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May 26, 2018

Articles of Note

When great thinkers feared beans. Pythagoras thought fava beans contained the souls of the dead — an idea that had surprising currency in the ancient world... more »


New Books

A memorable dinner at the White House. William Styron and James Baldwin attended. J.D. Salinger, a budding recluse, declined. Mary Hemingway bored JFK immensely... more »


Essays & Opinions

Heinrich Heine was neither deep nor strikingly original, and he did little to advance the intellectual debates of his time. What made him a major figure was his indomitable spirit... more »


May 25, 2018

Articles of Note

Aesthetically empty and running on a broken business model, art fairs are bad for art. Jerry Saltz on the menacing art-fair industrial complex ... more »


New Books

Deontologists, consequentialists, virtue ethicists. Philosophers are hopelessly divided on how to reach the truth about morality ... more »


Essays & Opinions

A work of art can be incisive, beautiful, discomfiting, or representative, but not necessary. So why do critics keep using that word?... more »


May 24, 2018

Articles of Note

Philip Roth, master chronicler of the American berserk, is dead. He was 85... Zadie Smith... Paul Berman... Dwight Garner... Stephen Metcalf... Nathan Englander... Talia Lavin... James Wood... Bernard Henri-Levy... Sam Lipsyte... Roger Cohen... Ron Charles... Marc Weitzmann... Nicole Krauss... Wash Post...Guardian... The Forward... The New Yorker... David Marcus... Elizabeth Pochoda... more »


New Books

The private writing of Roland Barthes reveals his crushes, his musical and literary preferences, and his desired thesis adviser — Claude Lévi-Strauss, who turned him down... more »


Essays & Opinions

Leonardo and the riddle of authentication. His works have resurfaced with surprising frequency. Can an expert eye really detect when it's the real thing?... more »


May 23, 2018

Articles of Note

A star of book publishing, Peter Mayer was known for his charm, his temper, his savvy, and his smoking. An appreciation... more »


New Books

Bleakness was his birthright. Despite the ministrations of academics, Joseph Conrad endures as a modern master of a tragic sense of life... more »


Essays & Opinions

Performance art” once involved raucous Dadaists; now it’s a Lady Gaga performance or Kanye West tweet. Why have pop stars started dealing in high-concept abstractions?... more »


May 22, 2018

Articles of Note

“I’m the kind of writer that doesn’t know jack shit about anything,” says Stephen King. That might not put you off The Stand, but what about his poetry?... more »


New Books

For decades Thomas Kuhn struggled to square the thought of an independent reality with the thesis of a changing world. He died feeling like a failure... more »


Essays & Opinions

In higher education, the ubiquity of innovation-speak masks a dearth of actual innovation. The latest fad: design thinking. It's a boondoggle... more »


May 21, 2018

Articles of Note

No one questions Oscar Hammerstein’s historical significance. But what explains the gap between his popularity and the middling esteem in which he is held by critics?... more »


New Books

Do the sex lives of Surrealists tell us anything about their paintings? Not much. But it does make for wonderfully bizarre — if somewhat frivolous — reading... more »


Essays & Opinions

When erotic misadventures and poetry became tiresome for Byron, he turned to military command, with 600 Greek troops and an audacious plan. Fiasco followed... more »


May 19, 2018

Articles of Note

In 1985, a pilot program called Mozart-in-the-Parking-Lot discovered something surprising: You can fight crime with orchestral music... more »


New Books

Espionage has inspired literature since Stendhal. The CIA even produces a partly classified journal devoted to the spy novel: Studies in Intelligence... more »


Essays & Opinions

The Enlightenment started with philosophical insights spread by a new technology. We face a dominant technology — artificial intelligence — in search of a philosophy... more »


May 18, 2018

Articles of Note

Precious and lilting, odd and interminable pauses, hanging in the air like "a thick cloud of oratorial perfume." What, exactly, is Poet Voice?... more »


New Books

Life is a cacophony — cellphones, TVs, traffic. But there is probably no more noise than there used to be. What's changed is the amount of distraction... more »


Essays & Opinions

Dickens heard his characters speak. Woolf heard birds singing in Greek. The treatment for hearing voices has long been: ignore them. What if we listened instead?... more »


May 17, 2018

Articles of Note

Tom Wolfe, journalist, novelist, contrarian, man of many verbal tics and white suits, is dead. He was 88... Louis Menand... Dwight Garner... Kurt Anderson.... Laura Miller... The Paris Review... Christian Lorentzen... Paul Elie... Graeme Wood... Christopher Bonanos... Elon Green... Adam Gopnik... Ron Charles... more »


New Books

Lucian Freud ignored the rise of abstraction; David Hockney unfashionably persisted in depicting love and happiness. Britain’s postwar painters had a talent for taboo-breaking... more »


Essays & Opinions

Is an intellectual’s responsibility to think, or to enact a political argument? The question once distinguished little magazines from think tanks, but that has changed... more »


May 16, 2018

Articles of Note

Useful in crime-scene investigations since China’s Qin dynasty, fingerprinting confounded Darwin and absolved Picasso. Where, exactly, does the technique come from?... more »


New Books

An aesthete traipsing nimbly through an age of brutal rupture. Alain Locke, the first black Rhodes Scholar, advanced cultural pluralism even as the odds were against him... more »


Essays & Opinions

Travel writing is a genre prone to indulgence but also capable of carrying considerable weight. Patrick Leigh Fermor was a master at managing that tension... more »


May 15, 2018

Articles of Note

When the Times called to tell Alice Dreger that she's part of a powerful alliance — the "intellectual dark web" — she laughed. Then she got worried... more »


New Books

Three ways in which democracies die: Coups, catastrophes, and technological takeovers. None of those are inevitable, but none have solutions.... more »


Essays & Opinions

Think of genius not as an isolated individual, but as the spirit of circumstance. Genius is contingent — precarious, rare, magical... more »


May 14, 2018

Articles of Note

How many spaces — one or two — to leave after a period at the end of a sentence? The question is a matter of reading comprehension, yes, but also decency... more »


New Books

Aristotle in America. His understanding of the middle class was a truth upon which the country's founders depended when legislating their own republic... more »


Essays & Opinions

How Victorian essayists used tact to come up with a creative rather than controlling, playful rather than violent way of handling not only other people but also the world and its objects... more »


May 12, 2018

Articles of Note

For Plato, uprightness made us human; for Kant, people were inherently bent; Hegel worried about stiffness. Why does posture attract such philosophical attention?... more »


New Books

Quantum theory is real and successful. It's also weird. Even those who understand it best, like Richard Feynman, aren't sure they understand what it means... more »


Essays & Opinions

“The evil opinions and acts of Baruch de Spinoza.” At the age of 23, the future philosopher was expelled from his Jewish community. What had he done?... more »


May 11, 2018

Articles of Note

Beware the autodidact's curse! You’ve read everything on a topic but haven’t spoken with anyone. You might be missing things, says Bryan Caplan... more »


New Books

The gags of a “gonzo” journalist. Hunter S. Thompson lit dynamite under beer kegs, sprayed unsuspecting people with Mace, blasted his assistant with a shotgun... more »


Essays & Opinions

Chekhov, Beckett, Woolf, Poe — all childless. Thomas Mann had kids but locked himself in his room and forbade them to disturb him. Are kids kryptonite to writers?... more »


May 10, 2018

Articles of Note

Joyce’s Dublin, Dos Passos’ New York, Woolf’s London, Proust’s Paris, Kafka’s Prague: How writers don't merely describe a city but reconstruct it... more »


New Books

While the quality of French intellectual life has plummeted, its reputation remains. What makes Left Bank scribblers so compelling?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Dostoevsky, broke. He ducked landlords, always lost at roulette, and pawned his wife’s dowry and their clothing. One project dominated his thinking: The Idiot... more »


May 9, 2018

Articles of Note

Every generation of intellectuals finds a way of coming to terms with the limits of its agency. Consider Joseph Brodsky's doctrine of passive resistance... more »


New Books

Hans Asperger did pioneering work on the syndrome that now bears his name. He was also, it turns out, complicit in the Nazi killing machine... more »


Essays & Opinions

Derided by Dadaists and Surrealists and hijacked by contemporary narcissism, beauty is an idea that's been up and down. What does it mean today?... more »


May 8, 2018

Articles of Note

Julia Kristeva's alleged collaboration with the Bulgarian secret police is unfortunate but understandable. Her other political errors are not... more »


New Books

What gave rise to the selfie? Don't blame Steve Jobs. Blame basic human jealousy. “Beggar is jealous of beggar and poet of poet,” wrote Hesiod... more »


Essays & Opinions

Timothy Snyder is one of our foremost historians of evil. He also personifies a certain paranoid style that has taken hold of liberals... more »


May 7, 2018

Articles of Note

What makes a great editor? The job is bound in a paradox: Running a magazine is inherently plural, but the individual editor — Eliot, Sartre, Silvers — remains dominant... more »


New Books

Consciousness is an instinct, says Michael Gazzaniga. But this is less a solution to the “hard problem” than a window through which to see it... more »


Essays & Opinions

Much of the work we do has no social value, and we hate doing it. Then there’s higher education, where the problem is acute. David Graeber on the bullshitization of academic life... more »


May 5, 2018

Articles of Note

“In all literary history, there had never been so great a success.” Demand for Rousseau’s Julie was so insatiable, copies were rented out at hourly rates... more »


New Books

At the Solovetsky Special Prison Camp — the “mother of the gulag,” per Solzhenitsyn — an intellectual and literary culture blossomed... more »


Essays & Opinions

The Nobel Prize for Literature is beset by scandal. But this has nothing to do with sex. The scandal is that the prize ever had any credibility at all... more »


May 4, 2018

Articles of Note

The Vatican Secret Archives contains 53 linear miles of materials, dating back more than 12 centuries, locked away and largely inaccessible. Until now... more »


