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Since 1998, Arts & Letters Daily has linked to more than 17,000 articles, book reviews and essays. Consider supporting us. »
Sept. 24, 2020

Articles of Note

History and its futilities. Orlando Patterson brought social science to bear on postcolonial Jamaica. Now he chronicles the failures of such efforts ... more »


New Books

Streaming music is more efficient than CDs, right? Wrong. “The environmental cost of music is now greater than at any time”  ... more »


Essays & Opinions

Camus didn't do inspiration. And hope, he believed, is for suckers. But that doesn't mean he condoned despair ... more »


Sept. 23, 2020

Articles of Note

G.E. Moore, who championed common sense, was an influential philosopher. But a great one? Probably not  ... more »


New Books

Walter Gropius achieved fame by passing off Lucia Moholy’s work as his own. Meanwhile, she lived in poverty  ... more »


Essays & Opinions

The “encrappification” of America. From the Veg-O-Matic to Beanie Babies, the nation has a long, wasteful history of loving cheap stuff  ... more »


Sept. 22, 2020

Articles of Note

If Christopher Hitchens were still around, what would he make of the world today? Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie discuss   ... more »


New Books

In the ’60s, predictive voter analytics was taken as science fiction, as dystopian, as a scandal. Now we meekly accept it... more »


Essays & Opinions

Before Robin DiAngelo, there was Harriet Beecher Stowe. Both reveal the limits of reading in pursuit of social justice... more »


Sept. 21, 2020

Articles of Note

Disease in the time of Defoe. In 1722 he offered advice: Avoid excessive eating and drinking, and restore humoral balance  ... more »


New Books

For Vivian Gornick, feminism was a new way of interpreting the world. Then, around 1980, she returned to literature  ... more »


Essays & Opinions

The tech gurus tell us that the future of higher ed is adaptive tutors, chatbots, AI, and virtual reality. They're wrong  ... more »


Sept. 19, 2020

Articles of Note

A museum is auctioning off a Jackson Pollock to raise money to diversify its collection. Laudable goal, bad plan  ... more »


New Books

Was Beowulf a bro? A new, feminist version of the epic paints a fierce picture of masculine weakness  ... more »


Essays & Opinions

The tempo of life reaches a frenzy, and yet we feel stuck. One balm for our internet-accelerated age: read old books... more »


Sept. 18, 2020

Articles of Note

Stanley Crouch, the jazz critic whose outsize opinions were rendered in scalding, pugilistic prose, has died. He was 74  ... more »


New Books

It’s been said that the correspondence of great artists and idealists is mostly about money. Van Gogh is no exception  ... more »


Essays & Opinions

The internet is not what you think it is. For one thing, its intellectual roots go back to 19th-century conjecture on snail copulation  ... more »


Sept. 17, 2020

Articles of Note

When Waltham was radical. How a suburb of Boston became an unlikely fount of new currents in leftism... more »


New Books

The Reformation was “one of the worst periods in the history of knowledge.” Why? Its fondness for book burning... more »


Essays & Opinions

The “bad old days” of academia were full of favoritism, prejudice, and indolence. But sometimes the professors showed up fully clad and sober ... more »


Sept. 16, 2020

Articles of Note

An Ancient Roman paradox: parricide was punished gruesomely, but revenge killings weren’t prosecuted at all... more »


New Books

How to think about disaster. Accepting one’s place in a vast, complex, and violent world is healthier than it sounds... more »


Essays & Opinions

Down with the dons. English professors have all the book reviewer’s traditional faults — only more so... more »


Sept. 15, 2020

Articles of Note

Despite the vitriol Philip Larkin held for his parents, he wrote home about every little thing — his red trousers, his allergies, his constipation... more »


New Books

When Christopher met Martin. It happened at the New Statesman in the early '70s. Now Hitchens is at the heart of Amis's new novel... more »


Essays & Opinions

Synthesis, sweep, and all-encompassing theorizing are out of fashion in the academy today. Was René Girard the last of the hedgehogs?   ... more »


Sept. 14, 2020

Articles of Note

What will save the English department? Love, says Mark Edmundson. Professors need to remind themselves that their love for literature is what brought most of them into the profession  ... more »


New Books

Neanderthals walked the earth for 350,000 years. We don't know how they disappeared, but we know more than ever before about how they lived  ... more »


Essays & Opinions

A columnist's lament: His feuilletons on artists and academics go unappreciated by algorithms. Are readers still interested?  ... more »


