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Peer Review: Front Row Seats

July 1, 2015
Peer Review: Front Row Seats

Biographer Zachary Leader takes his readers on a long, detailed tour of the first half of Saul Bellow’s life, and while those readers may be loving it, the critics have been complaining!

American Exceptional

July 1, 2015
American Exceptional

Adam Begley’s long and exhaustive biography of iconic 20th century author John Updike reads like one long string of new books and new love affairs – but does it capture the man?

Steep, Bloody Engagements

July 1, 2015
Steep, Bloody Engagements

The success of the documentary Blackfish has thrown a spotlight on orcas not as the “killer” whales of the ocean but as victims; a dazzling new natural history broadens the picture to show us truly magnificent alien beings.

A Moon, A Girl … Romance!

July 1, 2015
A Moon, A Girl … Romance!

Sure, we all know Superman, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man – but what about the also-rans? Who played the Captain and Tennille to the Avengers’ Sonny and Cher? Zach Rabiroff looks at the heroes who didn’t quite make the prime-time cut.

Caved-in and Chopfallen

July 1, 2015
Caved-in and Chopfallen

The brutal realities of the urban landscape are both indicted and illuminated in the paintings of Jerome Witkin. Brett Busang examines the life and work of this inner city Canaletto.

Poor People are Like Oysters: The Life of Giovanni Verga

July 1, 2015
Poor People are Like Oysters: The Life of Giovanni Verga

Most people today know him only from the libretto of one short opera, but in his own day, he was a famous poet, playwright, and scholar – and a compulsive litigant. Luciano Mangiafico looks at the life of Gionanni Verga.

From the Archives: Register of Wonder

July 1, 2015
From the Archives: Register of Wonder

D. Graham Burnett, a young historian of science, produces a fantastic and important encyclopedic history of the long, torturous, often retrograde progress toward “Save the Whales.”

Book Review: Domesticated

June 24, 2015
domesticated cover

Tens of thousands of years ago, humans domesticated canines and thereby changed the dynamics of life on earth – a change humanity then continued by domesticating other species. A fascinating new book details the process

Book Review: The Upright Thinkers

June 24, 2015
the upright thinkers cover

Millions of years ago, hominids began walking upright – thus expanding their field of view and freeing their hands for mischief and took-making. A new book celebrates the result.

In Paperback: Human Universe

June 24, 2015
human universe cover

Now in paperback in the US: the companion book to the popular BBC science program hosted by physicist Brian Cox

Book Review: The World Beyond Your Head

June 18, 2015
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The “ecologies of attention and action” form the dynamic heart of philosopher Matthew Crawford’s new book. Robert Minto reviews.

Book Review: Charles I & The People of England

June 16, 2015
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How did the dynamics of kingship apply to a distant and socially maladroit little creature like King Charles I? A terrific new book looks at personality and power in the Stuart era

Book Review: Bright Eyed

June 11, 2015
bright eyed

A new memoir about sleeplessness – and the wired culture that seems to encourage it

In Paperback: Wildlife in the Anthropocene

June 11, 2015
wildlife in the anthropocene

Now in paperback: a new rumination on the nature of the post-wildlife world mankind has built

Book Review: The Rise of Thomas Cromwell

June 10, 2015
rise of cromwell cover

Hilary Mantel’s two famous novels have fueled the centuries-old curiosity about King Henry VIII’s notorious minister Thomas Cromwell: was he a saint, Satan, or a civil servant? A magnificent new study attempts to sift fact from fiction

Book Review: Shakespeare and the Countess

June 4, 2015
shakespeare and the countess cover

The 1596 battle over Blackfriars Theatre was waged by a strong-willed Puritan woman who had a habit of picking fights, including with the Queen; a terrific new book tells the story at length for the first time

Book Review: Wellington, Waterloo and the Fortunes of Peace

June 3, 2015
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In time for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo comes the concluding volume in Rory Muir’s magisterial biography of the battle’s victor, the Duke of Wellington

Book Review: Behind the Mask

June 1, 2015
behind the mask

The enigmatic and compelling aristocratic author Vita Sackville-West is the subject of an approachable new biography

Father Knows Best

June 1, 2015
Father Knows Best

He shaped the morals and manners of a vast country and put an indelible stamp on the world’s thinking, but he himself couldn’t get the job he wanted. Robert Minto reviews a new history of Confucianism.

Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeeezin’

June 1, 2015
Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeeezin’

It has three hearts, eight tentacles, and a brain of startling and utterly alien complexity – it’s the octopus, and a heartfelt new book takes readers inside the cephalopod world. Justin Hickey reviews.

No Doubters in the Shipyards

June 1, 2015
No Doubters in the Shipyards

Celebrated biographer H. W. Brands has written the first full-dress of Ronald Reagan since the former president’s death in 2004 – but does Reagan elude him, as he has so many biographers? Steve Donoghue reviews.

The Pangs

June 1, 2015
The Pangs

The ecstasy and anguish of falling in love have been the stuff of poetry for thousands of years – but do they boil down to the workings of serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline? Jane Schmidt reviews a new look at romantic love.

Scala or Piolo? The Painstaking Brilliance of Alessandro Manzoni

June 1, 2015
<em>Scala or Piolo?</em> The Painstaking Brilliance of Alessandro Manzoni

Poet, dramatist, and author of the great Italian novel I promessi sposi, Alessandro Manzoni led a life as fascinating as his fiction. Luciano Mangiafico tells the story of the Father of Italian Prose.

From the Archives: Flowers in the Pit

June 1, 2015
From the Archives: Flowers in the Pit

“The eye says ‘Here is Anna Karenina,’” wrote Virginia Woolf; “A voluptuous lady in black velvet wearing pearls comes before us. But the brain says ‘that is no more Anna Karenina than it is Queen Victoria.’” Joe Wright’s cinematic adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic novel avoids the pitfalls of such literalism.

Book Review: Fastest Things on Wings

May 30, 2015
fastest things on wings

A group of rescuers in Southern California treat the most delicate patients imaginable: injured hummingbirds

Book Review: Noise Matters

May 29, 2015
noise matters cover

A genuinely thought-provoking new work of science-writing probes the nature – and even the value – of noise

Book Review: Goethe

May 26, 2015
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A short new biography seeks to do the impossible: encompass the Protean life of Goethe in only a handful of pages. Robert Minto reviews.

Book Review: The Obelisk and the Englishman

May 21, 2015
the obelisk and the englishman cover

The pioneering English Egyptologist William Bankes gets a smart and vivacious new biography

Classics Reissued: Onward and Upward in the Garden

May 13, 2015
nyrb onward and upward cover

The quintessential modern classic of gardening-literature gets a very nice reprint

Book Review: A Buzz in the Meadow

May 13, 2015
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A nature enthusiast looks at the countless little lives taking place on his small rural French meadow-farm

Book Review: Theatre of the Unimpressed

May 12, 2015
theatre of the unimpressed cover

A wunderkind of the Canadian theater world writes an impassioned manifesto about everything that’s wrong with the theater world – with better results than you’d expect

Classics Reissued: Cyriac of Ancona

May 12, 2015
cyriac of ancona

During the Italian Renaissance, one enterprising autodidact took it upon himself to track down and transcribe as many inscriptions from the ancient world as he could find

Book Review: John Knox

May 9, 2015
john knox cover

The firebrand preacher and founder of the Presbyterian denomination is the subject of a masterful new biography

Book Review: JFK and LBJ – The Last Two Great Presidents

May 8, 2015
jfk and lbj cover

A former British White House correspondent looks back half a century at the two titans who ruled a now-vanished Washington

Book Review: Faith vs. Fact

May 7, 2015
faith vs fact cover

Religion and science – the so-called “non-overlapping magisteria” – are actually deeply adversarial, writes “Why Evolution is True” author Jerry Coyne

‘I’m the Top Goddess – How Could I Fail to Make Trouble?’

May 1, 2015
‘I’m the Top Goddess – How Could I Fail to Make Trouble?’

Renowned classicist and historian Peter Green has at last produced a translation of the Iliad – and it comes with its own Greek Chorus. Steve Donoghue investigates.

The Schizophrenic Prophet

May 1, 2015
The Schizophrenic Prophet

A sumptuous new Library of America volume contains a rich sampling of the work of Reinhold Niebuhr – whom reviewer Robert Minto refers to as “the premiere establishment theologian of the 20th century.”

The Atrium Effect: Museums Under Glass

May 1, 2015
The Atrium Effect: Museums Under Glass

Big slabs of glass may look impressive, but they have a serious effect on our interaction with art. Museums are changing, and it isn’t always a good thing.

A Cycle of Horrifying Songs

May 1, 2015
schubert’s winter journey – Copy

Schubert’s bleak, tumultuous song cycle, Winterreise, is the subject of tenor Ian Bostridge’s passionate new book. Greg Waldmann examines Schubert’s Winter Journey, and the trouble with hard-to-love classical music.

Reading Poetry

May 1, 2015
Reading Poetry

From Wallace Stevens to Seamus Heaney to Jorie Graham, the latest collection of critical pieces by Helen Vendler celebrates the worth of a wide array of writers. Jack Hanson reviews The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar.

In the Flesh

May 1, 2015
In the Flesh

Into an unremarkable marriage comes a major disruption: the wife stops eating meat. Suddenly, everything in their usually orderly world goes out of control.

Hectic Hyperborea

May 1, 2015
Hectic Hyperborea

Michael Pye’s new book provides a rich history of the North Sea in human culture – and pokes holes in some crass nationalist myth-making along the way. Matt Ray reviews The Edge of the World.

From the Archives: Sentimental Education

May 1, 2015
From the Archives: Sentimental Education

Though most people don’t understand musical notation or the theory underlying it, nearly all classical music writing relies on it. Today, the initiate has a better option: YouTube.

Book Reivew: Planck: Driven by Vision, Broken by War

April 30, 2015
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Max Planck, the great physicist and father of quantum theory, gets a marvelous and empathetic new biography

Book Review: Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator

April 29, 2015
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A new biography takes advantage of recently-opened Soviet archives

In Paperback: Saved by the Sea

April 25, 2015
saved by the sea

In his moving account, now in paperback from New World Library, David Helvarg recounts the wonders and wealth of the world’s oceans

Book Review: Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature

April 24, 2015
cuckoo cover

Cuckoos use other species of birds to raise the young they abandon, and they’ve been doing it for thousands of years without getting arrested. An absorbing new book isn’t precisely rooting for them, but still …

Book Review: The Intimate Bond

April 23, 2015
the intimate bond cover

An extremely winning new book explores the enormous ways eight particular animal kinds have altered the course of human life on Earth

Book Review: Fortune’s Fool

April 20, 2015
fortune’s fool cover

The latest full-dress biography of John Wilkes Booth seeks to get at the flesh-and-blood man beneath the monster

Book Review: Lincoln’s Autocrat

April 13, 2015
lincols autocrat

President Lincoln’s mercurial Secretary of War Edwin Stanton gets a full-dress biography that would have gladdened the heart of anybody who ever wanted to hit him with a shovel

Book Review: James Merrill – Life and Art

April 12, 2015
james merrill cover

The poet James Merrill at long last gets the lavish soup-to-nuts biography he’s always deserved

Book Review: Visions and Revisions

April 10, 2015
visions and revisions cover

From the novelist, critic, and columnist Dale Peck comes a series of autobiographical essays and reflections about life during the height of the AIDS epidemic

Protean Things

April 8, 2015
Protean Things

Hilary Mantel’s best-selling Tudor novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, have made their way to the stage on the expert handling of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Zach Rabiroff had front row center.

Book Review: Bonaparte, 1769-1802

April 6, 2015
bonaparte cover

A gigantic new biography chronicles the rise-to-power of Napoleon Bonaparte

Book Review: Secret Warriors

April 3, 2015
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Beyond the battles and trenches of the First World War, a dozen less glamorous but no less vital fights were being waged – in laboratories and darkrooms and publishing offices. A vibrant new book tells the story of the other World War I

Book Review: King John and the Road to Magna Carta

April 2, 2015
king john uk cover

800 years ago, King John “Lackland” sealed Magna Carta and unwittingly laid the foundation for some of Western law; a new book takes a fresh look at this much-maligned figure

“Il n’y a pas d’Israël pour moi”

April 1, 2015
“Il n’y a pas d’Israël pour moi”

In Michel Houellebecq’s uncannily timely new novel, the triumph of an Islamist government relieves the dreary banality that defines the secular France of the 21st century.

Mary Anne and the Adventurer

April 1, 2015
Mary Anne and the Adventurer

Traditional cynicism has always maintained that Benjamin Disraeli married Mary Anne Wyndham Lewis primarily for her money, but a new book argues that the real picture was a good deal more complex – and interesting – than that.

Fabergé Monsters

April 1, 2015
Fabergé Monsters

These fairies of the air are among the most beautiful sights of summer. They’re also 300 million years old and honed killing machines. A new book of photography shows us dragonflies as we’ve never seen them.

Press Enter

April 1, 2015
Press Enter

Author Jacob Silverman contends in his new book that the intrusions of social media into our private lives has reached sometimes intolerable extents. But what does he mean by “intolerable”? And who is he counting as “our”?

One Encounter: John Koch’s Figure on a Bed

April 1, 2015
One Encounter: John Koch’s Figure on a Bed

In his painting “Figure on a Bed,” John Koch immortalizes the kind of private moment that’s usually lost in an instant – Brett Busang muses on one arresting piece of art.

Ruins, Mourning, and Cigarettes

April 1, 2015
Ruins, Mourning, and Cigarettes

Set in the precarious territory between fiction and history, Nicolas Rothwell’s beautiful, haunting Belomor explores the ways storytelling serves as an impetus for self-discovery.

Unmaking L’empereur

April 1, 2015
Unmaking <em>L’empereur</em>

The 2nd Light Battalion King’s Division played a pivotal role at the Battle of Waterloo, as a slim new history by Brendan Simms demonstrates. Matt Ray reviews the book in his Open Letters debut.

Realism and Russia’s Fate

April 1, 2015
Realism and Russia’s Fate

The star translating team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (aided this time by Richard Nelson) translate Turgenev’s A Month in the Country, with predictably disruptive results. Jack Hanson reviews.

Book Review: American Burke: The Uncommon Liberalism of Daniel Patrick Moynihan

March 31, 2015
uncommon liberalism cover

American senator, author, and statesman Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s complex and constantly-evolving political philosophy is the subject of a pointed new book

Book Review: Galileo’s Telescope

March 29, 2015
galileo’s telescope cover

One little spyglass – only four fingers long – changed the world; a sparkling new book tells the story of Galileo’s “recounting of the stars”

Book Review: Notes from a Dead House

March 22, 2015
notes from a dead house cover

Dostoevsky’s great semi-fictionalized prison memoir gets a sterling new translation from the superstar team of Pevear and Volokhonsky

Book Review: Young Eliot

March 21, 2015
young eliot cover

A lavishly-detailed new biography shows us Thomas Stearns Eliot in his slightly fussy, slightly feckless pre-fame years

Book Review: The Fortunes of Francis Barber

March 20, 2015
thefortunes of francis barber cover

One of the only two people at the deathbed of Samuel Johnson was a young ex-slave to whom Johnson was, in his testy way, devoted. A new book finally gives Francis Barber the biography he’s always deserved

Book Review: Plato’s Wayward Path

March 19, 2015
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Plato might be Western philosophy’s first great writer, but a new book argues we’ve mostly been reading him wrong.

Book Review: What Stands in a Storm

March 19, 2015
what stands in a storm cover

A new book details the terrible destruction caused by a record-breaking series of tornadoes that struck the American South in 2011

Book Review: Akhenaten & The Origins of Monotheism

March 16, 2015
akhenaten & the origins of monotheism

The rebel pharaoh who instituted a radical new monotheism gets a highly-detailed and revisionist investigation

Book Review: Hissing Cousins

March 14, 2015
hissing cousins cover

The daughter of the first President Roosevelt and the wife of the second President Roosevelt had a long and sometimes cross-purposed relationship. A new book dishes the old dirt.

Book Review: Those Who Write For Immortality

March 13, 2015
those who write cover

“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work,” Woody Allen famously quipped; “I want to achieve immortality through not dying.” Robert Minto reviews a new book on what it takes to make it big in the literary afterlife

Book Review: I Hate Myselfie

March 12, 2015
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Wildly popular YouTube phenomenon Shane Dawson now has a BOOK!

Book Review: Goldeneye

March 11, 2015
they call me squire

Ian Fleming bought a run-down villa in Jamaica and used it as the workshop – and backdrop – for his world-famous James Bond novels. A new book takes us inside the world of Goldeneye

Book Review: The Violent Century

March 7, 2015
Tidhar-ViolentCenturyUS-Blog

In a world very much like our own, super-powered clandestine operatives vie with each other on missions to save or destroy humanity

Book Review: Rust

March 6, 2015
rust cover

Every day, all around us, everything solid is inexorably corroding into powder. A game new book takes readers inside the surprisingly fascinating world of rust

Book Review: A Great and Terrible King

March 5, 2015
great and terrible king ukcover

He established Parliament, hammered the Scots, expelled the Jews, and inspired centuries of biographers – England’s King Edward I gets a lively new biography

Book Review: The Next Species

March 3, 2015
the next species cover

Species arrive, thrive, and then go extinct – but after the long and frightful reign of Homo sapiens … what?

There’s the Door, Spaceman

March 1, 2015
There’s the Door, Spaceman

DC Comics gives writer/artist Darwyn Cooke’s masterpiece The New Frontier, a shrewd and powerful re-imagining of DC’s iconic superheroes, the glorious hardcover edition it deserves. Justin Hickey re-reads.

The Art of Socialist America

March 1, 2015
The Art of Socialist America

The Works Progress Administration did more than set thousand of Americans to building bridges and roads in the 1930s; it also fostered art, as an exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Art Gallery lavishly illustrates.

