Ode to Joy

Reviewed by Felicia Nimue Ackerman in The Washington Post: HAPPINESS, A History by Darrin M. McMahon.

Happy_1 Even when the subject is, alluringly, happiness, readers may fear that a 544-page, heavily annotated book will be a dry, abstruse tome. Be not afraid. Erudite and detailed without being pedantic, Happiness is lively, lucid and enjoyable. Darrin M. McMahon’s history of happiness concentrates on the great books of the Western world. From ancient Greek tragedies’ portrayal of happiness as a gift of the gods, through Roman celebrations of everyday comforts and pleasures, the medieval Christian focus on eternal bliss, and the modern conviction that earthly happiness is not just a right but practically a duty, McMahon traces the way conceptions of happiness have changed. The author, a professor of history at Florida State University, demonstrates “not only the centrality of the issue of happiness to the Western tradition, but the centrality of that same tradition and legacy to contemporary concerns.”

His book abounds with intriguing material. For example, it shows how G.K. Chesterton’s aphorism “The world is full of Christian ideas gone mad” applies to happiness. Also noteworthy is McMahon’s observation that traditionally, “a life of privilege was a life without labor . . . .That men and women should come to believe — even to expect — that work . . . should sustain their happiness, serving as a source of satisfaction in its own right, is therefore a recent and quite remarkable development.” McMahon displays his gift for nimble commentary by adding that it is “one of the delicious ironies of history” that “Marx’s contention that not only should we enjoy the fruits of our labor, but labor itself should be our fruit, is today a central tenet of the capitalist creed.”

More here.

In search of a land that may not exist

Randy Dotinga in the Christian Science Monitor:

P15aIn her captivating book The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule, British author Joanna Kavenna brings the Thule myth to life, seamlessly combining elements of travelogue, detective story, and history book.

Don’t be alarmed if you’ve never heard of Thule. It’s more well-known in Europe than in the United States, and even across the pond the word probably rarely crosses anyone’s lips. But Thule is far from forgotten.

The whole story begins back in the 4th century BC, when a Greek explorer named Pytheas claimed to have discovered the most northerly land in the world, which he named Thule. North of France, north of Britain, it was near a frozen ocean and home to inhabitants accustomed to seasons of eternal light and darkness.

More here.

The Palestinian Patient

Raja Shehadeh in The Nation:

Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews have fundamentally different attitudes toward the origins of the conflict that at once divides and binds them. The number of Israeli books about the early settlements and the 1948 war–histories, memoirs, novels–exceeds by far the number of those written by Palestinians. In the face of a work like Joan Peters’s From Time Immemorial, which drew upon spurious demographic “data” to deny that Palestinians were ever the majority in their own land, a Palestinian is angered but not moved to action. Indeed, the rebuttal to Peters came not from a Palestinian but from Norman Finkelstein, an American Jew.

This may seem strange, but it is not. For the question of whether Palestinians did or did not exist in Palestine when the first Zionist settlers arrived is more of an American/Israeli issue than a Palestinian one, as is the question of whether Palestinians were driven from their homeland. Among Palestinians there is no debate about their roots in Palestine, or about the causes of their dispossession. They either had family living in 1948 Palestine or heard from those who had family about what life was like and the circumstances under which they were forced to flee. A Palestinian author writing in Arabic for an Arab audience is not weighed down by the burden of having to prove anything about the Nakba, “the catastrophe.”

Not so for Palestinian authors writing in English for a Western audience. This may explain why much of the historical work on the Nakba by Palestinians such as Walid Khalidi and Ibrahim Abu-Lughod was written originally in English–and why the Israeli “new” historians who reached the same conclusions much, much later found it easier to persuade readers in the West that the 1948 refugees had not simply left of their own accord. As Edward Said frequently observed, part of being Palestinian is being denied the right to narrate one’s own experience.

More here.

Predators ‘drove human evolution’

From BBC News:Neanderthal

The popular view of our ancient ancestors as hunters who conquered all in their way is incorrect, scientists have told a conference in St Louis, US. Instead, they say, early humans were on the menu for predatory beasts. This may have driven humans to evolve increased levels of co-operation, according to their theory. Despite humankind’s considerable capacity for war and violence, we are highly sociable animals, according to anthropologists. James Rilling at Emory University in Atlanta, US, has been using brain imaging techniques to investigate the biological mechanisms behind co-operation. He has imaged the brains of people playing a game under experimental conditions that involved choosing between co-operation and non-co-operation.

