December 2009

I had another ‘Listener’ puzzle published in the (London) Times of December 5th – entitled ‘Resident’. I have also updated the sorted lists of the Top 400 (actually 396) tracks. You will find selections there for every year from 1957 to 2009, apart from 1992 and 1998. What was wrong with those years? Any suggestions? (December 16, 2009)

In this month’s (partial) Commonplace entries, readers will notice some passages taken from the two volumes of autobiography by Kenneth Clark (Lord Clark of ‘Civilization’), which I read at the beginning of this month. These volumes were predictably urbane and agreeable, but also notable by virtue of the vast number of ‘dearest and closest friends’ that Clark admitted to having. Indeed, one might say that his convivial existence makes that of Lord Weidenfeld look like a hermit’s. Maybe also predictably, many of these friends turn out to be prize bores, from whom other guests at Saltwood Castle have to be protected . Clark is also very discreet about the sickness from which his beloved wife ails, and which consumes him very tenderly in her dying days. By inspecting Clark’s biographical entry in the Oxford Dictionary of Biography, I was able to learn that she was an alcoholic – something he was clearly reluctant to admit in the 1970s. I also discovered that, at Clark’s memorial service, attendees were astonished to learn that Clark had become a Catholic shortly before he died. I know that I could never live with myself were I to undergo a deathbed conversion to Catholicism. So, on that note, I shall wish all my most loyal and closest readers the compliments of the season, as I am off to Maui for three weeks, and shall not be able to update the website until mid-January. (December 16, 2009)

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