New Books

For 80 days in 1964, Nabokov recorded his dreams on index cards. Does a great writer have more-interesting dreams than the rest of us?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Who doesn't love to beat up on literary theory? It's justified, but it's not the reason undergraduates aren't getting the education they deserve... more »


May 3, 2018

Articles of Note

Melville, at a loss. After the commercial flop of Moby-Dick, he mortgaged his farm and worked on a manuscript. Whatever happened to it?... more »


New Books

A tour through the maddeningly tedious canon of books by dictators leads one to ask: Does a savage autocrat lurk within every dreadful writer?... more »


Essays & Opinions

The Kuhn cult. Admiration for the philosopher is misplaced, says Errol Morris. Kuhn's thinking is unoriginal. Worse, it's an assault on truth... more »


May 2, 2018

Articles of Note

“I think mayonnaise has a complex kind of relation to the sublime.” For Fred Moten, even condiments deserve deep thinking... more »


New Books

Surrealist sex. Eileen Agar, according to her husband, was always trying to do the impossible, "such as making love standing up in a hammock"... more »


Essays & Opinions

Poems that hide in plain sight. Famous works, anthologized, widely read, become so encrusted with criticism it’s hard to see them anew... more »


May 1, 2018

Articles of Note

In a Russian archive sits a cigarillo box. Inside is what's believed to be Hitler's teeth. What do they reveal about how he died?... more »


New Books

Sylvia Plath's correspondence fills 1,424 pages. And that's just Volume 1. To read it is a slog, and a revelation. "I am more myself in letters"... more »


Essays & Opinions

Pity the poor pun. Reviled for its smirking stupidity, its ubiquity in advertising and talk-show banter, the wordplay deserves better... more »


April 30, 2018

Articles of Note

To grasp the future of campus politics, you need to understand how a barely noticed altercation at the University of Nebraska became a proxy war... more »


New Books

How did Gershom Scholem, an expert on obscure Jewish texts, become not just a historian or even theologian, but a prophet?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Wallace Thurman: editor, novelist, playwright. “A strangely brilliant Black boy who had read everything," said Langston Hughes, "and whose critical mind could find something wrong with everything he read”... more »


April 28, 2018

Articles of Note

For years it was an article of faith that American classical music remained stubbornly Eurocentric and lacked a usable past. Then along came Leonard Bernstein... more »


New Books

Math in Renaissance Europe effectively split science from religion. That's the argument of a new book. But such a sweeping generalization is prone to error... more »


Essays & Opinions

What Frida Kahlo is to Mexico, Julia de Burgos is to Puerto Rico. Except that de Burgos isn't well known to the rest of the world. Why not?... more »


April 27, 2018

Articles of Note

Worried that artificial intelligence will eclipse human intelligence? Rest easy, says Steven Pinker. Such scenarios falsely assume that intelligence implies a will to power... more »


New Books

What makes a Jewish joke Jewish? The punchline is freighted with grief and irony, meant to elicit a weary nod rather than outright laughter... more »


Essays & Opinions

How blank are our slates? Hobbes and Rousseau believed in the existence of human nature, but today’s philosophers are skeptical. Biology suggests an answer... more »


April 26, 2018

Articles of Note

Alan Jacobs noticed how Twitter made him intemperate, rigid, narrow, simplistic. "I pray more and more that God would teach me when it’s time to shut up"... more »


New Books

The venal side of libraries. Thieves, hoarders, shameful caretakers: Librarians love books but sometimes can’t be trusted with them... more »


Essays & Opinions

Before the sum total of human knowledge exploded, it was possible to know everything. The last man to do so was Sabine Baring-Gould... more »


April 25, 2018

Articles of Note

John Gray has been called a misanthrope and a nihilist. But he doesn't believe that social improvements are impossible — only that they're reversible... more »


New Books

At the intersection of good music, bad music, and Christian music stood Larry Norman, the mercurial godfather of Christian rock... more »


Essays & Opinions

At 30, Elizabeth Jennings was a celebrated poet. At 40, she lived in poverty, a shabby eccentric haunting Oxford cafes. What went wrong?... more »


April 24, 2018

Articles of Note

A more truthful representation of reality. The Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg separated storytelling from the self. Contemporary literature is only now catching up... more »


New Books

The vast literature on Hitler and Nazism circles around the central engima of the Holocaust: Premeditated action or barbaric improvisation?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Eros in the academy. Intellectual magnetism often shades into erotic attraction. That's always been true of students and professors... more »


April 23, 2018

Articles of Note

There's no business like the da Vinci business. It's a happy hunting ground for eccentrics and conspiracy theorists. And for a half-century, Martin Kemp has lived among them... more »


New Books

To what extent is inspiration entangled with intoxication? With writing and alcohol, it's comforting to think being sober is always better. But is it?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Death and the meaning of life. Have you thought about being composted or cremated? Perhaps donating your body to science? Why we distract ourselves from the fact that we are physical beings... more »