Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Happy 150th, George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw was born on July, 26, 1856 in Dublin.

He is the only person to have won both a Nobel Prize for Literature (in 1925) and an Academy Award (in 1939, for Best Writing, Screenplay, for Pygmalion).

In a very interesting essay in the Times Literary Supplement, the distinguished biographer Michael Holroyd engages the question: of Shaw and Shakespeare, which writer would be more useful in the post 9/11 world?

Holroyd makes the wrong choice, I think, but the argument is stimulating stuff: click here to read it.

A quote from Shaw: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

Holroyd does not cite that view of Shaw's, yet I think his argument is sympathetic with it. And had I been on hand to see the First World War I might be inclined to agree.

But while that incredibly destructive war was the consequence of decisions by otherwise reasonable men, much of the turmoil we face today is the result of unreasonable men. We don't need yet another unreasonable man now.

Click here for a brief profile of Shaw in The Guardian. It includes this interesting nugget: "As part of his argument for phonetic spelling, he was fond of pointing out that 'fish' could reasonably be spelt 'ghoti' - gh as in trough, o as in women, ti as in station."

Click here to read the Presentation Speech for Shaw's Nobel Prize.

--Marshal Zeringue