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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 18, 2019

Articles of Note

Who are the most influential intellectuals? Prospect offers a list of the 50 thinkers explaining and changing the world... more »


New Books

“We do not,” says Nicholas Christakis, “find a functional society without love, friendship, cooperation, or personal identity.” How hard has he looked?... more »


Essays & Opinions

The moon landing wasn't so much a triumph of science or a testament to the expansion of human horizons. The triumph was aesthetic... more »


July 17, 2019

Articles of Note

What works of art define our age? The New York Times asks artists and critics an impossible question... more »


New Books

Iris Murdoch has fallen out of fashion, but her work is worth retrieving as a moral philosophy with a steely-eyed suspicion of intellectual confidence... more »


Essays & Opinions

We flinch in the face of the Bible's misery and violence, chauvinism and misogyny, idealism and generosity, forgiveness and humaneness... more »


July 16, 2019

Articles of Note

Bob Dylan fans can be insufferable obsessives, with a surfeit of trivia and a dearth of understanding. What about Dylan scholars?... more »


New Books

Big books remind us how hard the work of understanding can be. Aphorisms offer "a micro-model of empirical inquiry"... more »


Essays & Opinions

Defense of the hipster. The mid-2000s aesthetic is much loathed, but its critics miss a crucial point: Even superficial movements matter... more »


July 15, 2019

Articles of Note

Arson, self-mutilation, vandalism, perhaps even terrorism — Pyotr Pavlensky’s guerrilla art has landed him in jail. If that won’t stop him, what will?... more »


New Books

Jenny Odell’s defense of empathy, attention, and doing nothing contains much that is true and little that is fresh... more »


Essays & Opinions

Walking has long been an essential literary act. But why do advocates of a good stretch of the legs have to be so damn smug about it?... more »


July 13, 2019

Articles of Note

Gore Vidal dedicated Myra Breckinridge to Christopher Isherwood, who called it a “very subtle psychological self-portrait.” He was more right than he knew... more »


New Books

Chaucer has been reduced to “Jolly Geoff,” an unserious and ribald writer. Time to repair the reputation of the father of English poetry... more »


Essays & Opinions

J.B.S. Haldane created the field of population genetics and fought in the Spanish Civil War. But it's his quotability for which he is remembered... more »


July 12, 2019

Articles of Note

“The clothes we wear today are anachronistic, irrational, and harmful.” Why are we such fans of pockets, buttons, and zippers? Bernard Rudofsky had a theory... more »


New Books

Why miniatures matter. Alluring and inaccessible, they represent possibility and impossibility at once. They are tiny, but infinite in what they evoke... more »


Essays & Opinions

In 2001, John J. Lennon killed a rival drug dealer. Eighteen years of incarceration later, he reflects on the trials of literary life behind bars... more »


July 11, 2019

Articles of Note

The so-called marketplace of ideas is broken. Turns out that neither markets nor people can be counted on to embrace the rational or the true... more »


New Books

A literary celebration of the condom’s invention, 1744’s The Machine, or Love’s Preservative hailed he who “arm’d thus boldly wages am’rous Fight”... more »


Essays & Opinions

So photos of meals on Instagram are nothing but food porn? Let's not be so cynical. What if those pictures are a new incarnation of an ancient instinct: prayer?... more »


July 10, 2019

Articles of Note

Intellectuals alone stand against bloodlust and mob mentality, and in doing so make up society’s moral compass. Or so holds Pankaj Mishra... more »


New Books

Telepathy, metamorphoses, fairy counterparts that haunt us in the shadows — so proposed a serious-minded 17th-century Scottish minister... more »


Essays & Opinions

In his final years, Manet painted tiny, beautiful works. His critics dismissed these as prettified diversions, but he was after something larger... more »


July 9, 2019

Articles of Note

The Great Awakening. For centuries, humans have been growing weaker. Was Rousseau right to lament this, or is there an upside to our enfeeblement?... more »


New Books

What becomes of science when evidence is absent – as it is in some areas of physics? Other criteria, including aesthetic ones, come into play. So does speculation... more »


Essays & Opinions

Dramatic horseback escapes, false identities. The Cold War’s first global manhunt wasn’t for a spy. It was for Pablo Neruda... more »


July 8, 2019

Articles of Note

Art and finance have a natural affinity and a longtime connection. Investors, in giving rise to modern and contemporary art, shaped the overheated market of today... more »


New Books

Funny, aphoristically cynical, wisely paradoxical: Walter Bagehot could also be priggish, condescending, and just plain wrong, but he was piercingly intelligent in his views of Victorian economics... more »


