& Letters Daily is one of my favourite places on the Net.
Philosophy, aesthetics, language, ideas, criticism, culture, history,
music, art, trends, breakthroughs, disputes, gossip . . .
the Internet at this stage in its evolution to an
Australian goldfield, where there are “vast mountains of
low-grade ore”, Arts & Letters Daily has as its
mission to extract “the precious nuggets of real content .
. . to pan and select from among the most intellectually
stimulating sites on the Internet, updating daily, and
making the best of the Web available at a click”.
days a week they update it, a few items at a time. So what you get is a
slowly but ever-changing series of tantalising “headlines” (never less
than 150), each with a link to the full article in question. They keep
Arts & Letters Daily get started? It was Denis Dutton, a professor
of philosophy in NZ, who designed it. It went live on September 28 1998.
Despite its very low-tech appearance, the site was quickly adopted by the
simple page design is based on that of the typical 18th century
broadsheet, which according to Dutton “tries to pack the maximum content
on the minimum amount of paper”.
days the site has a cult following and gets more than 20,000 visitors a
. . the kinds of people who subscribe to the New York Review of Books,
who read Salon and Slate and the New Republic —
people interested in ideas.
more-than-170 sites it scans on a regular basis include:
to give you some idea of its vast range of coverage, here are a few
tempting headlines that attracted my eye over a typical seven-week period
98, she’s a little old lady with a colossal and unforgiving past. Leni
Riefenstahl is both proud and ashamed . . .Giacomo
Puccini knew how to write for voice and how to pen a good tune. Is it
his fault he was so popular? . . .
a miracle, says the exiled Chinese writer Gao Xingjian, who has just
won the Nobel Prize for Literature . . .
did Sydney, a city not noted even in Australia for elegance or charm,
manage to snare that beautiful Opera House? . . .
of the languages of the world will vanish in the next hundred years. Do we
need to cultivate more biolinguistic diversity? . . .
easy to poke fun at Oprah’s book club, but her impact on the
reading habits of the English speaking world rivals that of Samuel Johnson
. . .
to separate the roles played by nature and nurture is like trying
to separate the roles played by length and width in shaping a rectangle .
Flynn, bad actor and worse chap, had everything, of every sex, within
sight. By page 57 of this new bio, he’s got VD for the third time . . .
taken seriously by someone is like rocket fuel for the spirit, but
taking yourself too seriously is like a poison, says Hugh Mackay . . .
Wadsworth Longfellow. Drop his name in a fashionable literary crowd
and you’ll get a harsh verdict: “mawkish,” “shallow,” “trite” . . .
Hazlitt was England’s supreme essayist and brave defender of radical
causes. He was also the pathetic victim of his passion for the landlady’s
daughter . . .
Doug and Dave showed that it was they, and not little green men, who had
created crop circles across Britain, believers still refused . . .
unaware of the facts of her life, music fans persist in thinking that
Billie Holiday felt their pain, says Francis Davis . . .
an exceptional, absolutely-must-visit site for all of us who don't have
time to do the trawling ourselves.
& Letters Daily has a sibling, too — SciTech Daily Review —
which is equally compelling and useful.)