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Since 1998, Arts & Letters Daily has linked to more than 17,000 articles, book reviews and essays. Consider supporting us. »
Nov. 19, 2019

Articles of Note

Clifton Fadiman, monarch of the middlebrows, was the target of endless snobby, self-regarding attacks. He deserved better... more »


New Books

James Wood’s transformation: Once fizzing with aphoristic insights, he now writes more carefully, often of aging, exile, and emotion... more »


Essays & Opinions

“I had rather see the portrait of a dog that I know than all the allegorical paintings they can show me,” held Samuel Johnson... more »


Nov. 18, 2019

Articles of Note

"Creepy" is a popular pejorative. But what exactly do we mean when we describe people, usually men, as creepy?... more »


New Books

When Elaine Stritch was called “iconic," she'd get exasperated. “Let’s all level and tell each other what ‘iconic’ means,” she'd say. “It’s a mouthwash!”... more »


Essays & Opinions

Victor Serge was a permanent oppositionist — a committed revolutionary who was a thorn in the side of every movement he supported... more »


Nov. 16, 2019

Articles of Note

John M. Ford was a celebrated science-fiction writer and a dazzling storyteller. When he died, his works disappeared. How did this happen?... more »


New Books

Chaucer’s family was proud of him. But did he really have to wear a tunic so short that it exposed his loins, in red-and-black hosiery?... more »


Essays & Opinions

"The question of what you are is qualitative, not quantitative. What sort? What life? What team? In late 1995, I chose to switch teams.” Deirdre McCloskey on changing gender... more »


Nov. 15, 2019

Articles of Note

“Do we have to read every fucking word the guy writes?” Philip Roth asked about John Updike. The two had spats but saw beyond the rivalry... more »


New Books

“I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child,” wrote Nabokov. So are his interviews at all worthwhile?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Unable to predict a crash or facilitate prosperity, economics is now a field of dubious value. And yet it retains an unearned intellectual authority... more »


Nov. 14, 2019

Articles of Note

Kate Manne’s moral quandary: to respond to all suffering, at the expense of herself? Or to prioritize her philosophical work and live with the guilt?... more »


New Books

When Wittgenstein went to war, the gossip machine quickly determined that he was a burnt-out wreck and a disgrace to the field... more »


Essays & Opinions

Ibsen was reviled by some as immoral, hailed by others as prophetic. James Joyce thought him the most influential intellect of his time. Ibsen retains his potency today... more »


Nov. 13, 2019

Articles of Note

What makes a "bad movie" good? "These sorts of movies fascinate me in the way a too-honest idiot does, after he’s had three or four drinks"... more »


New Books

Is most modern liberalism just the Christian heresy of Pelagianism by another name? A revisionist critique of John Rawls says yes... more »


Essays & Opinions

Which words should be banished? “Adorkable,” “YOLO,” and “influencer” are popular suggestions. But policing language is a fraught exercise... more »


Nov. 12, 2019

Articles of Note

Guilty pleasures make us feel guilty because we know the shoddiness of what we’re getting but desire it all the same. What's going on? Ask Adorno... more »


New Books

Elizabeth Bishop’s dogged pertinacity: She would spend years, even decades, on a poem. Every word, every nuance, had to be perfect... more »


Essays & Opinions

The origin stories of big ideas highlight the eureka moments. But it's the mundane work that is key. Inspiration favors the prepared mind... more »


Nov. 11, 2019

Articles of Note

On May 30, 1975, Nabokov appeared on Apostrophes, a French talk show. He drank whiskey from a teapot and glanced at notecards. The interview was marvelous... more »


New Books

The National Review, American Greatness, and The Claremont Review of Books share a vision of American nationalism. That vision is a lie... more »


Essays & Opinions

"Liberalism" is a slippery word for Americans, who have no experience of anything else. Now critics are falling over themselves... more »


Nov. 9, 2019

Articles of Note

“She walks like a bird, but that bird is a duck.” Short, plump, and ungainly, Loie Fuller was the unlikely star of the French Folies... more »


New Books

Lucian Freud thought Celia Paul was just another pretty muse. But she was a painter herself. Zadie Smith unpacks “museography”... more »


Essays & Opinions

When the Aztecs met Cortés, they did not think he was a deity. Rather, they scouted his forces and set up a war room. So why does another tale persist?... more »


Nov. 8, 2019

Articles of Note

A sexy, transgressive ’70s cult classic urged rolling the dice on life’s big decisions. A search for its elusive, alluring author ... more »


New Books

Science is trustworthy because it works, right? Well, most scientific theories throughout history have turned out to be false. Is our time different?... more »


Essays & Opinions

The sad-lady literary sirens are legion: Plath, Woolf, Jean Rhys. What would it mean, wonders Leslie Jamison, to move beyond them?... more »


Nov. 7, 2019

Articles of Note

In what way is Frank Sinatra the Jacques Derrida of pop music? Because no one was better at multilayered interpretations of lyrics. Ted Gioia explains... more »


New Books

Rivalries, alleged plagiarism, rapturous fandom — the giants of Russia’s golden age of literature had complicated relationships with one another... more »


Essays & Opinions

“Where man strives for knowledge, the Devil will never be far away.” Knausgaard contemplates the power and temptations of literature... more »


Nov. 6, 2019

Articles of Note

The LRB at 40. Seriousness, spats, and personal ads: “Bald, short, fat and ugly male, 53, seeks shortsighted woman with tremendous sexual appetite”... more »


New Books

Lydia Davis is a modern Vermeer, patiently observing everyday life, but from odd and askew angles... more »


Essays & Opinions

Cave art has been found on nearly every continent. What does it mean? That our Paleolithic ancestors knew something we still strain to imagine... more »


Nov. 5, 2019

Articles of Note

The most divisive question in fiction: Who gave you the right to tell that story? The answer, as 10 authors explain, is complicated... more »


New Books

In terms of its influence, The Economist has long been a publication like no other. It can plausibly be said to have made the modern world... more »


Essays & Opinions

Google has a “chief happiness officer,” a “treat yourself” ethic reigns, and happiness bloggers score viral hits. Yet peak happiness is a noxious goal... more »


Nov. 4, 2019

Articles of Note

Writers must not only write but also perform. J.D. Salinger simply refused. What was he keeping from us? That he was just as human as we are... more »


New Books

For García Márquez, the relationship between journalism and fiction was symbiotic: Journalism was an apprenticeship for fiction... more »


Essays & Opinions

Reading Kierkegaard can be dispiriting. He seems so dour, so tortured by inner turmoil. But he was, in some odd way, a happy writer... more »


Nov. 2, 2019

Articles of Note

A poetic smackdown: 100 years ago, T.S. Eliot celebrated “tradition” and bashed the avant-garde. His venue? The leading avant-garde forum of the day... more »


New Books

Jefferson's lofty vision for the University of Virginia was not shared by its early students. Riots in 1825 brought him to tears... more »


Essays & Opinions

Education of an architect. Aspiring to greatness is now conflated with aspiring to novelty, bolstering the field's affinity for what’s ugly... more »


Nov. 1, 2019

Articles of Note

Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe couldn’t keep their hands off each other. Nude portraits were part of their courtship: “I’ll make you fall in love with yourself,” he told her... more »


New Books

In John Hersey's day, all news was slow news. Hiroshima appeared more than a year after the bombing. The delay contributed to its style, substance, and accuracy... more »


Essays & Opinions

Young Lucian Freud delighted in shocking visitors. He maintained a grisly cast of mounted animals in his home, and stored two dead monkeys in his kitchen oven... more »


Oct. 31, 2019

Articles of Note

A new generation of figurative painters does much right, but there’s something irksome about their work: an overdependence on academic methods... more »


New Books

By the end of his life, John Rawls had a stature so great that he shaped the very idea of what philosophy is. Has this become a problem?... more »


Essays & Opinions

To accommodate drinking, the Literary Review established the Academy Club. Poets were banned for never paying their tabs and for bad conversation... more »


Oct. 30, 2019

Articles of Note

Social scientists have championed theories of human infallibility in many matters. But mistakes are central to who we are... more »


New Books

Jill Lepore's problem. She is among the most eloquent preachers of the liberal gospel. Yet she's preaching in increasingly radical times... more »


Essays & Opinions

Lusty retirees and power-lifting septuagenarians churn out books chronicling the joys of aging. It’s all quite misleading, of course... more »


Oct. 29, 2019

Articles of Note

After years of downsizing and intrigue, Condé Nast’s glossy-magazine empire is becoming the one thing it never was: normal... more »


New Books

Is the modern world receptive to ancient ideas? A new series of compact and handsome pocket-sized translations seeks to find out... more »


Essays & Opinions

"One doesn’t want to share in that old-man vibe and die of a heart attack after a student protester shows us her breasts." Justin E.H. Smith on avoiding Adorno's fate... more »


Oct. 28, 2019

Articles of Note

Since the Enlightenment, we have tended to define human identity and worth in terms of the values of science. This is an odd and blinkered notion... more »


New Books

On a February night in 1965, William F. Buckley squared off against James Baldwin. For Buckley, it was his most satisfying debate. For Baldwin, not so much... more »


Essays & Opinions

John Ashbery was famous for his impenetrability. "My poetry is disjunct," he said, "but then so is life." Fair enough. But is it fair to the reader?... more »


