Orchestra after the Anschluss. It was mostly business as usual for the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics. But a surreal otherworldliness echoed inside and outside the concert halls... more »

The novel has been declared dead so many times that such arguments are less interesting than theories about why they keep being made... more »

In the darkness, she saw her father perched on a ledge. “I’m going to jump!” he yelled. Her mother replied, “Why don’t you?” Just another night in the Tynan household... more »

Suicide, self-destruction, poetry. Berryman, Plath, Chatterton, Larkin, Frost, Auden: Is an unhappy end a necessary price for poetic genius?... more »

Being married to Thomas Carlyle, said a friend, must be "something next worse to being married to Satan himself." Carlyle's wife, Jane, made the most of the situation... more »

Machiavelli was not Machiavellian, but just a good-hearted guy who wrote The Prince ironically. Or so asserts a new book. Terry Eagleton is having none of it... more »

Why has The Hatred of Poetry been such a publishing success? Yes, Ben Lerner is witty and charming. But more important, he gives readers permission to be a bit philistine... more »

Gay Talese’s eye for detail has made him a legend. But his obsession with observation can preclude deeper insights... more »

When failure to get the story was the story. The trope pervaded the New Journalism. Now Joan Didion shares her journalistic defeat: the South... more »

Karl Miller was an editor at The Spectator and the New Statesman, and co-founded the London Review of Books. He was pugnacious, wise, and, not least, a good father... more »

Il Duce's last lover. The myth of Mussolini as the leader who never flagged, a man of power and daring, cast a spell on Claretta Petacci. "I’d like to jump onto your bed like a big tomcat"... more »

When it comes to precise and memorable extended descriptions, Elizabeth Bishop is unrivaled. Yet great poets provoke strong emotions, and her verse lacks fire... more »

Tennyson despaired at the existence of fossils; Darwin mocked such thinking as “catastrophist.” Our notion of extinction rests on the relationship between the arts and sciences... more »

Angela Carter’s becoming a feminist icon and darling of academics was an unhappy development for her. "The thought that I’m taught in universities makes me feel rather miserable”... more »

The impediments of style. Terry Eagleton’s writing proceeds by jokey elaboration, winking asides, and absurdist flights of fancy. It’s fun, but frustrating... more »

Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac grew up speaking joual, a working-class dialect of Canadian French. Later, going by “Jack,” he would shape the nature of Americana... more »

Every perished democracy died in its own way. In 1930s Germany, what mattered most was that so many citizens were willing to allow Hitler to do what he did ... more »

Find the moral landscape of our times rather impoverished? You're not alone. Rod Dreher suggests taking a cue from a sixth-century monk and retreating from modernity... more »

The myth of Machiavelli as an amoral schemer is just that — a myth. But as to whether he had a dim view of women, even by the standard of Florentine men of his era: guilty as charged... more »

Didion in Faulkner country. In her 1970 travels, she discovered the morbidity of New Orleans, the rarity of bikinis, and the difficulty of ordering dinner after 8 p.m.... more »

Why do writers write? Narcissism, rage, a quest for ecstasy, a therapeutic impulse. Then there’s J.M. Coetzee, who writes out of apathy... more »

Possessing, per Orwell, a “general hatred of humanity,” Jonathan Swift was a peerless misanthrope. He told Alexander Pope he wanted “to vex the world rather than divert it”... more »

Evelyn Waugh, the funniest writer of his generation, was a famously charming companion. Unless you were a member of his family... more »

Sleuthing word origins has become a game that anyone can play. Now the old founts of linguistic innovation are falling. Poor James Joyce... more »

Cézanne, who grew up in a mountainous region, was a master of line. Turner, from London, was expert in mist and fog. Does geology dictate art?... more »

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