYT... LAT... AP... Guardian... WSJ... WSJ interview... NYT Kakutani... Independent... WP... Foreign Policy... William Boyd
Alfred Kazin found that “absolute frankness is the only originality.” But his frankness ends not in originality but in creepy revelations... more»
For Rimbaud, precocity yielded an iconoclastic burst of creativity. Then he abandoned poetry. He was 20, there was nothing left to say... more»
It is academic snobbery to search for Orientalism in the canon of high literature, but not pulp novels or Hollywood films... more»
Young women have at least one asset, erotic capital, but it’s undervalued – by society and by women themselves. There is a remedy: prostitution... more»
The idea of universal human rights has been a profound contribution to civilization. More than a little credit goes to the slave rebels of Haiti... more»
Henry Luce and the intellectuals. Journalism and the life of the mind merged in the profit-motivated pages of Time, Life, and Fortune... more»
Tim Wu has an influential theory about the future of information. The problem: He’s wrong, even incoherent. Paul Starr explains... more»
“To be, or not to be” is not original to Shakespeare. In effect, Hamlet is quoting, not thinking. All language carries baggage... more»
Humphrey Bogarts face – indelible and engaging, but hardly beautiful – confounded a co-star. “How can a man so ugly be so handsome?”... more»
Famine, flood, and slipshod currency reform have failed to end Kim Jong Ils reign. But now there’s a new challenge: bootleg copies of Titanic... more»
The mind has always been forgetful, lapsing into oblivion. But has this ever been more true than now, when we know so much and remember so little?... more»
Alfred Kazin’s love of literature was matched only by his love of himself. Self-absorption, to many women, proved irresistible... more»
Agnes de Mille democratized ballet, injecting a dose of pop-art cheekiness into the ordered, insidery world of formal dance... more»
V.S. Naipaul among the natives. How to explain his passion for foreign places and peoples? Curiosity and racist snobbery... more»
Vodka – no color, no taste – made no sense to A.J. Liebling, a brown-spirits man. He had a point: It’s the chicken breast of libations... more»
In 1915, as Edward Thomas prepared to flee the war in Europe, a poem arrived from his friend Robert Frost. “The Road Not Taken” changed everything... more»
For the swaggering titans of mid-20th-century literature, violence was their muse. Then Joseph Heller dismantled their greatest subject... more»
Back-of-the-envelope calculation: Over the past 10,000 years, humans have created 10,000 religions and 1,000 gods. Why?... more»
In 1932, William Shirer, a reporter in Paris, was abruptly fired from his job at the Chicago Tribune. On a whim, he took off for Berlin... more»
Brandishing scads of data, Robert Pape argues that suicide terrorism is not motivated by Islam. But what’s motivating Pape?... more»
The public palate. Wines today are presented like photographs in lad mags: Attributes enhanced and airbrushed to satisfy a commercial ideal... more»
Reading David Foster Wallace is like being trapped in a room with a hyperarticulate obsessive-compulsive. Irksome, but brilliant... more»
Is Google evil? Probably not. But it is trying to read your mind. On the upside, it’s saving you keystrokes... more»
Knotted: How the Necktie Changed the World. Yeah, sure. The plague of publishing these days is to mistake ubiquity for significance... more»
Giro dItalia, 1956. Fiorenzo Magni fell, broke his collarbone and arm, kept pedaling – and finished second. To think: He wasn't even doping... more»
Umberto Eco is fascinated by fallibility. His vast personal library includes the works of the errant Ptolemy, not the accurate Galileo... more»
Ladies loved Franz Liszt. The virtuosic composer and cad was the Mick Jagger of his day, trysting his way from Coventry to Kiev... more»
Mark Lynas once hurled a pie at Bjorn Lomborg, saying: “That’s for lying about climate change.” Now he’s targeting fellow environmentalists... more»
Viagra in the agora. The little blue pill gives rise to enduring philosophical insights. But if they linger for more than four hours, consult a doctor... more»
Beware of benevolence. History’s world improvers have been indifferent to actual human suffering, and quite willing to kill with kindness... more»
Amid life’s trials, some consult the Bible or the Koran, the I-Ching or Twitter feeds. But more and more people turn to the feel-good gospel of Oprah... more»
Mark Twain, swaddled in a white suit of self-promotion, dictated a snoozy, egotistical autobiography. So what? The man deserved to strut... more»
Colin Thubron is heir to a vanishing tradition of wryly patrician, English travel writers who trade openly in the strange and beautiful... more»
Your dog loves you even more than you think. But here’s the rub: That adorable, knowing look doesn’t mean she’s capable of complex emotions... more»
Stealing Rembrandts. Only Picasso has been more frequently pilfered. But art theft is pointless theft: What can you do with a heisted painting?... more»
The era of the nonspecialist intellectual is over. These days, aspiring Irving Howes need to master monetary theory... more»
Darwin has displaced Hegel as a political thinker, suggests Francis Fukuyama. Is this the end of the end of history?... more»
Told that he’d won a Nobel Prize, Richard Feynman balked. He had a radical disdain for royalty, even though his science was conservative... more»
Bobby Fischer had much in common with Newton: Both were fear-addled egomaniacs who grew into their gifts by playing games with themselves... more»
Every metaphor starts out as a wild beast, waiting to be tamed by usage, writes Carlin Romano. Even the word “metaphor” is a metaphor... more»
Quarry of the latter-day hunter-gatherer: old typewriters, vintage dolls, Bakelite jewelry. The one thing you must never ask a collector is “Why?”... more»
Too small for their britches? If American men are infantilized, it certainly isn’t because of gains made by women, as one author would have us believe... more»
The other other woman: Hardly home wreckers, mistresses are long-term partners who prefer secrecy, for better or worse... more»
It’s easy to dismiss Wilhelm Reich’s idiosyncratic blend of Freudianism, Marxism, and orgasm. But consider this: No Reich, no Oprah... more»
What the world requires of a publishing bigwig – Robert Gottlieb, Daniel Menaker – is ever more cattiness, more gossip, more score-settling... more»
Ribs against racism. American, Jamaican, Korean, Mongolian – is there any cuisine more inclusive than barbecue?... more»
Mark Twain never met an idea he could not reduce to a joke – including, it seems, the conventions of autobiography. Michael Lewis explains... more»
Virginia Woolf knew well the tedium of the literary critic. “My mind feels as though a torrent of weak tea has been poured over it”... more»
Drugs, sex, exercise – all tickle the brain’s pleasure circuits. What doesn’t? Pop-intellectual glosses on the neuroscience of pleasure... more»
“I duped the despot by crawling like a snake,” wrote Adam Mickiewicz. No one survives in a dictatorship without being compromised... more»
They were Truman Capote’s adoring “swans,” upper-crust types who lapped up his elfin schtick. So why did he betray them?... more»
Between those who believe too much and those who believe too little stands Terry Eagleton, scorning the dogmatism of both sides... more»
Stagnant wages, stalemated wars, growing debt. Depressing, right? Time for a dose of David Brookss sunny optimism... more»
Shoplifting is an expression of vanity and need, not ideology. Filching razors from Rite-Aid isn’t political. It’s pathetic... more»
When in 1822 a bullet hit Alexis St. Martin’s abdomen, his breakfast poured from the wound. Human digestion had become visible... more»
Are you glib and superficially charming? Do you lack empathy and remorse? You might have just what it takes to be a psychopath... more»
Robin Fox has spent his life studying tribal-based societies. Does that make him one of the indispensable foreign-policy thinkers of our time?... more»
Ronald Dworkin is a hedgehog, sure of one big thing: His values are universal values. It’s hubristic, sure, but is it analytically rigorous?... more»
David Mamet’s conservative cri de coeur is smug, propagandistic, error-filled – and boring, too. Christopher Hitchens explains... more»
Evaluating evil. Between 1933 and 1945, 14 million civilians died in lands ruled by Stalin and Hitler. Does that diminish the singularity of the Holocaust?... more»
Plaid-clad civic saint and master spellbinder, Cesar Chavez generated a legend that elides a history of paranoia and madness... more»
In defense of drudgery. Whatever you call it – acedia, horror, taedium vitae, melancholia – boredom is a blessing ... more»
Intellectuals and orgasms. The charismatic, daft Wilhelm Reich succeeded in making fools of credulous seekers like Norman Mailer... more»
“The only way to write is well,” said A.J. Liebling, “how you do it is your own damn business.” Unless youre Stanley Fish ... more»
The many loves of Ms. Luxemburg. Red Rosa’s life wasn’t all doctrinaire Marxism and scornful polemics... more»
The gadgets that enrich and overwhelm you originate in MITs Media Lab, where the most important discipline is no discipline at all... more»
As if her husband’s drinking and philandering weren’t enough, Lee Krasners art never could escape his paint-splattered shadow... more»
“Nearly everyone has a reaction to India,” writes Patrick French. His is fawning, cliché-ridden, and untethered from reality... more»
That Henry Kissinger never fails to praise China’s rulers is disappointing but not surprising: Sycophancy is good for business... more»
If our brains are augmented by Google in the future, will our thoughts have corporate sponsors?... more»
Forget Facebook – our cognitive capacities max out at three to five intimate friendships. Time to shrink our social networks?... more»
Watching Garry Wills. The liberal, Catholic ex-conservative who made enemies of both Nixon and Alger Hiss remains a paradox... more»
Poverty deepens and inequality grows. But the rich, says Deirdre McCloskey, are blameless: “Success in a commercial society is a victimless crime”... more»
A Jewish joke: Man asks friend, “Which is preferable, an anti-Semite or a philo-Semite?” Friend answers, “An anti-Semite – at least he isn’t lying”... more»
Feminist Lothario? Hugh Hefner – the man who marketed promiscuous bachelorhood – is a pioneer of women’s empowerment... more»
Payback might be a bitch, but the urge for revenge is universal, and the stuff of great drama... more»
Music hits the brain like sex. So can neuroscience distinguish between hearing an organ played and having one’s organs played with?... more»
Learning to live means preparing to die. So thought Montaigne, until his own death neared... more»
Every year, Washington swells with 20,000 interns. They fetch coffee, drive down wages, and add yet another sexual frisson to the halls of power... more»
For Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, whose extraordinary union lasted 40 years, the key to a successful marriage was not sleeping together... more»
Janet Malcolm is without illusion. A heartless connoisseur of human misery, she admits her biases run deep. “We take sides as we take breaths”... more»
G.K. Chesterton quipped paradoxical: “Travel narrows the mind.” The greatest paradox, however, was his own personality, sophisticated yet naive... more»
“The rose,” says Umberto Eco, “is so rich in meanings that it hardly has any meaning left.” Not so. The bloom remains potent with symbolism... more»
Moscow, 1960. The city brimmed with hope and creativity. It was a fleeting moment captured in the poetry and charmed life of Joseph Brodsky... more»
Nabokov described art as the “dazzling combination of drab parts.” Studies of his own work, however, often read like drab combinations of dazzling parts... more»
Gandhi’s commitment to nonviolence was admirable but impractical. As a response to fascism, it was disastrous... more»
As a child, Iris Chang learned of Japanese atrocities in Nanking. As an adult, she studied them. Did her research lead to her suicide?... more»
While her diplomat father courted Hitler, Martha Dodd courted Thomas Wolfe, who likened her to “a butterfly hovering around my penis”... more»
Sibling rivalry. Thomas Mann never quite got over the fact that it was his brother Heinrich’s novels that the Nazis burned... more»
The idea of Humphrey Bogart. Stoic, melancholic, humane, even idealistic, Bogie’s characters saw a point in at least trying to right wrongs... more»
It takes an unusual intellectual – shrewd, polemical, willfully ignorant – to title a book Why Marx Was Right, and Terry Eagleton is all that... more»
David Thomson’s dictionary of film – five editions in 35 years, more than 1,000 pages – is a book meant to be argued with. Clive James is game... more»
Shostakovich: party hack or secret dissident? Listen closely: Here is an ironist who scorned the Communist Party he submitted to... more»
Nearing 70, E.M. Forster cracked open his diary to note “how annoyed I am with Society for wasting my time by making homosexuality criminal”... more»
Tenured professors enjoy speech protections. Yet when it comes to the execrable treatment of grad students and adjuncts, they’ve been awfully quiet... more»
“This year I almost died,” reveals Clive James. Had he done so, we would have lost a brilliant prose stylist, intellect, wit, and poet... more»
That Heda Margolius Kovály had to write a memoir about life under Nazism and Communism is a horror. That she did it so well is a gift... more»
YouTube’s latest intellectual star is a 75-year-old Marxist anthropologist. Surprising? So is this: His ideas are at odds with Marxism... more»
“There is only one rule,” wrote Pauline Kael. “Astonish us!” When a film failed, she was unsparing: “Unfunny camp is contemptible”... more»
Structure, rhythm, precision – any good sentence is good in its own way. The best ones can move peoples’ souls... more»
If, as has been said, the city is “a conscious work of art,” then Jane Jacobs has been its most mindful critic... more»
How did a first-generation Turkish grad student end up driving around San Francisco with Isaac Babel’s 90-year-old widow riding shotgun?... more»
Mussolini conceived it, Hitler commissioned it, Stalin perfected it, Saddam obsessed over the design of it: totalitarian art... more»
A “precocious knack for hackery” earned Simon Schama the derisive label of popularizer. Is that such a bad thing?... more»
The delightfully eclectic writer Geoff Dyer writes so well about so many things. Too bad his favorite subject is himself... more»
Lies can be “necessary and virtuous,” says John Mearsheimer, who finds democracies – not dictatorships – to be most adept at political deceit... more»
Tina Fey has turned superficial self-deprecation into shtick. The lesson for female comics: Be unthreatening and men might let you join the show... more»
Socrates dismissed money as irrelevant and even inimical to the good life. But what is so morally corrosive about material comfort?... more»
Philip Larkin described sex as a futile attempt to get “someone else to blow your own nose for you.” Funny, right? Now imagine being his lover... more»
Murder most entertaining. Crime stories are a ghoulishly satisfying reminder that although murder is possible, it hasn’t yet happened to you... more»
Rootless but disciplined, a black man joins a religious community that he ultimately outgrows. It’s Malcolm Xs story. Barack Obama’s, too... more»
In 1896, the Cambridge don Solomon Schechter climbed behind a wall in a Cairo synagogue and discovered the detritus of an entire civilization... more»
“The least Indian of Indian leaders”: V.S. Naipaul's astute assessment of Gandhi, whose social conscience was forged reading Tolstoy in South Africa... more»
Maligned as a gold digger, Wallis Simpson in fact never wanted Edward VIII to abdicate the throne. She wasn’t even in love with him... more»
In the 80s, academic humanists asked, “What should we be reading, and how?” Today they’re consumed by a dilemma far more dismal: Why bother?... more»
Corruption, buffoonery, racial demagoguery, ever-growing inequality: Welcome to the slow-motion catastrophe that is South Africa... more»
Modigliani’s charm, looks, and taste for narcotics were infamous among the Paris cafe crowd. By 35, he’d slid from dandyism to dereliction to death... more»
A peek inside the Vatican archive reveals an inescapable truth: Never underestimate the mind-numbing boredom of convent life... more»
An audacious act of self-parody, the manifesto is more performance than proposition. Avant-gardists mastered the form... more»
Grief is a lonely yet enticing place. Burrow in too far, however, and sorrow becomes all you know. Write about it and risk being branded a solipsist... more»
“Odd gnome, half cad – with a touch of genius.” That’s T.E. Lawrence – scholar, soldier, sophisticate, naïf, and the most ambiguous of heroes... more»
Surprise, surprise: A Harvard literary critic’s passionate brief for serious reading boils down to a defense of literary critics... more»
Derrida and Foucault were something other than charlatans. What, exactly, is becoming clear now that the theory wars are over... more»
Was Gandhi gay? Perhaps. But Andrew Roberts is certain of this: Gandhi was “a sexual weirdo, a political incompetent, and a fanatical faddist”... more»
It's been said that making enemies is easy but keeping them is hard. Neither has proved to be a struggle for Norman Podhoretz... more»
When her daughter died, Edith Piaf slept with a man to pay for the burial. The melancholy grit of Piaf’s voice was hard-earned... more»
What’s this? A catchy new name for an everyday phenomenon whose benefits are counterintuitively overstated? Must be the latest Big Idea book... more»
Why read? Literature recasts the world in an intimate and productively strange light, says Marjorie Garber. Prose can endow us with startling power... more»
Box-office poison: In an age of literary brands, is anything more commercially self-destructive than a writer who insists on an eclectic oeuvre?... more»
As neuroscience encroaches on the humanities, it’s time to ask: Will Shakespeare be diminished by our peeking inside the human mind?... more»
Drunk on a cocktail of big ideas, Deb Olin Unferth – a Christian of Marxist-Kierkegaardian persuasion – ran off to join the revolution... more»
Parodies work best as poison darts aimed straight at the puffed-up and smug. Killer takedowns reveal a timeless truth: Everybody is full of it... more»
Rubbing his eyes in astonishment, Garry Wills asks: How does so much praise get attached to a book “so inept and shallow”?... more»
The private sector sees the professoriate as a coddled, loudmouthed elite with sinecures protected by tenure. Not exactly... more»
Imagine Jesus – not Muhammad – had been mocked in a Danish newspaper. Would there have been much sympathy for offended Christians?... more»
Who owns yoga? Now that it’s a multibillion-dollar industry, everyone wants a piece of the action. But yogas history is a palimpsest... more»
Artistic elephants and compassionate gorillas? There’s something odd about projecting human values onto other species... more»
Adam Smith, far from being an apostle of free-market capitalism, advocated full employment, high wages, high taxes, and big government... more»
The crowded, poverty-stricken slums of Mumbai and São Paulo horrify Western eyes. They shouldn’t. Such cities represent growth and aspiration... more»
If thought depends on neurons, and the soul depends on squishy wet parts, then we are our brains. How creepy. How fascinating... more»
Essays are a “loose sally of the mind,” but Montaignes were marked by an intellectual humility not common among opinionators today... more»
"If Ronald Dworkin were a hotel he would be the Savoy, but a Savoy open to all, with guests spilling into every room, talking, arguing, laughing"... more»
Drugs, drink, relentless womanizing, an early death - Modigliani remains the quintessential self-destroying artist... more»
In The Fugitive, Stanley Fish sees a story about liberalism's central tension: Society and responsibility on one side, absolute freedom on the other... more»
Some Indian politicians have been original thinkers - Gandhi, Nehru - but is there an indigenously Indian way of politics?... more»
Philosophers used to entertain grand existential questions. Now they toil in highly technical nooks. We need more throwbacks like Stanley Cavell... more»
Translators braced for "a storm of opposition" to what was in essence a vanity project, but the King James Bible went on to endure for 400 years... more»
To Net prophets like Clay Shirky, there is little about the Web that is not benign. But cyberutopianism is at odds with economic reality. Welcome to the digital plantation... more»
Tedious and predictable, The Oxford Companion to the Book epitomizes the pitfalls of conventional academic thinking... more»
Sexual economics 101: Men represent demand, and women supply. It's a catchy formula, and perhaps obvious, but it little resembles reality... more»
The Internet isn't making you stupid or unhappy or less productive. But it might be subverting your creativity... more»
"I was a mistake. My mother didn't want to have me. I wish, I still wish, she had wanted me." - Marilyn Monroe, whose life is a feast for Freudians... more»
Brain-science enthusiasts promise a more peaceful and prosperous world. Great, right? Maybe not. Raymond Tallis punctures neuromania... more»
The economic bleeding has been stanched, but an awful fact remains: Unregulated, oversized finance is inherently prone to crisis... more»
Sure, the future of publishing looks grim. But not entirely. A new literary culture is taking root in the digital world... more»... more»
George Santayana thought highly of himself - and little of others, especially his Harvard colleagues and their "trivial and narrow scholarship"... more»
It's true: Few intellectuals change the world. But consider the life of a certain impoverished, carbuncle-ridden Jewish exile... more»
In 1940, Hannah Arendt wrote to Gershom Scholem about the suicide of their friend Walter Benjamin. The often adversarial correspondence continued for more than a decade... more»
We are drowning in a flood of information. Our task, says Freeman Dyson, is to create islands of meaning... more»
Scientific efforts to create life are heavily freighted by thousands of years of mythmaking about what science can and should be. John Gray explains... more»
How did the armies of Mordor cope with defeat? A retelling of The Lord of the Rings is more complicated and less sentimental than the original... more»
If belief in God is an adaptive illusion, then fear of God's watchful eye might explain our predisposition to moralistic religious beliefs... more»
Charismatic and obscene, Bobby Fischer seemed entirely too fantastic. Garry Kasparov tried to look away, but he couldn't... more»
A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, published in 1926, remains a remarkable achievement. So why don't modern linguists understand the book's function and genius?... more»
Joyce Carol Oates has long walled off her identity as a writer from her identity as a wife. True to form, her memoir of life as a widow reveals little and obscures much... more»... more»
Among his celebrated peers, Saul Bellow alone courts lastingness, he alone escapes eclipse. Cynthia Ozick explains Bellow's enduring appeal... more»
Montaigne's self-absorption feels contemporary, but he was no proto-blogger. He aimed for self-discovery, not self-display... more»
In the history of adultery, a blurry line distinguishes prostitutes from concubines, mistresses from wives, victims from villains... more»
Writings about yoga tend to come in one of two styles: cute and folksy or earnest and humorless. What the genre needs is an injection of sincerity and wit... more»
The Roman historian Livy viewed the glorification of chefs as indicative of a culture in decline. What would he make of the pompous gluttony of modern foodies?... more»
Elizabeth Bishop wrote slowly and published little - fewer than 100 poems in her lifetime, each one a model of quiet, scrupulous perfection... more»
In 1996, Susan Sontag remarked on the decline of film culture: "Perhaps it is not cinema that has ended but only cinephilia." She had it backward... more»
Samuel Johnson derided slang as "fugitive cant" unworthy of preservation, but the low idiom of thieves and beggars has evolved into a highbrow linguistic tradition... more»
Stan Kenton's futuristic jazz and button-down style drew fans for years. He may have dressed like a church elder, but his personal life resembled a junkie's... more»
Courage. Chivalry. Brutality. War. Jerusalem contains them all. The city's past, and less still its present, offers little hope for a peaceful future... more»
The fact that J.D. Salinger was a peculiar and difficult man is indisputable. Too bad a new biography diminishes his odious eccentricities... more»
Smaller brains, too much estrogen, penis envy - they're among the arguments for female inferiority. Such theories are a thing of the past, right? Wrong... more»
The Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal attracted many admirers - along with a well-earned reputation for self-promotion and even fraud... more»
Young Irving Kristol was alert to the ambivalences of politics. He grew charming and wry - but simplistic and dogmatic. Therein lies a problem for neoconservatism... more»
Late in life, Rousseau acknowledged that it was arrogant of him to promote virtues he couldn't live up to. Sorry, Socrates, the examined life isn't what it's cracked up to be... more»