Blame the Dog

March 1, 2015
Blame the Dog

When Homo sapiens appeared in Europe 45,000 years ago, most of the long-established species there – including the Neanderthals – began to disappear. Did Homo sapiens wipe them out? And if so, did they have help from somebody right there in your living room?

Flowers of Prison

March 1, 2015
Flowers of Prison

Controversial Chinese artist and activist Ai WeiWei set an art installation inside the walls of America’s most notorious prisons – with surreal and sometimes beautiful results.

Leviathan in the Offing

March 1, 2015
Leviathan in the Offing

Ron Howard’s adaptation of Nathaniel Philbrick’s bestselling In the Heart of the Sea will soon appear, but even the trailers raise rich questions: Why does this story still have the power to fascinate? A Moby-Dick fan ponders.

The Familiar is Strange

March 1, 2015
The Familiar is Strange

Stalking the pages of Thomas Pierce’s debut story collection, where the surreal shares quarters with the ordinary, are dwarf mammoths, genetically modified guard dogs, baby Pippin monkeys, and a parakeet named Magnificent.

From the Archives: George Eliot for Dummies

March 1, 2015
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Free thinker, strong-minded woman, scholar, lover, novelist: George Eliot lived a courageous life that should be known and celebrated. But does Brenda Maddox’s biography do it justice?

Book Review: The Interstellar Age

February 20, 2015
interstellar age cover

Nearly 40 years ago, the Voyager spacecraft left Earth bearing cameras to photograph the solar system – and messages of greetings to the wider galaxy. A terrific new book tells the story of a great human adventure

Book Review: The Just City

February 18, 2015
the just city cover

In Jo Walton’s latest novel, the “just city” of Plato’s Republic is brought to life via Greek gods, robots, and a little discreet time travel

Book Review: Machiavelli

February 15, 2015
Book Review: Machiavelli

An engaging new book looks at that perennial fascination for biographers, Niccolo Machiavelli

Book Review: The Strategist

February 14, 2015
the strategist cover

Two-time National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft kept a low profile (and a negligible paper trail) throughout a lifetime in Washington power-dealing; a compelling new book profiles the ultimate Oval Office insider

Book Review: The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins

February 12, 2015
cultural lives of whales and dolphins cover

In the vastness of the world’s oceans, some mammals have evolved brains and language … and culture? A fascinating new book looks at the inner lives of whales and dolphins

Book Review: Sartre: A Philosophical Biography

February 11, 2015
sartre cover

Sartre the man takes a distant back seat to Sartre the thinker in Thomas Flynn’s new intellectual biography

Outrunning the Constables

February 1, 2015
Outrunning the Constables

To shut down his internal censors, Karl Ove Knausgaard wrote My Struggle at the astounding rate of over a thousand pages a year. The result is fiction that is vibrantly alive.

These Pictures are Themselves Little Souls

February 1, 2015
These Pictures are Themselves Little Souls

A new reprint line from the New York Review of Books concentrates on literature from – and on – China’s long literary history, and the first three volumes offer the strange, the familiar, and the beautiful.

“Why, It’s I!”

February 1, 2015
“Why, It’s I!”

Any new translation of a classic like Anna Kareninainevitably raises an awkward question: what was wrong with all the old translations? Debut writer Zach Rabiroff takes it line-by-line

Après moi, le déluge

February 1, 2015
Après moi, le déluge

Charles Marville’s extraordinary photographs of 19th-century Paris are like a cautionary tale, urging us to preserve the best of what is left in our own cities.

Kitchen Witchery

February 1, 2015
Kitchen Witchery

For centuries, women have handed down much more than recipes from their kitchens: they have shared the special alchemy that transforms the mundane into the magical.

Book Review: The Age of Consequences

January 29, 2015
age of consequences cover

An environmentalist writes an energetic and – despite everything – optimistic clarion call to better and smarter thinking about how mankind can ease its disastrous impact on nature

Book Review: Half-Life

January 28, 2015
half-life cover

In 1950 a prominent Western nuclear physicist disappeared – and re-surfaced years later in the Soviet Union, helping the Russians to develop their atomic arsenal. A gripping new book tells the story of a traitor who was also a genius

Book Review: Ocean Worlds

January 24, 2015
ocean worlds

World after world detected by powerful long-range telescopes are being shown to possess oceans – probably radically different from those of Earth; a new book looks at water worlds, our own and others

Plying the Darkness

January 1, 2015
Plying the Darkness

Brian Turner’s complex, lyrical meditations on his tour of duty in Iraq make us ache with the privilege that is a war memoir.

J

January 1, 2015
J

James Laughlin started a publishing imprint, New Directions, by selling what would become a syllabus of Modern writing from the trunk of his car.

I Am Almost a Camera

January 1, 2015
I Am Almost a Camera

As the Smithsonian’s new exhibit confirms, Richard Estes is the preeminent photo-realist painter of our time or–most likely–of any time. But to what extent is photo-realism an art worth practicing? And what does it do?

Those Rascally Parthians! An Interview with author Andrew Levkoff

January 1, 2015
Those Rascally Parthians! An Interview with author Andrew Levkoff

Open Letters Monthly interviews the author of Blood of Eagles, book three of the Bow of Heaven series.

Enlisted Again

January 1, 2015
Enlisted Again

Once he’d led the Continental Army to victory, General George Washington retired to his Mount Vernon home – but the newborn country wasn’t done with him yet. A new book looks at First Citizen Washington.

From the Archives: Three AM, Outside the Pavilion

January 1, 2015
From the Archives: Three AM, Outside the Pavilion

If comic book artist P. Craig Russell didn’t exist, we’d have to dream him up. Under the covers with a flashlight, Justin Hickey illuminates a pair of his sublime literature adaptations.

From the Archives: The Grey Zone

January 1, 2015
From the Archives: The Grey Zone

Gertrude van Tijn helped more than 20,000 Jews escape occupied Holland. What does it mean that, in saving their lives, she had to collaborate with Nazis?

Pointez, Pointez!

December 1, 2014
Pointez, Pointez!

Hugely talented biographer Andrew Roberts has written a big biography of Napoleon Bonaparte – but when it comes to such a well-known figure, are readers in danger of fatigue de bataille?

An Interview with Katy Bohinc

December 1, 2014
An Interview with Katy Bohinc

Maureen Thorson interviews Katy Bohinc, poet and author of Dear Alain.

#NotAllNazis

December 1, 2014
#NotAllNazis

What would you do if your artistic survival suddenly depended on the whims of a brutal dictatorship? How far would you compromise? How much would you risk? A new book studies artists in the Third Reich.

The Fighter

December 1, 2014
The Fighter

Norman Mailer was as fiery and mercurial a letter-writer as he was a novelist and journalist – and ten times as prolific. A big new volume collects the highlights of a lifetime in the post.

Not What Isaiah Had in Mind

December 1, 2014
Not What Isaiah Had in Mind

Can a book about the Jewish Diaspora add anything useful on the topic if it’s uninterested in Jewish history and slightly dodgy about the Diaspora? Jordan MaGill gives Alan Wolfe’s At Home in Exile a close reading.

Thinking in Common

November 1, 2014
Thinking in Common

The great critic and essayist Irving Howe laid claim to a great many decayed traditions – and then elevated them all to high art. A new collection of his prose presents some of his gems.

Stop Their World Spinning

November 1, 2014
Stop Their World Spinning

Against a pervasive American sports culture, author Steve Allmond pits a devastating critique of the savage violence – and staggering toll in injuries and deaths – of football.

Title Menu: A list of great political books that doesn’t include What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer

November 1, 2014
Title Menu: A list of great political books that doesn’t include <em>What It Takes</em> by Richard Ben Cramer

Just in time for the November midterm elections, we do what doubters said couldn’t be done: we present you with a list of ten great political books that doesn’t include Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes.

More Faith, Better Grounded

November 1, 2014
More Faith, Better Grounded

A reissue of James Agee’s letters to Father Flye give a picture of the writer’s naked ambition, excoriating self-hatred, and unrefined genius. But it also raises the question: Do we remember Agee more for what he wrote or what his addictions prevented him from writing?

An Unfolding Elegy

November 1, 2014
An Unfolding Elegy

When sudden death claimed poet Jake Adam York at the age of 40, it cut short his life’s work of commemorating all the martyrs of the American Civil Rights movement; Teow Lim Goh re-reads the man and his work.

The Book of Abraham

November 1, 2014
The Book of Abraham

Veteran historian Brookhiser takes a look at the formative influences on Abraham Lincoln – not so much his own father as the Founding Fathers.

From the Archives: A Certain Perturbation

November 1, 2014
robinsonyale

In Absence of Mind, Marilynne Robinson explores both the dynamics of faith and the complacency of recent anti-faith screeds. But is her own book something of a fall from grace?

Grosz Anatomy

October 1, 2014
Grosz Anatomy

In his latest collection of essays, Theater of Cruelty, Ian Buruma launches a series of expert investigations into the springs of cruelty and the perils of victomhood.

