Don’t be put off by the sheer density of information presented on the homepage of Arts & Letters Daily, a literary digest. Its declared aim is to draw together the most intelligent, articulate and illuminating articles published on the internet and it’s largely successful in achieving it. A glance at the masthead at the top of the screen indicates that the site covers much more than just books, ranging from links to articles on philosophy and aesthetics to disputes and gossip.
Although it may appear daunting at first, navigation is relatively easy once it becomes clear that the screen has four basic components: a categorised list of links to other sites to the left of the screen, together with three columns headed Articles of Note, New Books, and Essays and Opinion. Each of the three columns is made up of a series of brief introductions to articles, followed by a link to the site at which it is published. A certain amount of guesswork may be required if you’re looking for something in particular as, for instance, book titles are not mentioned in links to reviews.
There is no keyword search facility at the site and perhaps the best way to approach it is as if you were browsing the contents page of an international broadsheet newspaper. New entries appear at the top of the relevant column and remain on the site for an average of two or three days before they are added to the yearly archives. It’s certainly worth bookmarking any article that catches your eye as, with no keyword search, patience is needed for browsing the archives, which stretch back to 1998. The site reflects the truly international nature of the internet with a registered office in Washington DC, an editor in New Zealand and links to English-speaking sites throughout the world.
Along the left-hand side of the screen runs a list of links that lead you straight to a variety of information media, ranging from national newspaper websites such as The Australian, Boston Globe and the Jerusalem Post, to a set of search engines. Some of the more notable sets of links are listed below.
Breaking News includes Reuters, CNN and the BBC.
Magazines is an extensive list of links to a wide range of periodicals including The Economist, Prospect, The New Yorker and New Scientist.
Columnists links to the archives of a variety of websites for collections of articles by a wide range of columnists including Alistair Cooke and Robert Fisk.
Book Reviews leads straight to the books pages of a variety of sites, from Salon, one of the internet’s most interesting arts commentators to the Telegraph.
Favourites links to ezines covering all manner of subjects, from Killing the Buddha, a non-sectarian religious magazine, to the eccentric Obscure Store, which specialises in weird and wonderful news stories.
Radio News tunes into news stations around the world, from the BBC World Service to Australia ABC. You will need Realplayer software to take advantage of these links. If you don’t already have it, scroll down to the bottom right of this site’s homepage for simple instructions on how to download it. A small selection of jazz and classical music stations is also available at Arts & Daily, further down the page.
Diversions offers links to a little diversion, from Dilbert to the sharply satirical Onion ezine.