The ancient world was hardly full of starry-eyed universalists. But even then, categorizing and hating people en masse was a choice, not a necessity... more»
In the eyes of many foreign journalists, India is a nation of Gatsbys and Babbitts engaged in a manic quest for status and wealth. Time for a reality check... more»
Claude Lévi-Strauss is today maligned as a relativist who placed primitive cultures on a pedestal. He long ago anticipated the criticism... more»
Frank Sinatra remolded the world according to his own desires. At his core, however, he was consumed by pain and anxiety... more»
Fed up with academe, Herbert London decamped for the think-tank world. His first assignment: Buy heroin in Harlem... more»
What happened to academic sociology? The lucidity of Weber and Mills has been replaced by a vapid, turgid, self-referential claptrap... more»
Alan Lomax built his career upon a single belief: that the world's poorest places offered the richest cultural treasures... more»
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was devoted to God and opposed to Hitler. We should be impressed by such courage and faith, but not in awe of it... more»
Economic and scientific innovation helped propel the West past the East around 1770. So did Islam. Timur Kuran explains... more»
Christopher Isherwood detested the way marriage "drags down and shackles and degrades" men. Yet he was a pioneer of gay domestic partnerships... more»
While some Western historians are reluctant to describe the Soviet Union as "totalitarian," Russia's president, Dmitri Medvedev, has no such qualms... more»
Jürgen Habermas has a two-fold persona: opaque philosopher and lucid polemicist. Peter Gordon says they stem from a single calling... more»
Dismissed as a clownish entertainer, Cab Calloway was in fact a creative genius. Terry Teachout sings the praises of "Minnie the Moocher"... more»
The Founding Fathers remain central to American political debate. Historical myths are easy to mock, and Jill Lepore "is an expert at mocking"... more»
Victorian Britain craved lurid reports of crime and murder. Newspapers were happy to oblige. By comparison, ours is a golden age of journalism... more»
Born in the Soviet Union, buried in Venice, a citizen of America, the poet Joseph Brodsky was a nowhere man - a universalist and a cosmopolitan... more»
John Cage's music sounds like an argument between form and chaos. His curiosity bled into his art. "I'm interested in going to extremes"... more»
Rigorous, disciplined, disarmingly unnatural - no artistic endeavour is more physically or psychologically demanding than ballet... more»
19th-century anarcho-radicals bombed cities and assassinated political figures. Then, as now, policing terror sometimes means encouraging it... more»
Tony Judt's memoir was composed as an antidote to insomnia, a bulwark against insanity. The result reveals a conservative streak... more»
Yuli Margolin spent six years in a gulag. His 1949 memoir, with its gimlet eye for literary detail, should have appeared in English decades ago... more»
The new Steve Martin novel is a nasty exercise in narcissism - a lazy, complacent and forgettable book. If it is a satire, it satirizes only itself... more»
Harrowing essays, political tracts, literary criticism: The extraordinary life's work of Thomas De Quincey. Not bad for a drink-soaked opium addict... more»
Tariq Ramadan regards tolerance as mere "intellectual charity." He doesn't want it. Ramadan's view, though fashionable, is without meaning... more»
Does America have a national character? It's an important question; too bad historians stopped asking it. Claude Fischer tempts them back into the fray... more»
The first printing of Sidereus Nuncius sold out in a week. Galileo's elegant prose undid centuries of conformity and launched observational science... more»
Aberrant Marxist, heretical Jew, maverick social theorist - Walter Benjamin remains many things to many people... more»
There is something very modern, almost New Agey, and endearingly insecure, about George Bush's tone and posture in Decision Points... more»
When Sergei Diaghilev emerged in fin-de-siècle St. Petersburg, ballet was passionless, mechanical, and dead. It was time for a new kind of dance... more»
Cass Sunstein is a brilliant, intellectually honest legal thinker. He is a progressive who is also very pragmatic, perhaps too much so... more»
George Washington disapproved of it, and so did Benjamin Franklin. The Tea Party wasn't such a good idea the first time around... more»
Computers are wreaking havoc on the English language. We hear this sort of thing whenever a new writing instrument becomes dominant... more»
Giacomo Leopardi's great love poems tend toward the unrequited. In his odes on Italy, beauty and grandeur always fade toward the horizon... more»
Human rights as a lovely end of Western history is a late 20th century fancy used to justify ruinous wars of intervention. It is mere utopian dreaming... more»
Voltaire possessed an endless appetite for putting himself in harm's way: duels, insults to nobility. He always squeaked by... more»
"I have no tendency to be a saint," John Henry Newman said, in words that were part of his own self-outing... more»
Both FDR and Eleanor embraced a large family of intimate companions and lovers which they both accepted. "It was part of their generous spirit"... more»
Picture the academy: If you're thinking plushy professors, jargon-laden research, and debt-strapped students poised for a career in rag picking, think again... more»
What makes a cultural critic great? Expertise, fine taste, firm judgment, aesthetic leadership - whatever it is, the superb, ruthless, and biting Terry Castle has it... more»
Mao Zedong is the father of the Chinese nation - disgraced, discredited, and irreplaceable. In the West, a non-ideological view of Mao has rarely been available... more»
The term "conscious" was introduced in 1678; within 50 years it had acquired at least five definitions. The ambiguity has not abated... more»
Nelson Mandela is no saint. His life has combined greatness with pettiness, compassion with coldness, altruism with selfishness... more»
Known to his Arab comrades as Prince Dynamite, T.E. Lawrence understood that explosives are both a weapon and a political statement... more»
Susan Sontag called him "our Sartre." For Bill Buckley he was a "bisexualist, a poverty cultist, an anarchist." So many reactions to Paul Goodman... more»
By the time Crazy Horse, "strange man of the Oglalas," died, he was the most divisive figure in the tribes of the Great Sioux War of 1876-77... more»
W.H. Auden: "it's rather a privilege/amid the affluent traffic/to serve this unpopular art." Monica Jones chose to serve the art of Philip Larkin... more»
The Holocaust's power to shock: from Babi-Yar, where SS units machine-gunned 33,000 Jews in two days and threw them in a ravine, down to postwar atrocities... more»
The romance of the "foreign film" began just after the war for Americans with Open City. The affair lasted for twenty years, well into the 1960s... more»
The romance of the "foreign film" began just after the war for Americans with Open City. The affair lasted for twenty years, well into the 1960s... more»
Richard Wagner's erotic interest was not lurid, voyeuristic, or morbid, but human: alert to desire, joy, longing, torment, and despair... more»
David Foster Wallace's undergrad thesis is a virtuoso performance. Less certain is whether it tells us anything we need to know about his fiction... more»
With their drollery, mordancy, heart pains, soul talk, and metaphysical vaudeville - the whole human mess - Saul Bellow's letters are a Saul Bellow novel... more»
Martha Nussbaum would have us think of sexual orientation in the same way that most of us think of religion. The analogy works - to a degree... more»
The long battle waged by Karol Wojtyla against Poland's communists and their Moscow masters was a struggle over the survival of communism itself... more»
A city compounds many worlds in one place. Rebecca Solnit's poetic atlas of San Francisco isn't a guide, so much as it's a provocation...more»
H.L. Mencken despised the "booboisie," yet delighted in the gross, glittering, dynamic, grotesque, stupendous drama of American life...more»
Consciousness used to be the crazy aunt in psychology's attic, up there squeaking the floorboards and troubling our dreams of science... more»
The revolution will not be Tweeted. Look about the military-Twitter complex: there is little to support claims for vast political power of social media... more»
Easy communication between languages is a lovely ideal, but it is a myth. In reality, it would mean eternal misunderstanding... more»
The Atlantic Ocean: cold, iron, and salt; knife-sharp winds and the keening of gulls; sea lanes, docksides, and squadrons of steadily moving ships... more»
Mark Twain described his memoir as "frank and free and unembarrassed." But Judith Shulevitz found it tamed, evasive and, indeed, embarrassed...more»
What is remarkable about Oscar Wilde's formalism is that it is so human. This may come as a surprise: we tend to think of his aesthetics as hothouse stuff... more»
Stefan Zweig was a cosmopolite: the kind of Pan-European emancipated Jew who managed to shed all belief systems with the exception of pacifism... more»
Most scientific biographies used to put their subjects on pedestals. Today, priority and grudges shape the history of science as much as the science... more»
Germany is fast becoming a smaller and stupider country. Outrageous! And yet Thilo Sarrazin's claims contain too much truth to dismiss... more»
Ballet is a "conservative and insular art that resists change," says Jennifer Homans, thus linking it to beauty and nostalgia and noble ideals... more»
Will English find itself in the service of the world community forever? Given how easily languages can be dethroned, this seems an unlikely prospect... more»
Oliver Sacks again invites readers to explore the mysteries of the human mind with essays on people with drastically altered perceptions... more»
Romain Gary challenged Clint Eastwood to a duel over an affair with Jean Seberg. Eastwood declined, but he was still French ambassador to Hollywood... more»
Henry VIII's mistress, Anne Boleyn, was the Camilla Parker Bowles to Catherine's People's Princess. Women hated that "goggle eyed whore"... more»
Yes, the Chicago Manual of Style trudges through each new edition, workhorse that it is. But even in the new 16th, it remains a poet. Even a dancer... more»
Scientists fight for recognition and jobs just like doctors, artists, and actors. They are bold, shy, plodding, brilliant, generous, and spiteful. Just human beings... more»
Thelonious Monk's audiences heard music that was, to their worldly sensibility, better than a miracle: not just astonishing, it was believable too... more»
Americans use language to cover the sleeper, not to wake him, James Baldwin said, which was why the writer as artist is so important... more»
When the Southern states seceded in 1861 and the Civil War broke out, Britain's instinct was to stay out of the action. Too much tension, however... more»
Charles de Gaulle's life shows the truth in the claim that no man is a prophet in his own land. Le grand Charles did not always enjoy reverence in his homeland... more»
Self-help books: pap from sea to shining sea, diaphanous lunacy, simpleton dullness. One fears for a nation awash in this drivel... more»
Nietzsche: a gentle professor who liked to think of himself as a wild beast on the rampage, an intellectual terrorist out to destroy Christianity... more»
We plunder the Atlantic Ocean, gobble up its fish and dump our plastic water bottles into it. Still, the Atlantic has a resilience all its own... more»
So we're celebrity-obsessed? Look back to antiquity to find the most dazzling of them all. Cleopatra made no films: coins minted and stories told were enough... more»
Claude Lévi-Strauss's great idea was that both myth and kinship were part of the most elementary processes of human thought... more»
The growing concern for Soviet Jewry in the 1960s was part of a generational shift in American Jewish identity. It changed how U.S. Jews saw themselves... more»
Procrastination: under its antic form of action-as-inaction is the much more unsettling question whether anything is worth doing at all... more»
Mark Twain admitted to foibles: “I like the exact word, and clarity of statement, and here and there a touch of good grammar for picturesqueness”... more» ... more»
Capitalism makes vast wealth, but does not create a permanent overclass. Were that the case, Forbes’s rich list would still be Morgans and Carnegies... more»
H.L. Mencken’s beguiling style was at once rollicking and astringent. With merry disdain, he probed the American “booboisie”.. more»