Sept. 12, 2020

Articles of Note

“A deluge of things.” We inherit our passion for clutter from Victorians like Marion Sambourne, who owned 66 upright chairs   ... more »


New Books

Nathalie Sarraute is remembered as a “boring formalist” within the insipid “new novel” movement. She was much more than that   ... more »


Essays & Opinions

Nepotism is an ugly word, and few issues provoke as much anger and frustration, especially in the literary world. But how bothered should we really be?   ... more »


Sept. 11, 2020

Articles of Note

To read great books by flawed authors, we must recognize the sins of the past but also look for moments of shared human experience   ... more »


New Books

When William James gave up on religion, he went in search of a new avenue to save his life. Can his approach help you save your own?   ... more »


Essays & Opinions

Is smoking an issue of individual liberty? Or is it something much more: "a signifier for what we have accomplished in agriculture, economics, thought, and expression" ... more »


Sept. 10, 2020

Articles of Note

New Yorker writers cultivate reticence, self-deprecation, and wit. As Janet Malcolm learned, those are the last things a jury wants in a witness   ... more »


New Books

For more than a century, Wagner's music has been a "drug or even a poison, a cult with members who are sometimes fanatics, not fans"   ... more »


Essays & Opinions

Whatever dark future social media is speeding us toward, we are co-pilots. We want to waste our time. We find satisfaction in endless, circular argument... more »


Sept. 9, 2020

Articles of Note

We think of tact as a little virtue — something commendable but unnecessary, a luxury of polished social interaction. But it’s far more important than that   ... more »


New Books

The problems we face — environmental, political, humanitarian — are obvious. Do we still need the painstaking intellectual work of theorizing them?   ... more »


Essays & Opinions

Pankaj Mishra’s writing emphasizes the weight of history, but not its excitement and contingency. A bleak, fatalistic image is the result   ... more »


Sept. 8, 2020

Articles of Note

Kafka's sentences open with a lucid idea before attempting to present its consequences, comma after unrelenting comma   ... more »


New Books

Starving artists. It’s easier than ever to share your creativity with the world, but harder to make a living doing so   ... more »


Essays & Opinions

Modern pessimism was born on November 1, 1755, when an earthquake leveled Lisbon. A golden period of Enlightenment came crashing down with it   ... more »


Sept. 7, 2020

Articles of Note

The Seamus Heaney experience. His gravitas and vast learning were leavened by a droll, high-spirited streak and his capacity for merriment   ... more »


New Books

"Whenever they burn books," said Heinrich Heine, "they will also, in the end, burn people." A history of knowledge under attack   ... more »


Essays & Opinions

Punctuation and revolution. In 1905, the "Comma Strike" among Moscow's printers led to political reform. Punctuation can still make us angry ... more »


Sept. 5, 2020

Articles of Note

The tradition among mathematicians to name discoveries after one another is charming. It's also a colossal headache  ... more »


New Books

The paradox of Graham Greene: He wrote so deftly about international politics, yet was an alarmingly unsophisticated political thinker  ... more »


Essays & Opinions

Tocqueville on wheels. Desert car races, like democracy, are about more than ambition counteracting ambition. Both racing and democracy require self-restraint and virtue  ... more »


Sept. 4, 2020

Articles of Note

The policing of speech is more common than it was 15 years ago. Political correctness has run amok, says Tyler Cowen. But so then has everything else... more »


New Books

Warhol's wounds. After he was shot, in 1968, he needed a girdle to keep his innards in place. But he liked being topless. "Paint me with my scars"   ... more »


Essays & Opinions

We've built a politics around the idea that a college degree is a prerequisite for social esteem, says Michael Sandel. That's been corrosive to democratic life... more »


Sept. 3, 2020

Articles of Note

Yes, The Great Gatsby conveys grand themes and fine descriptions. But what makes it a Great American Novel? It’s really short  ... more »


New Books

Time speeds up as you age, or so it seems. What's really going on is rather more complicated than that  ... more »


Essays & Opinions

In 1878, Mark Twain nearly outed himself as a believer in the paranormal. He thought no one would take him seriously. But was he serious?  ... more »


Sept. 2, 2020

Articles of Note

Ayn Rand is widely reviled for her ideology. But was she also a terrible writer? Not exactly. Sometimes she was even a halfway good one  ... more »


New Books

Conversation among New Yorkers can seem less like a discussion than a verbal wrestling match. Can a sociolinguist explain? Fuhgeddaboutit... more »


