The Knife—The Sharp Poetry of Louise Glück
January 08, 2013

IF LOUISE GLUCK had released a Collected Poems a dozen years ago, we would have known what to make of her. She was a walking dysphemism, a blade without a handle, a poet so intent on “unmasking … the ordinary to reveal the tragic,” as she put it, that any sign of kindness prompted bitter cynicism. “Mothers weep at their daughters’ weddings,/ everyone knows that, though/ for whose youth one cannot say,” she wrote in 1985. “My father liked/ to stand like this, to hold me/ so he couldn’t see me” (1990).

No Solid Homeland—Mid-century Travels Through America
January 07, 2013

IN THE SPRING of 1958, the West German novelist Wolfgang Koeppen came to see America. His sightseeing tour took him from New York to Los Angeles and back, with stops along the way in New Orleans, Salt Like City, Chicago, Boston, and other cities and towns. And like so many European writers before him—from Tocqueville on down—he sought to turn his hastily gathered impressions into a book that would do nothing less than explain the essence of America, that envied, admired, feared, and hated civilization, to the Old World.

How to Be a Pseudo-Intellectual
January 03, 2013

It's even worse than any 101 class you took in college.

Wonders and Horrors—The Grimms’ Tales Turn 200
December 29, 2012

MOST OF US have a favorite fairytale, one whose peculiar blend of magic and danger we recall clearly at any age. But which aspect explains the story’s enduring hold—the glittering enchantment, or the dark violence that undercuts it? Consider “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” Do we remember the dozen flawlessly beautiful sisters, the forest of gold, silver, and diamond trees they slip into each night to dance their shoes to pieces? Or do we remember their dark side: that they drug their suitors to protect their fun, unruffled when the prank turns fatal?

Gospel Truth—Colm Tóibín Reinvents Mary
December 26, 2012

The Testament of Mary is a first-person novella, but it is also an argument about the contingent nature of the Christian tradition.

Christmas Isn't Just Sentimental. It's Subversive, Too.
December 24, 2012

The history of the commodification of Christmas

Fantastic Voyage—The History of Travel Around the Earth
December 21, 2012

Around the World in Five Hundred Pages.

Archie Bunker's America: The GOP Takeover of Family Values
December 20, 2012

In Robert O Self's view, the 1970s culture war was central to the decade's political struggles.

Shamans and Samsung: South Korea's Rise
December 19, 2012

Though South Korea has enormous strategic importance, it's neighbors get nearly all the coverage.

Hands On—Does Handwriting Matter?
December 18, 2012

Philip Hensher's historical account of handwriting loses sight of how deeply personal the medium is.