Professor Craig Wright of Yale University is being widely interviewed about his scholarly new book The Hidden Habits of Genius. In interviews about his book it is amusing him to compare and contrast Queen Elizabeth I of England and ex-president Donald Trump of the USA.
Elizabeth is one of the professor's model geniuses while he, the emeritus professor, is genially scathing about Trump's scant intellect. The professor marvels that our species can come up with two such wildly dissimilar beings as Elizabeth and Donald.
So for example, Wright marvels, Trump never seems to have read a book, while, the professor diagnoses, we see hallmarks of Elizabeth's genius in an insatiable curiosity about the world, manifested in her ravenous reading.
"Mozart in music, Leonardo in art," Wright muses, looking for where genius shines forth, "[but] what about the everyday world of politics?"
Here, in the everyday world of politics, there is for Wright "the perfect subject of a study of genius - Elizabeth I, queen of England".
He catalogues her grand achievements and diagnoses "The secret to her success? Elizabeth ... read books voraciously (three hours a day was her wont)."
Today's column has book-reading as its theme, and for the professor Elizabeth is an illustration of how insatiable curiosity and the accompanying feats of reading that insatiable curiosity demands are often powerful ingredients of a true genius's true genius.
And of all the books he has never read perhaps the ones that might have done Donald Trump the most character-building good are the novels of Jane Austen.
Lots of us who are ravenous readers of fiction have gnawed at the novels of Jane Austen, perhaps wondering what on earth it is about them (for ostensibly they are only light reading about love and husband-finding) that is somehow so very uplifting.
Now, in a ripping online piece, What Jane Austen Can Teach Us About Resilience, Wood may have done some demystifying of Austen's mysterious allure.
Wondering why sales of Austen's novels have burgeoned during this pandemic, and picking the brains of elite Austenboffins, she finds that "Beyond their preoccupation with love and romance, there is a layer of steel and a celebration of resilience in her books that may well inspire us as we read them in these deeply uncertain and circumscribed times."
What's more, Wood discovers, the psychological balm of all this inspiring steeliness and celebrations of resilience in her novel's prime characters was already well known in the early 20th century.
"In fact," Wood finds, "Austen's writing is so strongly associated with providing solace that ... she was prescribed to World War I soldiers suffering from severe shell-shock or what we would now know as PTSD. An Oxford tutor, H F Brett-Smith, was employed by hospitals to advise on reading matters for the war-wounded. For the severely shell-shocked he selected Jane Austen
"This wartime association is celebrated in Rudyard Kipling's 1924 short story The Janeites, about a group of World War I soldiers who bond through their love of Austen. 'There's no one to touch Jane when you're in a tight spot,' [one soldier enthuses]."
All this is no wonder, Wood explains, when one examines Austen's own instability-haunted short life and finds it full of personal adversities and trials that so challenged and sensitised her that she was able to create female fictional characters who, so often in emotionally tight spots, plausibly display some characterful steel and resilience.
"Austen's heroines are similarly [just like Austen herself] often required to persevere ... stoically, suffering in silence after believing their chance of happiness has been lost forever," Wood thinks. She points out that every single one of Jane Austen's heroines at some stage believes she has lost all hope of getting the man she passionately wants.
"The moment when Elinor Dashwood [protagonist of the novel Sense And Sensibility] steels herself before seeing her love Edward Ferrars, wrongly believing he has married another - 'I will be calm, I will be mistress of myself' - is both heartbreaking and inspiring."
Wood, having read and dismissed Austen when she, Wood, was young and shallow, has come back to Austen and now finds the six novels consolingly, psychotherapeutically indispensable. In these disturbing times (the pandemic upon us and the tight spot of a probably hope-dashing federal election looming) it is time for this columnist, grown up now, to read Austen again, this time in the light with which Ms Wood has illuminated the admirable, battling, resilient author.