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aiden12

What's the last book you read?

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Just finished "The Sparrow", a 'literary' sci-fi I'd call it, about contact with a less advanced civilization. It's about a group of Jesuit priests and laypeople on a funded exploration of a planet where radio transmissions of songs were received from. Very well written with ruminations about theology and how initial cultural contact can lead to tragic misunderstandings.

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The Pillars of Hercules: A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean ...a travelogue written by the American travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux, published 1995... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pillars_of_Hercules_(book)

 

Somehow i had missed this account of journeying around the ex roman empire's lake by this famously grumpy writer. Better known for detailing the indignities and inspirations of long third world journeys, he promised to fill in some rather more civilized areas i had missed. He did and i'm glad i read it, and i recommend it with some reservations:

 

Except for being uncharacteristically thrilled by Venice and hungry for more of Roman Ephesus (neither of which he describes) he avoids monuments like the plague. His head is still a 1960's anti establishment protester (he was thrown out of the peace corps for trying to overthrow his host government), and ancient rome or egypt or many modern govts seem to only represent implacable opponents to utopia to him.

 

It amused me how in albania he tried to patronize widespread apparent victims living in squalor, and asked what oppressive institution had vandalized their noble lives. They told them they did it themselves months ago to snub the regime, and were proud of it. Iirc they damaged a roman triumphal gate, as well as all businesses etc. Someplace else a person he berates with innuendo-coated questions hits the nail on the head complaining that he expects unrealistic utopia.

 

He is quite dismissive and brief about ordinary spain, france, and greece, except for the edgier regions of corsica and cyprus. Of course he cant help but be charmed by italy, although only by a mishap did he later also visit its west coast and spared us a few words about its dazzle. And after surviving croatia under seige (he is oblivious to the roman palace in split) the trip gets all disjointed in time and space. By the way i recently read about unprecedented ww2 atrocities the croats did to the serbs(?) which probably inspired the carnage payback this author assumed was gratuitous.

 

He next retraces and skips all around, in luxury and tramp cruise ships besides his usual train and bus but not airplane. Grouses about israel which sounded quite nice, and raves about a barren tunisian island which sounded like a prison. Avoids juicy nearby archeology in africa, and a war in algeria leaves him seeing less of north africa than i have. He only visits top writers in egypt and morroco since his brother translates them... little else of the region. Oh, he bums around syria with his usual ridicule of many folks he encounters, and interviews the richest family in istanbul.

 

But somehow the account leads your appetite on... at least a negative view gives sharp focus vs a fuzzy sentimental whitewash. I now relive the spirit of the trip using mediterranean internet radio stations. From spanish flamenco to croatian folk music... actually the latter is quite delightful, and i regret not buying the cd of a group i saw playing in a dubrovnik folk museum.

Edited by caesar novus

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Wow, here is a followup to the above tepid review. I think that med. book was botched by the writer, and the market may still be open for reflective account of travelling around romes onetime lake. I believe thiat book was a reluctant attempt to cash in on a sure-thing topic in order to pay for his divorce and the new apple of his eye.

 

Contrast that to his previous book during the despair of collapsing marriage and hypochondria about cancer http://www.troyparfitt.com/536 . Wow again, i had Paul Theroux

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CN would you be interested in turning this to a real review? It seems like you've done most of the work anyways.

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I am only in the middle of the book, but will try to give a more coherent snapshot here. The review link i posted above is hard to beat though, and indicates what i hadnt known... that it was widely received as a highpoint of the authors work and among travelwriters and among the general reading public.

 

Paul Theroux

Edited by caesar novus

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Still working my way through the list of essential ancient classics. Finished Livy, Suetonius, and partway through Tacitus.

 

Recently ordered Rome and Environs: An Archaeological Guide, As The Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History, and Rome's Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal enemy of Caesar.

 

So many books, so little time!!!

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As The Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History

 

This is still one of my absolute favorite books on Roman history after all these years!

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As The Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History

 

This is still one of my absolute favorite books on Roman history after all these years!

 

 

Thanks for the recommendation. I found some used copies at Amazon and bookmarked the site.

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CN would you be interested in turning this to a real review?

Maybe there should be a book review section under the ET CETERA area for non Roman books. I'll chuck in a few more non roman comments here though.

 

(he was thrown out of the peace corps for trying to overthrow his host government)

That was the way Paul Theroux enigmatically described the charge against him in one book. For some reason I feel moved to reduce my charges to match the writeup by somebody in wikipedia. It says he merely protected someone trying to overthrow his host government (still thrown out, as he should have been).

 

And it is traditional for a reviewer to show engagement by nitpicking some facts in the book. I start by disputing his "Pacific" claim that kamakazes attacked pearl harbor, because they were invented later than 1941. Weirder was his comment that prez JFK was torpedoed in ww2 melanesia (starting his rise to fame rebounding from that). JFK was not a victim of normal warfare, but due to his inattention and unreadiness his idling tiny speedboat was expertly rammed by a huge, ungainly Japanese ship. The Kennedys are practically hometown saints for him probably, and for him to simply make up (probably unconsciously) this more heroic version sheds doubt on other of his quite meticulous scribblings.