Essays & Opinions

What Joseph Brodsky was able to set in motion: "Not the limits of a meager idea, but the activity of thought itself."  ... more »


Sept. 1, 2020

Articles of Note

Silicon Valley is a strange place, and Jaron Lanier occupies an even stranger place within it  ... more »


New Books

For a moment, London's Mecklenburgh Square was a place where a new kind of thinking was possible  ... more »


Essays & Opinions

Books are more permanent than magazine articles. So why are only the latter subjected to fact checking?  ... more »


Aug. 31, 2020

Articles of Note

To express life in a concentration camp, imprisoned Jews created a new musical genre: lager-lieder... more »


New Books

A novelist’s work is solitary, and it’s a job that tends to attract misanthropes. Zadie Smith is an exception   ... more »


Essays & Opinions

More than 1,000 movies and TV shows have used Wagner's music. Alex Ross dissects a century of Wagner's baleful influence on Hollywood... more »


Aug. 29, 2020

Articles of Note

Lucian Freud at work. When a painting neared completion, he would step back and, “as though taunting himself,” murmur, “How far can you go?”  ... more »


New Books

Ever since Frédéric Chopin's premature death, in 1849, people have foisted on him their own fantasies and desires, some more lurid than others  ... more »


Essays & Opinions

Much of Frank Ramsey’s work was unfinished when he died in 1930, at age 26. But philosophers still find that their own insights have already been articulated by him... more »


Aug. 28, 2020

Articles of Note

“After one finishes a story, one should cross out the beginning and the end," said Chekhov. "It is there that we writers lie most of all”  ... more »


New Books

When Ralph Ellison got to New York, age 23, he kept copies of his letters. He was writing himself into history  ... more »


Essays & Opinions

John Cheever took no interest in theology. But his keen spiritual sense had a definite tendency... more »


Aug. 27, 2020

Articles of Note

After 50, Gore Vidal said, litigation replaces sex. He would be proud of his posthumous legal legacy... more »


New Books

How did we go from the techno-utopianism of the ’90s to the digital cesspool we’re left with today? A new book explains   ... more »


Essays & Opinions

Olavo de Carvalho, a 73-year-old right-wing autodidact, is on a mission: He wants to become the Brazilian Gramsci... more »


Aug. 26, 2020

Articles of Note

The tyranny of chairs. For most of history, humans would squat or lie down for stationary activities. Now we’re captive to poorly designed seats... more »


New Books

The least read masterpiece of 20th-century thought? Carlo Michelstaedter’s Persuasion and Rhetoric, overlooked in part because the author killed himself at 23... more »


Essays & Opinions

Thinking through the pandemic. Ours is a bleak reality, full of social and personal uncertainty. And so we return to existentialism... more »


Aug. 25, 2020

Articles of Note

Satirized, pranked, mocked — even pelted with garbage — the Victorian poet William McGonagall was famous for his terrible art... more »


New Books

Boredom has been around since modernity, and now boredom studies is a thriving field. Can its scholars tell us anything new?   ... more »


Essays & Opinions

Why we hoard. Stuff attracts more stuff, and accumulation has a powerful logic rooted in history and biology   ... more »


Aug. 24, 2020

Articles of Note

The apotheosis of Brutalism, that megalomaniacal overreach beloved of architects and dictators, was in 1920s Moscow. Is it having a retro moment?... more »


New Books

The literature of white liberalism. In books like White Fragility and How to Be an Antiracist, white people try to read their way out of trouble. Does that work?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Tolstoy’s hobbies included drinking copious amounts of fermented mare’s milk, penning vociferous calls for agrarian reform, and learning ancient Greek... more »


Aug. 22, 2020

Articles of Note

We think linearly, in terms of cause and effect. But the world is an object lesson in complexity... more »


New Books

People have made countless attempts to train animals to speak our language. Maybe we should learn to speak theirs... more »


Essays & Opinions

Philosophers like Dietrich von Hildebrand sought to distinguish moral values from aesthetic values. Does such a question still resonate?... more »


Aug. 21, 2020

Articles of Note

Over 25 years, almost every book and map of value vanished from the Carnegie Library. How did the thief pull it off?... more »


New Books

Beware the reflexivity trap — the notion that awareness of a fault absolves one of that fault. It is rampant in millennial fiction... more »


Essays & Opinions

Humans are social animals, and yet we sometimes need to disappear. For inspiration on how best to do that, consider the vampire squid... more »