A Week in Books
Hero or zero? Carol marks down Will
Saturday 06 May 2000
Dull as ditchwater, Carol Vorderman dubs William Shakespeare, in one of those incendiary slurs that may blow up and hoist the maker with his own petard (Hamlet, 3,4). To the dull, all things are dull, one might reply; though Portia says, in that Merchant of Venice speech uncannily stuffed with Countdown-style sums, that "She is not bred so dull but she can learn".
But where should she - or anyone - begin to learn? The true target of that fit of pique was not Shakespeare as such, I would argue, but the idiocy of a school system so crazily eager to split bright teenagers into "arts" and "science" specialists. Thus Carol trips merrily down her numerical path to fortune while her counterparts on the other track can hardly add VAT to showroom prices.
Talented popularisers on both sides of the dumb divide have a never-ending job. Yet their achievements, of late, have proved assymetrical. A true Golden Age of science writing has flourished for two decades, neatly symbolised by the latest set of lapidary essays from Natural History magazine by Stephen Jay Gould (The Lying Stones of Marrakech; Cape, £17.99). Gould began in 1973 and will quit, at number 300, in 2001.
Over exactly that time-span, many of his most gifted coevals on the arts side have plunged into sunless forests of literary theory, or pseudo-political rhetoric, from which they are only just emerging. Treat "Shakespeare" as a ruling-class conspiracy, and the urge to spread his virtues will not be strong. Hence the shortage of expositors willing to tell Vorderman how, and why, to try again. Thankfully, however, this self-loathing academic phase has almost passed. Someone should give her Jonathan Bate's superbly lucid and lively The Genius of Shakespeare (Picador) - and come back in six months' time to check the results.
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Crystal meth addict 'gouged out his eyes and ate them' while high on drug, Australian MP claims
- 2 As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
- 3 The ten most unequal developed countries in the world
- 4 Saudi Arabia 'seeking to head United Nations Human Rights Council'
- 5 Toddler throws a tantrum at the White House – in front of Barack Obama
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland