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Since 1998, Arts & Letters Daily has linked to more than 17,000 articles, book reviews and essays. Consider supporting us. »
May 24, 2019

Articles of Note

Storytelling was Shakespeare’s gift, and no stories gripped him more than those of classical antiquity... more »


New Books

The dissents of Wendell Berry. His dislikes include weather forecasts, unsmelly bathrooms, ballroom dancing, and the moon landing... more »


Essays & Opinions

Leslie Epstein has spent 40 years in the same wooden chair in the same lopsided room teaching fiction. The job is changing... more »


May 23, 2019

Articles of Note

Natural preserves have been havens from the modern world, a place to get away. On social media, the good spots can no longer hide... more »


New Books

In the Western tradition, what’s the most powerful and persuasive construct of the human imagination? It’s the idea of hell... more »


Essays & Opinions

Slaughterhouse Five at 50. Despite Vonnegut’s conviction that the book was a failure, it has endured surprisingly well... more »


May 22, 2019

Articles of Note

Mozart’s revolution. He composed for aristocrats and the public alike, exploding class lines in a frenzy of creativity... more »


New Books

The history of psychiatry is the history of our beliefs about our own minds. Breakthrough and disappointment, dogmas and counter-dogmas... more »


Essays & Opinions

"How much you can learn from someone by looking very carefully at them without judgement.” Lucian Freud’s brute nudity... more »


May 21, 2019

Articles of Note

The odyssey of Sean Wilentz, part New York intellectual, part Beltway pundit, part meticulous historian... more »


New Books

It cannot be the fate of the book to become tweetlike. The book must stand above. A case study in what happens when it doesn't... more »


Essays & Opinions

The web is awash in tips from successful women writers — here’s what they’re reading, their Sunday routine. Does it help us understand them?... more »


May 20, 2019

Articles of Note

Pity the precocious? The hyper-intelligent often suffer from boredom, isolation, and depression — and so genius may not be the gift we perceive it to be... more »


New Books

How Islam shaped Western thought. The relationship led to a flowering of political philosophy, thought experiment, and polemic... more »


Essays & Opinions

“A monster of arrogance and inconsideration.” Susan Sontag cut through received wisdom — an approach sorely missing today... more »


May 18, 2019

Articles of Note

Hemingway, war correspondent. His arrangement with Collier’s magazine was doomed from the start — and a $187,000 expense claim didn’t help... more »


New Books

As Oliver Sacks wrote, between mania and depression lies “a narrow ridge of normality.” Despite his best efforts, he sometimes slipped off that ridge... more »


Essays & Opinions

New books reinterpret Homeric poems toward feminist ends. But in advancing a 21st-century politics, do they rob readers of ethical ambiguities?... more »


May 17, 2019

Articles of Note

Nathan Glazer was the rare social scientist who was as indifferent to grand theorizing as he was to ideological consistency... more »


New Books

In the last decades of the 19th century, séances abounded, and austere sects speculated about geology. Darwin’s world was awash with spiritualized science... more »


Essays & Opinions

One notable thing about Stefan Zweig’s writing is how varied the reactions to it have been — in his own time and our own... more »


May 16, 2019

Articles of Note

Harper Lee was always writing — letters, casino reviews, bar ballads. Why wasn’t she wasn’t publishing anything?... more »


New Books

“Tonight I have achieved a fresh perspective on myself. I now understand my sexuality." Foucault on LSD... more »


Essays & Opinions

Make philosophy great again. The field has been reduced to bland Continental and analytic variants — a trend that must be reversed... more »


May 15, 2019

Articles of Note

Artificial humans are a cliché of science fiction. When they finally arrive, they will seem to some a disappointment. Ian McEwan explains... more »


New Books

The problem with eternity: it is undesirable and incoherent; it kills meaning and collapses value. Can this realization be liberating?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Humor is often lost in translation, especially if it's being translated from German. Yes, the jokes are ponderous. But they're funny, too... more »


May 14, 2019

Articles of Note

Bolaño and Ferrante caught on, but, in general, Americans continue to shrug at foreign fiction. What has sent the market for translations into decline?... more »


New Books

Being Einstein meant people asking your opinion even about stupid things. "Why is it that no one understands me and everyone likes me?"... more »


Essays & Opinions

The myth of advice. Successful people want to be helpful. But their advice sounds empty and canned — because it is... more »


May 13, 2019

Articles of Note

Pinocchio, beyond mendacity. The moral of the folktale, dark and complex, concerns the value of education under authoritarianism... more »


New Books

"I greet you at the beginning of a great career," Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote Allen Ginsberg. "When do I get the manuscript?" Thus began the effort to publish Howl, a landmark case of attempted censorship... more »


