Sept. 21, 2017 | What writers wear. Updike’s look, like his prose, was “normcore with flair.” Beckett cultivated a “nonchalantly seductive” look via turtleneck. And then there’s Knausgaard... more »


Sept. 20, 2017 | A poem is a machine, "one that for the reader produces discoveries, connections, glimmers of expression,” says Matthew Zapruder. How should that machine function?... more »


Sept. 19, 2017 | Books by Charles Darwin number 25. Books about Darwin number 7,500, with 160 more titles each year. Is there anything new to say on the subject? Yes... more »


Sept. 18, 2017 | A.E. Housman's work is suffused with the pain of life, and the beauty of that pain. Yet his emotional armor was heavy. How to explain the gulf between poet and poetry?... more »


Sept. 16, 2017 | "The essay is subject to laws that are not less strict for appearing to be delicate and ineffable,” says Brian Dillon, who attempts the thankless task of defining those laws... more »


Sept. 15, 2017 | Five and a half years. That's how long Otis Redding's career lasted. Given where he came from, it's astonishing that his career happened at all... more »


Sept. 14, 2017 | John McPhee is the maestro of 40,000-word nonfiction articles. He spent weeks staring at the sky thinking about how to begin. Can anyone still afford to write like that?... more »


Sept. 13, 2017 | The Enlightenment emerged from a 150-year “staccato burst” of European philosophy. Why did these thinkers — Hobbes, Descarte, Voltaire, Rousseau — write as they did? ... more »


Sept. 12, 2017 | Over three years, Mozart composed eight piano concertos, three symphonies, and The Marriage of Figaro. He also bought a pet starling. Coincidence?... more »


Sept. 11, 2017 | What happened to the public intellectual? She became a partisan. Hannah Arendt warned about translating philosophical insight into political commitment ... more »


Sept. 9, 2017 | Does what you eat reveal the content of your character? "While extraordinary circumstances produce extraordinary women, food makes them recognizable"... more »


Sept. 8, 2017 | If we were to take a lesson from the Iliad, it would be to resist the seductions of rage. But beware of authors touting lessons from ancient Greeks... more »


Sept. 7, 2017 | The Quran is an allusive text. Precisely that difficult and poetic style, says Sari Nusseibeh, is what makes it a "progenitor of reason"... more »


Sept. 6, 2017 | There is a long and sordid tradition of trying to diminish Darwin by insisting that his ideas are not original. A.N. Wilson is no more successful than his predecessors... more »


Sept. 5, 2017 | Jane Carlyle was the greatest letter writer of her time. A correspondent of Mill, Darwin, Forster, she is remembered as a genius. But a genius of what?... more »


Sept. 4, 2017 | Chester B. Himes disdained literary conventions. In prison, he reimagined himself as a new kind of "black literary realist." He was largely forgotten, until now... more »


Sept. 2, 2017 | What makes popular-science books popular? The opportunity to measure your comprehension against the best minds. Falling behind is part of the thrill... more »


Sept. 1, 2017 | During the Gilded Age, some rich people dabbled in séances and breakfasted with corpses. Consider the portrait subjects of John Singer Sargent... more »


Aug. 31, 2017 | An octopus is a soft-bodied mollusc with three hearts that beat blue-green blood. It is also remarkably clever... more »


Aug. 30, 2017 | Randall Jarrell thought that Richard Wilbur's poetry didn't go far enough — that he settled for good but not great work. Now 96, has Wilbur put that critique to rest?... more »


Aug. 29, 2017 | Economic equality seems like a very good thing. Too bad it tends to occur only under the most barbaric of conditions... more »


Aug. 28, 2017 | Why do Americans think as they do about sex? Early Christian attitudes toward sin and shame play a role. But religion is only part of the answer ... more »


Aug. 26, 2017 | How books are read is as important as what’s in them. Reading out loud, for instance, was seen as a defense against the "seductive, enervating dangers" of sentimental novels... more »


Aug. 25, 2017 | The personal essay has become an introspective exercise full of pretty phrases that mean nothing. Another type of personal essay is possible... more »


Aug. 24, 2017 | Barthes was killed by a van; Althusser strangled his wife. Could those events be connected? In a new novel, they are... more »


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