W.H. Auden lived a secret life, not as a man with a second family or an illicit habit but as, weirdly enough, a genuinely kind human being. He paid for a friend’s costly operation and camped outside the apartment of a woman who suffered from night terrors until she felt safe enough to sleep on her own again. So why did the poet want to hide his good deeds? He claimed he didn’t want to be admired for basic decency.
There was an interesting piece on the intangible economics of fine art in this weekend's NYT Magazine that explains the difference between the markets for art and other luxury goods (like gold and property): "Because the art market isn’t regulated like financial securities, insider dealing is generally not illegal."
Three days after Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the Times wrote about Katharine Weymouth taking over the Washington Post, Jeff Farhi reports that Amazon's Jeff Bezos has agreed to purchase the newspaper. Will Bezos follow up his purchase of English™ with a brand-new WaPo style guide?
There are three kinds of readers of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest: those who feel some niggling guilt about that brick on their bookshelf, those who've read it (proudly) but secretly may have no idea what happened in that tangled ending, and the people responsible for this excellent infographic. (Complement with cached commentary at Infinite Summer and a guide to the geography of Wallace's Boston.)
"Mr. Walt Whitman has imagined that a certain amount of violent sympathy with the great deeds and sufferings of our soldiers, and of admiration for our national energy, together with a ready command of picturesque language, are sufficient inspiration for a poet. If this were the case, we had been a nation of poets." A young Henry James reviews Whitman's Drum Taps.
A new Pew Research Center survey finds that the share of Americans who have read a book in the last 12 months – 73% – has remained largely unchanged since 2012. And when people do reach for a book, it is much more likely to be a traditional print book than a digital product. See also our essay on the persistence of physical books and, of course, The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books, edited by our own C. Max Magee.