Woven and Severed

October 1, 2014
Woven and Severed

For millennia, the mighty tales in the epics of Homer have challenged and enthralled the world; a thought-provoking new book seeks to understand why.

Broken

October 1, 2014
Broken

The wide-ranging themes of this wrenching novel are unified by imagery that links its heroine to an unexpected community of the traumatized living dead.

The Other John Cage

October 1, 2014
The Other John Cage

John Cage’s controversial music is his best-known legacy, but his voluminous writings and artwork, equally inventive, have been unfairly neglected. It’s time to right this wrong.

WAKE UUUUP!

October 1, 2014
WAKE UUUUP!

What does the summer of 1989, when Do the Right Thing hit theaters, have to say to the summer of Ferguson, and police militarization, and race relations today?

Title Menu: 10 Minutes from Prometheus

September 1, 2014
Title Menu: 10 Minutes from <em>Prometheus</em>

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, ill-served by critics when it appeared last year, is the finest sequel to the Alien movies yet made. Our contributing editor chooses ten exemplary minutes to make his case.

From the Archives: The Wandering Page

September 1, 2014
From the Archives: The Wandering Page

Modernist poet P. K. Page may be the most important Canadian author you’ve never heard of. An impressive new biography, replete with examples of Page’s poetry and prose, seeks to remedy that.

An Ignorant Highbrow

August 1, 2014
An Ignorant Highbrow

If you think distinctions between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art are stuffy Victorian relics, our beleagured Stephen Akey says, you’re just not paying enough attention. So are you a highbrow? And should you be? And should everybody be?

Title Menu: 10 Great “Minor” Works by Major Writers

August 1, 2014
Title Menu: 10 Great “Minor” Works by Major Writers

The great writers of the ages were hardly (often) one-hit wonders. In praise of diversity, the staff at OLM celebrate the lesser-known b-sides of some pretty well known pens.

Grand Affiliations

August 1, 2014
Grand Affiliations

Metaphor: a tool for poets and rhetoricians, but also, perhaps, the way that people connect to the world at large. Lianne Habinek reviews a gamesome new study by the great literary critic Denis Donoghue.

Socrates Offside

August 1, 2014
Socrates Offside

What place do deep questions about the meaning of life have in our technological age? Is philosophy more important than ever?

A Picture Book

August 1, 2014
A Picture Book

Cover art from Omni, the new-age science mag of yore, is now a coffee table book: Giger, Frazetta, and Grant Wood are all here, but something crucial has been left out.

Sleeping In

August 1, 2014
Sleeping In

Sam Harris, one of the “Four Horsemen” of the New Atheist movement, has written a book about how to live a spiritual life without religion. But does this anti-preacher book come off a bit preachy? Maybe even, awkwardly enough, dogmatic?

Giddy Discomfort

August 1, 2014
Giddy Discomfort

How ought we to read the reactions of viewers to a piece of provocative art? What if that piece, like Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby” is entirely to do with race?

Losing Music

July 1, 2014
Losing Music

“We can pour anything into it – any fear or catastrophe or yearning, any warning” – music both fills our lives and helps to shape them. But what happens if music starts, slowly, haltingly, to go away? A harrowing personal essay.

Beethoven in the Soul

July 1, 2014
Beethoven in the Soul

Over time, the books of our youth make way for titles better suited to the grown-up readers we have become. But not all of them: YA or not, some books — such as K. M. Peyton’s Pennington trilogy — deserve a lasting place on our shelves.

Title Menu: 12 Hot Summer Reads

July 1, 2014
Title Menu: 12 Hot Summer Reads

It’s summer at last, and you won’t find any relief from the heat in our editors’ round-up of the hottest books they know.

It Wasn’t Palimpsestuous

July 1, 2014
It Wasn’t Palimpsestuous

The collectors of rare 78 rpm records are nearly as singular and remarkable as the vinyl they seek out. A new book travels to flea markets and music fairs to discover the secrets of these American obsessives.

Only Him

July 1, 2014
Only Him

In the discipline of philosophy, “Aristotelian” evokes not just a school of thought but an entire world. “Ethics After Aristotle” traces the history and impact of the most influential thought-tradition of them all.

Hanging On: Modernity and the Crisis of Suicide

June 1, 2014
Hanging On: Modernity and the Crisis of Suicide

With suicides on the rise throughout the Western world, a recent study by Jennifer Hecht attempts to both diagnose the frightening trend and evangelize against it. Ivan Kenneally discusses how effective her arguments are likely to be.

Dervishes and Gypsies

June 1, 2014
Dervishes and Gypsies

Legendary Indian author Saadat Hasan Manto’s choicest short stories – depicting a teeming Bombay that’s both long-vanished and eternal – receive an attractive new paperback edition from Vintage International

Skilled in the Ways of the Desert

May 1, 2014
Skilled in the Ways of the Desert

A fascinating new book tells the remarkable stories of five ‘improbable’ women who defied convention to explore the much mythologised landscape of the Middle East.

Left Wanting

May 1, 2014
Left Wanting

Elia Kazan’s unwavering confidence in his own brilliance was the spur to his successes as a director and the source of his infamy as a Cold War canary. A new collection of his letters makes his outsized personality seem even larger.

Paper Mausoleums

May 1, 2014
Paper Mausoleums

Rock music is all about inflaming the senses. Rock biographies, on the other hand, are built from facts and reasoned explanations. Matthew Stevens looks at a study of the life of Big Star frontman Alex Chilton, and wonders what fans can get out of it.

Strange Troubador

May 1, 2014
Strange Troubador

Joseph Roth spent his life fighting the kind of lazy dangers that arise from the rot of empire, even as his life and his letters embodied so many of them.

Echo Chamber Blues

May 1, 2014
Echo Chamber Blues

Marvel Comics is mopping up at the box office, but what of its rival DC? Our resident expert fisks the also-rans and reminds us about an epic story still waiting to be adapted.

Ariel: Shelley in Italy

May 1, 2014
Ariel: Shelley in Italy

Like so many before him, the celebrated Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley had a tangled and complicated history with Italy, equal parts inspiration and frustration. Luciano Mangiafico tells the story

The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

April 1, 2014
The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

William S. Burroughs’s notorious Cut-up Trilogy was his fiercest broadside against what he felt was the tyranny of linear thought. Steve Danziger delves into their Word Hoard.

Love in a Cold Climate

April 1, 2014
Love in a Cold Climate

Isabel Greenberg’s graphic novel is set in the frozen land of Nord, but its lush storytelling influences come from such legendary places as Mount Olympus and Mount Sinai

The Art of the Con

March 1, 2014
The Art of the Con

Years ago, while on the hunt for writing material, Walter Kirn befriended an eccentric, dog-loving raconteur named Clark Rockefeller. Then Rockefeller was charged with murder, kidnapping and identity fraud, and Kirn had his book. G. Robert Ogilvy reviews Blood Will Out.

Come, O, Come to Raintree County

March 1, 2014
Come, O, Come to Raintree County

Raintree County may be the greatest American novel nobody has ever read. When Michael Johnson pulled it off his shelf, he was instantly hooked: maybe it’s time for a revival.

Pistols and Pearls

March 1, 2014
Pistols and Pearls

It’s Melbourne in the late 1920s and violence keeps intruding into the elegant world of jazz clubs, cocktails, and fabulous fashion. No matter: Phryne Fisher is on the case.

Title Menu: 7 Books on Art Crime

March 1, 2014
Title Menu: 7 Books on Art Crime

Art crimes aren’t really sexy: they are an offense against humanity. Leah Triplett offers up a catalog of recent studies that explain the criminal attraction to art.

Pedestaled in Triumph: Robert Browning in Italy

March 1, 2014
Pedestaled in Triumph: Robert Browning in Italy

The great and problematic poet Robert Browning drew some of his most powerful poetic inspirations from the lore and lure of Italy; Luciano Mangiafico traces the complicated relationship of the man to his “adopted homeland.”

Lost in Eliot

February 1, 2014
Lost in Eliot

The books we reread say a lot about who we are or who we hope to be. They also shape us, as Rebecca Mead discovers in exploring her own long relationship with George Eliot’s Middlemarch.

War, in Panorama

February 1, 2014
War, in Panorama

How could they do it, those young men who, with every reason to live, walked deliberately into machine-gun fire? Joe Sacco gives us a panoramic view of the horror, the labor, and the losses of WWI.

‘I Would Like to Write a Beautiful Prayer’

February 1, 2014
‘I Would Like to Write a Beautiful Prayer’

When in her twenties, Flannery O’Connor recorded her prayers in a private journal. Newly published, they shed light on her youthful theology, her literary ambitions, and the role of faith in the fiction she was soon to write.

A Disproportionate Response

February 1, 2014
Andrew_Sullivan

For years, pioneering blogger Andrew Sullivan was one of the most vocal supporters of the war in Iraq. Time and the war’s wretched progress gradually forced him to change his thinking, however, and a new collection of his writings on the subject charts the disillusioning step-by-step.

