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

Articles of Note

Susan Sontag, self-improvement guru. Her goals included better posture, eating less, writing home more, and not publicly criticizing anyone at Harvard... more »


New Books

Michel Houellebecq wrote about terrorism pre-9/11 and provincial protest pre-gilets jaunes. It’s like he’s hired the zeitgeist as his publicity agent... more »


Essays & Opinions

The re-fructifying of Saul Bellow. After he recovered from a coma incurred in the Caribbean, his 80s may constitute the best final act in American letters... more »


Jan. 16, 2019

Articles of Note

Artistic citizenship can mean simply sharing a local identity. It can also convey a social responsibility. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on why she is not an “African writer”... more »


New Books

At 39, listless and depressed, Winston Churchill took to the canvas. Although some of his works evoke paint-by-numbers, he was generally a “successful amateur”... more »


Essays & Opinions

How wide is the circle of ideas not worthy of discussion? Which beliefs should be judged as “out of bounds” — and who gets to be the referee?... more »


Jan. 15, 2019

Articles of Note

The real Socrates? Plato’s version is pure rationality. Xenophon’s dispenses practical advice, like the merits of dancing alone... more »


New Books

The 1943 cast recording of Oklahoma! put the Broadway musical at the center of American popular culture. It didn't stay there for long... more »


Essays & Opinions

Death of the author? Barthes’s 1967 declaration made sense at the time, but authorship has been hard to do away with... more »


Jan. 14, 2019

Articles of Note

Online literary salons were unprofessional, charming, and reliant on free labor. No more. The golden age of book blogging is dead. In its stead: Bookstagram... more »


New Books

His works are not Gothic; they are not parody or satire; they are funny but not jokey. It's weird how Edward Gorey's art is ubiquitous but hard to characterize... more »


Essays & Opinions

The philosopher’s penchant for argument is grounded in a conception of the good life and the duties of good citizenship. It also inevitably makes him come off as an arsehole... more »


Jan. 12, 2019

Articles of Note

Elizabeth Anderson asks, ""What's the point of equality?"" Is she the philosopher best suited to this awkward moment in American life?... more »


New Books

In 1889, Debussy visited the world’s fair, which featured the Eiffel Tower. What impressed him more was an opera featuring “a furious little clarinet”... more »


Essays & Opinions

A viciously critical review, with finely honed mockery and acid-tipped one-liners, is born of righteous fury. But it can become pure joy... more »


Jan. 11, 2019

Articles of Note

When writers were considered dangerously influential. Inside the FBI dossiers on Sontag, Baldwin, Hemingway, Ginsberg, Du Bois... more »


New Books

“I will not be ‘famous,’ ‘great,’” wrote Virginia Woolf in her diary in 1933. Also revealed in her private writing: cattiness and casual racism... more »


Essays & Opinions

Victor Klemperer’s diaries, which recorded the creeping Nazification of German society, are masterful; his earlier reports are less so... more »


Jan. 10, 2019

Articles of Note

A history of assassination. Firearms and explosives are the most popular methods, but perhaps not the most effective. Sometimes it takes an ice pick... more »


New Books

From the French Revolution to 19th-century Germany to the founding of The New Republic, liberalism has lived many lives. Will it continue to survive?... more »


Essays & Opinions

An American philosopher in Paris must contend with the noisome beast known as "French theory." And marvel at how Derrida was able to tantalize the Anglophone world... more »


Jan. 9, 2019

Articles of Note

Editing Proust. When he died, in 1922, his manuscripts were riddled with inconsistencies: a character perishes on page 221, and is alive on page 257... more »


New Books

Iris Murdoch believed that description is never neutral, that our relentless egos block understanding, and that the answer to egotism is love... more »


Essays & Opinions

Essays and essayists. The form requires a combination of exactitude and evasion, and — on writers’ part — sensitivity, tenderness, and slyness... more »


Jan. 8, 2019

Articles of Note

Degas, extraordinary artist and brilliant innovator, helped lead the 19th-century artistic vanguard. But he was a perfectly ordinary anti-Semite... more »


New Books

Boethius is the patron saint of bullshit detection. His self-appointed heir apparent, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, has made it a way of life... more »


Essays & Opinions

What did Homer mean when he described the sea as "wine-dark": red, white, or rosé? Such debates keep the classical language alive — and Mary Norris enthralled... more »


Jan. 7, 2019

Articles of Note

In 1842, Charles Dickens arrived in New York. He came to celebrate the American experiment. By the time he left, he was still enthralled — but also repulsed.... more »


New Books

“What have I in common with the Jews?” Kafka asked in his diary, adding, “I have hardly anything in common with myself.” He had an equally ambigious relationship with Zionism... more »


Essays & Opinions

How do you judge fiction? How do you say one story is better than another? Doing so is hard to distinguish from deep prejudice. Or you can use a softer word, like taste... more »


