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July 23, 2018

Articles of Note

Aristotle wrote an essay, “On Sleep and Sleeplessness,” wondering how and why we sleep. Maybe the real wonder is why we bother to stay awake... more »


New Books

“Bitching Aplenty” could have been the title of Seymour Hersh's memoir. His antics wouldn't be tolerated today. Has journalism deprived itself of genius by depriving itself of depravity?... more »


Essays & Opinions

What is it like to be a man? We talk plenty about masculinity, but the topic resists straightforward discussion — even as men suck the air from every other conversation... more »


July 21, 2018

Articles of Note

The "intellectual dark web" is many things: crusade against political correctness, revolt against conventional beliefs, check on the illiberal left. One thing it is not: new... more »


New Books

The "problem of thinking" is a matter of overcoming discomfort, not biases. Thinking deeply is exhausting, and we instinctively avoid ideas that complicate our lives ... more »


Essays & Opinions

How is it that the gray mush inside our skulls can produce "hopes, fears, and dreams"? It's the sort of question that animates a lot of useless agonizing... more »


July 20, 2018

Articles of Note

Balzac and Paris. Faulkner and Mississippi. Thoreau and Walden Pond. Solzhenitsyn and ... Vermont? How the Russian novelist made rural New England his home... more »


New Books

Robert Caro’s five-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson will have been published over three decades. The future of the genre, via video, ebook, or podcast, will be quite different... more »


Essays & Opinions

"Disrespecting your ideological predecessors is something of a sport in modern American feminism, and it reaches varsity level when it comes to criticizing the second wave"... more »


July 19, 2018

Articles of Note

The Swedish Academy has always been consumed by self-importance. Now the bestower of Nobels in literature is consumed by scandals of sex and corruption... more »


New Books

Literary theory is choked with jargon and oracular prose, which makes John Farrell's achievement all the more remarkable... more »


Essays & Opinions

They cost 99 cents and depict glistening shirtless men. Romance e-books might seem frivolous, but the controversy over Her Cocky Doctors is anything but... more »


July 18, 2018

Articles of Note

When Mount Vesuvius erupted, thousands of papyrus scrolls were buried — the only intact ancient library. Will they finally be read?... more »


New Books

Oscar Wilde, post-imprisonment, was a broken, tragic figure. Or was he? A different story lurks in his hilarious letters and his general seduction of Paris... more »


Essays & Opinions

Writers and even academic institutes are celebrating the mystical power of psychedelics. The enthusiasm is based more on hope than on scientific evidence... more »


July 17, 2018

Articles of Note

Auden left Britain for America in 1939 — “at the first squeak of an air-raid warning,” said Evelyn Waugh. Was it mere cowardice?... more »


New Books

The imperialism of economics. The field explains away complicated realities, ignores culture, and exalts reductionism. Can it be saved?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Shakespeare and science. He was a poet of Copernican astronomy before the telescope, and a poet of microbiology before the modern microscope... more »


July 16, 2018

Articles of Note

In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee came up with the idea that became the internet. Since then he's thought of little but how to guard it — and of how he's failed to do so... more »


New Books

Life in the Matthiessen family. Hypermasculinity, CIA intrigue, multiple suicides, and literary brilliance. A member of the clan takes stock ... more »


Essays & Opinions

What does it mean to acquire a taste for something, whether classical music, coffee, or conservatism? It means shedding who we are and becoming who we aspire to be... more »


July 14, 2018

Articles of Note

For the past 25 years, in novel after novel, Michel Houellebecq advanced a case against modern sexuality. Now his dystopia is our reality... more »


New Books

In 1908, an elderly woman was murdered in her Glasgow apartment. The police had a suspect. Then Arthur Conan Doyle got involved... more »


Essays & Opinions

Science is too white, too male, too straight. So efforts to increase diversity make sense. But do they undermine scientific progress?... more »


July 13, 2018

Articles of Note

During Shoah’s, 9 1/2 hours, Claude Lanzmann, who died last week, displayed a genius for not looking away from enormities and not tolerating niceties... more »


New Books

A tale of two epics. Anthony Powell’s masterwork was as long and complex as Proust’s, and is of superior quality, writes Perry Anderson. Why has it been forgotten?... more »


Essays & Opinions

A mystical approach to translating Clarice Lispector. Hallucinations and prayers abounded; magic crystals were employed; when the dictionary failed, a psychic was consulted... more »


July 12, 2018

Articles of Note

Pity the semicolon. In poor favor since the mid-19th century, now it’s an object of derision. The semicolon is a goofy antique, yes, but it still works... more »


New Books

Is Lucretius a useful guide to the American political situation? Martha Nussbaum thinks so. She's not so much wrong as oblivious... more »


Essays & Opinions

Privilege: We hear that word a lot these days, usually as an indictment lobbed by the privileged themselves. Why? Matthew Crawford has a theory... more »


July 11, 2018

Articles of Note

The man who discovered probability. We now live in a Bayesian age, but for centuries Thomas Bayes was dismissed as a crank. It's a scandal of modern intellectual life... more »


New Books

Alcibiades punched his future father-in-law, bit his wrestling opponent, and tried to seduce everyone. How an appalling man became so appealing... more »


Essays & Opinions

Our culture scoffs at Freud and Jung and puts its faith in science and statistics. One hole in this pervasive rationality: the magic of coincidences... more »


July 10, 2018

Articles of Note

Concerns about cultural appropriation in literature have mounted. These complaints are baffling: What, exactly, is cultural appropriation?... more »


New Books

The memoir as manual is a most irksome publishing craze. As if life were a tidy moral lesson, and every idiosyncratic experience worthy of extrapolation... more »


Essays & Opinions

The Western canon emerged from a textual culture. Now we're in a digital age, when information is infinite. What authority do the Great Books still possess? ... more »


July 9, 2018

Articles of Note

Lewis Carroll in Russia. He arrived with wide-eyed enthusiasm and by all accounts seemed to enjoy himself. Yet he would never venture abroad again... more »


New Books

To unpack the debate over “Afro-pessimism” and the theories of Frantz Fanon and Fred Moten, consider the work of the poet Aimé Césaire... more »


Essays & Opinions

Have we fundamentally misunderstood our relationship with the earth? Bruno Latour, suspecting so, goes to meet the 98-year-old behind the “Gaia” hypothesis... more »


July 7, 2018

Articles of Note

A rave, in 1518. A woman stepped outside her house in Strasbourg and jigged for days on end. Hundreds joined in, some until they lost consciousness or died... more »


New Books

Horror, wonder, awe. To observe jellyfish is to experience both the beauty and the danger of the natural world... more »


Essays & Opinions

The lone male artist has often been taken as a genius; the lone female artist as a muse or “art monster.” But art does not have to be masculine or feminine... more »


July 6, 2018

Articles of Note

Taken from his dorm at Moscow’s Literary Institute in the middle of the night, Naum Korzhavin faced down his interrogators and survived. He “won this idiocy contest”... more »


New Books

A campaign against humanity. Invalided from civil service for alcoholism, Flann O’Brien turned his ire on publishers, television producers, and James Joyce... more »


Essays & Opinions

Donald Hall’s poetry could be dismissed as patriarchal, capitalist, and nationalist. But it also teaches persistence, practicality, and farsightedness... more »


July 5, 2018

Articles of Note

At the age of 38, Alexander Wilson was a middling poet with no scientific expertise. So how did he produce, over the next 10 years, his astounding ornithological writings?... more »


New Books

A farrago of politics, preaching, and fireworks. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is the literary equivalent of the Fourth of July... more »


Essays & Opinions

The good life, according to Aztec philosophy: The goal was not the pursuit of perfection but rather rootedness, moderation, prudence, and courage... more »


July 4, 2018

Articles of Note

Habsburg culture is back. Why? Nostalgia for its glamour, and our identifying with the late imperial period's disorienting changes in society and politics... more »


New Books

“Actuality is continually outdoing our talents,” noted Philip Roth. This anxiety — that reality is more creative than fiction — is key to the work of Laurent Binet... more »


Essays & Opinions

The conflict between the sciences and the humanities isn't resolvable as long as we disagree about what it means to be an educated person... more »


July 3, 2018

Articles of Note

On Instagram, half of all comments include an emoji. On Messenger, five billion are sent and received every day. Are emoji a universal language? Or are they destroying language?... more »


New Books

Stephen Greenblatt's tour of Elizabethan-era tyranny is reassuring: Shakespeare believed that tyrants ultimately fail. But it is also deeply unconvincing... more »


Essays & Opinions

In 1838, Frédéric Chopin and George Sand went on vacation in Majorca. Thus began the most notoriously unsuccessful holiday in the history of classical music... more »


July 2, 2018

Articles of Note

Balthus liked painting young girls, sometimes nude, often posed erotically. Should his artistic preoccupation be seen as a troubling personal one?... more »


New Books

“Writing about football is nonsense,” writes Karl Ove Knausgaard, in a book about football. Before punk rock, cigarettes, and women, he found joy in the beautiful game... more »


Essays & Opinions

A boomlet of “death of liberalism” writing is underway. But look back: It first died in the 1870s and has been dying almost continuously since 1920... more »


June 30, 2018

Articles of Note

Life is awash with inducements to stupidity and greed. Witness how the global art market is too busy acquiring to think about much of anything else... more »


New Books

The writing and enjoyment of intellectual works are often predicated on exploitation. Should one feel guilt — or gratitude — for such privileges?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Frida Kahlo’s ashtray, her eyebrow pencil, her prosthetic leg — they convey only emptiness, alienation, and loss. They are displayed in museums, but they are not art... more »


