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Since 1998, Arts & Letters Daily has linked to more than 17,000 articles, book reviews and essays. Consider supporting us. »
July 11, 2020

Articles of Note

The Shostakovich problem. What is it about the composer that makes some people withhold their approval?... more »


New Books

As Martin Amis wrote, art “celebrates life,” increasing “the store of what might be lost.” Can art — at the same time — lament what will be lost in climate change?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Covid-19 has exposed Anglo-America as woefully lacking in crucial ways. In rebuilding, the world will turn to Germany, Japan, and South Korea... more »


July 10, 2020

Articles of Note

What was the origin of the novel? Perhaps it was Robinson Crusoe, perhaps Don Quixote. Or perhaps the question is nonsensical... more »


New Books

A pain “unlimited in both intensity and duration.” For George Scialabba, depression seemed as if it would never end, and life became an eternal, excruciating present... more »


Essays & Opinions

YouTube, as Nicholson Baker explains, is an “indispensable, life-enhancing tool, and also a source of poisonous neo-medieval yammering”... more »


July 9, 2020

Articles of Note

A bold broadside against a dogmatic intellectual culture? Or “fatuous, self-important drivel”? Artists, writers, and thinkers react to that Harper’s letter... more »


New Books

Culture, identity, psychology — Instagram takes the content of our private lives to digitize, feed through algorithms, and repackage for our consumption... more »


Essays & Opinions

“Masque of the Red Death. Statue of Pericles. Tigers.” Patricia Lockwood shares her notes from living with coronavirus... more »


July 8, 2020

Articles of Note

Against “decency, morality, and good taste” the men of 1840s Brighton, England invariably swam naked. The problem was acute at low tide... more »


New Books

“She was a good old stick,” said Orwell, when his first wife died at the age of 39. But Eileen Blair’s story was more interesting than that... more »


Essays & Opinions

A hunger for auditory escape. Now 40 years old, the Walkman was the device that taught us social distancing. Its legacy lives on today... more »


July 7, 2020

Articles of Note

Composers come in the form of two seasons — winter and summer. Gustav Mahler, who worked in a shed beside a lake, is the archetypal summer composer.... more »


New Books

To read Seamus Heaney is to experience a downward and backward pull. What drew him to bogs, slime, and ritualized violence?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Gregory Bateson was one of the most wide-ranging intellects of the counterculture. His ideas are attuned to the peculiar dysfunctions of our own time... more »


July 6, 2020

Articles of Note

"Patriotism is a moral mistake and an intellectual mistake, a mistake twice over," says George Kateb. "We are all subject to it"... more »


New Books

Glamour is a form of persuasion, says Virginia Postrel, and jet-age glamour changed the way people think about the relationship between humans and technology... more »


Essays & Opinions

Matisse was a lover of women. Karen Wilkins explains the layered richness of his response to the female body... more »


July 4, 2020

Articles of Note

Michelangelo outlived his patrons, assistants, friends. Late in life he took on huge, daunting projects, fully aware that he would not see them completed... more »


New Books

The bunker is one of the oldest building types made by humans, dating to around 1200 BC. Its dark charisma endures... more »


Essays & Opinions

The melancholy of reading Max Weber resonates today, maybe more than ever, even if he offers little illumination and less consolation... more »


July 3, 2020

Articles of Note

What’s it like working in publishing while Black? Seven industry insiders on rank discrimination, systemic racism, and the misconconception that “Black books don’t sell”... more »


New Books

All is not minimalism. According to Kyle Chayka’s recent book, Duchamp, Wittgenstein, and Marx all inform modern minimalist lifestyles. Not quite... more »


Essays & Opinions

“Britain’s a world/By itself,” says a typically villainous Shakespearean character. The Bard has always been somewhat miscast in the role of England’s national poet... more »


July 2, 2020

Articles of Note

There’s no reason that the art gallery as we know it, a 19th-century invention, should last forever. Does it have a post-pandemic future?... more »


New Books

Why do people swim? "To witness metamorphosis, in our environment, in ourselves. To swim is to accept all the myriad conditions of life"... more »


Essays & Opinions

The miseries of the male libido were obsessions of Bellow, Roth, and Updike. Now, if male novelists take up the subject at all, they force sex into a neat moral framework... more »


July 1, 2020

Articles of Note

The social cost of cheap food. In Victorian England, rock-bottom prices meant poverty for food growers and sellers. So, too, in the rest of the world today... more »


