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Sometime between October 9 and 14, 1797—let’s call it the second Monday in October—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as he was walking on the coast in southwest England, became ill and stopped to rest at a remote farm. An image had been tugging at his attention, from a seventeenth-century traveler’s tale about China. In this unfamiliar house, […]

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A truck, a Paris street, an absent-minded philosopher. On February 25, 1980, these disparate objects collided and fused into biographical fact: the semiotician Roland Barthes stepped off a curb near his Left Bank office and was hit by a laundry van. He died a month later in a Paris hospital. For the resourceful French novelist […]

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While I’m talking with the poet and novelist Paul Beatty in his Amsterdam hotel, we spot another Booker Prize winner, Hilary Mantel, sailing through the lobby. Both have novels newly out in Dutch translation, and both did interviews the day before for a books program on Dutch TV. Beatty envies her interview skills, he tells […]

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While pregnant, Camille T. Dungy fears isolation and estrangement: “I felt sure that the woman I’d worked thirty-six years to become would be pushed aside by someone else.” Yet when this poet, professor, public speaker, and holder of advanced degrees becomes a mother, she welcomes her altered identity. Motherhood, she says in her new essay […]

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