Oct. 26, 2019

Articles of Note

The London Review of Books has reached its 40th anniversary. But its influential editor, Mary-Kay Wilmers, isn't celebrating... more »


New Books

Howard Zinn told America's story as a simplistic melodrama. But the latest attempt to create an appealing alternative is no less flawed... more »


Essays & Opinions

Why are some intellectuals pardoned for past sins, but others condemned? Case study: the reaction to a new collection by the “fascist icon” Charles Maurras... more »


Oct. 25, 2019

Articles of Note

What's become of commanding critics in the past 20 years? Most have died — and it's no longer obvious how much literary matters matter... more »


New Books

Wokeness and its discontents. Has social-justice activism devolved into narcissistic sloganeering? Maybe. But the left doesn't have a monopoly on navel-gazing... more »


Essays & Opinions

Bartleby, autistic? Melville, on the spectrum? Literary critics used to make such armchair diagnoses, but now they’ve gotten more sophisticated... more »


Oct. 24, 2019

Articles of Note

The politics of bread. From the Roman cry of “bread and circuses” to the suffragettes’ “bread and roses,” flour has had a highly political role in history... more »


New Books

Auden described poetry as "a way of happening." Poetry matters because it represents the possibilities to which intelligent and humane social life should point... more »


Essays & Opinions

Peter Handke has been widely denounced for his politics, but what of his prose? Turns out it’s associative, digressive, oneiric, and, above all, idiosyncratic... more »


Oct. 23, 2019

Articles of Note

The unhappiness of Andrea Long Chu — the critic talks gender dysphoria, trans theory, and why she’s in a “sexless marriage” with herself... more »


New Books

Identity politics was the one form of politics Susan Sontag didn’t want to play. She didn't want to be a Jewish critic, a feminist author, or a lesbian writer... more »


Essays & Opinions

J.S. Bach, bad boy. We remember him as a saint, but he downed beer by the gallon, got mixed up in knife fights, and consorted with women in the organ loft... more »


Oct. 22, 2019

Articles of Note

Curiosity is a frustratingly fickle sensation. Want to ensure that you channel your curiosity well? Read more Arts & Letters Daily... more »


New Books

Condé Nast’s formula: “appeal to a moneyed, aspirational readership.” As glossy magazines decline, is anything lost along with the elite tastemaker-editor?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Parents whitewash parenting. For the truth, turn to Knausgaard: The car seat will humiliate you; you will panic in silence... more »


Oct. 21, 2019

Articles of Note

What Salinger left behind: family photos, annotations on spiritual texts, notes for a lawsuit against a con man impersonating him... more »


New Books

Daniel Mendelsohn's critical art. His commitment to nuance and his synoptic view of a subject, whether ancient or contemporary, make him essential... more »


Essays & Opinions

Everyone, academics included, hates academic writing. But maybe the disgust is misplaced. Could it be that most academic writing is actually pretty good?... more »


Oct. 19, 2019

Articles of Note

At his best, Slavoj Žižek is a posturing charlatan. At his worst, he is repetitive, reactionary, at times even racist... more »


New Books

Germaine Greer's On Rape has been widely lambasted as "deeply ill-informed." That's unfair, says Mary Beard. But that doesn't mean it's a good book... more »


Essays & Opinions

Reading is not a team sport. Thus, when we talk of the historical or cultural power of the novel, we may miss its real strength: establishing intimacy... more »


Oct. 18, 2019

Articles of Note

When the Times called A.O. Scott about a film-critic job, he had written just one film review and hadn’t been to the movies in a year... more »


New Books

A subversive history of music. New sounds come from the margins — slaves, outlaws, criminals, poor country folk, foreign emigrants, and inner-city kids... more »


Essays & Opinions

Since Shakespeare's day, theaters have been uniquely flammable. Thus early Broadway theaters’ obsession with fire escapes. Forty wasn’t too many... more »


Oct. 17, 2019

Articles of Note

Ask a speaker of English, Tahitian, or Swahili how many colors there are, and you’re likely to get the same answer: 11. How come?... more »


New Books

How should we think about what it is to read, what forms that reading takes, and why we turn to books in the first place? Leah Price has answers... more »


Essays & Opinions

Memoirs From Beyond the Grave. Chateaubriand wanted his 2,000-page book published only after his death. Then financial hardship struck... more »


Oct. 16, 2019

Articles of Note

Ron Vara has a back story, a Harvard pedigree, and strong views on China. He's also a figment of the Trump adviser Peter Navarro's imagination... more »


New Books

Are innovators creative geniuses or mere tinkerers? Edison was unequivocal: “I’ve got no imagination. ... My so-called inventions already existed”... more »


Essays & Opinions

Wittgenstein's house on a lake was built as a retreat from the world. But it turns out he was an oddly ostentatious recluse... more »