1) In Impromptus today, I tell one of my favorite stories — has to do with collegial humility. Gilels, the great Russian pianist, is touring the U.S., during a Cold War thaw. People go nuts over him. He says, “Wait until you hear Richter” (Sviatoslav Richter, another great Russian pianist).
Readers have written to say, “But I prefer Gilels to Richter.” Oh, sure: Gilels was not one whit less great. That’s part of the power of his statement.
2) In the last couple of weeks, I’ve wanted to mention Naguib Mahfouz (the great Egyptian novelist who died in 2006). I wish he were around to comment on events today: and novelize them.
Well, Charles Moore has gone and done the writing I was too lazy to do: in his Spectator column, here. Mahfouz, thou should’st really be living at this hour. But then, a novelist like that always lives.
If you’re interested in my “personal appreciation” of Mahfouz, written at the time of his passing, go here. If you really want to go crazy, you’ll find it in a hardbound — but terribly reasonably priced! — collection, here.
What a man, Mahfouz. Hit me at just the right time. (Incidentally, Charles Moore is one of the most satisfying writers in Christendom.)
3) Since I have been critical of David Ignatius, the Washington Post columnist, in the past, I feel it is incumbent on me to say that his column today is one of the best things I’ve read in the recent period. It’s about the CIA and the Middle East. Taught me something.
4) A reader wrote to make a point about Sadat and his half-blackness (Sudanese mother). Oh, yes. This was a highly sensitive and contentious matter in Egypt. I have a little memory, from what you might call the entertainment field: After Sadat’s death, some Americans made a TV miniseries about his life. It was banned in Egypt. Reason? Sadat was played by Lou Gossett Jr. (the black American actor).
(Do you prefer “African-American”? That is a subject of Impromptus today. Big ol’ can o’ worms. I stand with T. Sowell, and others I esteem, against “African-American,” for reasons given in the column. I also know that most people go with the flow, and not always wrongly.)