Essays & Opinions

Today’s intellectual mode: “Learn an attitude and inquire no further.” Marilynne Robinson on why certain ideas, like economic “associationism,” have vanished... more »


May 11, 2019

Articles of Note

Welcome to academe’s extinction event. What's that you smell? A noxious combination of failure, whiskey, and professional collapse... more »


New Books

When political failure leads to intellectual success. “Losers,” said Eric Hobsbawm, “make the best historians.” He was an embodiment of that principle... more »


Essays & Opinions

The cultural contradictions of Daniel Bell. He never could quite reconcile the Jewish conservative and the Yiddish radical within him... more »


May 10, 2019

Articles of Note

A lifetime of looking. To view Bruegel’s monumental works is to encounter an encyclopedic totality and a love for the world’s multiplicity... more »


New Books

Reading Catcher in the Rye in Moscow. For Soviet audiences, imbibing Western culture — and misinterpreting it — was an expression of a freedom... more »


Essays & Opinions

E.H. Carr and the fate of facts. “By and large, the historian will get the kind of facts he wants. History means interpretation”... more »


May 9, 2019

Articles of Note

Sherwood Anderson, sage of small-town life, was reviled in his own hometown. The local librarian burned copies of Winesburg, Ohio... more »


New Books

For Samuel Johnson, the value of sociability was a life lesson. "I look upon every day to be lost, in which I do not make a new acquaintance"... more »


Essays & Opinions

Wit, mockery, joking, buffoonery: The oldest monastic rule we know of forbade joking. Laughter has long had a dangerously democratic quality... more »


May 8, 2019

Articles of Note

What mechanisms of evolution led to the emergence of high-level cooperation among humans? E.O. Wilson and the fight over altruism... more »


New Books

In 1940, thousands of Polish officers, writers, and artists were shot. The painter Józef Czapski survived to contemplate a question: Why him?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Adam Gopnik and the limits of liberalism. Is a defense of moderation and incrementalism really evidence of a refusal to look at reality?... more »


May 7, 2019

Articles of Note

Bergsonmania. Henri Bergson’s lectures on philosophy led to mobbed venues and the first-ever traffic jam on Broadway. Why was he so popular?... more »


New Books

Liberty, morality, exceptionalism, xenophobia, oppression — Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen makes the case that American history is intellectual history... more »


Essays & Opinions

Podcasts are the internet for our ears; they allow us to drift into a soothing, saturated state, distracting us from loneliness. Maybe loneliness is better... more »


May 6, 2019

Articles of Note

This month thousands of scholars will gather for the Congress on Medieval Studies. Among the questions up for debate: Does the field have a white-supremacy problem?... more »


New Books

You may have heard that Richard Holbrooke was a monstrous egotist. "It’s true," writes his biographer. "It’s even worse than you’ve heard. He lets us ogle ambition in the nude”... more »


Essays & Opinions

More than 7,000 pages of his letters, 8,000 pages of prose, 12,000 pages of Criterion, the magazine he edited. How much T.S. Eliot is too much T.S. Eliot?... more »


May 4, 2019

Articles of Note

Hitler’s favorite conductor, Wilhelm Furtwängler was known for a wobbly beat and the cultivation of inexactitude — a sort of spontaneity by design... more »


New Books

The afterlives of philosophers. Nietzsche’s reputation fell almost immediately into disrepute; Kierkegaard, on the other hand, became an inspiration for “mindfulness.” Why?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Making ends meet as a book reviewer: $250 here and there, $1,000 from The New Republic. Jacob Silverman on the “foolish pursuit of an intellectually engaged life”... more »


May 3, 2019

Articles of Note

“A Seditious man and of a disordered mind, and a person of bad name, reputation and Conversation.” So determined the court regarding Daniel Defoe... more »


New Books

In 1958 a curious academic impostor entered Hugh Trevor-Roper’s life. He found the man hilarious. Then he got fooled himself... more »


Essays & Opinions

The history of cheerfulness. It evolved from a Greek virtue aligned with patience and justice into a self-helpy brand of American nonsense that borders on psychosis... more »


May 2, 2019

Articles of Note

Camille Paglia joined the University of the Arts in 1984. Now a group of students believes it is too dangerous to talk openly about her ideas on campus... more »


New Books

In 1942, Ian Watt was instructed to defend Singapore Zoo from the Japanese. From the perspective of the animals, things did not go well... more »


Essays & Opinions

The rise of the literary critic as pre-eminent cultural arbiter was a fluky aberration of the 20th century. The role was always going to be temporary... more »


May 1, 2019

Articles of Note

After at least 14,000 years of living with dogs, why are we only now getting around to considering what goes on inside their heads?... more »


