Tens Of Thousands Depended On Denis Dutton, Though None Had Ever Heard Of Him


From roughly 2000 until last May (when I switched browsers to Chrome), I was one of the many whose opening webpage was set to Arts and Letters Daily, a spartan site which delivers three links a day: "Articles of Note"; "New Books"; and "Essays and Opinion".  Except for a spell in a place where web access was non-existent, I read ALDaily every day.  On an average day, two of the three links were to pages I wanted to read, even if they infuriated me.

Apart from Popehat, Arts and Letters Daily has been the most important website in my ongoing development as a person.  And that's (meaning ALDaily, not Popehat) true of many, many people who depended on it in the morning almost as much as coffee.

Yet I'd never heard of its founder, Denis Dutton, until I read of his death today.

To demonstrate the power of ALDaily, assume that these capsule descriptions, all taken from today's version of the page, lead to links as interesting as they sound. Because they do:

Fat Kat had a knack for guns, drugs, and gangs; also, it turned out, for being a prison librarian. He helped fellow inmates connect to the world…

When Sergei Diaghilev emerged in fin-de-siècle St. Petersburg, ballet was passionless, mechanical, and dead. It was time for a new kind of dance…

The geocentric universe. Stress causes ulcers. A flat earth. Heavier falls faster. Many ideas we once thought were true turned out to be hard to unlearn…

Roaring colors, bright lights, strange and perverse sights up every alley – welcome to Istanbul, a vital city at the epicenter of a political catastrophe…

The Golden Age of comics. Superman flew across the skies, Batman lurked in the streets, and Wonder Woman unleashed her truth lasso…

Simply place the word “radical” in front of any Muslim name and the actual person magically disappears in a cloud of suspicion…

Ruben is six foot three, 225 pounds,neck like a waist. You can hire him: $1,000 for every bone he breaks in his victim’s face…

Will English find itself in the service of the world community forever? Given how easily languages can be dethroned, this seems an unlikely prospect…

I've never heard of Arts and Letters Daily described as "New York Review Of Books Personal Ads, Written By Raymond Chandler".  Because no one has ever described it as such.  So I'll describe it as such.  If it isn't your homepage, it should be.

Nick Gillespie has more in a thoughtful obituary for Dutton, and an appreciation of the site.

Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White



  1. Professor Coldheart  •  Dec 28, 2010 @2:14 pm

    Damn – that site's a crackerjack. Added to my feeds. Thank you.

  2. Rich  •  Dec 28, 2010 @3:17 pm

    I found arts and letters daily in a link on steve martins website a while back and has been my home page for awhile he will be missed

  3. tom  •  Dec 30, 2010 @8:12 am

    Dutton, a Californian, taught briefly at the University of Michigan – Dearborn in the mid-70s. I had him for a class which was essentially "Humanities for Engineers" and was intended to give us non-humanities types some feel for music and literature. He was a gifted teacher and I remember a lot of the guys (and it was almost guys in the class) who wouldn't be caught dead listening to classical music asking him for suggestions and sources for classical music.

    When I ran across Arts and Letters Daily a few years ago I noted the name "Denis Dutton" but thought it was a different person since he was in New Zealand. But one of his obits confirmed that it was my old professor.

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