Essays & Opinions

Tolstoy memorably described boredom as “the desire for desires.” Erich Fromm called it "one of the greatest tortures." But what's lost when we lose the ability to be bored?... more »


July 6, 2019

Articles of Note

Step aside, Pollock and de Kooning. Deep-pocketed buyers are losing interest in abstract art. What do they crave? SpongeBob SquarePants with Xs on his eyes... more »


New Books

John Updike had a rule for book reviewing: Judge an author for what he wished to do, not what you wish he had done. Can we hold him to his own standard?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Academics think their work is timeless, like 13th-century monks’ transcriptions of Aristotle’s Poetics. Yet never underestimate the power of trendiness... more »


July 5, 2019

Articles of Note

The cult of cute. Hello Kitty, ET, Jeff Koons’s “Balloon Dog” — the power of this aesthetic is in its uncanny subversion of boundaries... more »


New Books

To love one’s country, one must acknowledge its past. In America, that means unpacking false universalism and examining its history of ideas... more »


Essays & Opinions

As Margaret Atwood has said, “every utopia contains a little dystopia” — something certainly true of Victorian fiction’s all-female paradises... more »


July 4, 2019

Articles of Note

First thought of as simply “An Improvement in Stairs,” the humble escalator is now ubiquitous: The number doubles every 10 years... more »


New Books

Will Google rule? We accede to governance by “objective” algorithms, writes Matthew B. Crawford, but at a high political cost... more »


Essays & Opinions

“Why the books? Why the babies? Why the essays? Why so many, why so fast?” Jill Lepore reveals her motivation — the memory of a brilliant friend... more »


July 3, 2019

Articles of Note

At the end of the 19th century, Lafcadio Hearn was one of America’s best-known writers. Today he’s forgotten in the U.S. and a cultural icon in Japan... more »


New Books

Our swimming pools, our selves. In place of the 20th-century throng of public bathing, we have the immersive solipsism of the infinity pool... more »


Essays & Opinions

Natalia Ginzburg’s family — left-leaning Jews in Fascist Italy — watched in horror as terror, internal exile, and prison began to permeate “ordinary” life... more »


July 2, 2019

Articles of Note

A field at odds with itself. While some medievalists decry white supremacists’ co-opting their field, others warn of a “social-justice incursion”... more »


New Books

“The Soviet Union, it must be remembered, was a regime founded by freelance writers and editors. In other words, a nightmare.”... more »


Essays & Opinions

The history of the poster. The form, which inspired dress-up parties in 1890s Paris, went on to be celebrated by Russian constructivists and derided by Sontag... more »


July 1, 2019

Articles of Note

Allergic to nuance and abstraction, Simone Weil produced a piercingly clear call to oblige the “needs of the soul”... more »


New Books

On loving Wordsworth. He was “a solemn and unsexual man” with a talent for making you believe things without really telling you what they were... more »


Essays & Opinions

“The way to one’s own heaven,” wrote Nietzsche, “always leads through the voluptuousness of one’s own hell.” Could happiness exist without hell?... more »


June 29, 2019

Articles of Note

Sherrilyn Kenyon was “the dark queen of paranormal romance.” Then sinister acts extended into the author’s real life... more »


New Books

A history of human imagination. Why the ability to see what isn't there is "the most essential bit of machinery we have"... more »


Essays & Opinions

Death of the anonymous author. If algorithms can pinpoint the identity of a writer — say, Elena Ferrante — does art as a whole lose out?... more »


June 28, 2019

Articles of Note

Thousands of bogus academic journals are running rackets around the world. As a result, science is facing a crisis of legitimacy... more »


New Books

The complex history of gestures. Our nonverbal communication — from the “flagrant pelvis” to fascist salutes to Friends — is deeply rooted... more »


Essays & Opinions

To constantly pursue something you can never catch is a form of madness. Yet that's exactly what we do by pursuing happiness... more »


June 27, 2019

Articles of Note

“As far as I am concerned, everybody should write like a man.” Terry Castle sounds off on the authorial life, self-importance, and the value of humor... more »


New Books

Lillian Ross’s brilliant viciousness spanned American letters: Capote was a leech, Nora Ephron a liar. And you wouldn’t have wanted to get her started on the NYRB... more »


Essays & Opinions

Intellectuals agree: Unlike our ancestors, we live in a disenchanted society. But what of our obsession with healing crystals, chakras, and the occult?... more »


June 26, 2019

Articles of Note

Kissinger, Rostow, and Brzezinski were academics who became influential policy makers. How did political science become irrelevant to politics?... more »


New Books

In the 1980s, George Will’s conservatism was prophetic. Today his political sensibility is antiquated, addressing problems that no longer exist... more »


