The End of the Art-Baby Problem

Writing in the interwar gloom of the late 1930s, Cyril Connolly warned that “there is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.” It was a catchy encapsulation of an idea with ancient roots, that “good art” calls for monastic devotion and insulation from the trivial worries of the world and the flesh. Young children, however, are all flesh, demanding their own abundant measures of devotion, and merrily trampling peace, attention, and boundaries.

‘The Case of the Married Woman’ Review: After a Scandal, She Fought Back

When an Englishwoman of Caroline’s era married, she ceased to exist, legally. Her husband took possession of everything she had, then and in the future: her body, her money and her children. In return, he would protect her and provide for her. What enraged Caroline, and eventually drove her to fight for change, was the failure of her husband, and the courts, to uphold the bargain.

The Ugly Side of Miss America

There She Was: The Secret History of Miss America by Amy Argetsinger

Early on in her breezy sweep through 100 years of the Miss America pageant, author Amy Argetsinger—a Washington Post style editor and former Beltway gossip columnist—makes a confession. She loves the pageant, she writes, “and I’m not going to apologize for it.” She’s gamed out the candidates with her girlfriends, rooted for her favorites, and traveled to the finals in Atlantic City.

The Roaring Writers

The story of rootless young Americans abroad in the 1920s long ago calcified into literary myth, but the entwined story of their engagement in journalism and international politics still offers plenty of surprises. In her fascinating new book, historian Nancy F. Cott follows four young college graduates who booked passage in the early 1920s to distant shores, carrying with them literary ambitions that were more or less vague, and wound up in the vanguard of interwar journalism.

Unearthing London’s history from a muddy riverbank

A mudlark — a person who scavenges for treasure in the muck and rubbish of a riverbank — sounds like a character from a Shakespearean comedy, flitting between the extremes of filth and magic. In her quirky memoir of modern mudlarking, Lara Maik­lem travels from west to east along the Thames, from Teddington to Tilbury, reflecting on London’s long and layered history as revealed in the detritus thrown up by the water.

Wheel of Fortune

Dan Carlin, host of the popular podcast Hardcore History, stresses at the outset of his latest book that he is not a historian but rather “a student of history”: an amateur status that grants him the freedom “to roam intellectual spaces” that are off-limits to academics cowed by the rigors of peer review. A different student of history might wonder if restricting himself to a smaller field of inquiry could yield more graspable and thus more profound answers, but not Carlin, who roams from ancient Assyria to nuclear-powered America with the wowed air of a college freshman who’s just discovered cultural relativism.
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