The shock to the loyal readers of Arts & Letters Daily must have been as great as mine, when I clicked and saw this (early Tuesday morning in Taipei, 28 December):
But then about a half hour after this appeared, it disappeared. Was it a mistake? A premature announcement in the manner of newspapers who routinely write obituaries of notables well before their expiration date? Could it have been a joke? Or perhaps Dutton is really gone, and those left thought better of the initial plain bulletin and plan to do it up in style later?
A recent article in New Zealand’s The Press said that Dutton “has been in poor health.”
Dutton was (is?), of course, the originator and then chief editor of the influential compilation site, whose purpose is to find and link to the best writing on the internet. No easy task, that. Dutton, a philosopher, focused on the humanities in a sciency sauce. His tastes were (are?) libertarian, but conservatives, liberals, and even the occasional progressive found a voice on the site.
A&LD began in 1998, and a couple of years ago The Chronicle of Higher Education bought the site, but kept Dutton and his editing crew (there was, after the sale, a slight increase in articles linked to the Chronicle, though).
The site was—and still is—an adequate replacement for the late lamented Lingua Franca, a printed magazine about the life and loves of academics, famous for its quirky and imaginative writing. Lingua Franca was the magazine where Alan Sokal revealed his infamous hoax.
If Dutton is gone, he will be sorely missed. A&LD is the only site that many read routinely (certainly true with me), and we can only hope that the team that comes after him shares Dutton’s distinct tastes.
Stay tuned to the original site for updates, which I’ll also post here.
I forgot to mention above, the Dutton was also instrumental in creating the Climate Debate Daily site, which wasn’t as well known or as influential as A&LD. (Not surprisingly, either, as CDD would often link to inferior material, such as posts on this site.) That site is modeled after A&LD, having two columns of daily links: one con (“Calls to action”) and one pro (“Dissenting voices”). The “pro” column of course representing sugar and spice and everything nice; with the “con” column being its opposite.
As of this writing (2:27 am EST), A&LD has not posted an official obit.