June 29, 2018

Articles of Note

Romain Gary, literary bad boy. He fabulated copiously, wrote under assumed names, and won the Prix Goncourt twice, which was technically impossible... more »


New Books

What do Mary McCarthy, Hannah Arendt, and Susan Sontag have in common? They'd all have delighted in eviscerating a new group biography of them... more »


Essays & Opinions

Nothing is more American than to proudly declare yourself outside the mainstream. And so we've become a herd of people busily declaring ourselves not part of the herd... more »


June 28, 2018

Articles of Note

How should a novelist be? Don't read about yourself — not reviews, think pieces, stories, or tweets. Jonathan Franzen contemplates life, art, and bushtits... more »


New Books

“The only man who has ever stuck a knife into the queen.” Joseph Lister operated on royals, fought gangrene, and drew inspiration from the Great Stink of 1858... more »


Essays & Opinions

Neuroscientists chase incorrect theories; brain-imaging studies suffer from statistical mistakes; economics embraces faulty premises. Does bad science spread?... more »


June 27, 2018

Articles of Note

Nietzsche's writing style — aphoristic, polemical, funny, scathing — grew out of a belief that readers want to be provoked, amused, and annoyed... more »


New Books

Who is Paul Theroux? A man split between art and commerce, America and Britain. A solitary nomad most at home with expats and oddballs... more »


Essays & Opinions

Writing from Arles, France, van Gogh told his brother, “I’m in Japan here.” As French neoclassicism ran out of gas, his turn was to the East... more »


June 26, 2018

Articles of Note

George Orwell's socialism is often treated as the naïve and quirky belief of a lovable eccentric. The truth is more complex... more »


New Books

In 1989, researchers linked low self-esteem to social problems, prompting a wave of concern about self-worth. That study amounts to a fraud... more »


Essays & Opinions

Fondling in the library, seduction in the bookstore — why do sex and literature go together? Edmund White on reading, writing, and romance... more »


June 25, 2018

Articles of Note

If artificial intelligence ever produces a sentient machine capable of engaging in conversation, it will most likely be a machine no one will want to talk with... more »


New Books

The timeless art of suckering tourists. Armed with “authentic” engravings of Roman monuments, a 17th-century Swiss Guardsman plied his trade... more »


Essays & Opinions

Jean-Michel Basquiat was a young black painter who became the darling of rich, mostly white, collectors. We've had a hard time making the two go together easily. So did he... more »


June 23, 2018

Articles of Note

What if Gravity’s Rainbow or Ulysses or Finnegans Wake came out today? We may once have liked complex books, but not anymore. Martin Amis explains... more »


New Books

“Evolution is cleverer than you are.” Or so goes the old saying in biology. But does it hold in our age of Crispr and computer-powered gene editing?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Looking for a best-selling book for girls? Chances are it has a title like Bygone Badass Broads or Women Who Dared. But well-behaved women, too, make history... more »


June 22, 2018

Articles of Note

When French intellectuals go wild! Postwar Paris was all preening, partying, and prostitutes -- or so says a new history of bed-hopping on the Left Bank... more »


New Books

The prevalence of such terms as "no offense," "with respect," and "kind regards" are among the signs that we are in the midst of an unfortunate epidemic of politeness... more »


Essays & Opinions

Beethoven and #BlackLivesMatter. To be black and a classical musician is considered a contradiction, as if loving a Haydn sonata is somehow to betray black culture... more »


June 21, 2018

Articles of Note

An air of improvisation and fun graced everything Stanley Cavell did — he seemed to make it up as he went. The philosopher is dead at 91... more »


New Books

Philosophy is dead. Excitement, creativity, and inventiveness have been replaced by dutiful recitations and historical re-enactments... more »


Essays & Opinions

Has Julia Kristeva's reputation been damaged by revelations that she used to work for Bulgarian intelligence? In truth, the damage was done long ago... more »


June 20, 2018

Articles of Note

Murders over a Mexican stele, a “Modigliani” unceremoniously tossed around, frequent calls from the FBI. Life is not dull for James Martin, the world’s top art detective ... more »


New Books

Elif Batuman thinks literature, literary theory, and their study at elite universities can be the stuff of a good novel. But is it a book people would want to read?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Finding his riffs on dead babies unappreciated, Wayne Koestenbaum dropped out of a writing workshop. What does his perverse poetry stand for?... more »


June 19, 2018

Articles of Note

People hang a lot of labels on Ed Ruscha: minimalist, surrealist, neo-Dadaist, and, most of all, cool. That last one is a problem... more »


New Books

When improv comedy is done poorly, which is often, it's excruciating. But even at its best, improv is almost always inferior to prepared material... more »


Essays & Opinions

Being Leonard Bernstein’s daughter. Hearing of her dad’s sexual exploits was one thing; his showing up at Harvard to party was something else entirely... more »