Bigger with More and More

February 1, 2014
Bigger with More and More

Spike Jonze is the most mainstream of indie directors — or the most indie of mainstream directors — and his newest film Her is a triumph of quirky charm and visionary depth. Matt Sadler reviews.

February 2014 Issue

February 1, 2014
February 2014 Issue

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The Sovereign Survivor

February 1, 2014
The Sovereign Survivor

The player is alone in the game, both sole survivor and unquestioned sovereign, but what’s at the heart of such games? Phillip Lobo examines the loneliness of the long-distance gamer

And the Moon Be Still As Bright: Lord Byron in Italy (part 2 of 2)

February 1, 2014
And the Moon Be Still As Bright: Lord Byron in Italy (part 2 of 2)

In self-imposed exile from England, Lord Byron entered a tempestuous love affair with Italy, renting palaces, swimming the canals of Venice, treating his loved ones abominably, and writing great poetry the whole time. The two-part “Byron in Italy” concludes the epic tale.

The Impossible Affliction

January 1, 2014
The Impossible Affliction

Having tried therapy and medication to treat his anxiety disorder, Scott Stossel turned to writing. His new book, part memoir, part cultural history, may be an essential document of our agitated age.

Atwood 4 Mayor: What Happens When Old Ladies Blog

January 1, 2014
Atwood 4 Mayor: What Happens When Old Ladies Blog

What — and who — is required to maintain a public persona of the magnitude of Margaret Atwood’s? A new book explores the phenomenon and implications of literary celebrity.

Strange Reckoning

January 1, 2014
Strange Reckoning

She was the daughter, the sister, and the wife of kings in one of England’s most turbulent periods, but Alison Weir’s new biography is the first to make us feel we really know Elizabeth of York.

A Palace and a Prison at Each Hand: Lord Byron in Italy (part 1 of 2)

January 1, 2014
A Palace and a Prison at Each Hand: Lord Byron in Italy (part 1 of 2)

Byron was mad, bad, and dangerous to know — and eventually his amorous, adventurous spirit led him to Italy.

Marc Chagall: Between Paris and Vitebsk

December 1, 2013
Marc Chagall: Between Paris and Vitebsk

Perhaps the strangest things about the paintings of Marc Chagall is how frequently they feature Christian iconography. But the habit speaks less to a tension in Chagall’s Judaism, Ivan Kenneally suggests, than his attempt to universalize his people’s suffering.

Second Glance: Wretched Creatures

December 1, 2013
Second Glance: Wretched Creatures

John Ford’s story of star-crossed lovers is bloodier than Shakespeare’s and more heart-wrenching, too, for it’s a tragedy of childhood, of innocence lost.

ctrl+issues

December 1, 2013
ctrl+issues

“Do you see?” the Narrator says. “Don’t you know you were dead the minute you hit Start?” Phillip Lobo deciphers The Stanley Parable

Eternal Blazon

November 1, 2013
Eternal Blazon

Led on by a “shared obsession,” a philosopher and a psycyhoanalyst have teamed up to offer their interpretation of Hamlet. With the ghosts of countless critics looming before them, how has this pair fared?

Resisting the Modern

November 1, 2013
Resisting the Modern

John Singer Sargent is often simplistically dismissed as a picture-postcard portraitist. A new exhibition of his watercolors is a reminder of how strange and subversive–not to say beautiful–his work could be.

Feeding the Monster

November 1, 2013
Feeding the Monster

From the agora 2,400 years ago to the present day, the schools of Plato and Aristotle have been locked in combat; a new book sees the struggle in disarmingly simple terms.

JFK in the Senate

October 5, 2013
jfk in the senate

Before he became one of America’s most famous presidents, John Kennedy was a hot-shot senator and a photogenic winner of the Pulitzer Prize. But did the Senate years help to form the Oval Office years?

In Search of Lost Tirades

October 1, 2013
In Search of Lost Tirades

Jonathan Franzen has translated and annotated a collection of essays by Karl Kraus, the Austrian polemicist known as the Great Hater and one of the signal curmudgeonly influences behind Franzen’s fiction.

A Chip off the Old Bwana

October 1, 2013
A Chip off the Old Bwana

How do you follow up on creating Tarzan of the Apes? You give the Ape-Man a son, stranding him in the jungle, and sending him out on hair-raising adventures of his own. And if you’re lucky, a legendary comic book artist will come along and draw it all.

Show Me the Body

October 1, 2013
Show Me the Body

Throughout its history, humankind has been both terrified by and obsessed with monsters – hence the booming ‘cryptid’ industry, traversing the globe in search of legendary beasts like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. A new book looks at the science and psychology behind our modern bogeymen.

Beyond Thought

October 1, 2013
Beyond Thought

The style of Clarice Lispector’s unconventional and uneasy fiction was driven by both social anxiety and physical pain. How did this transubstantiation take place?

The Modern Mechanism

October 1, 2013
pigmachine

Thick with atmosphere, lush with visual design, and sporting more than a few influences of steampunk, “Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs” is a video game Karl Marx might have played – and even enjoyed.

Stalled on the Verge

September 1, 2013
Stalled on the Verge

The Modernist painter Paula Modersohn-Becker was Immortalized (and insulted) in Rilke’s “Requiem for a Friend,” yet who today knows her art? A new monograph returns it to the public eye.

Homo Sovieticus

September 1, 2013
Homo Sovieticus

The USSR’s Book of Tasty and Healthy Food created an impression of bounty and gourmet splendor; Anya von Bremzen’s memoir Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking reveals the Soviet kitchen’s homelier truths

The Heavy Blanks: The Journals of Elizabeth Smart

September 1, 2013
The Heavy Blanks: The Journals of Elizabeth Smart

An aspiring young writer encounters the journals of legendary Canadian novelist Elizabeth Smart, whose virtuoso novella By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept gives no hint of her struggles with her own writing

God, the Janitor, and the Psychic Hermaphrodites

September 1, 2013
God, the Janitor, and the Psychic Hermaphrodites

Henry Darger, icon of Outsider Art, created unnerving scenes of naked, tortured children. A new biography sets out to clear his name from would-be charges of pedophilia–but is it a reputation that really needs saving?

Reading Eric Blair

September 1, 2013
Reading Eric Blair

Today George Orwell is a buzzword; what can his collected letters tell us about the man himself? G. Robert Ogilvy looks for the human being beneath the persona.

Music’s restless avant garde: Still a ‘wonderful adventure’

September 1, 2013
Music’s restless avant garde: Still a ‘wonderful adventure’

Many composers and musicians believe we are in a golden age of experimental creativity in composition. So why does the general concert-going public hate the results?

The Shape of Things to Come

September 1, 2013
EuropaUniversalisIV

All of European history – and beyond – plays out in new and fascinating variations of guns, germs, and steel in Paradox Interactive’s new version of its popular video game Europa Universalis

With Friends Like These …

September 1, 2013
With Friends Like These …

What you don’t know about bacteria can hurt you, and a new addition to the Oxford Very Short Introduction series aims to set that straight.

From the Archives: The Bureaucrat Who Would be King

September 1, 2013
From the Archives: The Bureaucrat Who Would be King

President, prime minister, or unnamed Tsar, Vladimir Putin is at once ubiquitous and unknowable; a new book examines the many facets of a new species of autocrat.

Behold the Man

August 1, 2013
Behold the Man

The meek and peaceful Jesus has become the standard Christian image of the Messiah. Religious scholar Reza Aslan’s controversial new book shatters that image and replaces it with something very different: a violent revolutionary who came not to bring peace but a sword.

Meanwhile, On the Top Shelf

August 1, 2013
Lee Ozymandias

Alan Moore’s Watchmen is widely regarded as the best graphic novel of them all, and Moore has been outspoken in his condemnation of sequels and spin-offs, refusing to sanction DC Comics’ recent “Before Watchmen” string of mini-series. Was Moore right? Or is there creative life after his masterpiece? Justin Hickey explores.

Vegetable Wonder

August 1, 2013
Vegetable Wonder

It became entangled with the imperial hopes of a nation and inspired the design of one of the most significant buildings of the 19th century, the Crystal Palace: a new book explores the remarkable story of the Amazonian water lily.

My Life as a Mannequin

August 1, 2013
My Life as a Mannequin

A young man on a tentative law school track encounters the fiction of Philip Roth, and suddenly, his lostness acquires a commanding sense of purpose. An essay by Barrett Hathcock.

Second Glance: The Privy Mark of Irony

August 1, 2013
Second Glance: The Privy Mark of Irony

The Knight of the Burning Pestle began its theatrical run in1607—and concluded it almost immediately. But why? Colleen Shea explores the mysterious failure of this hilarious, satirical, meta-theatrical romp.

The Heartless World

August 1, 2013
The Heartless World

‘Everyone knows who won the war,’ runs the refrain of Muriel Rukeyser’s Savage Coast; her newly published 1930 novel about the Spanish Civil War shows what it meant to be a witness to it.

