When a newspaper reports that a liberal arts college somewhere is teaching a seminar on the hermeneutics of Lady Gaga, do we feel outrage, relief, or both? As the philosophical treatment of pop culture gains currency, it's easy to be tempted by contradictory reactions: We long for a serious consideration
John Leonard wrote four novels, although, as he put it, "the public has a way of letting you know that it will pay more for you to discover and to celebrate excellence in other people, and rather less for your own refined feelings." He was, in other words, better known as a critic than as a novelist,
For fifteen years, science writer Margaret Wertheim has been collecting alternative theories of the universe. Some are poems, others include hand-drawn diagrams, and a few, at first glance, look like academic papers written by professional physicists. They have been sent to her from all over the
Certain writers are too weird to fully belong to their own time. Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky—a Soviet writer obsessed with Kant and Shakespeare, whose own life barely rippled beyond a small coterie of Muscovite writers before his death in 1950—is among them. Krzhizhanovsky wrote philosophical works
Ben Jeffery's Anti-Matter is the kind of intelligent, sophisticated response to provocative work that affirms criticism's value as art in itself. The book is ostensibly a long essay about the work of Michel Houellebecq, the controversial French novelist who recently took his country's highest literary
Early in his biography of the defiantly unorthodox poet William Carlos Williams, Herbert Leibowitz makes it clear that he intends to be just as unconventional as his subject. In the book's first chapter, Leibowitz, the longtime editor of the literary magazine Parnassus, mounts a sustained assault on
Brazil's capital city, Brasilia, conceived by modernist architect Lucio Costa, was built in the late 1950s on what had been an unpopulated desert. Costa envisioned a city in which urban design enabled the existence of an ideal society, a utopian notion that deflated when confronted with reality.
The accusation that Jews are a backwards, self-isolating tribe is one of the oldest tropes in the history of anti-Semitism. The idea goes back to Hellenistic times, wends its way through centuries European Christendom, and now sneaks into contemporary debates about Israel. Ancient Greek historian
Nathan Wolfe is one of the last members of a dying breed: the adventurer scientist. As the founder and CEO of Global Viral Forecasting, he has spent much of his professional life in the jungles of Africa and Asia hunting down new viruses with the goal of stopping the next pandemic before it spreads.
Christopher Middleton is a poet for our moment: angry, denunciatory, fed up with the status quo. But he's not a young Occupier or Tea Party supporter. Middleton is an eighty-five-year-old Englishman living in Texas, and his most recent volume, A Company of Ghosts, is approximately his twenty-fourth