Archive for June, 2009

An engaging book review of Gillian Gill’s We Two in the Washington Times notes in passing that the power brokers around Queen Victoria were determined from the beginning to keep her young husband in his place.  So Albert was permitted to bring only his valet, his dog, and his librarian with him to England. This is the first time I have ever heard that royals have their own personal librarians. I wonder if one needs an MLS for such a gig?

Another new book has a very intriguing thesis that Gauguin sliced off Van Gogh’s ear:

According to a new book, the painter Vincent van Gogh did not slice off his left ear in a fit of madness and drunkenness in Arles in December 1888. His ear was severed by a sword wielded by his friend, the painter, Paul Gauguin, in a drunken row over a woman called Rachel and the true nature of art.

Such is the thesis proposed in Van Goghs Ohr, Paul Gauguin und der Pakt des Schweigens by Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans reviewed in the Independent (UK). They believe that Van Gogh lied about what happened in order to protect his friend. Whatever the case may be, it occurs to me  that A Woman Called Rachel and the True Nature of Art  would make a nice title for a novel.

Flannery  a new biography by Brad Gooch is the subject of a very interesting essay, Touched by Evil, on  writer Flannery O’Connor in the June Atlantic Monthly.  The author, Joseph O’Neill, wonders whether humans are as awful as O’Connor portrays them and says that she reflected on the question in a number of essays.  She wrote once:

I am always having it pointed out to me that life in Georgia is not at all the way I picture it, that escaped criminals do not roam the roads exterminating families, nor Bible salesmen prowl about looking for girls with wooden legs.

Whatever the answer may be, O’Neill says that Gooch is able to show that many of the “outlandish elements” in her stories ” were inspired by actual events”. This was a very interesting essay/review and  has left me in some ways even more puzzled by O’Connor than I was before– and that is saying something.


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