From the parts of the brain that were activated during the game, he found that mutual co-operation is rewarding. People also reacted negatively when partners do not co-operate. Dr Rilling also discovered that his subjects seemed to have enhanced memory for those people that did not reciprocate in the experiment. By contrast, our closest relatives – chimpanzees – have been shown not to come to the aid of others, even when it posed no cost to themselves. “Our intelligence, co-operation and many other features we have as modern humans developed from our attempts to out-smart the predator,” said Robert Sussman of Washington University in St Louis.

More here.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Bigger, Better, More Commercial 3QD!

Abbas_in_seersucker_suitDear Readers,

As you can see, we have expanded. Literally. We have some new features, such as:

  • A listing of all our Monday columns, alphabetically by the last name of the author (we are still updating these, it should be finished by next week or so)
  • A conveniently located site search
  • A listing of recent comments in the right-hand column

But most noticeably, we now have advertising. As Robin, Morgan, Azra, and I are spending more and more time (we look through scores of online journals, magazines, blogs, and other sources, each, every day, to find the things we post) on the site, as well as spending our money on the design and upkeep of the site, we saw no reason that we shouldn’t see if it generates some small bit of income for us. Indeed, the amount of time that I myself devote to 3QD is approaching at least half of a full-time job. Up to this point, we have been one of only a small number of similar sites that do not have advertising.

There is now also a button to donate funds to 3QD. This is the standard tip jar that many such sites have. You could think of it this way: if you read 3QD regularly and get some enjoyment out of it, it is like having a magazine subscription. Only, in this case, you pay only if and when you want, and only as much as you feel it is worth to you. We will certainly appreciate it. Last, I suppose it is obligatory for me to say this: please support our sponsors!

Oh, and one other thing: no doubt some of you who appreciated the clean simplicity of the old design might be vexed by the new look. Trust me, you get used to it really quickly. I already have. And we have tried hard to maintain as much visual continuity with the previous design as possible. We look forward to your comments.

Thanks to Dan Balis, who helped recode the pages. And thank you for your support.

Yours ever,


P.S. If some things don’t look exactly right, or don’t work like they are supposed to, please be patient, we’ll be working out the kinks in the next few days. Thanks.

Female Feoticide Rates Increase in Punjab

Outlook (India) looks at rising female feoticide in the province of Punjab:

Dhanduha’s [a village in Punjab’s Nawanshahr district] register shows that of the seven babies born in the last six months, there were six boys and just one girl. In the last one year, against 12 boys only three girls were born, and in the last five years, 34 baby boys were born as against only 18 girls. A sex ratio of just 529:1000!

But it’s not fair to point fingers at Dhanduha. Everyone in the district knows of Nai Majara, the village where an on-the-spot survey conducted by deputy commissioner Krishan Kumar a month ago, of children in the 0-1 age group, came up with a ratio of 437:1000. A local NGO staged an instant demonstration in the village but its sarpanch Satnam Singh wrings his hands in despair. “It’s such a shame for our village, but what can I do? This happens everywhere.” Sure it does. And much more than anyone previously imagined.

A Reading from and Interview with Edwidge Danticat

At the Lannan Foundation, Edwidge Danticat reads from The Dewbreaker and gives a interview about her work. An excerpt from the story “The Book of the Dead” from The Dewbreaker:

My father is gone. I’m slouched in a cast-aluminum chair across from two men, one the manager of the hotel where we’re staying and the other a policeman. They’re both waiting for me to explain what’s become of him, my father.

The hotel manager—mr. flavio salinas, the plaque on his office door reads—has the most striking pair of chartreuse eyes I’ve ever seen on a man with an island Spanish lilt to his voice.

The police officer, Officer Bo, is a baby-faced, short, white Floridian with a potbelly.

“Where are you and your daddy from, Ms. Bienaimé?” Officer Bo asks, doing the best he can with my last name. He does such a lousy job that, even though he and I and Salinas are the only people in Salinas’ office, at first I think he’s talking to someone else.

I was born and raised in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, and have never even been to my parents’ birthplace. Still, I answer “Haiti” because it is one more thing I’ve always longed to have in common with my parents.

