Arts & Letters Daily closes the door.
October 6, 2002 11:12 PM   Subscribe

Arts & Letters Daily closes the door. "Arts & Letters Daily has been kept afloat by the goodwill of its editors, Tran Huu Dung and Denis Dutton, and it is now time for them to move on. " Lame! I don't read this site everyday but today it was live one minute and gone the next.
posted by Brilliantcrank (47 comments total)
Before I discovered MetaFilter, I used to read ALDaily religiously. Ironically, I stopped reading it when Metafilter came along, and then started to visit it again literally two days ago. This is too bad.. it was a great, great resource.
posted by Hildago at 11:16 PM on October 6, 2002


I would have used the phrase "Bummer!" instead, as I'm sad to see it gone but understand their reasons. Saying "Lame!" makes it sound like the authors did something wrong or that they owe you something (maybe I'm reading too much into that phrase, but it stuck out as an odd thing to say about the death of a site).
posted by mathowie at 11:24 PM on October 6, 2002

Sad. I'm really going to miss it.
posted by semmi at 11:29 PM on October 6, 2002

One man's "Lame!" is another man's "Bummer!"

Nobody owes me a thing, I was very shocked and sad to see the site closed.
posted by Brilliantcrank at 11:31 PM on October 6, 2002

Maybe not "lame," but their use of the word "goodwill" is a little self-serving. A site like that gives its editors plenty of free publicity and influence, apart being fun to work on. It's not a charity venture, regardless of whether they're being paid.

I've enjoyed Arts & Letters Daily a lot, but it always seemed a bit insular. On the literary blog front, I prefer Dennis Loy Johnson's Moby Lives.
posted by transona5 at 11:45 PM on October 6, 2002

I wonder how much the bankruptcy court has priced the value of their domain name and intellectual property? This could be an interesting addition to "The Metafilter Network"...
posted by PrinceValium at 11:49 PM on October 6, 2002

The Law of Conservation of Energy: energy is neither gained nor lost, only transferred from one form to another.
posted by Ljubljana at 11:54 PM on October 6, 2002

I'll second the recommendation for MobyLives, which has a lot of good literate-type content, although I never saw the two sites as particularly competing.

I think I see transona5's point about AL Daily's insularity, but I tended to see it more as repetitive, mostly drawing on the same sources day after day. Eventually it seemed to devolve into a synopsis of the more eye-catching articles in the Atlantic Monthly, Salon's book section, the London Review of Books, etc. Still, it's sad to see it go. I wonder whatever happened to all of those lit-crit ebooks they were producing...

At least I got to read a pretty good amount of AL Daily before they went under. I sent in a subscription check to the late, lamented Lingua Franca and wound up with only their second-to-last and last issues.
posted by whir at 12:24 AM on October 7, 2002

(er, after which Lingua Franca folded.)
posted by whir at 12:25 AM on October 7, 2002

nightmarish... that site made me a more interesting person. i wonder why they didn't ask for donations before folding.
posted by mhjb at 12:43 AM on October 7, 2002

That's terrible. I just went there yesterday and found an excellent piece in the LRB on Ian Fleming and Bond. And now this morning it's kaput... Going to have to delete that bookmark.
posted by humuhumu at 12:50 AM on October 7, 2002

...auctioned on October 24, 2002

i suspect & hope it will be back, perhaps with a genki new editorial team.
posted by n o i s e s at 1:29 AM on October 7, 2002

Save the spot of that bookmark --

It appears that the editors' Philosophy and Literature site is something like ALDaily by other means.
posted by apollo3000 at 1:35 AM on October 7, 2002

Um, everyone seems to be glossing over Ljubljana's very informative comment...they're not gone, they just moved for an indefinite period to a new site that isn't owned by a bankrupt magazine.
posted by shinnin at 1:35 AM on October 7, 2002

Well this is like a kick in the gut to me. I respected and treasured that web site, but I never thought twice about supporting it, and that might be the harshest lesson of all.
posted by Beholder at 1:38 AM on October 7, 2002

nevertheless, the Nota Bene Archive looks to be a fantastic resource. i`ll be there for the rest of the p.m.
posted by n o i s e s at 1:41 AM on October 7, 2002

apollo & shinnin & yes, Ljubljana, by jove indeed, you`re all so terribly right! metafilter, oh, metafilter, how so very sorry would one`s bookmarks be without you. thank you, one & all, darlings! oh thank you from the very bottom of my trembling soul.

yes, yes but they are tears of joy my dear.
posted by n o i s e s at 2:06 AM on October 7, 2002

And look! There's been a 'SciTech' daily all this time, and I never noticed. Damn, and I had so much work to do this morning, too. Ah well, time to grab another coffee and get reading...
posted by humuhumu at 2:18 AM on October 7, 2002


This was my second favorite site on the web. My life just got noticeably worse. :(
posted by rushmc at 2:25 AM on October 7, 2002

SciTech Daily isn't quite at the same level of quality as A&L Daily was. You'll find it's mostly pop-science articles that come more from company press releases and confused reporters than from peer-reviewed journals.
posted by shinnin at 2:27 AM on October 7, 2002

From despair to renewed hope in the time it takes to scroll down a few comments -- only on MetaFilter. Thanks, Akula, for the news, and Ljubljana et al for the good part.
posted by languagehat at 4:48 AM on October 7, 2002

It seems like this is what happens when well-meaning sites get huge amounts of financing by large companies and subsequently bear an enormous amount of overheard: inevitably the boss pulls the plug (A+L presumably never made a cent).

It was a vital resource for scooping out literary and intellectual articles of interest on the web, a filter that was completely necessary.

I will truly miss it.

Stay small and stay free.
posted by ubueditor at 5:31 AM on October 7, 2002

Oh crap.

What a piece of news to start a Monday with.
posted by konolia at 6:32 AM on October 7, 2002

I have gone to A&LK Daily for as long as IL can recall > I found ilt very conservative and at times a bit snotty in its easy dismissal of a lot I seemed to care for, and I had written to the editors about their right-leaning tilt. They never changed what they were doing, and I accepted the fact that it is (or had been) their right to do as they wanted. Those minor complaints aside, I still enjoyed viewing that site and hope it is soon revived.
posted by Postroad at 6:56 AM on October 7, 2002

What a tragic loss. ALD was one of the most interesting sites on the web. I will truly miss it.
posted by caddis at 7:00 AM on October 7, 2002

Hey, folks, you really have to follow some of those above links before you get depressed. Here is Dennis Dutton's (of AL Daily) other site:

Philosophy and Literature
posted by sassone at 7:26 AM on October 7, 2002

I read A&L Daily from the beginning and it led me to a lot of interesting stories I wouldn't have discovered otherwise. For that I liked it. That said, I like Dennis Loy Johnson's Moby Lives better, even if it's coverage isn't as broad. The tone of A&L Daily grated on me; the teasers often seemed to spin the stories 180 degrees; and the stories frequently appeared chosen more to provide Dutton & Co. with a dead horse to beat, than to provide wide coverage of the arts & letters.

Still, I'm sad to see it go.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:28 AM on October 7, 2002

How can I possibly lay claim to the street net cred I so desperately crave, when I am compelled to admit that I've never heard of this site before today.

I suck. But I do feel bad for the rest of you who clearly loved it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:29 AM on October 7, 2002

I too visited ALDaily multiple times a week, but mostly for their link list on the side bar. I see the the Philosphy and Literature site (linked several times above) has an even more impressive list. Thanks for all the good links.
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:50 AM on October 7, 2002

How could so many people overlook the numerous hints that it isn't closing? The editors appear to be moving to a new site while they work to acquire the old site. Stop grieving! Nothing is dead!
posted by rcade at 7:58 AM on October 7, 2002

What, ljubljana, apollo3000, n o i s e s, languagehat, sassone and rcade??? A&L Daily has died!?! I'm wounded!! You wound!
posted by grrarrgh00 at 8:13 AM on October 7, 2002

To be honest, the sites ALD's editors are now working on seem more interesting to me -- a bit better focused (though of course only time will tell if first impressions hold up). ALD seemed too prone to celebrating intellectualism for its own sake, for my taste at least.
posted by mattpfeff at 8:20 AM on October 7, 2002

I've never much liked ALDaily/P+L. I like the idea and the format, since I spend a lot of my web time reading book reviews, articles at the Atlantic, the New Yorker, NYRB, etc. But ALDaily's aggressively right-wing slant in the selection of links and wording of blurbs grates on me. I'm not suggesting that an arts & literature blog should be left-wing, or that blogs shouldn't reflect the editor's personality and beliefs, only that agitprop and arts coverage are an annoying mix.
posted by Daze at 8:32 AM on October 7, 2002

I disagree with Daze, while it was not short of right wing links, there was plenty else on it to enjoy, including left wing links. I found something really good or interesting on there just about every day, certainly every other day. It was a great site.
posted by Fat Buddha at 10:11 AM on October 7, 2002

Yes, Daze, you surprise me -- I'm far from right-wing, and I never felt that way. I was glad to see conservative articles linked to, because it gave me the opportunity to test my own views. Dutton often provided pro and contra links in the same box. "Agitprop" is a far from accurate description of the site.
posted by languagehat at 10:24 AM on October 7, 2002

On aldaily, left leaning articles outnumbered right leaning articles by a wide margin. Quit bean counting.
posted by Beholder at 10:53 AM on October 7, 2002

I heard plenty of raves about the site, on metafilter and elsewhere, but it never really clicked with me. Do I really need to read a Camille Paglia article again, or Francis Fukuyama, or someone writing a tribute to John Rawls or George Orwell, or a comparison of the Weekly Standard and the Nation? What would I learn from that, exactly? Could they have narrowed the selections just a smidgen? The editors seemed to be trying to create a sort-of Super-Atlantic Monthly from links - a rather bland idea. Why not post articles that are more outside the mainstream, or more academic than mid-level intellectual (or less popular with certain Northeast Corridor media types)? A&L often came off as prep for a heavily media-oriented D.C. cocktail party or something.

In any case, I don't get into reading long articles on the Net, particularly. Length can be overlooked or even appreciated, however, if there is some sort of serious interactive element involved or the piece is of a sort I can't easily find at the magazine racks. Otherwise, the Internet is designed more - or, at least it is at the moment - for short pieces. More presentation of the arts, rather than writing about it, would work great on the Internet too.
posted by raysmj at 11:24 AM on October 7, 2002

*cries, kicks desk, mutters "Nothing" to inquisitive coworkers*
posted by redshoes3 at 12:23 PM on October 7, 2002

I'm glad to see that other people saw that it had a right-wing slant -- especially on the opinion side. I think that somewhat changed over time -- it became more conservative than it was when I first started following it. I also thought it was a little heavy on UK commentary.

But it was still a good resource.
posted by MikeB at 12:26 PM on October 7, 2002

I don't get into reading long articles on the Net

Well, that explains why it "never really clicked" with you. Doesn't have anything to do with the design of the internet. For those of us who don't mind reading long articles, it was invaluable. (And there were plenty of articles from outside the mainstream; recent links were to,, the Contemporary Poetry Review, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Women's Quarterly, and Physics Today. If you regularly read all those, you're a better man than I.)
posted by languagehat at 12:37 PM on October 7, 2002

languagehat: The length bit was one complaint about many. The Philosophy and Literature site explains why A&L never clicked with me either. Andrew Sullivan is a philosopher? No, he's a media hack. (I don't care that he's conservative. He's still a hack.) The Chronicle of Higher Education I do read, but it's not exactly hyper-erudite. It's a trade journal. I can't say. (Again, I suggested more focus, right?) The Women's Quarterly is a neo-conservative pop publication (funded at least in large part by Richard Mellon Scaife, a pivotal, major conservative patron) whose contributors regularly show on punditry shows and whatnot. It's not an academic or non-mainstream site, but its parent organization is hot in certain, highly insular media circles.

OK. Physics Today? Never heard of it, not into physics. But I do recall making a complaint about a lack of focus of A&L earlier, which you completely ignored, instead opting to act defensive regarding a favorite site. (I read plenty of long articles every week, thanks, just not many on the Internet, for reasons stated earlier.)
posted by raysmj at 1:22 PM on October 7, 2002

Well, make that the Independent Women's Forum.
posted by raysmj at 1:23 PM on October 7, 2002

Ray: I can sort of see your point about the publications you mention, though I'm pretty sure if I dig through the archives I'd come up with some that were obscure and erudite enough to satisfy even you (and it's amusing that most people's complaint about A&L was that it was too erudite as it was). And I agree with you about Andrew Sullivan. But "lack of focus"? I'm sorry, that's just irrelevant. The whole point of A&L was to provide a wide range of intellectual reading matter; that's like complaining about MeFi's lack of focus. If you didn't care for it, that's fine, no one's trying to impose their tastes on you. But I'm obviously not the only one who loved it, and it seems odd to be so determined to break up the wake. Go on, have a glass of scotch and relax. Denis Dutton won't bite you.
posted by languagehat at 1:49 PM on October 7, 2002

languagehat: I doubt the A&L people, if they were serious about what they wanted to do, would've minded criticism, y'know? I have to go have a drink because I didn't praise the site to the skies?

In any case, I specifically said that I liked interactivity with Internet sites featuring long pieces - MeFi is all about that sort of interactivity. It's a community. A&L, by contrast, was an article dump, with no discussion of articles or even much said about them. And most of the articles I'd see looked like a waste of time regardless - subjects or personalities I'd already read about too much already, or articles by pundits, etc.

No, it wasn't my cup of tea, but it won constant praise from people, who apparently won't hear of it being criticized. If a site dedicated to ideas is not helping people to develop critical minds - and helping to create a more critical society in the process - then what's the point?
posted by raysmj at 2:16 PM on October 7, 2002

Ray: OK, fair enough. I guess what bothered me was not that it wasn't your cup of tea but that you seemed to be blaming it on the site rather than your own preferences. Now I don't get that impression as strongly. Anyway, if you don't want that glass of scotch... *reaches* *slurp* Mmm!

By the way, in case anyone else wondered where the motto "Veritas odit moras" ('truth hates delay') comes from, it's from Oedipus's dialog at Seneca's Oedipus 849-850:
effare. dubitas? cur genas mutat color?
quid verba quaeris? veritas odit moras.
'Speak. Are you in doubt? Why are your cheeks changing color?
Why are you seeking words? Truth hates delay.'
(He's not going to like the answer...)
posted by languagehat at 2:38 PM on October 7, 2002

A&L, by contrast, was an article dump

Ah...but what a glorious dump. One man's trash is another man's treasure...and all that.

1.) I always found something interesting to read, often something provocative, and some things that were intellectually over my head.

2.) MobyLives has been bookmarked for a long time, but I never go just never had the same resonance for me as A & L.

3.) I am hopeful the P & L site will be just as good.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:29 PM on October 7, 2002

The site has been purchased by the Chronicle of Higher Education and will continue with its present editors. More information is available on Poynter Media News.
posted by rcade at 11:39 AM on October 25, 2002

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