New Books

The tragedy of Martin Buber. He had hoped to provide European Jews with a sustaining connection to their tradition. Then most of them were killed... more »


Essays & Opinions

When ancient battles seem modern. The Epicureans were outraged when their school was bought as a retirement home for an amateur pornographer... more »


April 30, 2019

Articles of Note

David Brooks gets woke. “Maybe racial injustice is at the core of everything,” he says. “I’ve had that thought”... more »


New Books

Shakespeare was many things, but not — inconveniently for a new book on the subject — a great classicist. As a drinking partner put it, the Bard had “small Latin and less Greek”... more »


Essays & Opinions

John Berger occasionally went awry in evaluating individual artists (like Picasso), but his bullshit detection and skepticism of fashionable ideologies were nonpareil... more »


April 29, 2019

Articles of Note

When Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak met Jacques Derrida. "I did not recognize him until he came up to me and said, in French, Je m’appelle Jacques Derrida,” and I almost died... more »


New Books

For Mary Norris, the comma queen, an early encounter with Greek mythology initiatied a lifelong infatuation with the magic of the ancient world... more »


Essays & Opinions

"The habit of seeing universities as the main or even sole custodians of humanistic culture isn’t just inaccurate; it is bad for universities themselves"... more »


April 27, 2019

Articles of Note

“Steering the aircraft into a cloud of flak.” Bari Weiss is a punching bag for lefty Twitter. Is she really, as she suggests, just a misunderstood liberal humanist?... more »


New Books

The Larkin wars. Tedious academics debate the humdrum details of the poet’s life, right down to his socks. Less examined: his genius... more »


Essays & Opinions

From Gordon Lish’s severity to Michael Pietsch’s maximalism, editors invisibly shape literary trends. That bodes ill as we enter publishing’s Conglomerate Era... more »


April 26, 2019

Articles of Note

Writers get all the credit — they appear glamorous and sexy, with work routines to be emulated. Translators, in contrast, are invisible. That should change... more »


New Books

The business secrets of messianic socialists. From mop factories to property scams, communistic cults in America have been surprisingly entrepreneurial... more »


Essays & Opinions

Audiobooks and the ethic of efficiency. Increasingly, we don't read so much as listen. It’s an instinct born of a mania for optimizing every minute... more »


April 25, 2019

Articles of Note

In March, Amherst College posted a 40-page glossary of terms involving identity, privilege, oppression, and inclusion. The document is almost comically tendentious... more »


New Books

Sexual solicitations, quid pro quos, and drunken brawls. At the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, professors thought that “free booty was part of their compensation package”... more »


Essays & Opinions

Writer, weightlifter, defender of Oscar Wilde. A literary legacy seemed assured for the now-forgotten Frank Harris, who ranked his own genius with Shakespeare’s... more »


April 24, 2019

Articles of Note

We know so little of the worlds beneath our feet. And yet with cave art, burial complexes, and melting glaciers, these impenetrable strata draw us still... more »


New Books

The brain on deadline. In the sports pages of the 1910s and ‘20s is a master course on what it means for a writer to improvise, compress, contrive... more »


Essays & Opinions

Against podcasts. They are tedious and samey and sedative. Don’t waste your precious hours on them. A music critic makes his case... more »


April 23, 2019

Articles of Note

A debate that wasn’t. The Žižek-Peterson showdown featured two incomprehensible Ph.D.s talking past each other. Nathan J. Robinson suffered through it... more »


New Books

"The wholly enlightened earth is radiant with triumphant calamity,” wrote Horkheimer and Adorno. Is enlightenment necessarily accompanied by darker forces?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Influence and its discontents. The condition of being influenced is rarely a happy one. Shakespeare knew this. But will “social-media influencers” listen?... more »


April 22, 2019

Articles of Note

Robert Caro doesn’t worry about the future of history and biography. He does worry about the quality of the prose in future works of history and biography... more »


New Books

Why conducting matters. Whether the approach is mystical shaman, tyrant, or traffic cop, how to make sense of this most mysterious of musical professions?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Problems at the painter’s guild. Rembrandt was insolvent and thus banned from the group. Only through some legal chicanery could he find work... more »


April 20, 2019

Articles of Note

John Coltrane was the archetypal creative obsessive, a trait obscured by his canonization as a spiritual seeker on a higher plane than mortal men... more »


New Books

No theater-going experience is as tedious as being forced to listen to ideas now taken for granted. Just try to sit through A Doll’s House... more »


Essays & Opinions

Nearly 40 years ago, George W.S. Trow lamented what television had done to intellectual life. Imagine what he'd say about social media... more »