Back in 2008, the British writer Jim Crace announced that he would retire from fiction in three years’ time, fearing the fate of the elderly novelist who is “no longer fashionable and can only find a marginal publisher and command a tiny advance.” Leaving aside the melancholy truth that plenty of writers must make do with trifling advances from small publishers, one has to take Crace at his word. READ MORE >>
Is Fourth-Wave Feminism All About Boobs and Beauty?
“Sexy feminism,” according to Jennifer Keishin Armstrong and Heather Wood Rudulph, “owns the oft-maligned word feminist and aims to show young women how fun, empowering and, yes, sexy it is to fight for women’s rights. We want to help other women find their feminism."This is an unarguably laudable aim. It is, however, rather difficult for a woman to find her feminism if she is too embarrassed to be seen reading the guidebook in public. READ MORE >>
What is Banksy all about?
Last year, around the time of the Queen’s Jubilee, a work of art by the anonymous street artist known as Banksy appeared outside a North London discount shop. The graffiti featured a scruffy-looking boy hunched over a sewing machine, turning out colorful little Union Jacks. In many ways, it was typical Banksy: clever but blunt, political but ironic, gritty but somehow still whimsical. READ MORE >>
Is the circus art?
Of all the varieties of underappreciated artist, circus acts might just have it the worst. Their technical virtuosity is taken for granted, but is what they do actually art? In 1893, Paul Cinquevalli, one of the greatest jugglers of all time, succeeded in catching an egg on a plate without breaking it. It took him nine years to learn the trick, and he soon dropped it from his routine, because audiences weren’t particularly impressed. READ MORE >>
When the best thing to do is to settle for good enough
Here is my nominee for the worst phrase in the English language: “it is what it is.” The phrase combines resignation, even despair, with self-congratulatory smugness. It is a fatal combination, because one really should not be self-congratulatory about despair. READ MORE >>
The new world of animal cognition
Two capuchin monkeys are sitting in separate chambers where they can see each other. Researchers have asked each monkey to do the same task, and they both earn a reward for performing it correctly. But one gets cucumber slices and the other gets grapes—a much tastier treat. At first, the monkeys do the task and get their respective rewards, no problem. But then the monkey getting cucumber slices glances over and notices her companion’s grapes. She throws a huge tantrum, tossing away her cucumber slices. READ MORE >>
Maurice Sendak, the much beloved children’s author and artist who died last year at the age of 83, hoped, according to his devoted friend Tony Kushner, that My Brother's Book, posthumously published this month, would be his masterpiece. Unfortunately, it is not. READ MORE >>
Humiliation as a Way of Life
Around, let’s say, 1885 the young French poet Jules Laforgue was living in Berlin and scribbling observations in his notebooks. READ MORE >>
Conservative book publishing has a new obsession
Put aside the woes of the Republican Party: Not all opportunity is lost under the conservative umbrella. What appear to be the two most crushing recent moments for the American right—the Supreme Court's upholding of most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the reelection of President Barack Obama—were in fact gifts from God to his favorite industry: the fundraising, merchandising, and publishing apparatus of the conservative movement. READ MORE >>
The Savage New World
Few historians are as accomplished or as consistent as Bernard Bailyn, the Adams University professor emeritus at Harvard University and a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for American history. READ MORE >>