Essays & Opinions

Iris Murdoch was that great, rare thing — a writer whose vision made you feel the sublime. Why aren't her books more widely read?... more »


June 25, 2019

Articles of Note

Noah Webster saw himself as a savior of the American language. He died feeling that he had failed as a lexicographer... more »


New Books

Thoreau was a fault-finder; Emerson, a showoff. They wanted to be friends, but, as Emerson put it, “Friends such as we desire are dreams and fables”... more »


Essays & Opinions

During the Cold War, America's culture policy was foreign policy. Since then, America's culture policy has become a culture war... more »


June 24, 2019

Articles of Note

Philip Larkin's parents were awkward people and not very good at being happy. "These things rub off," he said... more »


New Books

Einstein during World War I. Cut off from scientists abroad, he tried to extend his untested ideas about relativity into a more powerful theory... more »


Essays & Opinions

"Summer reading is always a balancing act between the books I have loved, the books I feel I oughta love, and the books I sense I will love"... more »


June 22, 2019

Articles of Note

Want to see how components of modernism become a source of lament? Enter the fallen world of motels. Geoff Dyer explains... more »


New Books

Thirty years since Cass Sunstein's first steps as a public intellectual, the world has changed. But not his ideas, or his dreary prose... more »


Essays & Opinions

Is discussion overrated? Is it not as likely to generate bitterness, and division as it is to enlighten or foster consensus?... more »


June 21, 2019

Articles of Note

The knowledge illusion. Only rarely do we allow ourselves to glimpse the epistemological abyss gaping beneath our beliefs... more »


New Books

Sherlock Holmes and his world are an inexhaustible source of spinoffs, parodies, and adaptations. Michael Dirda has the latest... more »


Essays & Opinions

If the Apollo missions brought us the age of consumer technology, Jill Lepore isn't impressed: "My country went to the moon and all I got was this lousy surveillance state"... more »


June 20, 2019

Articles of Note

Planning to stay at peak intellectual performance into old age? Odds are you won’t. Indeed, decline may already have set in... more »


New Books

"If what makes humans unique is the power of seeing what is not there, what makes them so destructive is that they believe what they have seen to be real"... more »


Essays & Opinions

The buzzword of this decade is authenticity, which is a shame because it impedes progress and aspiration... more »


June 19, 2019

Articles of Note

"There’s been a degradation of the quality of our intellectual life," says Glenn Loury. "To the extent that I’ve contributed to that, I regret it."... more »


New Books

A psychologist studying empathy is like a climatologist studying polar ice: "We discover how valuable it is just as it recedes all around us”... more »


Essays & Opinions

Svetlana Alexievich is on a mission to collect memories before they disappear, to correct for the rewriting of history by propaganda... more »


June 18, 2019

Articles of Note

In 1943, Francoise Gilot was a wannabe painter and an aspiring intellectual with little firsthand experience. Then she met Picasso... more »


New Books

When people write about Vasily Grossman, they often start by complaining that he is insufficiently appreciated — which is hardly true... more »


Essays & Opinions

“We live today in a laboratory of human suffering as vast and terrible as that in which Dickens and Dostoyevsky wrote.” The America of Nelson Algren’s imagination... more »


June 17, 2019

Articles of Note

The painter Étienne Terrus had been largely forgotten until a museum devoted to his work was established in the mid-'90s. Why is the collection riddled with fakes?... more »


New Books

Before its “golden age,” TV was thought to be formulaic, fluffy trash. The change in regard is in no small part the work of Emily Nussbaum... more »


Essays & Opinions

Lacan, the terrible. He was avaricious, classist, and an awful father. Tasked with treating his suffering daughter, he headed to the brothel instead... more »


June 15, 2019

Articles of Note

Science wars, Seinfeld, Sokal: What was postmodernism? No other idea from the humanities had so major, if murky, an influence... more »


New Books

Pundit on a pilgrimage. For David Brooks, a midlife awakening yielded a most unexpected insight into himself: “I realized I was a religious person”... more »


Essays & Opinions

The origins of beach reading. A 19th-century invention, it was for “airy, buoyant, salty, sunny, breezy” books. Or, it was the consumption of “pestiferous trash”... more »


June 14, 2019

Articles of Note

There simply is no such person as a young Janet Malcolm. So ostentatious is she in her adulthood, young writers experience it as a rebuke... more »


New Books

Graham Greene in Havana. What better destination for a novelist who delighted in exposing conflicting loyalties and shifting political allegiances?... more »


Essays & Opinions

What is liberalism? A politics? A temperament? A credo? Maybe it's like a rhinoceros: A once-successful animal that now stands on the edge of extinction... more »