Jan. 5, 2019

Articles of Note

Few spaces in American life today are exempt from the gentle but irksome dictates of mindfulness. Now the wellness-industrial complex has entrenched itself in the halls of art museums... more »


New Books

The idea of Eve Babitz — sexual outlaw, polymath of pleasure, gifted annalist of the delights and despair of Los Angeles — is more compelling than the author herself... more »


Essays & Opinions

We're years into an unprecedented social experiment: the moneyballing of human existence. The early results are in, and they're not encouraging. We now think algorithmically, subjectively... more »


Jan. 4, 2019

Articles of Note

J.D. Salinger will forever be a writer oriented toward possibility. He never aged in public, and he wrote so compassionately about youth... more »


New Books

What happens to dead writers at the hands of exegetes or executors? It's a question of estate management, archival avarice, popular renown, and inheritance law... more »


Essays & Opinions

The search engine, initially an attempt to map human meaning, now defines human meaning. It controls, rather than simply catalogs or indexes, human thought... more »


Jan. 3, 2019

Articles of Note

Wunderkind of socialism. How Bhaskar Sunkara built Jacobin, the most successful American ideological magazine to launch in the past decade... more »


New Books

Germaine Greer was a colossus whose vitality and pugnacity made her impossible to ignore. Then she embarked on a path of retrograde rants... more »


Essays & Opinions

At 29, Percy Bysshe Shelley still looked like a child. He continued sailing paper boats into adulthood. Was his poetry similarly immature?... more »


Jan. 2, 2019

Articles of Note

James Watson in exile. More than a decade since his views on race and intelligence became public, he's been shunned but hasn't changed his mind... more »


New Books

Geoff Dyer once described the history of jazz as the history of people picking themselves up off the floor. Mezz Mezzrow was no exception... more »


Essays & Opinions

Writing in 1956, Erich Fromm predicted the "disintegration of love in Western culture.” His words were prescient. We are falling out of love with love... more »


Jan. 1, 2019

Articles of Note

In 2018 we said goodbye to Ursula K. Le Guin, Tom Wolfe, Philip Roth, V.S. Naipaul, and more than a few other writers. A look back at the year’s literary deaths... more »


New Books

A novel that alludes to a romance with Roth; a witty window into the world of "thought leadership"; a monumental biography of Frederick Douglass: What were the best books of 2018? ... NPR... New Yorker... The Atlantic... Christian Lorentzen... NY Times critics... Publisher's Weekly... Katy Waldman... Time... Mental Floss...... more »


Essays & Opinions

2018 featured memorable essays on our historical moment, on the viciousness of online life, and, weirdly, on tigers. David Brooks gives out his Sidney Awards... more » ...... more »


Dec. 31, 2018

Articles of Note

In 1933, Houghton Mifflin published the first English edition of Mein Kampf — and then quietly profited from the book for decades... more »


New Books

Schadenfreude: the long history, complicated etymology, and many uses of one of life's grubby but essential little pleasures... more »


Essays & Opinions

The ugly truth about Alice Walker. For years she has expressed odious views about Judaism. For years she was given a pass. Perhaps that's changing... more »


Dec. 28, 2018

Articles of Note

Amos Oz, who chronicled over half a century of life in Israel, is dead. He was 79... Haaretz... The Guardian... Jane Eisner... Jonathan Freedland... Gal Beckerman... Amir Tibon... New York Times... Washington Post... Adam Kirsch... Tom Segev... Amy Wilentz... Dominic Green... more »


New Books

It took four years for Tolstoy to write Anna Karenina, as he complained about the work, defamed the novel, and considered killing himself... more »


Essays & Opinions

Gerard Manley Hopkins died in 1889. He’d published only a few poems, and there was no great clamor for more — before a beguiling 1918 edition was released... more »


Dec. 27, 2018

Articles of Note

Harvard at 16, on Berkeley’s math faculty by 25, then ecoterrorism. Now the Unabomber’s ideas are spreading to a new generation... more »


Articles of Note

A map of the moon. In 1647, Johannes Hevelius’s lunar atlas made him a celebrity. It featured continents, seas, bays, swamps, and marshes... more »


New Books

For Wittgenstein, philosophy had no “problems,” only “puzzles.” This did not stop him from threatening Karl Popper with a fireplace poker over a philosophical difference... more »


Essays & Opinions

Although he played up his eccentricities in public, Edward Gorey was a shy, private man who took perverse pride in the dullness of his own existence... more »


Dec. 26, 2018

Articles of Note

We think we are directly and immediately aware of our own thoughts. But what if conscious thought, judgment, and volition are all illusions?... more »


New Books

Why does Nietzsche continue to beguile? It's the libertine aphorisms, unhappy life, tragic end, appropriation by the Nazis, and the extent to which he's misunderstood... more »


Essays & Opinions

Einstein's "God Letter" is by reputation a definitive statement from a renowned genius. It isn't. It's an artful declaration of a conventional belief... more »


