Eliot Weinberger is the editor of the Calligrams series published by the Chinese University of Hong Kong Press and New York Review Books and the literary editor of the Murty Classical Library of India. Among his books of essays are An Elemental Thing and the forthcoming The Ghosts of Birds.
 (February 2016)

What Is the I Ching?

‘An Ancient Chinese Poet’; colored engraving of an original Chinese scroll
The I Ching has served for thousands of years as a philosophical taxonomy of the universe, a guide to an ethical life, a manual for rulers, and an oracle of one’s personal future and the future of the state. It was an organizing principle or authoritative proof for literary and …

Eiffel Tower

Robert Delaunay: La Tour Eiffel et Jardin du Champ de Mars, 1922

Guitare du ciel
Guitar of the sky                               Attracting words
                              to your telegraphy
                              like a rosebush its bees

Who Made It New?

‘Samuel Beckett: Double Profile’; drawing by Avigdor Arikha, 1971
After rambling through Kierkegaard, Cervantes, Rabelais, Martin Luther, Wordsworth, Napoleon, Caspar David Friedrich, Dürer, Melville, Cézanne, Picasso, Eliot, Stevens, Beckett, Kafka, Mallarmé, Greek tragedy, and the nouveau roman, the British critic and novelist Gabriel Josipovici finally arrives at the question posed by the title of his book, What Ever Happened …

Xanadu in New York

Liu Guandao: Kubilai Khan Hunting (detail of a hanging scroll), 1280
The Mongols inhabited a vast, featureless grass plain where the soil was too thin for crops. They raised horses, cattle, yaks, sheep, and goats, and subsisted almost entirely on meat and milk and milk products. The women milked the cows and the men milked the mares. They had no fixed …

The Man Who Wrote Everything

Béla Balázs, right, with György Lukács, Italy, early 1910s
In the first decades of the twentieth century, a committed modernist had two ambitions: to make something new and to recover something old. In the search for new forms for the new age, it seemed as though everything was inspirational, and that the entirety of human history was rushing into …

China’s Golden Age

Women in the courts of the T’ang Dynasty, between 618 and 907, painted their eyebrows green; the standard of beauty was to have brows as delicately curved as the antennae of moths. Foreheads were powdered yellow with massicot, a lead oxide, for yellow was the color of vitality. Plumpness, as …

Notes on Susan

Susan Sontag was that unimaginable thing, a celebrity literary critic. Most readers of The New York Review probably would have been able to recognize her on the street, as they would not, say, George Steiner. An icon of braininess, she even developed, like Einstein, a trademark hairdo: an imperious white …

At the Feet of Ezra Pound

Heir to a steel fortune, James Laughlin IV grew up in a mansion in Pittsburgh where the “inside” servants were Irish and the “outside” servants black, where, in the summer, the windows were fitted with frames of cheesecloth that had to be washed of soot every day. The Mellons lived …

On ‘Hindoo Holiday’

The double “o” in Hindoo Holiday[^1] immediately signals that we are returning to another time: one that was not so long ago, but is now as antiquated as its orthography. An era that was tragic, perhaps, in its essence, but comic in its particulars; a time of unspeakable wealth and …

Food of the Gods

Our vision of the Maya world has been transformed by recent iconographic and epigraphic studies—a string of discoveries that has culminated in an extraordinary exhibition of Maya dynastic and ritual art, organized by Linda Schele and Mary Ellen Miller under the auspices of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth.