Dec. 15, 2017 | “Darwin was wrong,” says A.N. Wilson, whose book is quite often wrong, too. Indeed, it's an object lesson in how not to write the history of anything... more »


Dec. 14, 2017 | Hoaxes succeed by promising us what we wish for. P.T. Barnum called it “humbug,” a form of fakery that doesn't deceive so much as fill its beholder with wonder... more »


Dec. 13, 2017 | Patrick Leigh Fermor began walking in 1933. Until his death, in 2011, he was all generosity and enthusiasm, arcane knowledge and irresistible wit... more »


Dec. 12, 2017 | Goethe was an uninhibited pagan who boasted of his "pretty wild life" and knowledge of girls. Yet biographers suggest he didn't have sex until he was nearly 40. What gives?... more »


Dec. 11, 2017 | Toril Moi believes literary theory has corrosive consequences. She wants to transform the way we think about language. But her version of literary studies has no literature... more »


Dec. 9, 2017 | Biographers describe Oscar Wilde after prison as a broken man, a spent force. Nonsense. Until his final illness, he “carried himself with a threadbare majesty”... more »


Dec. 8, 2017 | Evelyn Waugh, who dropped out of Oxford, spent much of his life keeping the academy at bay. Now, perhaps inevitably, he’s the subject of a mountain of scholarship... more »


Dec. 7, 2017 | "So far as we love seriousness, as well as life," Susan Sontag wrote, "we are moved by it, nourished by it.” But what does it mean to love seriousness?... more »


Dec. 6, 2017 | A showdown with Pelé, a reconciliation with Edmund Wilson. Nabokov’s dream diary moves from the mundane (lost dentures) to the cosmic... more »


Dec. 5, 2017 | People make music, dance, paint, tell stories, adorn objects and themselves. The creative impulse is universal. Why? E.O. Wilson on the invention of art... more »


Dec. 4, 2017 | Sex and communism. Max Eastman — poet, editor, nudist, suffragist, war resister, socialist, libertarian conservative — lived a life of ideological and personal displacement... more »


Dec. 2, 2017 | Historically, books were read out loud, to an audience — lighting was expensive, illiteracy common, and reading was deemed dangerous... more »


Dec. 1, 2017 | “Let me confess something.” “Let me summarize.” “Let me give a couple of examples.” Writers don't ask permission. It’s your book, do what you want... more »


Nov. 30, 2017 | Clifton Fadiman was desperate to break into the WASP intellectual establishment. His plan: signal refinement by drinking the best wine... more »


Nov. 29, 2017 | What can we learn from a tell-all on literary women of the 1970s? That gossip is gold, and that the literary world is naturally mean, sad, and predatory... more »


Nov. 28, 2017 | “I had no idea that ____ was so interesting!” Canoes, oranges, the Merchant Marine – how does John McPhee get us to care about such subjects?... more »


Nov. 27, 2017 | Utopian ideas are supposed to be unrealistic. So can there be such a thing as a “utopia for realists”? It’s a question of improvement: progress, not perfection... more »


Nov. 25, 2017 | Politics and the prairie. Laura Ingalls Wilder "lamented the arrival of the grasshoppers on her land but accepted it as divine retribution for the New Deal"... more »


Nov. 24, 2017 | Modernity makes us forget history. Or so argues a new book. But who or what is “modernity,” and how does it manage such a feat?... more »


Nov. 23, 2017 | Edward Garnett, who launched the careers of Joseph Conrad and D.H. Lawrence, was a businessman, critic, and muse — the sort of character unique to literary London in the 1890s... more »


Nov. 22, 2017 | “I’ve taken to eating the occasional date,” writes Alan Bennett in his diary, an exhausting but entertaining catalog of the mundanities and absurdities of contemporary life... more »


Nov. 21, 2017 | Some 165,000 years ago, people on the South African coast started to eat molluscs and to use the shells as adornments. That’s when humans became human... more »


Nov. 20, 2017 | To join the Martin Amis Canon of Approved Writers, you must be a virtuoso at the sentence level. It also helps to be male, straight, and white... more »


Nov. 18, 2017 | “In my poetry a rhyme / Would seem to be almost insolent,” Brecht wrote in “Bad Time for Poetry,” just before the Nazi invasion of Poland. He nonetheless kept crafting quatrains... more »


Nov. 17, 2017 | Techno-optimists once prized testicular material from apes; today they plan to upload human minds. As always, one person’s dream is another’s nightmare... more »


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