New Books

The scientist J.B.S. Haldane is best remembered as an example of how someone so smart can be so dumb when enthralled by ideology... more »


Essays & Opinions

Max Weber’s troubles were at least in part sexual — castration was discussed as a cure. That changed when he met Else Jaffé in his later years... more »


June 30, 2020

Articles of Note

Joyce Carol Oates and the war against literary pieties. Novels should have “symmetry, unity of tone, precision” the thinking went. She is having none of that... more »


New Books

How to be alone. Solitude is not about alienation, isolation, or even physical surroundings. It's a state of mind... more »


Essays & Opinions

Do theoretical asides — like those in The Magic Mountain — happen on the level of plot? The novel of ideas is full of such riddles... more »


June 29, 2020

Articles of Note

You may not have heard of Jean-Michel Frank, but he helped create minimalism. To channel his vision: “Throw out and keep throwing out!”... more »


New Books

Innovation is prized but misunderstood. We don't how it happens or how to nurture it. We can't even agree on what it is... more »


Essays & Opinions

"Time exists, as love exists, as a myth: real because contingent, real because constructed, a catch-all term for phenomena bigger"... more »


June 27, 2020

Articles of Note

"The worst-case scenario, which is entirely possible, is a historical bloodletting in academic research unlike which you have never seen"... more »


New Books

Driverless cars are not primarily about saving lives. They are about eliminating contingency and replacing it with machine-generated certainty. That's terrifying... more »


Essays & Opinions

The Point, n+1, Jacobin — today’s little magazines all suffer from the same flaw: a congenital addiction to seriousness... more »


June 26, 2020

Articles of Note

Sianne Ngai renovated the field of aesthetics by studying the small stuff: the cute, the zany, and now, in her magnum opus, the gimmicky... more »


New Books

All shall be saved. Hell is a vestige of Christendom, not of Christianity itself. David Bentley Hart explains... more »


Essays & Opinions

Henry Fielding, Adam Smith, and other 18th-century intellectuals found no food finer than the potato. It was Enlightenment superfood — the kale of its time... more »


June 25, 2020

Articles of Note

Victorian women with the temerity to harbor their own ambitions faced a bitter sequence of humiliation, betrayal, and scandal... more »


New Books

For Patricia Churchland, conscience is rooted in evolutionary biology; moral choices are explained away by neuroscience. Raymond Tallis isn’t buying it... more »


Essays & Opinions

“The cat of the wood,” “the stag of the cabbages” — if there is magic in this world, no small part of it lies with that majestic creature, the hare... more »


June 24, 2020

Articles of Note

Despite their pivotal role in our lives, we read so little about door handles. Yet their story is, in microcosm, that of architecture... more »


New Books

After years of correspondence, Thomas Wentworth Higginson finally met Emily Dickinson, who promptly unleashed — in a torrent — a literary manifesto... more »


Essays & Opinions

Was the chilly stroll by Rudolf Carnap and Martin Heidegger in Davos in 1929 the moment that analytic and Continental philosophy truly split?... more »


June 23, 2020

Articles of Note

It was in the gym that Bruce Lee, a failing philosophy student, turned his musings into mantras: Using no way as way; having no limitation as limitation... more »


New Books

Being Kierkegaardian precludes any dutiful fealty to Kierkegaard himself. Unfortunately, a new book misses this point... more »


Essays & Opinions

What has the coronavirus revealed? For many, the answer is: “Whatever I thought was wrong with the world before, well, this proves it”... more »


June 22, 2020

Articles of Note

Until 1834 there was no general name for those who studied the material world. Then the English philosopher William Whewell coined one: scientist... more »


New Books

Longfellow’s ode to Fanny Appleton was not welcome: “It is desultory, objectless, a thing of shreds and patches,” she said. They married four years later... more »


Essays & Opinions

Can American racism be seen in the same terms as the murderous ideology of the Nazis and be similarly discredited? No, such a comparison only confuses... more »


June 20, 2020

Articles of Note

The end of the performing arts? The pandemic has muted symphonies and opera houses. When they return, things will not be the same... more »


New Books

Military overreach, excessive spending and taxation, the rise of Christianity: many explanations for the fall of Rome. Was a pandemic to blame?... more »


Essays & Opinions

“The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us.” So wrote James Baldwin in 1965, in words that echo today... more »


June 19, 2020

Articles of Note

Mozart wrote some of his most sublime works in E flat major. There is no better key in which to hear music in dark times... more »


New Books

The race for domination in publishing Trump tell-alls is between Simon & Schuster and Henry Holt. For now, Simon & Schuster is winning... more »


Essays & Opinions

In his 90s, Habermas is increasingly consumed by questions of faith and religion. His latest book spans more than 3,000 years and 1,700 pages... more »


June 18, 2020

Articles of Note

Darwin and the earthworms. To prove their intelligence, he glued leaves together, shouted at them, and serenaded them with a bassoon... more »


New Books

For Deirdre Bair, being Beckett’s biographer entailed exhausting hours spent on bar stools, keeping out of the reach of drunken Irish poets and professors... more »


Essays & Opinions

Loud, constant parakeet chatter, the squawking of crows – there is no such thing as bad birdsong, a welcome respite from self-absorption... more »


June 17, 2020

Articles of Note

In the 15th century, “correctors” toiled away in printing shops, earning a pittance for their scholarly labors. Such is the quintessential fate of humanists... more »


New Books

Frida Kahlo's years in Paris were a high point of her life. She spent much of her time conveying disdain for French culture... more »


Essays & Opinions

How to decide which statues can remain standing and which should be toppled because they honor racists? Julian Baggini offers a rational... more »


June 16, 2020

Articles of Note

Flannery O’Connor’s racism. She was a product of her time, her defenders say — but that understates her intellectual independence... more »


New Books

In 1911 Einstein moved to Prague, becoming part of an intellectual milieu that would influence Central Europe for decades to come... more »


Essays & Opinions

“The intractable problem for thinking beyond the nation-state is that its imputed obsolescence can neither be easily forced nor messianically awaited”... more »


June 15, 2020

Articles of Note

Philip Roth and Robert Stone were anarchic in their hedonism, yet fanatically disciplined as writers... more »


New Books

“I’ve argued that humans have evolved to be fundamentally sociable creatures.” Apparently that passes for a bold claim these days... more »


Essays & Opinions

Is an exhausted liberalism being supplanted by a successor ideology that's apparent everywhere? Ross Douthat makes the case... more »


June 13, 2020

Articles of Note

For Hollywood’s silent-film stars, celebrity faded quickly — and no family experienced it as intimately as the Costellos... more »


New Books

How can a 976-page biography of Warhol fail to contain a single fresh idea? Gary Indiana on an “incredibly prolonged, masturbatory trance of graphomania”... more »


Essays & Opinions

Descartes argued that developing grand philosophical visions requires meditative solitude. Is such work incompatible with being a parent?... more »


June 12, 2020

Articles of Note

“When intellectuals can do nothing else they start a magazine,” wrote Irving Howe. What sounds like an admission of futility is the opposite... more »


New Books

Gulch, hankering, woolypates, foofoo, squaw: Behold the promiscuous range of Walt Whitman’s vocabulary... more »


Essays & Opinions

“The real point about Communists,” wrote Vivian Gornick decades ago, is that they “were like everybody else, only more so.” Her point is finally sinking in... more »


June 11, 2020

Articles of Note

The Lake District poets, so radical during the French Revolution, quickly turned conservative. Wordsworth’s apostasy was the hardest to swallow... more »


New Books

“It is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil,” wrote Keynes. But his own story points to ideas' limited power... more »


Essays & Opinions

Minimalism was in, KonMari was all the rage, and then a pandemic hit. Now clutter is useful as never before... more »


June 10, 2020

Articles of Note

Things unlikely to go viral: a classical musician’s monotonous practice. And yet the rise of the bassoonfluencer is real... more »


New Books

“Origins and Entropy,” “Particles and Consciousness,” “Duration and Impermanence": How pop science became metaphysical self-help... more »


Essays & Opinions

Charles Portis, author of True Grit, died in February at 86. He was a master of American vernacular... more »


June 9, 2020

Articles of Note

The project to collect and publish Samuel Johnson's massive oeuvre began during the Eisenhower administration. It has finally come to fruition... more »


New Books

When Mary Bunting created an institute for high-achieving women, she knew she had to provide them with the material support that would allow them to succeed... more »


Essays & Opinions

To see the Third Reich captured in 100 vile objects is to realize how good the Nazis were at photography and industrial design... more »


June 8, 2020

Articles of Note

After the publication of “The Song of Hiawatha,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was everywhere. Then he was ejected from the pantheon. What happened?... more »


New Books

For James Wood, critics must always answer one fundamental question: “What’s at stake in this passage?”... more »


Essays & Opinions

Want a job in academia? No problem — as long as you specialize in Shakespeare, Romanticism, Victorianism, modernism, and everything else... more »