Niccolo Machiavelli was an amoebic being: imperialist, proto-libertarian, atheist, neo-pagan, Christian, lover of freedom, tutor to despots, armchair strategist... more»
Maybe Cardinal Newman was right: higher education does not exist for the sake of training, but to turn undergrads into more interesting people... more»
Bruce Chatwin did not die of AIDS, but of a fungus that attacked his brain. This turned his restlessness into a hypomanic frenzy marked by crazy plans... more»
Fewer and fewer civilian politicians who now send troops into battle know what war is actually like. They are more likely than ever to choose violent force... more»
Russian roulette is not a game volcanoes lose. Which does not keep those who live nearby from treating their local volcano as a mascot or lucky charm... more»
In fiction, V.S. Naipaul has a gorgeous empathy for humiliated peoples. In nonfiction, he can be cruel, dismissive. Here he is on African religions... more»
Did the Polish merchant care if he was shot by Hitler because he was a Jew or by Stalin because he was a capitalist? Genocide is such a slippery word... more»
The Original Mad Man. Albert Lasker’s genius for selling anything from avocados to sanitary napkins had a deep and lasting influence on American life... more»
Mikhail Kalashnikov’s AK-47 has long been shrouded in Soviet doublespeak. Its inventor may not have been a lone proletarian genius, but still... more»
Lynd Ward links Albrecht Dürer’s Bible pictures, made for people who couldn’t read, to Art Spiegelman’s graphic novels, created for people who could... more»
Sam Harris is a moral realist: he holds moral questions have objectively right or wrong answers. It’s consequences that count... more»
Bob Geldof and Bono used Live Aid to rescue their careers. They sincerely wished to help Ethiopians, too. But did they?... more»
The Hermaphrodite was denounced by moralists as soon as it was published in 1425. Its lurid poems have delighted decadents ever since... more»
Civil War what-iffers: What if Lincoln had let the South secede? Slavery had been allowed? One side had won a half-dozen battles at the outset?... more»
Noël Coward danced along the divide between his life and his art, knocking off songs between tea and cocktails, writing a play in three days... more»
Germanness long predates an all-German state. Protestantism, literacy, universities, and Jewish citizens devoted to high culture all played a role... more»
The inferno inside a jet engine is hotter than the surface of the sun and would melt the turbine’s blades if not for clever management of airflow... more»
Ladies, find your inner geisha: that doll-like woman with her silk kimono, scarlet lips, and exotic sex techniques. Easy to ridicule. Maybe too easy... more»
Stanley Cavell’s intellectual journey must ever “begin again,” must revisit and re-examine assumptions that have gone untested... more»
With his prodigious talent, parents who loved him to bits, and a piano teacher named Marietta Clinkscales, Duke Ellington could only succeed... more»
At its height, the British Empire had more Muslim subjects than any other empire ever. It counted as subjects over one in three of the world’s Muslims... more»
The torture of walking into a bookshop today: yes, the fiction will very likely be competent, but without being genuinely beautiful. Who to blame?... more»
Founded in 1857 to advance the “American idea,” The Atlantic Monthly was an odd intellectual home for Henry James, a peripatetic expat who renounced his U.S. citizenship... more»
After crunching two billion words of 21st-century literature, Orin Hargraves arrived at an inescapable conclusion: fictional characters can’t stop playing with their hair... more»
The agony of originality. Four thousand years ago, an Egyptian writer lamented his stale prose: “Would I had phrases that are not known.” If he was late to the party, what about us?... more»
Step aside, Dale Peck. When it comes to sheer brutishness, no book critic compares to John Wilson Croker, who wrote the review that killed John Keats... more»
The Teflon icon. An apologist for slavery who fought to destroy the United States becomes an American hero. How did it happen?... more»
For conservatives considering grad school, it’s time to reconsider. Why invest so many years and dollars in the thin hope that you’ll be hired by people who loathe your views?... more»
After being paralyzed by a tumor, Reynolds Price told friends he was tired of discussing his health. He wanted to talk about something else: sex... more»
“I will argue that...” Oh, get on with it! Announcing your intentions might be scholarly convention, but it’s long since become an irritating tic. Geoff Dyer explains... more»
At the fertility clinic, no one has sympathy for the man who can’t produce. All he’s left with is a sore arm, a sense of failure, and the ghost of an unconceived child... more»
Marshall McLuhan made assertions, not arguments. Most of them unintelligible, if not wrong. It’s tempting to label him a huckster and move on. But that would be a mistake... more»
The politics of self-immolation. Mohamed Bouazizi, Thích Quảng Đức, Jan Palach: Their willingness to die offers a repulsive and fascinating lesson in how to live... more»
Adventures in fandom. Opera is too often dismissed as out of touch, an elitist obsession of the wealthy. It’s that, of course, and so much more... more»
The old cliché is true: One person’s trash may be another person’s treasure. But let’s be serious: Thomas Kinkade’s cloying, dew-kissed paintings are, quite unambiguously, trash... more»
So you want to write a book. It will be a lonely, frustrating slog. Maybe a few thousand people will read it, on its way to the remainder shelf. Why bother?... more»
If writing makes you a miserable wretch, and reading capaciously hasn’t been a source of moral uplift, you’re hardly alone. The literary life tends to arouse dissatisfaction and antisocial behavior... more»
The Internets early cheerleaders – anti-Hobbesian, hippie utopians, mostly – envisioned cyberspace as an unregulated public square. It’s more like a private mall... more»
Some guys just don’t know when to shut up. Consider the chronically garrulous Tony Kushner and his tendency to drown his characters in a sea of verbiage... more»
Melancholic, tormented, debauched, or otherwise awry, our poets must be lunatics, we insist. The results are both sensational and boring... more»
“I have a daughter who will one day take drugs,” says Sam Harris. “Of course, I will do everything in my power to see that she chooses her drugs wisely”... more»
Good restaurant, table for one at dinner. Pathetic? No, it’s a treat. As a frequent lone diner notes: “How often do I see couples not speak to each other for an entire meal?”... more»
Ah, time for the writer to start writing. But wait: Are my pens facing north? What’s that funny noise? My fingernails need cutting. Do I have a toothache? Will I have a toothache?... more»
The sudden closing of Yale’s program for the study of anti-Semitism raises the question: Where does scholarship end and advocacy begin?... more»
The voracious scavenging of vultures has long helped prevent the spread of disease in India. But at the carcass dump on the outskirts of Bikaner, the sky is empty... more»
Pity today’s elite twenty-somethings. Their loving parents pumped them full of enough self-esteem to ripen them into fragile, narcissistic wrecks ... more»
Arsenic and oatmeal. Until the mid-1800s, there was no such thing as a toxicology report. It was a golden age of domestic murder... more»
At least since Athens clashed with Sparta, the relationship between ascendant nations and dominant powers has been marked by war. Why would Chinas rise be any different?... more»
The problem with vaginas is that awful things happen to them, says Caitlin Moran. “Vaginas get torn. Vaginas get ‘examined.’ Evidence is found in them. Serial killers leave things in them”... more»
The symphony orchestra was once central to the intellectual life of a city. No more, and too bad: The concert hall is a refuge in our age of distracted, self-destroying restlessness... more»
Technologically savvy Scandinavian sociopaths; black maids; clandestine military operations; sexy vampires; talking dogs: What does the best-seller list say about American culture?... more»
Eco-ignorance. Up to 95 percent of organisms in the soil are unknown to science, and by the end of the century, one-quarter of them will wriggle off this mortal coil into oblivion... more»
We want universities to be engines of economic growth. More graduates = higher GDP, right? But look at Switzerland’s strong economy and low enrollment rate... more»
It is becoming physically harder to read a book in print. Online connections have disconnected us from ourselves. Johann Hari is mounting a resistance... more»
The politics of rescue. Michael Walzer has questions: Is humanitarianism a duty or a gift? A responsibility of states or individuals? Maimonides has answers... more»
Practicing pica. Nothing satisfies like a clump of hair, a bite of chalk, or a piece of toilet paper. If we are what we eat, what are we who eat food that isn’t food?... more»
Before Robert Nozick helped legitimate it, libertarianism was the creed of smart-set rogues and cranks. Then, says Stephen Metcalf, the philosopher abandoned the movement. Why?... more»... a rebuttal... Metcalf responds
War is horrible and great, repellent and seductive, the stuff of great stories. But those stories are not just modeled from war, says Drew Faust. They are models of war... more»
Marshall McLuhan is the Marx of the media age. But his Catholicism was no deadening opiate. It made him more ambitious and far-reaching... more»
“The potential of human action to do good and evil is larger than it has ever been before,” says Nick Bostrom. “We might even be able to change human nature itself”... more»
There is a place for mystery in science, but Stephen Law wants to make something clear: Non-empirical beliefs that ignore reality aren’t mysteries, they’re bull... more»
Is evolutionary psychology guilty of intellectual overreach? Timothy Wilson finds fault with its attempts to explain everything. Dan Gilbert and Steve Pinker find fault with Wilson... more»
Hard to say what’s more ridiculous: reading Ayn Rand or sitting through a three-part film adaptation of Atlas Shrugged. Pick your poison... more»
Austan Goolsbee, Christina Romer, and Larry Summers have returned to academe, taking with them the tarnished reputation of Keynesianism... more»
In the market for a new philosophy? Rebecca Goldstein has a tip: Postmodernists are out; rationalists are in; short-sell Heidegger because the smart money is on Spinoza... more»
A.C. Grayling’s decision to open a private liberal-arts college in London reveals higher education as a strictly luxury good. Cue the outrage... more»
Ken Burns’s account of the Civil War is an endlessly compelling story of heroism, reunion, and freedom. Too bad the film is misleading, reductive, and yet enduringly influential... more»
Ordinary or pathological, situational or existential, boredom is the natural condition of man. Distracting oneself from that fact is a full-time job. Reading this essay is one way to start... more»
You’re immersed in the digital slipstream, running with the cyberherd. Yet you consider yourself immune to hive-oriented behavior and thinking? Sven Birkerts thinks you’re deluded... more»
After three weeks in the jungle with Maoist rebels, Arundhati Roy didn’t want to leave. “There is romance in their resistance,” she says from her spacious home in an affluent New Delhi neighborhood... more»
Whether giving a pig an enema, or watching a spider trap its prey, E.B. White felt a kinship for animals that he never felt for people... more»
Whither expertise? Public discourse is awash in ideologically motivated misinformation. The blame falls upon scholars who can’t speak beyond their narrow disciplines... more»
By day, Stephen Griffiths pursued his doctorate in homicide studies, writing a dissertation on 19th-century methods of murder. By night, he employed 14th-century tactics on his victims... more»
“We like to think that we live in a violent time. But violence has declined every millennium, every century, every decade,” says Stewart Brand. “The reduction in cruelty is astounding”... more»
The 21 million students enrolled in American colleges are pursuing an education that many of them can’t afford, don’t need, and won’t finish. Louis Menand explains... more»
“I’ve spent most of my life hyped-up, doped-up, or drunk,” says Larry Flynt, who has now turned a somewhat more sober gaze to the sex lives of American presidents... more»... more»
Bernard-Henri Lévy, moral philosopher and vain gadfly, has taken many admirable stands – on Communism, Bosnia, Darfur. So why is this well-coiffed adventure seeker so hated?... more»
World War II revisionism – Churchill as war criminal, Allied bombers as terrorists – is often crude, but not without value. It adds complexity to our view of the past. Adam Kirsch explains... more»
Harvard has lost faith in itself. Tradition has been abandoned, says Harvey Mansfield, and all that remains is prestige. Harvard will hold on to that, because somehow “it can be used to deflate its pretensions”... more»
Primo Levi has been placed in a box labeled “Holocaust writer,” but his humanism and moral clarity resonate everywhere people are not free... more»
Forgive everybody everything. So say the self-help gurus. Maybe they’re right. But should forgiveness be reduced to something passive and empty, a sanctimonious way of simply moving on?... more»
Literature and law. At the Supreme Court, Hemingway and Wittgenstein loom large. Not so the scribblings of legal scholars, which are of no use and no interest to Chief Justice Roberts... more»
To some, the tension between security and privacy melts away with a simple retort: “I’ve got nothing to hide.” But it isn’t true. Even upstanding Arts & Letters Daily readers have things to conceal... more»
Word processors were going to liberate us from paperwork: “Machines should work, people should think.” But neither ideal is often enough the case. Now what?... more»
Chess and sex. At 19, Bobby Fischer lost his virginity at a brothel. Asked how it went, Fischer replied: “Chess is better.” Monomania marked his path from prodigy to pariah... more»
You know that Shakespeare was a word-coining genius who revolutionized the language – and the world. Did you know that he’s also responsible for the scourge of starlings in America?... more»
There are perhaps more meaningful takeaways from David Mamets political journey from left to right. But here’s one: Do not suggest trimming the man’s lofty hedges... more»
It’s tempting to dismiss Stanley Fish as a media-savvy provocateur. But his contrarianism has served a purpose: tempering the utopianism of his theory-addled colleagues... more»
What would Odysseus do? Faced with temptation, resistance is futile; willpower is no match for our rapacious appetites. We must tie ourselves to the mast of our best intentions... more»
The satirical economist. John Kenneth Galbraith delighted in mockery. No sacred tenet was safe from his ridicule. But a sneer isn’t an idea... more»
Edward Tufte wrangles sprawling data into elegant and restrained stories. He is the da Vinci of our information-drenched, hyperactively quantitative culture... more»
Malcolm X had a complicated relationship with his own image. He adopted a dozen aliases, and he cultivated an identity at sharp odds with the facts of his life... more»
Raised in relative poverty, Geoff Dyer continues to live with little money and no sense of sacrifice – “a valuable skill, almost a privilege, for anyone wishing to become a writer”... more»
To Christopher Hitchens, the vocal cord is more than a piece of gristle. His voice – biting, provocative, enlightening – is his identity. Now its gone... more»
The quest for truth requires a critical edge, sharpened by lies, hedges, and evasions. Truthfulness, says Julian Baggini, is largely a matter of deciding what to withhold... more»
Friendly self-censorship. Orwell derided Stephen Spender’s politics. Then they became friends. “I shall never again be able to show any intellectual brutality towards him, even when I ought to”... more»
This war is trivial,” said Bertrand Russell in 1918. “No great principle is at stake, no great human purpose is involved.” Jailed, he joined the largest group of political prisoners ever in a Western democracy... more»
Junot Díaz is a connoisseur of catastrophe: Haiti, post-Katrina New Orleans, Fukushima. In the wreckage, he finds revelation. “Sometimes we have to look in the ruins for hope”... more»
Yale University intends to prove something incredible: That a liberal-arts college can flourish in an illiberal society, and that academic freedom can survive where freedom of speech does not...more»
Sam Harris has faith that his fellow scientists are paragons of moral insight and circumspection. If so, says Jackson Lears, Harris’s arrogance and ignorance make him an outlier... more»
£5 a poem. That’s the price that Ted Hughes set in the early 60s when he began hawking his manuscripts – the ones that Sylvia Plath didn’t set on fire in their garden... more»
“In a way, I consider myself a utopian,” Daniel Bell said. “I believe more and more that if we can have utopian movements we’ll do better than if we have messianic movements“... more»
Sure, flogging is barbaric, retrograde, and ugly, but if you were sentenced to five years in prison and had the option of receiving lashes instead, which would you choose?... more»
The puzzle of poverty. Oucha Mbarbk lives in Morocco without enough work, money, or food, but with a television, DVD player, and cellphone. “Television is more important than food!”... more»
The student-loan market has $800-billion in debt, a lot of borrowers in default, and the federal government on the hook. How’s that for a big bubble?... more»
“Contrarian” doesn’t do justice to Christopher Hitchens’s talent for merciless barbs: “If you gave Jerry Falwell an enema, he’d be buried in a matchbox”... more»
How to account for the tedious mannerisms, digressions, and arbitrary promulgations that pervade Harold Blooms prose? “I refuse to be edited.” Ah, that explains it... more»
The gospel of Grayling. The philosopher says that he refashioned a 2000-year-old repository of moral thought in a spirit of “great humility.” Brendan O’Neill sees a different spirit at work: tyrannical hubris... more»
Scholars secluded in disciplinary silos can’t begin to understand social change. The result is bad social science. The cure, says Francis Fukuyama, is to train a new generation of Samuel Huntingtons... more»
Biblionecrophilia: The conversation about print’s demise has been consumed by nostalgia. As if Amazon will forgo e-profits after recalling the tactile thrill of curling up with a musty paperback... more»
Graffiti culture was once proudly anti-corporate. “There is no room for empathy when there is a motive for profit,” declared one prominent street artist. Then Levi’s came calling. more»
Politics and dirty hands. Are intellectuals who dealt with Qaddafi tainted? Perhaps. Are they chastened? Probably not. They’re too busy cozying up to Beijing... more»
God is not a feminist. You think otherwise? Eve is a disobedient, dangerous temptress. And the women of the New Testament, well, they’re either prostitutes or virgins. Take your pick, ladies... more»
When the Civil War began, the literati – Whitman, Emerson, Dickinson, Melville – erupted in support of the Union cause. But patriotic fervor soon gave way to skepticism, confusion, and moral ambivalence... more»
Insomnia can cause irritability, irrationality, and irascibility – also megalomania. Emmanuel Levinas found it the ideal state of mind for philosophical reflection... more»
“I would decriminalize drugs in a heartbeat,” says David Simon. “Take all the incarceration money, all the enforcement money, and hurl it as fast as you can at drug-treatment and jobs programs”... more»
With rare exceptions, college students are not visionary thinkers. And they never will be. So why should they bother with physics, calculus, or literature? Let them study something useful: entrepreneurship... more»
Murder and despotism, the legacy of Marxism? Terry Eagleton wants to correct the record. “Marx is no more responsible for the oppression of communism than Jesus is responsible for the Inquisition”... more»
Shortly after Oklahoma! opened to raves on Broadway, Oscar Hammerstein placed an ad in Variety listing five previous flops. He wrote: “I’ve Done It Before and I Can Do It Again!”... more»
Congratulations! Your richly imagined novel – or memoir, or vampire trilogy – is about to be published. But here’s some tough love: Dont expect glory, or even respect. You’ll get none... more»
Don’t let sepia-tinted nostalgia blind you: Baseball ain’t just fathers, sons, flyballs, and Cracker Jack. America’s most literary sport is also its most venal... more»
Gourmand or glutton? The former is a high-minded soul in search of foodie transcendence, the latter a weak-willed sinner. Or maybe the distinction is simply this: money... more»
Neuroscience revolves around one big idea: You don’t control most of what you do, think, and feel. Your brain calls the shots. Therein lie the seeds of a legal revolution... more»
In January, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva stepped down as president of Brazil. By any measure, says Perry Anderson, Lula is the most successful politician of his time... more»
Introducing the Norton Anthology of Paperwork: Tissue-thin pages of boilerplate, letterhead, fill-in-the-blank forms, and an annotated history of that most poetic instruction, “last name, first”... more»
The idea of the “other” – foreign, menacing – is catnip for scholars of violence, says Russell Jacoby. He takes another view: Wars more often pit brother against brother... more»
One of David Foster Wallace’s final acts was to leave the manuscript pages of a novel where his wife would find them. The Pale King, like Wallace’s life, feels unfinished, unresolved... more»... more»
What has the iPod wrought? Earbudded into isolation, merrily ensconced in our own expertly curated soundtrack, who any longer has a serendipitous interaction? The future belongs to solipsism... more»
The Western intervention in Libya – justified in moral terms – will be remembered as a war conceived by liberal intellectuals, and cheered on by liberal intellectuals... more»
The Japanese earthquake reveals once again our inability to predict events. Or our ability to avoid thinking about predictable events. John Brockman of Edge investigates... more»
While you await the return of prosperity, consider a future in which the rules of capitalism are undermined by a parade of disasters. How worried should you be?... more»
Some regard earthquakes as acts of God, others as acts of nature. Now we have new culprits: greedy corporations, stupid politicians. Why the need to assign blame for random disasters?... more»
“Whoever says he’s 100% right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.” That sentiment spoke to Czeslaw Milosz, but it barely resonates in our time... more»
“I’m dying,” Christopher Hitchens reports. Dying – not dead, and, one hopes, not for a long time. Still, the specter of a world without Hitchens floats before us... more»
In his more than 100 books, H.G. Wells anticipated television, atom bombs, and the Internet. Impressive – even more so because he also found time to bed most of literary London... more»
Some cultures endorse cannibalism, decapitation, infanticide. Morality, says Jesse Prinz, is relative. But objectivists shouldn’t despair: Self-destructive values rarely last... more»
Thoreau, Keats, Blake, and Shelley grasped the value of idleness, but is there any condition more out of sync with the goal-driven ethos of our age?... more»
Happiness is not a right, it’s a duty: We owe it to ourselves. But the burden of obligatory well-being has transformed the pursuit into a source of unhappiness... more»
Listen, my children, and you shall hear of a much-derided poem about Paul Revere. Hardly a man is alive who thinks fondly of that poem’s scribe. But Jill Lepore – ah, she knows Longfellow is no bore... more»
The voice of Cicero rings in Martha Nussbaum’s ear. Love of learning has made her selfish, he warns, demanding that she forsake her self-indulgent life as a scholar... more»
Thirty years and four psychoanalysts later, Stephen Metcalf remains a mystery to himself. He can, however, lay claim to a curious talent: Putting shrinks to sleep... more»
It’s come to this: live sex acts in the classroom. So much for the idea of universities as bastions of intellectual authority. Joseph Epstein offers a eulogy... more»
How best to elicit servility from an intellectual? Money helps, but nothing seduces like proximity to celebrity and power. Thus the allure of tyrants like Qaddafi... more»
The openness of Roland Barthes's intellectual style derived from the precision of his work habits. Details matter, or, as Barthes put it: "Insignificance is the locus of true significance"... more»
There are many reasons for the decline of bookstores, but just one large question: If they disappear, will people stop reading? Nicole Krauss has an answer... more»
In 1976 Sigrid Nunez moved in with her boyfriend, David Rieff, and his mother, Susan Sontag, who had some advice for the young couple: Stick to oral sex... more»
Paul Simon once sang, "Mama don't take my Kodachrome away." Alas, it's happened. Francis Fukuyama on the death of chemical, film photography and the rise of mindless pointers and clickers... more»
Meghan O'Rourke wants to tell the story of her mother's death - to make sense of what happened, and perhaps change the ending... more»... why write about grief?