Baudrillard on the Riots in the Banlieuses

In the New Left Review, Jean Baudrillard goes, er, Baudrillard, albeit in brief, on the banlieuses ablaze:

‘Integration’ is the official line. But integration into what? The sorry spectacle of ‘successful’ integration—into a banalized, technized, upholstered way of life, carefully shielded from self-questioning—is that of we French ourselves. To talk of ‘integration’ in the name of some indefinable notion of France is merely to signal its lack.

It is French—more broadly, European—society which, by its very process of socialization, day by day secretes the relentless discrimination of which immigrants are the designated victims, though not the only ones. This is the change on the unequal bargain of ‘democracy’. This society faces a far harder test than any external threat: that of its own absence, its loss of reality. Soon it will be defined solely by the foreign bodies that haunt its periphery: those it has expelled, but who are now ejecting it from itself. It is their violent interpellation that reveals what has been coming apart, and so offers the possibility for awareness. If French—if European—society were to succeed in ‘integrating’ them, it would in its own eyes cease to exist.

Yet French or European discrimination is only the micro-model of a worldwide divide which, under the ironical sign of globalization, is bringing two irreconcilable universes face to face. The same analysis can be reprised at global level. International terrorism is but a symptom of the split personality of a world power at odds with itself. As to finding a solution, the same delusion applies at every level, from the banlieues to the House of Islam: the fantasy that raising the rest of the world to Western living standards will settle matters.

American tradition of using violence to make a point?

Robert Wright in the New York Times:

The American left and right don’t agree on much, but weeks of demonstrations and embassy burnings have pushed them toward convergence on one point: there is, if not a clash of civilizations, at least a very big gap between the “Western world” and the “Muslim world.” When you get beyond this consensus — the cultural chasm consensus — and ask what to do about the problem, there is less agreement. After all, chasms are hard to bridge.

Fortunately, this chasm’s size is being exaggerated. The Muslim uproar over those Danish cartoons isn’t as alien to American culture as we like to think. Once you see this, a benign and quintessentially American response comes into view.

Even many Americans who condemn the cartoon’s publication accept the premise that the now-famous Danish newspaper editor set out to demonstrate: in the West we don’t generally let interest groups intimidate us into what he called “self-censorship.”

What nonsense. Editors at mainstream American media outlets delete lots of words, sentences and images to avoid offending interest groups, especially ethnic and religious ones.

More here.  [Thanks to Syed T. Raza.]

Eleven Reasons Why ‘You’ Don’t Exist: #10…

From The Huge Entity:

As ‘You’ Like It
by Jaime Morrison
The Nonist

don’t take this personally but your depth of sensation, though perhaps impressive echoing as it does in the enclosed space of your own mind, is stunted. comically so in fact. your five senses, on which you rely totally, are capable of offering you only the tiniest subset of the total information available for you to process. your mind unceremoniously filters out large segments of this already reduced sensory payload immediately upon arrival and interprets the fractional amount of data remaining. this mind of yours is a dynamo of hubris, presumptuously drawing all manner of conclusion with only the most circumstantial evidence. were it a prosecutor its case would be thrown out. and yet this mind of yours has the audacity to tell you what “reality” is and what “you” are. 

this might be a bit embarrassing if “you” actually existed.

but i do exists! and how dare you insinuate otherwise?!

well, then, by all means prove it. you have the floor.

look at me! i’m tearing a phone book in half! i’m going over niagara falls in a barrel! i’m stomping on an ant! yeah, i’m crushing an ant under my heel. ask him whether i exist or not!

ah yes. that machine which is your body… it would seem a great ally when seeking to prove your existence – but then we’re not really talking about your bones and spleen and nostril hairs here are we? or do you consider your physicality to be interchangeable with your “self”?

well, not exactly…

good. because while you are running for office and reading poetry and murdering a stranger in an alleyway, your body is busy with other matters, like keeping your blood oxygenated, doling out nutrients, and making sure you don’t walk into any blazing fires; that kind of thing. truth be told, your body is probably not all that interested in the trifles “you” are. your body’s got work to do.

