“All this is by way of saying that in the United States we haven’t got any actual royals, and yet almost the very first stories we hear are about princes and princesses, kings and queens. When a little American kid first learns that there is such a thing as real, live princes and princesses, who live in actual palaces, this is liable to come as a terrific shock, though in general a pleasing one. One would like it to be true; it’s a very nice idea, that there is such a thing as an incorruptible person for whom everything will — everything must — come right in the end.” Maria Bustillos on America’s fascination with royalty.
"James Schiff, an associate professor of English at the University of Cincinnati, is working on a volume of Updike’s letters and has unearthed thousands of letters, postcards, and notes the author sent to complete strangers who wrote to him." The Guardian writes about an in-progress book of John Updike's letters that reveals how often the writer corresponded with not only his contemporaries, like John Barth and Joyce Carol Oates, but his readers as well. See also: an essay about the personal and literary relationship between Barth and Updike.
He befriended Mark Twain. His father wrote The Scarlet Letter. He drank wine with Oscar Wilde, George Eliot and Henry James, and William Randolph Hearst once hired him as a reporter. He even published a few books to critical acclaim. So why do so few of us know anything about Julian Hawthorne? In the WaPo, Michael Dirda reviews a new biography. (h/t Arts and Letters Daily)
If you read one piece on early computer scientist Alan Turing that's come out in celebration of his 100th birthday last Saturday (if you were wondering about Friday's Google Doodle) you might do very well to make it this one in the Atlantic on how his reading of Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution influenced his work and continues to shape the way we work with computers. It's also about the limits of artificial intelligence.
Colm Tóibín's new book on Elizabeth Bishop is unusually hard to categorize. Part “primer,” part “personal reflection,” in Jonathan Farmer’s words, it moves back and forth between analysis and lyricism, alternating passages of beauty with nuts-and-bolts guides to Bishop’s poems. In Slate, Farmer tries to nail it down. You could also read our own Michael Bourne’s review of Tóibín's The Master.