Lagniappe

I recently learned about a fellow blogger who also writes about books and other things. His name, Bill Gates, is strangely familiar. Mr. Gates, according to an article in The New York Times, has always enjoyed reading – especially weighty nonfiction books. And it seems that his blog is now producing what is called the “Bill Gates bump” which is similar to the “Oprah Winfrey bump” but on a smaller scale. I’ve taken time to read a few of his reviews, and I must say the guy is pretty good. Check out his blog for yourself here.

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“. . . Here is a writer who produced not only some of his language’s greatest plays but hundreds of major poems of all kinds—enough to keep generations of composers supplied with texts for their songs. Now consider that he also wrote three of the most influential novels in European literature, and a series of classic memoirs documenting his childhood and his travels, and essays on scientific subjects ranging from the theory of colors to the morphology of plants.

“Then, there are several volumes of his recorded table talk, more than twenty thousand extant letters, and the reminiscences of the many visitors who met him throughout his sixty-year career as one of Europe’s most famous men. Finally, [he] accomplished all this while simultaneously working as a senior civil servant in the duchy of Weimar, where he was responsible for everything from mining operations to casting actors in the court theatre. If he hadn’t lived from 1749 to 1832, safely into the modern era and the age of print, but had instead flourished when Shakespeare did, there would certainly be scholars today theorizing that the life and work of half a dozen men had been combined under [his] name. As it is, in the words of Nicholas Boyle, his leading English-­language biographer, “More must be known, or at any rate there must be more to know, about [him] than about almost any other human being.”

To the above I will add that many lists put the mystery man’s estimated IQ at 180 to 210 and proclaim him to possibly be the most intelligent person who ever lived.

Who is he? He is the famous German writer and polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe a man whose works are seldom read in the United States. In an excellent New Yorker article by the American poet and literary critic Adam Kirsch you will learn about Goethe and may come away with a desire to delve into his many works. I suggest that you begin with part 1 of his magnum opus Faust. Translations of the work recommended in the excellent book Invitation to the Classics: A Guide to the Books You’ve Always Wanted to Read (edited by Louise Cowan and Os Guiness) are by Walter Kaufmann (the one I read) and Walter Arndt. It is also in the public domain.

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Author Amy Tan (The Bonesetter’s Daughter and The Joy Luck Club) is being honored for her long standing support of the American Museum of Natural History by having a newly discovered leech named after her. The tiny Australian invertebrate will henceforth be known as Chtonobdella tanae.

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Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will feature its annual “31 Days of Oscar” beginning on February 1st. All of the movies to be aired were nominated for or actually won one or more Academy Awards. In a variation of the popular game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” each movie will be linked to the one following it by a common performer. No actor is repeated and the final movie, Around the World in 80 Days, is similarly linked to the first movie, Gigi. You can learn more about the films in the series and play the multiple-choice guessing game about the actors that link any two movies together here.

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The next edition of the live author interview program In-Depth on Book TV (C-SPAN2) will air Sunday, February 7, 2016 from noon to 3:00 p.m. ET. The featured guest will be author and former Fox News correspondent Eric Burns. His books include The Joy of Books, Broadcast News, and Infamous Scribblers.

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