More here. (Including the other 10 reasons you don’t exist!)

hitchens on Robert Conquest


In 1983, a study of Fascism (Fashizmut) was published in Bulgaria, under the imprint of the People’s Youth Publishing House of the Central Committee of the Democratic Youth Union. Its author, Zhelyu Zhelev, did a thoroughly laudable job of anatomizing his subject. In his section on “The Structure of the Fascist State” he adumbrated the whole “Fascist” totalitarian phenomenon, covering in chapter after chapter the importance of indoctrinating “the masses”, the need to keep out foreign influences, the role of farcical elections and a powerless “parliament”, the necessity of fanaticism, the view that Western “academic freedom” was false. Above all there was the single party and that party’s control of the state, of mass organization, of all opinion, of literature and the arts, of the police, of the courts. Before it was suppressed for its hyper-correct analysis of the problem, Fashizmut had become a minor classic among Bulgarian and even Russian dissidents, with some free spirits visiting the Party bookstore and enquiring for copies of Zhelev’s Kommunismut. I was annoyed with myself for not having known about Zhelyu Zhelev (later a distinguished post-1989 President of his country) before: he seems like an ironic Swiftian hero in the later mould of Czeslaw Milosz or Milan Kundera. But this is part of the reason why one always reads anything by Robert Conquest, who just happens to speak Bulgarian, to have served with the Bulgarian resistance in the Second World War and to be fairly conversant with most salient points of Bulgarian culture.

more from the TLS here.

updike on homer (winslow)


Before Mr Homer’s barefoot urchins and little girls in calico sun-bonnets, straddling beneath a cloudless sky upon the national rail fence, the whole effort of the critic is instinctively to contract himself, to double himself up, as it were, so that he can creep into the problem and examine it humbly and patiently, if a trifle wonderingly … Mr Homer goes in, as the phrase is, for perfect realism, and cares not a jot for such fantastic hair-splitting as the distinction between beauty and ugliness. He is a genuine painter; that is, to see, and to reproduce what he sees, is his only care; to think, to imagine, to select, to refine, to compose, to drop into any of the intellectual tricks with which other people sometimes try to eke out the dull pictorial vision – all this Mr Homer triumphantly avoids. He not only has no imagination, but he contrives to elevate this rather blighting negative into a blooming and honourable positive … We frankly confess that we detest his subjects – his barren plank fences, his glaring, bald, blue skies, his big, dreary, vacant lots of meadows, his freckled, straight-haired Yankee urchins, his flat-breasted maidens, suggestive of a dish of rural doughnuts and pie, his calico sun-bonnets, his flannel shirts, his cowhide boots. He has chosen the least pictorial features of the least pictorial range of scenery and civilisation; he has resolutely treated them as if they were pictorial, as if they were every inch as good as Capri or Tangier; and, to reward his audacity, he has incontestably succeeded.

more from the Guardian here.

return fire


The current group show at SoHo’s Pomegranate Gallery is the first American glimpse of contemporary art from war-torn Iraq. It paints a picture of a national school in formation, and offers a subtle essay on the many things that art can mean in dire times.

Pomegranate, which has only recently opened, claims the distinction of being the first U.S. space dedicated to contemporary art from the Middle East. The setup is a little unusual. A large coffee bar occupies the front of the space, and the gallery is filled with tables where people can chat and have lunch. Gallery director Oded Halahmy, a sculptor who is an Iraqi Jew by birth, says he wanted an atmosphere that recreates the social vibe of cultural spaces in the Middle East. In any case, the works in the current show are considerably more interesting than what might typically hang on café walls.

more from Artnet here.

part object part sculpture


WHAT IF THE CATCHPHRASE “the legacy of Duchamp” did not evoke Brillo boxes, factory fabrication, Conceptualism, or any variant of the word critique? What if “Duchampian” were instead to signify that which is hand-replicated, erotic, and (to use Eva Hesse’s favorite word) absurd? What if the wellspring of art since World War II were to be found not in the mass-made objects Duchamp bought and recontextualized in the teens, but in the crafty way he remade and repackaged them decades later?

This is the scenario posited by “Part Object Part Sculpture.” In a tour de force of selection and juxtaposition, curator Helen Molesworth uses the work of twenty artists to put forward a tightly focused alternative to received histories of sculpture since the midcentury.

more from Artforum here.

A Review of the Ongoing War in the Western Sahara

In the LRB, Jeremey Harding reviews Toby Shelley’s look at a forgotten occupation and war, Endgame in the Western Sahara: What Future for Africa’s Last Colony?

