Sunday, November 04, 2007

Bee Wilson on coffee in the TLS

The Times Literary Supplement this week has an absolutely marvelous cover article by Bee Wilson on coffee. Here at the TLS. Of course, the four volume work under review runs 350 UK pounds, so most of us will be limited to indulging ourselves in the review, not the actual work.


Scott Lahti said...

Fans of The Life of Riley on old-time radio and TV may remember next-door neighbor Gillis's wife bore the name Honeybee (their son Egbert, big surprise, was a beanie-topped, nearsighted science geek); and Bee Wilson, *mirabile dictu*, just happened to have published in 2004 a book on, you guessed it, the honeybee, entitled The Hive; here's Nicholas Lezard in The Guardian, for whom the subject called to memory

''PG Wodehouse's Drones club in Mayfair, playpen of the idle rich; but I did not know that when those fortunate enough to mate with the queen finally did so, their genitals were torn off and they died. It is, one cannot help thinking, one hell of a way to go, and adds a certain piquancy to Wodehouse's choice of name.

Thanks to this book, though, I am now considerably better informed about the bee. By the time I reached the foot of page 12, I had looked up and actually said aloud: 'Bees are the most amazing animals on earth' to anyone who cared to listen. 'When a worker feels dirty,' writes Wilson, 'she stamps her legs, and a nearby bee will recognise the signal and clean her, especially on that hard-to-reach spot between the thorax and the abdomen.' It takes a considerable degree of confidence with the subject to be able to use the words 'hard-to-reach' in this context, I find. For a moment you may feel, as I did, that part of Wilson's research for this book involved turning into a bee for a few days. (And, while I am at it, I should say that none of Wilson's reviewers whom I read was immature enough to point out the delightful felicity contained in the fact that she is actually called Bee. I am. And she mentions it gracefully herself in her introduction. It's short for Beatrice.)'',6000,1571806,00.html

Reviewing Wilson's book in hardcover a year earlier in The Guardian, sometime beekeeper James Buchan noted, ''Bee Wilson is a real name. It is not an occupational nickname, like Corsica Boswell or Dictionary Johnson...'',,1306889,00.html

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