Dec. 25, 2018

Articles of Note

The science of wit. “Humor at its best is a kind of heightened truth — a super-truth,” E.B. White wrote. That principle has a corollary in nature: supernormal stimuli... more »


New Books

With her husband gone, Sylvia Plath rode horses, took up smoking, and cherished her independence. “Ted may be a genius,” she wrote, “but I’m an intelligence”... more »


Essays & Opinions

The fifth-century British writer Pelagius was trounced in his debate with Augustine, dismissed as a “huge, bloated Alpine dog, weighed down with Scottish oats.” Still, Pelagius had the last laugh... more »


Dec. 24, 2018

Articles of Note

How to reconcile Philip Larkin's poems and prejudices? He thought his poems were for the public, whereas his letters were not. In that respect, the man was a gibbering dunce, says Clive James... more »


New Books

To understand how fascism works, don't blur the distinction between conservatism and fascism. It numbs us to legitimate warnings, and trivializes the dangers that we face... more »


Essays & Opinions

Lionel Trilling is an anachronism, though one with much to say about the present moment. He is salient for all the ways he did not think and act like us... more »


Dec. 22, 2018

Articles of Note

Toward the end of his life, Kurt Gödel grew frail and disturbed. He trusted only his wife to prepare his food. When she was hospitalized, disaster struck... more »


New Books

When Bach was in his mid-40s and at the height of his creative powers, he suddenly began recycling old material instead of composing original material. Why?... more »


Essays & Opinions

What is an aphorism? A record of fleeting, sometimes contradictory, moments of certainty. They don’t cohere, which is part of the fun... more »


Dec. 21, 2018

Articles of Note

Claas Relotius, feature-writing wunderkind at Der Spiegel, has been revealed as a forger and fabricator. How he fooled the fact checkers... more »


New Books

They said it could not be done — Thomas Cromwell was simply “not biographable.” And yet now, in 700+ plus pages, the definitive biography has arrived... more »


Essays & Opinions

Your new iPal is a humanoid robot designed to provide companionship. You face with a new version of an old question: Can a computer have inner subjective experiences?... more »


Dec. 20, 2018

Articles of Note

Trust the process. The Oulipo produce literature by adopting a rule and seeing what happens. Anything goes as long as it somehow involves chance... more »


New Books

Few gestures are universal, and so the wrong one in the wrong place can lead to violence. A dictionary of gestures, therefore, might just save lives... more »


Essays & Opinions

So you've been shamed. What to do if you've been wrongfully shamed, or rightfully so but want your life back? Helen Andrews knows from experience... more »


Dec. 19, 2018

Articles of Note

It is a banal philosophical idea, espoused by the Buddha, Sufi masters, Schopenhauer, Bergson, and Weil: Civilization depends on humility... more »


New Books

Marcel Proust began writing as a snob but ended it as the great critic of snobbery. How a dandiacal dilettante became a penetrating social observer... more »


Essays & Opinions

Would human extinction be a tragedy? A philosophical investigation reasons that it would, but that it might also leave the world a better place... more »


Dec. 18, 2018

Articles of Note

Ornate chandeliers, marble tables, waiters dressed like dignitaries: How the cafés of Europe became the gilded birthplace of cosmopolitanism... more »


New Books

The Greeks had a word for it (epichairekakia), as did the Romans (malevolentia) and the French (joie maligne). In English we’ve adopted “schadenfreude”... more »


Essays & Opinions

The culture industry is wrapped in a security blanket of cloying agreeability. Where is the ruthless critique, the anger, the hate?... more »


Dec. 17, 2018

Articles of Note

"What would Hitchens say?" The question is asked when a new crisis emerges. But it's the wrong question. Better to think for yourself... more »


New Books

Boiling in your own pot; torture via a long, flaming knife; being impaled on a fiery spit — The Penguin Book of Hell is an anthology of sadistic fantasies... more »


Essays & Opinions

The Weekly Standard is dead. Let us now praise that witty, quixotic, hectoring, charming, maddening, and smart magazine... more »


Dec. 15, 2018

Articles of Note

In 1965, Allen Ginsberg began using a tape recorder to produce his work — the same technology that the CIA and FBI were using to spy on him... more »


New Books

Bearing a grudge is no cause for shame. Resentments remind us that our senses are attuned. If we eliminated grievances, we'd eliminate moral judgment... more »


Essays & Opinions

Last sentences in novels often invoke the book’s title — or moths (Nabokov); or nautical imagery (Conrad). But the best last lines aren’t endings at all... more »


Dec. 14, 2018

Articles of Note

What kind of artist would tattoo someone else’s poetry on her skin and try to pass it off as her own? A scandal in the small world of online poetry... more »


New Books

Pity the would-be biographer of Germaine Greer. Not only is she recalcitrant, but there's little the oversharing writer hasn't already exposed... more »


Essays & Opinions

The shackles of moral perfection. Both utilitarianism and rationalism, embraced fully, create servants. The nonmoral parts of life make us who we are... more »


Dec. 13, 2018