Some of the words we use about Africa die hard. No African civilians on the run from injustice, war or hunger can bide their time in mere ‘camps’. They have to be ‘makeshift camps’. And there is no hearing about the armed conflicts from which many of them have fled without reference sooner or later to ‘Africa’s forgotten war’. The conflict in Western Sahara, the subject of Toby Shelley’s book, was often referred to as a forgotten war. It also displaced a large number of the territory’s inhabitants, whose camps are in no sense makeshift: the Sahrawi refugees from former Spanish Sahara have been stranded across the border in Algeria for thirty years now.

Western Sahara is interesting chiefly because the territory, which belonged to Spain, passed directly from European domination to occupation by its neighbours, when it was ceded by Madrid in 1975 to Morocco and Mauritania. Morocco took a good and profitable slice of the north – phosphates were the main economic enticement – and Mauritania, the poorer neighbour abutting the south, took the rest. Spanish Sahara, in other words, was never properly decolonised.

The difficulty for the new owner-occupiers was twofold: first, their presence contravened international law; second, a liberation movement was already in existence. The Polisario Front, which evolved from a pro-independence organisation formed in 1969, had fired the first shot against the Spanish in 1973.

Wieseltier Ponders Dennett

In The New York Times, Leon Wieseltier reviews Dennett’s Breaking the Spell.

It will be plain that Dennett’s approach to religion is contrived to evade religion’s substance. He thinks that an inquiry into belief is made superfluous by an inquiry into the belief in belief. This is a very revealing mistake. You cannot disprove a belief unless you disprove its content. If you believe that you can disprove it any other way, by describing its origins or by describing its consequences, then you do not believe in reason. In this profound sense, Dennett does not believe in reason. He will be outraged to hear this, since he regards himself as a giant of rationalism. But the reason he imputes to the human creatures depicted in his book is merely a creaturely reason. Dennett’s natural history does not deny reason, it animalizes reason. It portrays reason in service to natural selection, and as a product of natural selection. But if reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for natural selection? The power of reason is owed to the independence of reason, and to nothing else. (In this respect, rationalism is closer to mysticism than it is to materialism.) Evolutionary biology cannot invoke the power of reason even as it destroys it.

[Hat tip: Dan Balis.]

‘The Good Life,’ by Jay McInerney

From The New York Times:

Gray184 “When I told Mailer that my new novel took place in the autumn of 2001 he shook his head skeptically. ‘Wait 10 years,’ he said. ‘It will take that long for you to make sense of it.’ But I couldn’t wait that long. As a novelist who considers New York his proper subject, I didn’t see how I could avoid confronting the most important and traumatic event in the history of the city, unless I wanted to write historical novels. I almost abandoned the book several times, and often wondered whether it wasn’t foolish to create a fictional universe that encompassed the actual event — whether my invention wouldn’t be overwhelmed and overshadowed by the actual catastrophe. At the very least, certain forms of irony and social satire in which I’d trafficked no longer seemed useful. I felt as if I was starting over and I wasn’t sure I could.”

Despite all the attention, pro and con, that “The Good Life” will attract as a novel supposedly centered on the destruction of the twin towers, the book’s central concerns are only tangentially related to the actual events of 9/11. What matters here are some fictional characters, a few of them recruited and updated from McInerney’s 1992 novel, “Brightness Falls”. Faithful readers again meet Corrine Calloway, now approaching 42 and still married to Russell, a book editor. After a difficult procedure involving the transplanted use of her younger sister’s eggs, she is the mother of school-age twins. Maternity has not, contrary to her expectations, eased Corrine’s discontents with her life.

More here:

Over the hills and far away

From The Guardian:Tedpasmall

When Ted Hughes died in 1998, he was as valued and admired as at any time in his career, and his two final collections, Tales from Ovid and Birthday Letters, had met with resounding acclaim. During the 1970s and 80s, however, to speak up on his behalf, whether as a reader or writer, was to take a position. To support Hughes’s poetry was to support the man himself, a man whose ideologies could have been described as unfashionable, and whose poetic style was seen by some as stubborn and entrenched. Hughes had become increasingly private and his poetry seemed to be in hiding with him. The criticisms over his role in the death of his first wife, Sylvia Plath, had reached fever pitch, especially in the US, and even those with little or no knowledge of his poetry were quick to offer an opinion of it.

Possibly the tide will turn again, but Hughes’s poetry has reached a new high-water mark in recent years. Birthday Letters is now one of the biggest-selling poetry titles of all time, with sales climbing towards the half-million mark. But it is the quality of the writing that brought Birthday Letters such recognition, a quality of extraordinariness that for many of Hughes’s supporters has been present throughout.

It is worth noting that aside from the steady, sometimes obligatory admiration of his contemporaries, interest in Hughes’s work has been renewed and revitalised by a younger generation of writers, many of whom have talked about the importance and influence of his poetry. The swag-bag of prizes and plaudits that Hughes carried off for those last two publications – pretty much a clean sweep of the board in the case of Birthday Letters – owed much to a new wave of poets, keen to make public an affiliation they had felt for years. It was a case of poets having their say, poetry putting its own house in order. Once that had happened, the ingrained polarity of the media seemed to reverse overnight, and suddenly it was acceptable for ordinary people to be seen in public places reading a book of poetry – and one written by Ted Hughes at that.

More here.

Friday, February 17, 2006

3 Quarks Daily wins “Best Non-European Weblog” in AFoE’s 2nd Annual European Weblog Awards!

Screenhunter_3_1Thanks to everyone who voted for us. We won in a landslide, getting more votes than the other nine nominated sites combined! Do check out the other weblogs in the various categories. There are some very good ones. From A Fistful of Euros:

Here are the winners of the 2nd Annual European Weblog Awards, also known as the Satin Pajamas:

Most Underappreciated Weblog: Metamorphism by Mig
Best Central European Weblog: All About Latvia by Aleks
Best Expat Weblog: Petite Anglaise by Petite
Best Personal Weblog: Petite Anglaise by Petite
Best French Weblog: Journal d’un avocat by Eolas
Best German Weblog: Atlantic Review by various
Best UK Weblog: A Welsh View by Robert Gale
Best CIS Blog: Neeka’s Backlog by Veronica Khokhlova
Best Southeastern European Blog: Argumente by Dragos Novac
Best Culture Weblog: Amateur d’art by Lunettes Rouges
Best Writing: Bric a blog by the widow Tarquine
Best New Weblog: La Poulette by Poulette
Best Humor Weblog: My Boyfriend Is A Twat by Zoe
Best Non-European Weblog: 3 Quarks Daily by various
Best Expert or Scholar Weblog: Early Modern Notes by Sharon Howard
Best Political Weblog: European Tribune by various
Life Time Achievement Award: Neil Gaiman

and finally (drumroll) …

Best Weblog: Neil Gaiman’s Journal by Neil Gaiman

You can still see all the finalists and their share of votes on the award page. They’re all worth a visit. Last years winners are here.

Congratulations, everyone!

UPDATE: And speaking of awards, it seems we have won another one. [ 🙂 ] Check this out from The Nonist:

here are my bloggers choice award picks for 2005:

    the i’ll be damned! award
for the blog whose content i found consistently cool.
(tie) we make money not art / future feeder

    the my head hurts award
for the blog whose content i found consistently thought provoking.
(tie) the huge entity / 3 quarks daily

    the golden section award
for the blog whose content i found consistently beautiful.
giornale nuovo

More here.

Shakespiracy theory

David Propson in The New Criterion:

ShakespearebaconI often wonder whether those who espouse conspiracy theories are ever themselves called upon to organize a conspiracy of any complexity—on the order of, say, a surprise party. The difficulty of even the most mundane collaboration is a powerful argument that none can be kept silent for very long. Jacobean and Elizabethan London was a bad place for keeping secrets: Guy Fawkes was betrayed; so was Essex. “The truth will out,” their contemporary wrote—though that author’s identity and the truth about his life have long been argued.

Samuel Schoenbaum, in Shakespeare’s Lives, the authoritative and hugely enjoyable guide to what we know about Shakespeare and how we came to know it, patiently demolished the many speculative claims, untenable interpretations, and other “curious evidence of human credulity” displayed by the Bard’s biographers. Schoenbaum died in 1996, so future biographers unfortunately will be spared the erudition and wit that so withered the pretensions of their predecessors. His is a book that ought to be updated continually, like the FBI’s most wanted list. Bookshelves continue to fill with biographies of the bard, with the hapless reader left to sort good from bad.

More here.