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Since 1998, Arts & Letters Daily has linked to more than 17,000 articles, book reviews and essays. Consider supporting us. »
March 23, 2019

Articles of Note

Critics debate a new structure at New York City’s Hudson Yards — does it resemble a beehive, a pine cone, a wastebasket? They agree, though, that it is an exercise in architectural cynicism... more »


New Books

Early modern alchemists — Newton included — feared that their research, if revealed, would trigger social collapse. And so they employed an obfuscatory jargon not rivaled in complexity until postmodernism... more »


Essays & Opinions

Literary parties are generally awkward disasters. This holds in fiction and in life. As John O’Hara put it, they are about “terrible people” getting “gloriously drunk”... more »


March 22, 2019

Articles of Note

Literary theory was a revolution. What happens when the revolutionaries grow old? Jane Gallop on age, falling out of fashion, and why teaching is inevitably erotic... more »


New Books

Was Shakespeare a “punk poet,” a “proto-rockstar,” a “16th-century Russell Crowe,” and also a talentless middleman? Indeed so, says a new book... more »


Essays & Opinions

Hannah Arendt knew that being human in inhuman times is hard, occasionally impossible work. She is a thinker of the difficult, a thinker for now... more »


March 21, 2019

Articles of Note

Walter Benjamin in Ibiza. He escaped Nazism, went without electricity, proposed marriage and was rejected. He decided to commit suicide but didn’t. Not yet... more »


New Books

The genre of books about growing old is nearly as old as old age itself. They fall into three categories: the scientific, the personal, and the political... more »


Essays & Opinions

“I detonate around him.” It’s easy to mock bad sex writing — especially that of Lawrence, Mailer, or E.L. James. But does that get us any closer to good sex writing?... more »


March 20, 2019

Articles of Note

The mystery of Bernard-Henri Lévy: How did a man so often described as inane come to be regarded as a public intellectual?... more »


New Books

Pamela Hansford Johnson was romantically involved with Dylan Thomas and C.P. Snow. Naturally, she developed a talent for depicting conceited men... more »


Essays & Opinions

J. Edgar Hoover sought to destroy Nelson Algren’s career — and was largely successful. Now Algren’s proletarian literature is back in fashion... more »


March 19, 2019

Articles of Note

Hilma af Klint has been lauded as the inventor of abstract art. But she didn’t think of her work as abstract, and her visual approach was centuries old... more »


New Books

Has the internet changed the way we think? At the least, it convinced fans of Brain Pickings to confuse a grab bag of mildly cool factoids for real insight... more »


Essays & Opinions

A history of the color black. From Goya’s terrifying “black paintings” to Tristram Shandy’s entirely black page, the color has a singular power... more »


March 18, 2019

Articles of Note

The Second Sex is a type of book: bold, original, scholarly, criticized, refuted, yet enduring. Books like this don't die. But academics don't write them anymore. Too bad... more »


New Books

Autism was not a new term, but Hans Asperger gave it new meaning. He identified a spectrum and urged "proper understanding, love, and guidance." But his benevolence went only so far... more »


Essays & Opinions

Who has the gall to tell the entire human race how to feel? Philosophers, that's who. Their counsel: Calm down, be rational. Is anyone listening?... more »


March 16, 2019

Articles of Note

A virus has been described as bad news wrapped in a protein. When one recently colonized B.D. McClay, she got to thinking about the malicious particles that surround us... more »


New Books

Part of the allure of the British Empire was the promise of exotic thrills in distant lands. But the age of pith helmets was mostly just boring... more »


Essays & Opinions

The cheery, bland age of “books coverage.” Reviews have been replaced by listicles, gift ideas, and promotional Q&As. We deserve better... more »


March 15, 2019

Articles of Note

Frida Kahlo has been portrayed as a tango-dancing flirt and a dotty performance artist. But to understand her real life, go beyond her image... more »


New Books

In Indonesia, where it’s apparently cool to quote Hitler, the newsstands offer magazines devoted to U-boats: evidence of German excellence. The weird afterlife of Nazism... more »


Essays & Opinions

Call it what you want – the fix, the bunco, the gyp, the sting – what exactly is it that we find so compelling about con artists?... more »


March 14, 2019

Articles of Note

When Christopher Hitchens argued about religion, was it really about religion? Or was it about picking a side and never backing down? Call it the Hitchens Principle... more »


New Books

Mikhail Sholokhov drank to escape Stalinism, which displeased Stalin. Sholokhov’s reply: “From such a life, Comrade Stalin, anyone would turn to drink”... more »


Essays & Opinions

We celebrate foreignness in literature — but only the sort that we recognize in our own lives. A true acceptance of international writing requires more... more »


March 13, 2019

Articles of Note

Street art used to be about anti-establishment activism, punk rock, and community spirit. Now it's the handmaid of consumerism ... more »