What is the morality of nuclear retaliation? Is it ethical? Can any order to kill 20 million with the twist of a wrist be sane? Ron Rosenbaum has some ideas... more»... more»
Youth genres - action, raunchy comedies, comic-book adaptations - have completely colonized Hollywood. How did this happen? Two words: Top Gun... more»
A film school in Baghdad was bombed in 2006. The director, now in bulletproof vest, remains uncowed: "We have neither money nor power, but cinema can make our voices heard"... more»
"You are hereby invited to watch me face the firing squad." With that, Boris Pasternak handed off the manuscript of Dr. Zhivago. The book's relevance remains undiminished... more»
David Foster Wallace: His skill as an essayist is indisputable, but what about his fiction? The clever, ostentatious prose is catnip for grad students. As for the rest of us... more»
Who killed the femme fatale? The dark queen of film noir - smoldering truth-teller, erotic schemer - has disappeared from the silver screen... more»
What if Stalin's Great Terror was an act of self-defense? Of course you're incredulous, but revisionism reigns in the moral chaos of post-Soviet Russia... more»
"Each time I write something I promise myself I'll never do it again," says Arundhati Roy. "The fallout goes on for months. Increasingly, like of late, it turns dangerous"... more»
Populism has crept into the high-art world, so that museum-going now provokes vexing bouts of intellectual insecurity... more»
What do thoughts look like? Ted Serios, a volatile, alcoholic bellhop from Chicago, set about capturing his on film, literally... more»
Lewis Carroll, Chopin, Flaubert: All, we're told, suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy, which explains the strange delirium of their creative lives. The diagnosis also suggests a new understanding of genius... more»
Russia's political elite is exceptional in its ignorance. Meet defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov, a former store clerk who can hardly distinguish a destroyer from a tugboat... more»
"Never again" has never been more than an empty promise, and there's no reason to believe it will ever be otherwise. So suppose genocide isn't preventable. Then what?... more»
Is philosophy of science an obsolete pseudo-discipline? Stephen Hawking thinks so. But his work relies on the very sort of speculations that philosophers invented... more»
More women are covering themselves, more mosques are being built, more preachers are preaching. However, the Islamization of the Middle East has in fact depoliticized Islam... more»
What happens when a liberal feminist plays The Sims? She becomes a hawkish, stay-at-home mom who favors low taxes and small government. But of course... more»
Walt Whitman's Civil War verse was initially simple, boosterish, and full of masculine heroics - no "dainty rhymes" for him. The carnage at Fredericksburg forever changed his perspective... more»
The revolutions in Tunisia and Cairo clarify many things. Here's one: Economic gains do not ensure political stability. Are you listening, Beijing?... more»
If you want to build a better society, advises Robert Wright, don't bother with fancy philosophers. Epistemology, phenomenology, metaphysics, and $2.50 will get you a ride on the New York subway... more»
What does it mean to prepare for death? For Ann Hulbert's cancer-stricken mother, it meant refusing medical treatment. "I'm impatient to die," she murmured. But her family wasn't ready to let her go... more»
Californians used to be an optimistic and self-confident breed, their home a harbinger of America's utopian future. Today, however, the Golden State exudes hopelessness... more»
In 1927 Barbara Follett published a much-praised first novel. She was 13. The book was about a young girl who disappears. In 1939, Barbara vanished... more»
Humans are adept at reasoning about mental states - our own, others', even God's. But consider the implication: God as a figment of our overactive theory of mind... more»
The 19th century Russian revolutionary Mikhail Bakunin - globe-trotting anarchist, conspiracy-minded madcap - attracted a cultlike following. Sound familiar? Julian Assange is Bakunin with a laptop... more»
The Apprentice was a flop in Russia, where people aren't interested in reality shows about aspirational business types. Maybe it's because they know where those folks end up: jail... more»
Weak writing, amateurish acting, haphazard plotting: Mad Men says little of substance about the world it depicts. So what explains its widespread appeal? Daniel Mendelsohn has a theory... more»
Icon of a revolution. Four-term president. When Vaclav Havel retired, many expected him to fade away. He had another idea: direct his first film. "It is the last adventure of my life"... more»
What happened to Andrew Ross? The studliest cultural-studies stud of the 90s used to theorize about porn and Madonna. Now he's turning out wonky treatises on labor policy... more»
Marriage. Children. Career. Why rush? You're affluent, educated, and in your 20s; slacking is a form of self-discovery. This trend demands scholarly justification. Thus, "emerging adulthood"... more»
The media don't shape the culture; they merely reflect it, giving rise to today's common readers: Those who have fallen in love with their own mediocre taste... more»
Welcome to the new age of cultural populism: Elites are in retreat; hoi polloi have taken over. Could anything be more American?... more»
Egypt is shaking. All eyes are on the Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest and strongest opposition movement in the country. Who are these people? What do they want? more»
When it comes to writing sentences, we're told - by Orwell, by Strunk & White - that brevity is best. But a minimalist style can encourage minimalist thought, and that's a problem... more»
Living morally can be an arduous and unpleasant business. So why bother? Because living well depends on that very struggle. Ronald Dworkin explains... more»
The trouble with today's elites isn't that they attended Harvard or Yale. It's that during their time there they cultivated a taste for challenging books, big words, and boring films... more»
Both novelists and philosophers ask big questions and try to impose order on the muddle of the world. But can a novelist write philosophically?... more»
In the developing world, the wacky, superstitious, cuckoo aspects of some religious beliefs can seem as rational as Western science... more»
Literary fiction is a sanctuary from everything coarse and shallow. Or so many novelists believe. It might explain why they've long ignored the Internet... more»
The photos of Eadweard Muybridge were a technological triumph. Industrialization, however, inflicted damage; Muybridge captured that too... more»
"Our problems require solutions that neither the pure market, nor pure liberal democracy can adequately deal with," says Eric Hobsbawm. We need a different mix... more»
Among other faults, Mao lacked a sense of humor. Sarcasm, parody, and mockery were snuffed out of communist China. Irony, however, is now making a comeback... more»
Have you heard the one about how postmodern extremists on a vendetta against science have overrun anthropology? Hugh Gusterson has, and he's not amused... more»
Central bankers were to be the austere, ever-watchful last line of defense against financial crisis. At that they succeeded - and therein lies the problem... more»
Allen Ginsberg had a serene air about him, like Yoda, but with bigger ears. At least that's what Tyler Stoddard Smith remembers about him. Oh, and that Ginsberg peed on his shoes... more»
Political violence today is undertaken without explanation: No appeal to conscience, law, or the opinion of mankind. Permission to kill anybody is now assumed... more»... more»
We are in the middle of a revolution in consciousness, writes David Brooks. Like theology and philosophy, brain science will change how we view ourselves and the world... more»
Paul Theroux is 69, a good age to begin an autobiography. But after 500 words, he stopped with a realization: He can't be trusted to tell the truth about himself... more»
Science is capable of defeating death? That's an old delusion, writes John Gray. "Science enlarges what humans can do. It cannot reprieve them from being what they are"... more»
Few tyrannies will be tweeted out of power. But over years and decades, social media will enhance democracy. Be patient, urges Clay Shirky... more»
For centuries of writers, New York City has been hard to resist. Walt Whitman was entranced: "There is no place with an atom of its glory, pride, and exultancy"... more»
Benjamin Franklin thought it an abominable practice, our incessant verbing of nouns. But we can't help ourselves: Texting, friending, parenting, bookmarking... more»
Holocaust education has been a failure. It has made us uniquely gullible about the real enemies of liberal democracy... more»
End the war on drugs and you end the black malaise in America, says John McWhorter. "Before long, the image of blacks as eternal poster children would fade away"... more»
"Philosophy is dead," succeeded by science, says Stephen Hawking. But theoretical physics has abandoned empiricism and entered the realm of, well, philosophy... more»
P.T. Barnum offered up America as a nation of believers who, thanks to their pragmatism, didn't actually believe in much of anything... more»
Alan Sokal's 1996 hoax suggested that the left's critique of science would ultimately prove damaging to the left. He was right... more»
President Obama doesn't pursue a foreign policy bent on global domination like his predecessors? Think again, says John Mearsheimer... more»
There is no such thing as evangelical Christianity: The term represents a range of different theologies, practices, and religious movements... more»
Brutal, corrupt, and morally complex, Russia is the ideal setting for a novel. "A great slab of unprocessed pain sits toxically on the country's heart"... more»
The shore of the Aral Sea in Karakalpakstan is one of the strangest Jason Larkin has ever seen: "neither sand, mud, nor salt-crystals, but a chemically-mutated mash-up of all three"... more»
Faith and reason are not rival forms of knowledge. They are, in fact, complementary: Faith is religion's answer to the challenge of reason... more»
Is America in decline? Yes, says Paul Kennedy. But don't worry too much: Things aren't going badly wrong, they're just returning to normal... more»
The career of a suicide bomber lasts only an instant. He presses a button and flash of light turns a Nobody into a Somebody. An incompetent Somebody, maybe, but... more»
Edward Hopper was a painter without any sense of humor, wit, or self-awareness. He relied on cliché; it's all he understood... more»
Matt Ridley generates competing views wherever he goes. And if we ask what got humanity from its poor past to its rich present, maybe the wondrous variety of life is a key metaphor... more»
Writing about science poses a problem right at the outset: You have to lie, to choose inexact pictorial metaphors that allow nonscientists to put new scientific findings in proper perspective... more»
Roaring colors, bright lights, strange and perverse sights up every alley - welcome to Istanbul, a vital city at the epicenter of a political catastrophe... more»
Francis Fukuyama is puzzled: A rise in inequality has failed to drive support for a fairer distribution of wealth. How to explain this? Maybe it's because America is a plutocracy... more»
Natural is not always good. Nature is in fact cruel, brutal, and odious; and living naturally is an ugly, amoral, and awful business... more»
A PhD may offer no financial benefit over a master's degree. It can even reduce earnings. It is expensive to acquire and may unlock the door toward a slave-labor job. So why bother?... more»
In defense of disgust. Is the emotion of disgust a result of natural selection? Surely in part it must be. But does evolution give us a complete picture?... more»
