A Possible Keats

Fleur Jaeggy

Woodcut portrait of Keats by John Buckland Wright from The Letters of John Keats to Fanny Brawne, 1931

A year before leaving Enfield—the Georgian-style school building would later be converted into a train station and then ultimately be demolished—John Keats discovered Books. Books were the spoils left by the Incas, by Captain Cook’s voyages, Robinson Crusoe. He went to battle in Lemprière’s dictionary of classical myth, among the reproductions of ancient sculptures and marbles, the annals of Greek fable, in the arms of goddesses.

The Nose of the Master

Michael Gorra

John Singer Sargent: Henry James, 1913

“Henry James and American Painting,” a compact but wonderfully heterogeneous show at the Morgan Library, includes a comprehensive selection of Jamesian portraits along with other paintings of and by his friends. James liked sitting, and the exhibition includes a round dozen of his many portraits; more probably than have ever been gathered in one place before.

The Artist’s Closet

Liana Finck

When I was a senior in high school, I wrote to one of my favorite artists, Maira Kalman, and asked if she had interns and if she’d like one. She said I could come reorganize her moss collection, walk her dog, and meet her mother. It was like peeking behind the curtain and finding the thing you’d both hoped for and dreaded: the actors still perfectly in character.

A Test for Consciousness?

Riccardo Manzotti and Tim Parks

Parks: You can’t prove, scientifically, this idea of experience being buffered or delayed in neural eddies.

Manzotti: At this stage, no. Neuroscientists can’t disprove it, or prove that the experience is “generated” in the head. But let’s remember, we do science by forming a hypothesis, making predictions in line with that hypothesis, and inventing experiments that prove or disprove the hypothesis.

Hacking the Vote: Who Helped Whom?

Sue Halpern

CEO of Cambridge Analytica Alexander Nix speaks at the 2016 Concordia Summit, New York City, September 19, 2016

In the waning days of the 2016 campaign Trump’s data team knew exactly which voters in which states they needed to persuade on Facebook and Twitter and precisely what messages to use. The question is: How did the Russians know this, too? Largely ignored in this discussion is one possibility: that the Russians themselves, through their hacking of Democratic Party records, had better information than Trump.

Birds Like Us

Jenny Uglow

Quentin Blake: The Photo, 2007

“Quentin Blake: The Life of Birds,” drawn from the archive held by the House of Illustration in London, is a tiny exhibition, but one of pure, quirky joy. Blake is best known as an illustrator of children’s books, including most of Roald Dahl’s. Oddly, the human traits that Blake illustrates seem clearer and sharper in these birds than in his drawings of people, perhaps because without the human features we see only the revealing shorthand of gesture, expression, and movement.

Raphael Up Close

Andrew Butterfield

Raphael: Study for the Three Graces, 1517–1518

Although Raphael for much of the last five hundred years has been celebrated as a prince of painters, today he is widely dismissed as no more than a kind of chief courtier: supreme in grace and rhetoric, yet mannered and unnatural, even insincere. But Raphael seems so abstract and remote because we have so little direct contact with him. “Raphael: The Drawings,” on view at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, provides a rare chance to see up close a wide array of the artist’s works from throughout his life, and the effect is thrilling and revelatory.

Liu Xiaobo: The Man Who Stayed

Ian Johnson

Liu Xiaobo at a park in Beijing, July 24, 2008

Like late-nineteenth-century scholar Tan Sitong, Liu Xiaobo threw his weight behind a cause that in its immediate aftermath seemed hopeless—in Liu’s case, the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. But with time, history vindicated Tan; I wonder if it will do the same for Liu.

The Passion of Liu Xiaobo

Perry Link

Liu Xiaobo, mid-2000s

Liu Xiaobo felt haunted by the “lost souls” of Tiananmen, the aggrieved ghosts of students and workers alike whose ages would forever be the same as on the night they died. His “final statement” at his trial in December 2009 opens: “June 1989 has been the major turning point in my life.” In October 2010, when his wife Liu Xia brought him the news of his Nobel Peace Prize, she reports that he commented, “This is for the aggrieved ghosts.”

Waking Up to the Trumpian World

Masha Gessen

Singer Emin Agalarov, Gabriela Isler (Miss Venezuela 2013), and Donald Trump, Moscow, November 9, 2013

After months of talk about what it would take to get Trump impeached, analysts are calling this the “smoking gun” that could actually bring his downfall. Why does the occasion feel so momentous (other than because we want it to be)? After all, we learned only that Don Jr. said in confidence roughly the same thing that his father said for all the world to hear. But the news has been as shocking as it has because, after all this time, we still have not learned to take Trump’s public utterances seriously.