New Books

Charles de Gaulle, intellectual. He hated Proust, enjoyed the work of Henri Bergson, and, even as president, read two or three books a week... more »


Essays & Opinions

A scourge has taken hold of English departments: niceness. Where once political criticism thrived, fandom now reigns... more »


March 12, 2019

Articles of Note

Eric Hobsbawm, failed music critic: Elvis was “a peculiarly unappetising Texan lad”; Miles Davis, “of surprisingly narrow technical and emotional range"... more »


New Books

After Eve Babitz dropped a lit match on herself while driving, she gave up writing. Now she stays home and listens to conservative talk shows... more »


Essays & Opinions

Were John Ruskin to see our society, he would find its two most notable features to be hatred of beauty and worship of machines. Alan Jacobs explains... more »


March 11, 2019

Articles of Note

Thomas Nagel has a prediction: Our present practices of killing animals for food, when no longer gastronomically necessary, will become morally unimaginable... more »


New Books

Intelligent design has been dismissed by scientists and courts as "creationism in a cheap tuxedo.” But its advocates persevere. They're just getting dumber... more »


Essays & Opinions

In defense of Instagram poetry. As Samuel Johnson said, “to circumscribe poetry by a definition will only show the narrowness of the definer”... more »


March 9, 2019

Articles of Note

Writers like Zola, Balzac, and Dickens — masters of a range of modes — are vanishingly rare. But we do have John Lanchester... more »


New Books

The “Invisible College,” a secret brain trust of scientists and billionaires, is embracing a new religious mode: belief in UFOs... more »


Essays & Opinions

Murdering to Mozart. Once, classical music was the backbone of popular entertainment. Now it's portrayed as a handmaiden to sadism and psychopathic violence... more »


March 8, 2019

Articles of Note

Steven Pinker's message — that despite significant challenges we’re making progress as a species — seems benign. Why do so many people hate him?... more »


New Books

The poet Letitia Elizabeth Landon died in 1838 in a castle in Africa. She was 36, an emblem of insipid girlishness. The truth was far darker... more »


Essays & Opinions

Vonnegut’s moral clarity. More than any other writer, he cut through cant and sophistry to expose self-deceptions for what they are... more »


March 7, 2019

Articles of Note

The bad boy of French literature. The real Cyrano de Bergerac dueled, drank, and chased women. When he was 36, the Jesuits reputedly arranged for him to have an accident... more »


New Books

What the American West really means. A “limitless frontier,” a “safety valve” for the nation? Greg Grandin unpacks our euphemisms... more »


Essays & Opinions

Richard Rorty took a therapeutic approach to philosophy. Indeed, he wanted to transform it into therapy. We're still dealing with the political implications... more »


March 6, 2019

Articles of Note

A market still exists for Hitler’s watercolors, yet that dark corner of the art world is beset by a problem: rampant forgeries... more »


New Books

Oft satirized and generally considered a “dry old stick,” Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, actually had a touch of charisma... more »


Essays & Opinions

The idea of a "good death" is commonplace, as if death were something at which we succeed or fail, something to achieve. Better to think of a "fitting death"... more »


March 5, 2019

Articles of Note

Who was Oscar Levant? The sardonic piano-playing sidekick in plenty of films in the '40s. Turns out his talent was bigger than anything he managed to do with it... more »


New Books

Alfred Stieglitz offered “new ways to see the world.” His vision attracted Georgia O’Keeffe and wove a tangle of personal and professional ambitions... more »


Essays & Opinions

Art forces us to consider the experience of others — but it that a good thing? For Paul Bloom, empathy is selfish and shortsighted. For Knausgaard, it's banal... more »


March 4, 2019

Articles of Note

Talk of translating literature is often esoteric; invariably it's described as an “art.” Unreliability is built into each step of the process. As is anxiety... more »


New Books

Between 1917 and 1923, anti-Semitism mutated into something new: the myth of Judeo-Bolshevism. It was a toxic gloss on an ancient hatred. It made Adolf Hitler... more »


Essays & Opinions

It's been said that if nature could write, it would write like Tolstoy. It's his unsurpassed realism that makes reading War and Peace unlike reading any other book... more »


March 2, 2019

Articles of Note

An anti-Communist at large. Arthur Koestler’s 1972 trip to Iceland was pure slapstick: homebrew on the plane, a restaurant called Nausea, and KGB agents galore... more »


New Books

Isaac Newton’s interest in alchemy was long regarded as an embarrassment. Now it's seen as the very foundation of all his endeavors... more »


Essays & Opinions

The rise of the pedantic professor. When academic self-regard becomes an intellectual style, no nit is too small to pick... more »


March 1, 2019

Articles of Note

How to become the most successful art thief ever? No violence, no midnight break-ins, no dash to a getaway car... more »


New Books

Editing Isaiah Berlin: “You will surely by now not be surprised by my total inaccuracy, vagueness and tremendous distortion of quotations"... more »