Already Dead

August 1, 2013
Already Dead

In the latest video game iteration of the current media zombie craze, a history teacher from Georgia confronts the undead hordes – and what those hordes may say about contemporary America

When One Lives Among Greyhounds

August 1, 2013
When One Lives Among Greyhounds

The stories of British writer H.H. Munro, known by his pen-name Saki, are devastating studies in torment and cruelty; they’re also exceptionally funny. A new collection offers a bracing reminder of that duality.

Never Take Off the Mask: The Films of Gore Verbinski

August 1, 2013
Never Take Off the Mask: The Films of Gore Verbinski

The man behind the trillion-dollar “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise (and, more recently, the high-profile “Lone Ranger” flop) has been characterized as a hack, a purveyor of standard-issue Hollywood dreck. But, asks Tucker Johnson, is there art buried in the films of Gore Verbinski?

Nothing Like Being Scared

July 1, 2013
Nothing Like Being Scared

Shirley Jackson is best known – infamous, even – for her chilling story “The Lottery.” But it’s her novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle, where battle rages between evil within and without, that’s her masterpiece.

Waiting for the Dough

July 1, 2013
Waiting for the Dough

Near the end of his life, Orson Welles tape-recorded his lunches with a faithful industry friend. By turns hilarious and self-pitying, they give a brilliant glimpse of the aging titan. As Steve Danziger discovers, it’s almost a shame Welles didn’t make his living as a conversationalist.

Arendt in New York City

July 1, 2013
Arendt in New York City

When Hannah Arendt published Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1964, her moral authority was called into question. Now Margarethe von Trotta’s new film Hannah Arendt explores both who has the right and who has the responsibility to speak about the Holocaust.

Mesophile Planet

July 1, 2013
Mesophile Planet

They breathe poison gas and eat old bones and stones; they are sightless, deaf, and ageless; they flourish in temperatures that would melt iron or freeze concrete; and they live on the strangest planet in the known universe: Earth

Keeping Up with the Tudors: Him Again

July 1, 2013
Keeping Up with the Tudors: Him Again

In the famous jingle ‘divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived,’ Katherine Parr comes last – the sixth wife of King Henry VIII. But she was far more than that – scholar, regent, and passionate young woman – as a new Tudor historical novel attempts to portray

From the Archives: Summer Reading 2012

July 1, 2013
From the Archives: Summer Reading 2012

As the haze and heat of summer kick into full swing, the folk of Open Letters break out their annual Summer Reading recommendations!

From the Archives: Summer Reading 2012 Continues

July 1, 2013
From the Archives: Summer Reading 2012 Continues

Our feature continues, as more Open Letters folk share their annual Summer Reading recommendations!

June 2013 Issue

June 1, 2013
June 2013 Issue

Olivia Manning: A Woman at War
By Deirdre David
Oxford University Press, 2013
When is a woman writer not a “woman writer”? What does it mean to claim or resist that identity — for a woman who writes, …

Keeping Up With The Tudors: Peace, Plenty, Love, Truth, Terror

June 1, 2013
Keeping Up With The Tudors: Peace, Plenty, Love, Truth, Terror

A debut novel of alternate history spins out one of the most tantalizing hypotheticals of the past: what if Anne Boleyn had managed to give King Henry VIII a healthy male heir? Some of the answers – and some of the resulting mysteries – may surprise you.

All the Absolutely Fabulous Gatsbys

June 1, 2013
All the Absolutely Fabulous Gatsbys

Baz Luhrmann’s blockbuster is merely the newest Great Gatsby for film or television–four adaptations before it attempted to capture the dazzle and pathos of the classic. Matt Sadler us on a tour of West Egg across the decades.

Rage and Regulation

June 1, 2013
Rage and Regulation

“I hope they pay you well for your obedience, dog” – two new video games explore the parameters of authority and the constraints of law. Doesn’t sound like a fun afternoon, but as Phillip Lobo discovers, there are darker pleasures lurking in the fine print of the social contract.

American Aristocracy  |  GODS OF COPLEY SQUARE  |  Magic II.

June 1, 2013
American Aristocracy  |  GODS OF COPLEY SQUARE  |  Magic II.

Bohemian Back Bay was as key to Copley Square as aristocratic Back Bay and black artist models figured not only in Sargent’s work, but in Fred Holland Day’s too.

Loud, Loud, Loud: AUDUBON!!!!

May 1, 2013
Loud, Loud, Loud: AUDUBON!!!!

He travelled the fledgling United States shooting birds, wiring them into poses, and then painting them for eternity – he was John James Audubon, and his epic “The Birds of America” has a beautiful, gargantuan new edition from Abbeville Press

Razing Hell

May 1, 2013
Razing Hell

In a new memoir packed with garbled madness, we get a funhouse-mirror autobiography of the legendary Richard Hell, who did more than anybody to invent punk rock and only haphazardly survived to tell the tale

No Kaddish For Old Men

May 1, 2013
No Kaddish For Old Men

Does love create an unbridgeable distance between two souls? Marco Roth’s searching memoir of his microbiologist father alternates between longing and numbness in its search for what, if anything, binds fathers and sons

Sleazy Inner Tubes

May 1, 2013
Sleazy Inner Tubes

Artist Laura Carton does not surf pornography for the usual reasons, By digitally removing the ‘actors’ from their backgrounds, she creates strangely suggestive landscapes. In this interview she addresses both her process and her plan.

The Annotated Mix-Tape, #24

May 1, 2013
The Annotated Mix-Tape, #24

In this latest installment of his Mix Tape series, our writer discovers a new world of digital lore for young music fans and contrasts it with his analogue lessons of yore

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Magic 1

May 1, 2013
American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Magic 1

A startling triptych illuminates the crossroads of social, racial, and sexual identity in the Copley Square of a century ago, as “The Gods of Copley Square” continues

Ad Infinitum

May 1, 2013
Ad Infinitum

A radio voice crackles “Hallelujah,” and Booker DeWitt’s violent, surreal steampunk adventures in Columbia begin again in the latest BioShock chapter, BioShock Infinite

Comics: Superman – Secret Identity

April 12, 2013
-SUSI001

An ordinary boy in our real world has a funny name – Clark Kent. Funny, that is, until he starts to develop the exact same superpowers as you-know-who

In the Shadow of a Hero: Anne Morrow Lindbergh

April 1, 2013
In the Shadow of a Hero: Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Traumatized by her baby’s kidnapping and murder, disappointed in her marriage to a fallen hero, Anne Morrow Lindbergh found hope in the beautiful, fragile shells she found on the beach. The result was her gentle masterpiece Gifts from the Sea.

Approaching Auschwitz

April 1, 2013
A MAN LOOKS AT PHOTOGRAPHS OF HUNGARIAN JEWS HELD AT THE AUSCHWITZ CONCENTRATION CAMP AT THE IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM IN LONDON

An incurious and indifferent Jew journeys to Auschwitz to confront the kitsch and the manicured ruins, looking for a sense of connection – and finding it in the most unlikely places

A Devil in the Details

April 1, 2013
A Devil in the Details

The ideal player for Capcom’s new version of “Devil May Cry” must be a ballerina of death-dealing, striking down an endless array of foes with an endless array of weapons. But how will all of this strike the other-than-ideal player?

The Earl of Gallipoli

April 1, 2013
The Earl of Gallipoli

The typical image of Winston Churchill comes from the dark days of World War II: a fat, old, bald Prime Minister eloquently defying Hitler’s Germany. But before there was a monument there was a man, as an engaging new biography brings to light.

The Night Train for Naples: Gorky in Italy

April 1, 2013
The Night Train for Naples: Gorky in Italy

The great Russian writer Maxim Gorky’s heart may always have been in Russia, but for years his intermittent stays in Italy stirred his creativity and fired his passion. “In love you discover everything right away,” he wrote – and he loved Italy.

I Groan In Silence

April 1, 2013
I Groan In Silence

The media just won’t leave old man Voltaire alone! We run a transcript of the latest interview.

Second Glance: A Virgil or Two

March 1, 2013
Second Glance: A Virgil or Two

He may not have anything new to tell us today, but as Spencer Lenfield demonstrates, Gilbert Highet’s friendly, engaging pedagogy is still rare enough to keep him relevant.

Troppo Sottile

March 1, 2013
Loving Venice

Venice has traded flinty commercial acumen and world-weary merchant princes for an ennui worthy of M. John Harrison’s science fiction; her profession has now become the art of insubstantiality. For centuries authors have tried and failed to capture her. Steve Donoghue surveys the glorious wreckage.

The Flimsiness of Difference

March 1, 2013
The Flimsiness of Difference

After fictionalizing his experiences in his previous four books, Aleksandar Hemon revisits his memories in a new collection of essays.

How Pictures Comes to Life

March 1, 2013
7

Sviatoslav Richter called Pictures at an Exhibition the “best Russian work for piano, amen”; many know it best through Ravel’s lush orchestration, which Richter considered “an abomination.” This beloved piece becomes even more resonant when you know its genesis in Mussorgsky’s friendship with the architect-artist Viktor Hartmann.

