An introduction

This is a semi-public place to dump text too flimsy to even become a blog post. I wouldn't recommend reading it unless you have a lot of time to waste. You'd be better off at my livejournal. I also have another blog, and write most of the French journal summaries at the Eurozine Review.

Why do I clutter up the internet with this stuff at all? Mainly because I'm trying to get into the habit of displaying as much as possible of what I'm doing in public. Also, Blogger is a decent interface for a notebook

Saturday, May 1, 2010

George Scialabba

The Mr. Bean film sees the eponymous hero, a hapless museum attendent, foisted on a foreign museum under the pretence that he is a visiting expert. Grilled about his critical methods, he answers that "I sit and look at the paintings". The museum officials, impressed by this back-to-basics approach, immediately hire him.

Beyond the world of farce, there's always a bubbling undercurrent of non-professional intellectuals, independent scholars by choice or implication, sometimes producing work of staggering quality but entirely lacking in professional ambition. Over the years, they build up devoted, if rarely large, audiences -- people cutting their essays out of whatever small magazine they can get published in, stashing away otherwise-forgotten gems, like the cluster of music geeks hovering around that promising local band which never quite gets a CD out. The internet makes it much easier, of course.

George Scialabba seems to be one of them, according to this review by Scott McLemee.

It also, incidentally, provides a more positive view of Opus Dei, as a form of social innovation more suited to the young and devote than traditional orders:

"For several hundred years," he told me, "a small minority of Italian/French/Spanish adolescent peasant or working-class boys -- usually the sternly repressed or (like me) libido-deficient ones -- have been devout, well-behaved, studious... the bright ones become Jesuits; the more modestly gifted or mystically inclined become Franciscans..."

Instead, he was drawn into Opus Dei -- a group trying, as he puts it, "to make a new kind of religious vocation possible, combining the traditional virtues and spiritual exercises with a professional or business career."

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