• Julian Barnes writes about Flaubert’s late correspondence in the Times Literary Supplement. Barnes quotes a letter the author wrote near the end of his life where he said, “Giving the public details about oneself is a bourgeois temptation I have always resisted,” killing hopes that if Flaubert lived today he would be on Tumblr (URL: farouche.tumblr.com).
• I also finally got to Hilary Mantel’s essay on Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained and think you should get to it too:
To many of us, a great deal of what we encounter daily is unexplained. If you are in mid-life now, it is possible to have received what was described at the time as a good education and still know nothing of science or technology. Those on the other side of the cultural divide complain that the artists are proud of their deficiency, but this is seldom so. It’s easy, if you can read, to brush up your Shakespeare, but not so easy to use your spare half-hours to catch up on the inorganic chemistry you missed. It’s the people cringing from their scientific illiteracy who buy Stephen Hawking books they can’t read, as if having them on the shelf will make the knowledge rub off; they snap up tracts on atheism, too, to show that if they’re ignorant they’re at least rational.
If she’d only mentioned that never-read copy of Gödel, Escher, Bach, it’d be like she was seeing into my soul.
(Both these links purloined over various months from Jenny Davidson.)
• Also, finally, against my better judgment, and with fear that I will make my dear co-bloggers grip their heads and exclaim, “What have you done to our blog! Our beautiful arts blog!” but I have to share my outrage with everyone, I am including a link to David Cook doing unspeakable things to “Eleanor Rigby” on American Idol. Just watching this performance nearly turned me into Seymour Glass, it was that phony, and people are praising it! Simon! Joe R.! I look forward to next week when David will freestyle for ten minutes, then break his guitar over the speaker while performing “The Sound of Silence.”