“He Might As Well Have Called Me Nancy!” Mark Twain in Italy

March 1, 2013
“He Might As Well Have Called Me Nancy!” Mark Twain in Italy

After his first visit to Italy, Mark Twain pronounced her “one vast museum of magnificence and misery,” and yet he returned again and again. Luciano Magniafaco chronicles his journeys.

The Road Home: On Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Over the River

March 1, 2013
The Road Home: On Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s <em>Over the River</em>

New York artist Christo wants to drape 5.9 miles of silvery fabric over a 42 mile stretch of the Arkansas River. The sketches are lovely, but locals and environmentalists are horrified. Who’s in the right?

Van Cliburn, 1934-2013

February 28, 2013
Van Cliburn, 1934-2013

His repertoire was small, he was no barnstormer, and he gave up full-time concertizing in 1978. But Van Cliburn, who died yesterday at age 78, is to this day the most famous pianist America has …

Judaize This

February 1, 2013
Judaize This

The belief that Jews are the enemy of civilization is one of the West’s most tenacious and systemic ideas. Professor David Nirenberg’s new history offers a vast, seemingly inexhaustible record of a very old, very useful hatred.

Puce Needle Diggings

February 1, 2013
Puce Needle Diggings

When the Paris Review, long regarded as a literary standard-bearer, publishes a volume on the art of the short story, it flushes a flurry of conversations into the open: what is a short story? What constitutes an anthology-worthy example? What’s the audience for this kind of thing? And: can these stories answer such questions?

Do You Feel Like a Hero Yet?

February 1, 2013
memorialcandles

Has there ever been a time in American history when the gun-and-violence-obsessed subtext of video games was more problematic? Special Ops: The Line puts you in the place of a grizzled, gun-wielding expert – but it doesn’t necessarily want you to feel good about that.

Epstein’s Kaleidoscope

February 1, 2013
Epstein’s Kaleidoscope

Joseph Epstein has a cult following as a sharp-tongued critic and essayist. His latest collection showcases his love of words and ideas as well as his caustic wit.

Back, Back, Down the Old Ways of Time: D. H. Lawrence in Italy

February 1, 2013
Back, Back, Down the Old Ways of Time: D. H. Lawrence in Italy

Year after year, D. H.Lawrence found love, lust, and gainful employment in Italy – and through the strange alchemy of the place, he also found the inspirations for some of his most enduring works of art.

We’ve Been with Lizzie All Along

February 1, 2013
pride

A conversation about the enduring appeal of Pride & Prejudice.

Tea with the Pushkins in Brussels

January 1, 2013
Tea with the Pushkins in Brussels

Say “Evgeny Onegin” to any educated Russian and you will trigger the first stanza or two of Pushkin’s great novel in verse. Now Russia’s national poet is finally coming into his own in the West as well.

Thinking God Knows What: James Joyce and Trieste

January 1, 2013
Thinking God Knows What: James Joyce and Trieste

Unsettled and penniless, James Joyce’s exile was initially more imrpovised than cunning. Luciano Mangiafico tells the story of his early years on the continent.

Entred in a Spacious Court

January 1, 2013
Entred in a Spacious Court

Ben Jonson said that the once wealthy and acclaimed Edmund Spenser died “for want of bread”; a new biography tries to disentangle myth from fact, and to make the case for the great poet’s relevance today

The Creative Subject

January 1, 2013
The Creative Subject

A conversation with cover artist Aaron Angello

Being Jonathan Harker: recollections of The Dead English

January 1, 2013
Being Jonathan Harker: recollections of <em>The Dead English</em>

Not every actor gets the plum role of vampire hunter and romantic lead Jonathan Harker. Steve Brachmann reflects on his part in the Dracula-inspired rock musical The Dead English

Second Glance: Jane Collier’s Burn Book

January 1, 2013
Second Glance: Jane Collier’s Burn Book

Long before Hairpin and Jezebel, Jane Collier, under the influence of Jonathan Swift, was savagely satirizing women’s ettiquette guides in her work An Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting. Chris R. Morgan revisits the caustic classic.

How the Higgs Streams in the Firmament

January 1, 2013
How the Higgs Streams in the Firmament

What do Christopher Marlowe and the newly discovered Higgs boson particle have in common? Anthony Lock explores the connection, by way of unified fields.

Charles Rosen, 1927-2012

December 16, 2012
Charles Rosen, 1927-2012

Open Letters mourns the loss of Charles Rosen, pianist, scholar, teacher and critic.

A Great and Sustaining Mystery

December 1, 2012
A Great and Sustaining Mystery

Anthony Burgess the novelist had dreams of being a composer. He had little success, but along the way he delved deep into the nature and meaning of music.

Rarest Spun Heavenmetal

December 1, 2012
Rarest Spun Heavenmetal

A Clockwork Orange turned 50 this year and received the gift of an anniversary edition. Justin Hickey looks anew at the novel Anthony Burgess claimed to have knocked off in three weeks, and which made him famous.

Entitled to Extravagance: Some Historical Fictions of Anthony Burgess

December 1, 2012
Entitled to Extravagance: Some Historical Fictions of Anthony Burgess

Some of Anthony Burgess’ most accomplished inventions roam into the past, to Shakespeare and Marlowe’s England and Jesus’ Judea. How well has his historical fiction stood up across the years?

Traveler at his Desk

December 1, 2012
Traveler at his Desk

Burgess gave himself room to stretch his arms (and facts) in the two volumes of his Confessions. That space to digress, opine, sing songs, is what makes both books so memorable — even indispensable.

Sharing A Cab

December 1, 2012
Sharing A Cab

Give Anthony Burgess a check and he’d write anything, even a Time-Life picture book. Which doesn’t mean that his 1976 guide to New York is anything less than fascinating.

Fate’s Engine

December 1, 2012
Fate’s Engine

Commissioned to translate Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Anthony Burgess decided on a few changes to the text. What were they, and what do they teach us about fate?

Too Much Signal

December 1, 2012
Too Much Signal

Nate Silver is currently enjoying his status as that unlikeliest of people, the celebrity statistician. Does his bestseller The Signal and the Noise live up to its carefully calculated expectations?

Ou-Boum

December 1, 2012
Ou-Boum

“I knew my trip would mean an encounter with Adela Quested”: Victoria Olsen reflects on what she found, and what was lost in translation, when she travelled to India with E. M. Forster on her mind.

The Ghosts of Monmouth County

November 1, 2012
The Ghosts of Monmouth County

Bossophilia: The idolization of Bruce Springsteen that comes from midlife nostalgia and a fear of dying. Steve Danziger confronts the phenomenon, and a new biography.

The Power Season

November 1, 2012
The Power Season

As Americans go to the polls this month to elect a president, some recent biographies examine the lives of five very different men who once held the office.

Never-Neverland

November 1, 2012
Never-Neverland

The fairy tale has been through several metamorphoses; the next might result in its extinction. Max Ross reviews Jack Zipes’s cultural history of the genre.

Most Sovereign Master

November 1, 2012
Most Sovereign Master

“Although virtually all subjects were still religious, their humanity was brought to the fore, emphasizing that God, in the form of Jesus Christ, was made man and that He, and the Virgin Mary, and saints, like us, had human features”

Fright Unseen

November 1, 2012
Fright Unseen

Once upon a time, the hive-mind of the Internet set to work creating a modern-day bogey man who lurks in plain sight – and so “Slender Man,” the dark mirror image of “Where’s Waldo,” was born

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 3

November 1, 2012
American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square –  Centerpiece 3

“Perhaps a little drunk might answer” was Phillips Brooks’s idea of how to view Pre-Raphaelite art, several masterpieces of which he commissioned for Trinity Church. “Centerpiece” continues.

CD of the Week – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Recomposed

October 31, 2012
MI0003427249

You may wonder if Vivaldi’s overexposed Four Seasons needs a new recording, but Max Richter’s inspired recomposition gives the hoary old favorite a shot in the arm

First Person Singular

October 1, 2012
First Person Singular

Can a famously cold and impersonal writer like Paul Auster make a memoir of aging that works against his strengths? And are they strengths after all?

Dignity, Conviction, and Mrs. Stollman’s Checkbook

October 1, 2012
Dignity, Conviction, and Mrs. Stollman’s Checkbook

ESP-Disk’, the cult record label from Bernard Stollman, was known for two things: extraordinary, eclectic recordings and horrendous business practices. A new oral history sheds light on the glorious mess.

A Hope in the Undead

October 1, 2012
WD4 (1)

The Walking Dead, the hit TV series adapted from the zombie-apocalypse comics, offers fans a gripping and subversive take on the accidents of survival.

As Dark Locks In: Nightfall

October 1, 2012
As Dark Locks In: <em>Nightfall</em>

CBC’s landmark scare series is available online at last. Where did such a strange series come from and where has it been all this time?

Leviathan Grimoire

October 1, 2012
Leviathan <em>Grimoire</em>

Their brains – their digits – their eyes – their locomotion – their families – their staggeringly long reign over the planet Earth: it’s all here, and much, much more. The greatest dinosaur reference work just got even better.

Change-gamer

October 1, 2012
TPM2012

Election-weary Americans might wonder why anybody in their right minds would elect to play a video-game presidential contest – but the process can be oddly enlightening.