Our intellectual life is becoming reactionary: opportunities are viewed as threats, hopes as dangers, progress as the unraveling of all that is beautiful and true...more»
As China ditches communism for despotic state capitalism, Chinese intellectuals are turning to Leo Strauss and Carl Schmitt for insight. What an unexpected taste in Western philosophers... more»
Gossip: dismissed as a vice, it is in fact a social necessity, a way of building alliances and friendships. No wonder diplomats are great gossips...more»
No doubting Charles Darwin was the greatest biologist of the 19th century. A shame, however, that his star has obscured another bright mind of the time: Richard Owen... more»
MFA programs are no longer hotbeds of literary inculcation, but the university has become the economic center of the literary fiction world... more»
The information revolution, we used to hear, was going to break the shackles of geography and make cities irrelevant. We'd all sit before our flat screens and - and what?... more»
Public speaking consistently ranks as one of life's most stressful events, up there with divorce, bereavement and foreclosure. Pity, then, the plight of the stutterer... more»
The reader meant to compliment Carl Klaus. "In the book, you're always so articulate. I wish I could talk like that." Come to think of it, he wished he could too... more»
Isabel Hapgood's 1891 Atlantic Monthly profile of the passionate Count Leo Tolstoy turned out to be oddly prophetic in terms of the novelist's life... Intro ... Profile
Unauthorized biographies: Public service or unseemly studies of the frailties of the famous? Kitty Kelley with a high-minded defense of a low-level pursuit...more»
The octothorpe, #. It's lived under many names: the hash, the crunch, the hex (in Singapore), the flash, the grid. In some circles it's called tic-tactoe, in others pig-pen... more»
Simply place the word "radical" in front of any Muslim name and the actual person magically disappears in a cloud of suspicion... more»
After the shock is gone. Pity the poor artist, heir to Marcel Duchamp, trying to advance a career by attracting attention from the jaded art world audience of today... more»
Art is beauty, expression, and energy in a form that emerges in its own time and on its own terms, says James Panero. So is the frenetic life of the web compatible with decent art criticism?... more»
Flaubert of Foggy Bottom, Dickens of Dupont Circle. Christopher Hitchens searches for a novelist who can capture the cynicism and tedium of life in the U.S. capital...more»
Science vs. art. "The great wall dividing the two cultures of the sciences and the humanities has no substance," says Jonathan Gottschall. "We can walk right through it"... more»
By stressing exchange as the key mechanism in the success of our species, Matt Ridley underplays education, law, patents, and science. Bill Gates likes Ridley's message, but... more»
We must get beyond the idea of classical music as a conduit to consoling beauty - a spa treatment for tired souls. Instead, use Berg and Ligeti to hear Bach and Mozart with new ears... more»
"Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written: ecstatically." Lila Azam Zanganeh wanted to know more about what John Updike thought of Nabokov. So she picked up the phone... more»
With its eclectic cocktail of ingredients - Greek, Roman, Persian, pagan and Christian - Qusayr Amra was Islam's first stab at creating a courtly culture... more»
Public health morality points its accusing finger at pleasure. But pleasure is a good. Governments should spend less on curbing smoking and more on promoting dancing... more»
The château's being crowded out. No doubt about it, Takashi Murakami and Jeff Koons look great in Versailles. But does Versailles benefit from having these works in its halls?... more»
In the 1990s, backpackers set off for the Third World by the droves. Enthralled primarily by one another, they regarded the natives with a mix of contempt and suspicion... more»
"In a better, purer world," writes David B. Hart, "ambition would be a disqualification for political authority." In our world, we elect those who have the ego-besotted effrontery to want office... more»
Resentment is not a zero-sum game because there is an infinite supply of it. A billionaire can resent just as well as a pauper: and, of course, vice versa... more»
Christopher Hitchens collapsed first on the New York leg of his tour, and had fluid drained from around his heart. An oncologist performed a biopsy... more»
The stigmatization of public virtue - and with it, devotion and care, is an insidious business, says Frank Furedi. Giving blood is not an act that ought to be on your CV... more»
"I happen to be an anti-Stalinist and an anti-Nazi," says Noam Chomsky, "so I don't think that the state should be granted the right to determine historical truth"... more»
Anton Chekhov is a mystery. Does he admire his characters or pity them? It's never obvious. And that dark irony, that pitiless gaze that make him truly our contemporary... more»
Expanding secularism may have set back religion severely as a force in history, but in doing so, it made life easier for some fundamentalists... more»
History should never be used to inculcate virtuous citizenship. Yet it offers the richest imaginable source of moral examples - the essence of great fiction, drama, and life itself... more»
Ed Dante, academic mercenary, will ace your Psych 101 term paper, or help "earn" you a Ph.D in history. If you have the money, Ed has the talent. Especially likes working with seminary students... more»
"The process of writing fiction is totally unconscious," says Nadine Gordimer. " It comes from what you are learning, as you live, from within. For me, all writing is a process of discovery"... more»
"In an academic environment that rewards being smart, how do I broach the idea that people with intellectual disabilities are fully equal?" Chris Gabbard on his son, August... more»
Can't say we didn't know enough. Our recent housing bubble was inflated despite - partly because of - amazing computer power, reams of data, and sophisticated models... more»
Why do so many intellectuals now pay polite obeisance to the historically absurd idea of separate domains for science and religion?... more»
As G.B. Shaw put it, "Custom will reconcile people to any atrocity" - including the use of animals in some scientific research. But can scientists guide us in drawing moral lines?... more»
McSorley's was a bar in a village in a city. But how can you have a village in a city? Robert Day wondered. By the end of August that summer, he understood... more»
Lenny Bruce suggested that to suppress a word gives it all the more power. Banning hate speech cannot be a means of dealing with harm it causes... more»
Picasso's feelings for communism were mirrored in his feelings about Catholicism. "My family they have always been Catholics"... more»
"I too am tempted to eff the ineffable," writes Roger Scruton. "I want to describe that world beyond the window, even though I know that it cannot be described but only revealed"... more»
Wallace Stevens's poetry is more beautiful, and Robert Frost's often more powerful, than T.S. Eliot's. But the latter's, once read, refuses to leave the mind... more»
Fukuyama, Huntington, Mearsheimer: three visions of the relation of the modern West to the rest. Three sets of ideas that connect, interlock, reflect, and short-circuit each other... more»
That John Stuart Mill, apostle of freedom, should have so enslaved himself to such a woman as Harriett Taylor shows that more is needed to be free than to live in a free country... more»
We live in an age where ordinary technical problems are dramatized and amplified, made into threats to civilization. Look what's happened to nightly TV weather forecasting... more»
In the hospital room, soon after her surgery, Hilary Mantel was seriously sick and delusional. "Don't worry!" she wisecracked before anyone else could, "It'll be fine! It's just like The Exorcist."... more»
The elimination of poverty ought to be within our grasp, and yet for hundreds of millions of people over the globe, it remains but a dream. Why can't the world's wealth be shared?... more»
Entrepreneurs aren't greedy: they are "lucky fools" whose delusions of pleasure create new wealth, new jobs, and new industries for the more timid. They risk it all that we may prosper... more»
In Russian, chairs are masculine and beds are feminine. So do Russians think of chairs as being more like men and beds as more like women in some way? Yes, says Lara Boroditsky... more»
Homer's Odyssey, the most magnificent travel record of all time, is about one man's courage, cunning, and will to prevail, with or without help from the gods. It is also about wisdom... more»
Conservatives love war, as long as it remains sublime in Edmund Burke's sense, with the aura and mystery of violence, pain, and death held at a distance. Corey Robin explains... more»
The Tea Partiers warn of an ominous New Elite that controls America. About that, at least, they are right. Not that the Elite itself knows exactly who or what it is... more»
The rise of populist anti-Islamic forces in northern Europe appears to reflect a betrayal of Europe's renowned social tolerance. Yet it's a situation fraught with complexity... more»
"Will language have the same depth and richness in electronic form that it can reach on the printed page?" Don DeLillo asks, "Does poetry need paper?"... more»
John Mitchell, Jr., the "Fighting Negro Editor," would "walk into the jaws of death to serve his race." A man of courage, passion, talent, and triumph in the face of racial hatred... more»
Real friendship involves risk. If a computer screen you ultimately control comes between you and your "friend," then it was not authentic friendship in the first place... more»
Reading Lolita at twelve: I saw the world through wiser eyes. What girl had that "soul-shattering, insidious charm" that made the antennae of certain adult males tremble?... more»
In Easy A, adolescent boys pay the lovely heroine for the privilege of saying that they slept with her. For our age - or any age - it's the double standard writ large... more»
Many books offer more wisdom and self-criticism than Gone with the Wind, or give us less fantasy and better realism. Still, such tattered volumes remind us of the readers we once were... more»
When he began Dilbert, Scott Adams mocked the very firm he worked for. "If you knew my backstory, you could sense my personal danger in every strip." Yes, he got fired... more»
Taxidermy, the chemistry of the morgue, is a cult obsession with contemporary artists, observes Simon Schama. Yet how much in this idea is really new?... more»
"The collapse of the stellar universe will occur - like creation - in grandiose splendor," No, Blaise Pascal did not say this. Werner Herzog explains... more»
Real ants offer no lessons in human moral conduct, says Deborah Gordon. Brave soldiers, dutiful factory workers: this is the stuff of our fictions, not insect behavior... more»
Somerset Maugham found it odd that Henry James ignored the most important fact of his day, the rise of the U.S. as world power, for the tittle-tattle of European drawing-rooms. Therein lies a lesson... more»
The long history of American “declinism” is rooted more in the collective psyche of our chattering classes than in any sober political and economic analysis... more»
Ought the exploits of Christopher Columbus be the occasion to take a day off work? He had a lot of bad attiudes by our standards. But history is complicated, as William Connell explains... more»
Dickens in Lagos, Maugham in Rangoon, Hardy in Mombasa, Dreiser in Bombay. Great novels of the past are not past at all in cities of the Third World. George Packer explains... more»
For Tolstoy, love is a great existential drama. To be mean and generous, depraved and decent, loving and murderous, not by turns but all at once – that is the true burden of our existence... more»