Essays & Opinions

The “female Byron.” With her amorous poetry and drug addiction, Letitia Elizabeth Landon was ill-suited for her increasingly Victorian times... more »


Feb. 28, 2019

Articles of Note

Why do we refer to “heads” of state and the long “arm” of the law? The “body politic” is deeply rooted in Western philosophy. And it may be a cure for what ails us... more »


New Books

Misogyny is often treated as a question of psychology. But for Kate Manne, the problem is one not of motivation, but of politics... more »


Essays & Opinions

Philosophers tend to speak to one another. But so-called public philosophy aspires to liberate the field from the academy. Is that a good thing?... more »


Feb. 27, 2019

Articles of Note

Creativity is among the most impressive human achievements. It's mysterious — and something that artificial intelligence simply can’t achieve... more »


New Books

The internet was shaped by utopian-minded intellectuals who valued respect and transparency. So how did we end up with the internet of today?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Lionel Trilling is known foremost as a critic and professor. Turns out he didn't want to be either. He yearned to be a novelist... more »


Feb. 26, 2019

Articles of Note

As early as 1941, Auden renounced his most celebrated and political works from the 1930s — “Spain” and “September 1, 1939” — as sententious nonsense. Why?... more »


New Books

When America read. In the 1940s, people of all backgrounds devoured plays, novels, poems. One hundred million paperbacks went to soldiers alone... more »


Essays & Opinions

Jordan Peterson’s collection of Soviet-era artworks, comprising more than 300 pieces, has taught him something: "Nothing is powerful enough to stand in the way of art"... more »


Feb. 25, 2019

Articles of Note

Once the highest-paid director in Hollywood, the silent-film director Lois Weber has now been all but forgotten. That's a tragedy... more »


New Books

For his Stoner, John Williams has been called "the man who wrote the perfect novel.” So why are his other books so resoundingly terrible?... more »


Essays & Opinions

The film project Dau began simply enough, as a biopic about a physicist. It became something else entirely — either a work of genius or total madness... more »


Feb. 23, 2019

Articles of Note

What Stonehenge has come to mean. In the past it exuded grandeur and pathos. Now it’s the site of an absurdist drama concerning traffic... more »


New Books

The unobtainable lightness of being. For Plato, thinness was tied to lofty goals. But, as a cultural history of fat reveals, bigger was traditionally better... more »


Essays & Opinions

Failure is at the heart of both learning and moral complexity. It was David Foster Wallace’s master theme, his tool for evoking irony and tragedy... more »


Feb. 22, 2019

Articles of Note

Physicists have long relied on Richard Feynman’s conception of space-time, but some are now dissenting. They point to geometry and something called “the amplituhedron”... more »


New Books

History has been unkind to John Ruskin, he of the beard and the wedding-night disaster. In fact, he was a prophet for our times... more »


Essays & Opinions

The continuing uglification of our world. Modernism, with its place-destroying structures, has transformed architecture. It’s time for a return to aesthetics... more »


Feb. 21, 2019

Articles of Note

One of Nancy Gardner Williams’s lecturers was always wearing an ascot and smoking. She married him, and became “Mrs. Stoner”... more »


New Books

Gandhi: compassionate unifier, public intellectual, holder of classist and racist ideas. As he held, every “case can be seen from no less than seven points of view”... more »


Essays & Opinions

It’s time for Diderot, long overshadowed by Voltaire and Rousseau, to receive his due: He was not only a founder of modernity; he was the first postmodernist... more »


Feb. 20, 2019

Articles of Note

A silver lining. A military miscue led to Thucydides’ 20-year exile from Athens — but only in the peace and quiet of exile was he able to write his History... more »


New Books

Isaiah Berlin’s impostor syndrome. “I remain unshakeably convinced that I have all my life been overestimated,” he confessed. “All I write … is by nature dishevelled"... more »


Essays & Opinions

Artists may pooh-pooh the idea of being cool, but a few of them had it down pat. Consider Warhol’s catatonic effortlessness or Bukowski’s timeless advice: “Don’t try.”... more »


Feb. 19, 2019

Articles of Note

Betty Ballantine, who helped introduce cheap paperbacks to the masses, is dead at 99. Her goal: “To change the reading habits of America”... more »


New Books

Humans are by nature violent, yet also cooperative. How did we evolve this way? By killing off the most violent among us, argues a new book... more »


Essays & Opinions

What do almost all ancient myths and folktales have in common? They deal with danger and death and offer highly pragmatic lessons... more »


Feb. 18, 2019

Articles of Note

What is neuroscience doing to art -- explaining away its mystery or, as Eric Kandel would have it, aiding our sense of art's wonder?... more »


New Books

Frederick the Great thought little of historians who merely compiled facts. He preferred architects of history, like himself... more »


Essays & Opinions

Revolutions in science, technology, health, and education have reshaped our world. But can things keep getting better?... more »