We Must Worship

September 1, 2012
IJANDFW

The first biography of David Foster Wallace is out and it’s hardly the sort of book he himself would have written — or read. Might this be for the best?

‘Stop, traveler, and piss!’

September 1, 2012
‘Stop, traveler, and piss!’

Lord Castlereagh lives in infamy as the target of the Romantic Poets’ most vicious insults, but one biography tries to salvage his reputation. Was the statesman a scourge of liberalism or pragmatist of Enlightenment ideals?

The Gods Themselves

September 1, 2012
GovMars

How is Hollywood like a clever boy who never tries? In every way imaginable. The story of two Total Recalls is a sad one indeed.

In Praise of the Practitioner

September 1, 2012
GZhukov

Was General Zhukov the greatest general to order mass executions of his own soldiers? Was he the single most decisive factor in beating Hitler? A new biography opens more questions than it answers.

Gordon’s Alive!

September 1, 2012
flash holds firm

He started an artist on the path to glory, sold a million toys, and inspired a cult classic movie: He’s Flash Gordon, and his earliest Sunday adventures are getting a deluxe reprint series.

The Silence of the Yams

September 1, 2012
DChamovitz

Can plants see and smell and hear? Can they think? Daniel Chamovitz’s “field guide” to the botanical senses poses those provocative questions, but how well does it answer them?

Those Feet

August 1, 2012
CoF

This summer’s London Olympics take us back to 1981’s Chariots of Fire, the 1924 Olympics, and the poetry of William Blake. The connection? All remind us of the fragility of glory and our endless wish to make the past present.

We Could Have Beaten Kennedy…

August 1, 2012
LBJ-RFK-JFK

Lyndon Johnson rained destruction on Vietnam and championed civil rights, amassed a secret fortune and fought for the needy. His paradoxical life continues in the fourth volume of Robert Caro’s epic biography.

A Certain Kind of Loneliness: Thoughts on Bri Hurley’s Making a Scene

August 1, 2012
AFAu86CB

“I was seething with unchanneled anger, frustration, and a maddening inability to express myself. In other words, I was perfect for hardcore.” Steve Danziger on a misspent youth at CBGB.

The Adam of Your Labors

August 1, 2012
the-dark-knight-rises

Expensive new Batman movies have become a Hollywood ritual, but the character has been thrilling readers – and reflecting a constantly-shifting culture – for seventy years

A Writ of Certiorari

August 1, 2012
37

A contentious Supreme Court in the headlines is hardly a new thing – nor is the Court being used for partisan politics and the brinksmanship of history, as Noah Feldman’s Scorpions makes clear

Photographic Fictions

August 1, 2012
Oh_There_You_Are

“A few years ago I started sleepwalking, and (while inconvenient) this is kind of exciting to me, because it’s pretty much exactly the mood I’m going for in anything I create.” — a chat with cover artist Adrianne Mathiowetz

Aloof in Ceasar’s Empire

August 1, 2012
jbrodsky

In Soviet Russia, Joseph Brodsky was persecuted by the authorities, but memorized by ordinary people. In the capitalist West, he was feted by the authorities, but ignored by ordinary people. Perhaps it’s just as well he thought reality “nonsense or a nuisance.”

Appearing As Edgar’s Father

August 1, 2012
eliza_poe

Bostonians take pride in the fact that Edgar Allen Poe was born in their city, but there’s a good deal more to the story of that birth than literary tourists ever learn – indeed, there may be more to it than anybody’s ever known.

Tumblr Sphinx

July 1, 2012
10

Computers – search engines, interactive databases, digital archives – have the potential to change academic research in ways the previous twenty centuries couldn’t have imagined. But are those changes improvements – or the end of expertise as we know it? Or both?

The Twilight(ing) of the Superhero

July 1, 2012
spiderman 2 poster

Nerdy teenager Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider – and a super-franchise was born! As a new blockbuster Spider-Man movie hits the summer theaters, Justin Hickey takes us on a tour of the character’s colorful – and often tortured – past!

Fort-da Logic

July 1, 2012
braid

Why do we play video games? And why do we RE-play them? And what the heck has Sigmund Freud got to do with any of it? Gaming guru Phillip Lobo looks at some new iterations of familiar old games and attempts to connect the dots.

What the Duchess of Argyll’s Maid told Dicky Pigg-Wilcott’s Valet at Ascot in ’08!

July 1, 2012
LadyColinCampbell

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was a cherished and beloved fixture of the British royal family for almost a century (and would certainly have stolen the show at her daughter’s Diamond Jubilee, had she lived to see it) – but a new book claims the Queen Mum was just an ordinary human being – and not always a very nice one

From the Archives: I Talk & Laugh & Listen

July 1, 2012
war_end_main

She oversaw an shepherded the House of Windsor for a century and did more to shape its present character than anyone. Three years ago William Shawcross wrote an official and none-too-gossipy biography.

Endless Forms Most Brutal

June 1, 2012
Prometheus

As Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” takes movie-goers back to the world of his “Alien” classics, we take a look at the long and lively history of modern cinema’s most famous monsters.

Breaking Up With Blizzard

June 1, 2012
Starcraft

His teenage years were blissfully misspent playing Diablo II from Blizzard, and now the company has come out with Diablo III – but can the relationship be saved?

American Aristocracy – Beethoven In Granite: The Boston Brahmin Aesthetic

June 1, 2012
dst – 2

Intertwining through Boston history: the rich, implacable music of Beethoven and the flinty austerity of the Boston Granite style of architecture – trace the connections, as American Aristocracy continues.

Choices at the Event Horizon

May 1, 2012
MEff3

In the latest version of the hugely popular video game – as in real life – you are the living culmination of all your past decisions, good and bad.

No Strange Quirk of Fate

May 1, 2012
Avengers

This month sees the arrival of the long-awaited $250 million dollar Hollywood movie adaptation of Marvel Comics’ Avengers. Lost in all the hype is the rich history of the comic itself; Justin Hickey explores the convergence of pulp and pixels.

An Interview with John Summers of The Baffler

April 2, 2012
anna and john photo

An interview with The Baffler‘s new Editor-in-Chief, John Summers.

The Baffler Returns

April 2, 2012
baffler 19 cover

The Baffler, an unapologetically radical journal that always punched above its weight, has had a troubled history. But a long-term publishing contract has rejuvenated it, and shown that an old formula is as relevant as ever.

Into the Breach: Battle Royale and Hunger Games

April 1, 2012
HungerGames

The box office record-setting movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is the latest incarnation of an unsettling children-as-prey plot that’s been with us in one form or another for a long time – and never more vividly than in Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale

The People’s Prisoner

April 1, 2012
TiananmenSquareJune289

When the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 2010, it was given to an empty chair. Its recipient, Liu Xiaobo, was in prison for advocating human rights in China. Though he is still incarcerated, a collection of essays sheds light on his thought and struggle.

American Aristocracy – Harvard Pulpit: Boston Brahmin Liberalism

April 1, 2012
MIT postcard

To the quintessential virtues the Puritans lent to a fledgling republic – globality, philantropy, and autonomy – the ‘speaking aristocracy’ of the Boston Brahmins added one more: the love of learning

Making the List

April 1, 2012
sutherland

Long-time critic John Sutherland’s latest book The Lives of the Novelists takes readers on a biographical tour of 294 creators’ lives. But does it work? Long-time critic Steve Donoghue and novelist John Cotter try to figure that out.

Designing Desire

April 1, 2012
Steve_Jobs_and_Bill_Gates

Steve Jobs, the visionary predator who founded Apple and forged a new way of thinking about technology, wasn’t a particularly nice man (as even his dutiful biographer must occasionally concede) – but was he a genius?

A Man Could Stand Up: On Downton Abbey’s Second Season

April 1, 2012
ethel-and-the-major

Unlike the soap operas with which it is often dismissively aligned, Downton Abbey is defined by change rather than stasis – by its beautifully produced attention to social evolution.

“highly contrived and stylized”

April 1, 2012
Open_Long_Beach_Island_01

“Spending a summer night alone in Hannibal, watching the Mississippi River, staying in a rundown motel, and getting drunk by yourself … that’s a solid way to spend a day.” — A conversation with poet and cover artist Joshua Ware

Dystopia Now

April 1, 2012
syndicate

A simpler, sleeker update of the dystopian 90’s classic Syndicate raises some uncomfortable questions about the here and now.

Bull Sessions: Journalism’s Bloodsport Love Affair

February 1, 2012
Bullfighter Jose Tomas

We live in an age of outrage, yet one of our most egregious ‘blood sports’ escapes censure from the press. Since long before Hemingway, writers have been calling bullfighting exotic instead of barbaric — what are they thinking?

‘I am Thy Man’

February 1, 2012
HundredYearsWar

He fought a world war with France, survived the Black Death, and gave England a real Parliament. Froissart and Chaucer loved him, Shakespeare (almost) wrote about him, and the Victorians disparaged him. He was Edward III, and he has a king-sized new biography from Yale University Press.