Where, pray, is a sense of honor in the academic and collegial life of the university today? After all, if there can be honor even among thieves, you’d expect... more»
For Ben Franklin, happiness meant overcoming the idea that the world, or other people, or God, or the state owes us a living. Owes us, in fact, anything at all... more»
Sustainability, uniting vaunting political ambition and comic burlesque, has the logic of a stampede. We must run for fear of some rumored, invisible threat. The real threat is the stampede itself... more»
Scientists offer evolutionary explanations of why we savor art and story-telling, but science will never give us the intense emotional experience we get from art. Brian Boyd explains... more»
The Keynesian worldview regards capitalism as in need of being saved from itself by big government. But the debt crisis in Europe and the U.S. demonstrates that big government is the problem... more»
The American appetite for all things Indian has grown over the years. There is no parallel interest in the culture of Pakistan. A new collection of writing begins to show why... more»
War in the desert, like war at sea, takes place over a vast, often inhospitable landscape, where flanks can be turned indefinitely; intelligence and agility are essential. T.E. Lawrence knew this... more»
Financing the welfare state depends critically on population increase. That a growing nation is a kind of Ponzi scheme was a fine idea when people still thought the Baby Boom would go on forever... more»
Our bankers are pretty lousy, but our writers are hardly better. So we submerge ourselves in B-class fiction: “smart,” middle-brow, fashionable, contrived, writer workshop, English-major fiction... more»
Since Stephen Hawking is the smartest man on earth and “the most revered scientist since Einstein,” when he tells us what it is to know the mind of God, he just can’t be wrong. Right?... more»
The overcontrolling parent. Playmates summoned via phone or text. Drop-off and pick-up times coordinated. Moms and dads pressed into service as chaperones or chauffeurs or coaches... more»
Wagner and his Ring are so easy to ridicule. So why is it that after the snickering dies away, people line up in their thousands to keep hearing this music?... more»
Rabbi Meir Kahane and his Jewish Defense League made Soviet Jewry the focus of his aggressive 1960s activism. But then one day, a bomb in Sol Huroks New York office changed everything... more»
The Locovore movement brings to mind William Morris and Arts and Crafts. His wallpaper and books didn’t stop the industrial revolution. But he left a legacy of beautiful things... more»
“However unpalatable it might be to our sense of racial pride, we as black people need to read the dead white men with alacrity,” says Lindsay Johns, defending the canon... more»
Progressives are not nihilists, nor are they opposed to the Constitution, nor are they socialists with a utopian faith in inevitable progress. Conor Williams to the defense of progressivism... more»
Michel Houellebecq thinks Alexis de Tocqueville has real prophetic powers. In fact, he predicted Houellebecq himself, an artist who believes in love and in eternal, unlimited happiness... more»
John Henry Newmans conception of a university was a serene and beautiful vindication of an old ideal of the scholarly life. Perhaps it has no place in the world today... more»
So far as the free world was concerned, said Gen. Walter Bedell Smith in 1954, French forces at Dien Bien Phu were engaged in a modern Thermopylae. Who else saw it that way?... more»
David Marksons library is dispersed, carried off by customers of The Strand bookstore. But much has been gained, and a dead man’s wishes have been honored... more»
Okay to hate the Pope. Anti-Catholic prejudice is one of the main themes of today’s increasingly conformist imagination, argues Frank Furedi... more»
Asked by a British historian why Lenin still lies in Red Square, an angry Vladimir Putin asked why a statue of Cromwell stands by Parliament in London. Look what Cromwell did to Ireland... more»
Independence of mind – as opposed to servility of mind – requires that we think our own thoughts: poor things many of them may be, but they are our own, and we have reasons for them... more»
I, Rigoberta Menchú. Was it really “a tissue of lies,” and “one of the greatest hoaxes of the 20th century”? Or was it a fine, perhaps even immortal, book? Greg Grandin argues his case... more»
A skilled actor pretending to be a medical expert can, alas, fool even real medical experts. The implications of this depressing fact are good news for Big Pharma... more»
Attenborough meets Dawkins. It’s almost too good to be true: on earth, life has come about in an intelligible process. And we’re the only earthly species that can understand it... more»
Political correctness is silencing a debate that Germans need to be having. Thilo Sarrazin has now been forced from his position at the Bundesbank, punished for having the wrong opinions... more»
For Peter Singer, the defining idea of the coming decade will be the Internet, which will democratize education, economics, and the media... more» But wait a minute, says Trevor Butterworth
Stars, planets, airplane lights? How dull. Much more arresting is the notion that we are so fascinating that aliens would travel zillions of miles through space just to visit us... more»
Greece’s debt is about a quarter of a million dollars for each working adult. But it gets even worse. Michael Lewis advises: Beware of Greeks bearing bonds... more»
Women – beheaded, burned to death, stoned, stabbed, electrocuted, strangled and buried alive – for the honor of their families. It’s barbaric and shameful, says Robert Fisk... part 1 ... part 2
“Thoughts are magnetic,” says Rhonda Byrne, “and they magnetically attract all like things that are on the same frequency.” Money must be on the same frequency... more»
Lady Chatterley produced a literary show trial, with scholars forced to overpraise a rather bad novel. They can be thankful there hasn’t been another such spectacle since... more»
While the intelligence needed to make a universe is superior to ours, it is recognizably similar to our own, argues John Gribbin. It need not mark an infinite and mysterious God... more»
As it moved from desktop to pocket, the idea of the Web as a medium driven by expression, attention, and reputation has fallen into doubt... more»
“It has become my passion to expand evolutionary theory beyond the biological sciences to include all things human.” says David Sloan Wilson... more»
“People who loved Sarah Palin are disappointed,” said one woman in Wasilla. “They found out that Sarah Palin loves Sarah Palin most of all”... more»
The death of the book as object of study. Will the faculty hold the line, or will no one be assigning whole books to students by 2020? Carlin Romano on Extreme Academe... more»
In the wake of Wagner’s achievement in Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal, the musical language that had been common property of Western composers fell into crisis... more»
The humanities have been gutted by decades of pretentious postmodernist theory and identity politics, says Camille Paglia. Consider, in contrast, the happy plight of the trades... more»
Philosopher Joel Marks, erstwhile Kantian, has become an amoralist. That’s right, he has thrown out morality altogether. What difference has it made?... more»
America’s need for cheap oil, credit, and consumer goods means Iraq and Afghanistan get fixed before Cleveland and Detroit. It’s not just about freedom, says Andrew Bacevich... more»
As regards pace of change, leftists are already more conservative than they like to admit, says Jonny Thakkar. Conservatives, however, should brush up on their Marx... more»
Susan Jacoby finds herself in a lonely place among liberals. She will not accept multiculturalism as an excuse to violate universal human rights... more» ... Nomad excerpts
So you think our daughter is a spoiled brat? Your problem is your whimpering son has not read Atlas Shrugged. He’s set to become a social parasite... more»
Kabul: you’ve never been there, you can’t speak the language or grasp the social complexities. No fear, says P.J. O’Rourke. After 72 hours, you’re an expert. Youre a reporter!... more»
The local food movement now threatens to devolve into another self-indulgent – and self-defeating – do-gooder dogma. Stephen Budiansky explains why... more»
William McGonagalls invincible delusion – that he was a theatrical and poetic genius without equal since the time of Shakespeare – merits not disdain, but sympathy and respect... more»
The Soviet Union didn’t collapse because of Reagan or Thatcher or Star Wars. It collapsed, says P.J. ORourke, because of Bulgarian blue jeans... more»
What do the Chinese really think about global warming and the West’s efforts to stop it? An answer to this crucial question is becoming visible... more» ... The Low Carbon Plot
In Turkey, it is normal to say that you will do something, have done it, or agree with something when, in fact, you won’t, haven’t, or don’t. Its not lying, its just being polite... more»
The problem with unsuccessful stories is usually simple, says Tim OBrien. They are boring, because of a failure of imagination... more»
Googles book search takes a group of the world’s great research library collections and returns them in the form of a suburban-mall bookstore... more»
Today’s environmentalism? Consolation prize for a gaggle of washed-up Trots, adjunct to hyper-capitalism; catalytic converter on the SUV of the global economy,” says Paul Kingsnorth... more»
Is classical music in decline? Heather Mac Donald denied it, and incurred the ire of Greg Sandow. The heated debate goes on ... Sandow ... Mac Donald’s response
Molière, the shape-shifter extraordinaire of the 17th century, became in time a playwright of huge political value – rather like Albert Camus in our own day... more»
Prince Charles finds modern architecture ghastly, loves homeopathy, and thinks coffee enemas can cure cancer. Well, his family is highly inbred... more»
Tenure – the ability to teach and conduct research without fear of being fired – is still the holy grail of higher education, one to which all junior professors aspire. Abolish it!... more»
American literature in the 19th century speaks in the 21st in terms we have not yet abandoned – for all our technology, globalism, and panache... more»
Surviving death. Perhaps your ghost will be a mute witness to goings-on down here. Or maybe it will be able to act, clanking a chain, or saying “Boo!” in the dark... more»
From Arabian night to Assyrian horrors. The history of Mesopotamia is one where culture, psychology, tribalism, and religious belief have never quite allowed for civil society... more»
How unlikely: a small community of intellectuals in a corner of 18th-century Europe changed world history. They not only wanted progress, they figured out how to attain it... more»
Conservative? Poet Geoffrey Hill is a far edgier artist than any of the swaggering, finger-clicking non-entities who claim to be taking poetry to the people... more»
Book thieves likely pride themselves that they show connoisseurship and erudition in their crimes. It takes knowledge and discrimination to be a good book thief... more»
Experiments are at long last changing the way social science is conducted. Yes, one day we will be able reliably to predict human behavior... more»
Only the peer reviewed need apply. Once upon a time, “peer reviewed” meant that research was validly arrived at, not fabricated. Today it often means hewing to the party line... more»
At the heart of the Enlightenment lies a core principle, says Tzvetan Todorov: the freedom of the individual. Today, attempts to “improve” on this principle court disaster... more»
He’d studied medieval poetry, but after 20 years in corporate life, this Rip Van Winkle decided to return to the groves of academe. It wasn’t college as he remembered it. Or maybe it was.. more»


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