 

The Third Reich in Power [Audible Audio Edition] by Richard J. Evans (Author), Sean Pratt (Narrator)

 

This book unexpectedly captured my attention as a bedtime listen sometimes. It covers the "peacetime" mid 1930s in sort of a socio-political view. Mostly about the radical changes imposed on work practices, such as for farmers or teachers. Really shocking changes, sometimes for populism reasons that remind you of today, or sometimes to establish totalitarianism. I wonder if the asian communists copied some of these approaches such as militarizing teachers and encouraging students to bully them for straying from party lines.

 

One advantage is Pratt the audio narrator is a gem. Not the usual overly theatrical or else bored drone. Just engaging and matter-of-fact enough. Have you heard some of those Canadian TV documentaries spoiled by zombie narrators? Many documentaries take advantage of Canadian gov't subsidies, and apparently union rules promise narration jobs to bored or even contemptuous (of the Romans or whatever) drudges.

 

Actually this is part of a trilogy. I originally listened to his "3rd reich at war" one in an attempt to get a more neutral view, with the allied accounts being prone to triumphalism. I didn't realize the author had an arguably non neutral background of marxist and feminist analyses. Anyway he started off with a forward saying it was not going to be comprehensive about the atrocities. But as I recall it was nothing but atrocities, especially the more unusual and chaotic ones... just too numbing to dwell on, and why Croatian ones unrelated to Germany or Italy?

 

Then I listened to his "3rd reich comes to power" which was interesting because they trailblazed some of the techniques used today. Like hammering on the undecided demographic, and making ideologically unlikely concessions to entice micro slices. Today under 10% in the US are undecided, so much of the airtime is to address their idiosyncratic concerns. The 1930s saw heavy use of campaigning by airplane and radio, and so on... I forget if he covered much bullying by brownshirts... maybe I dozed off as not much of a politics person.

 

But back to "3rd reich in power". I agree with the Guardian review http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2006/jan/01/historybooks.features that Evans makes a good case that the 3rd Reich was basically a movement in radical modernism rather than a regression to the old. It pretended to look to the past to entice certain demographics (catholic rituals and symbolism was considered effective and worth emulating). but it introduced an endless line of absolutely whacky "reforms". Many of them had to be retracted when they didn't work, because of the other great goal... getting the economy strong enough for war.

 

Maybe the interest of this for me is how it shows trends recognizable today, taken to extremes that we will thankfully never have to experience. Today at the most extreme "conservatives" are associated with social authoritarianism and economic liberty. "Liberals" at most seek the reverse of social liberty and economic authoritarianism. The oddballs are "libertarians" wanting full liberty. But todays "progressive" movement embraced by Europe and just recently in the US leans to both social and economic authoritarianism, which is close in direction if not magnitude of pre-war 3rd reich as depicted in this book.

 

P.S. for examples of dysfunctional "progressive" mandates, see "Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left" by Alex Berezow http://www.booktv.org/Watch/13939/Science+Left+Behind+FeelGood+Fallacies+and+the+Rise+of+the+AntiScientific+Left.aspx

Minor but provable examples are the biofuels mandate that pollute 300 times more, costs more, and starves the worlds poor. Another is the ban on disposable grocery bags whose substitute causes greater net environmental harm and sicken fellow consumers as you pickup their leftover decaying meat juices or dog fleas from their reusable bag deposits.

Edited by caesar novus

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Andalusian Poems translators Christopher Middleton, Leticia Garza-Falcon

http://www.amazon.com/Andalusian-Poems-Christopher-Middleton/dp/0879238879

 

I was just suffering thru the stoic meditations of the fifth good emperor and could no longer stand his austerity... maybe if he had lived it up a little more, his son wouldnt have turned into a most self indulgent emperor. Anyway i sought from my bookshelf a dose of the opposite, in a book reveling in more sensual pleasures... tastefully and succinctly observing the delights of foods, nature, maidens, and the alhambra.

 

I had heard a sample read over the radio by a translator, and rushed down to his signing event. I bought it without asking for a scribble, but just now noticed it was already pre-signed by both translators. Not a minor issue, as i can see by the elevated multi digit used prices on amazon... this book may end up as a photocopy for me and the original goes bye-bye.

 

Anyway, the book has a large introduction which can be a bit scholarly, but addresses the issue of the original arabic versions from around the year 1000 being lost. They make a case that they actually benefited by going into spanish before english, which sounds less crazy when you see the result. The poems are even visually attractive with the text layout making playful fluid shapes, such as varied line lengths to mimic the outline of the object being praised.

 

Well, its hard for me to articulate how nice this book is, and anyway it is hard to get and quite short for the price. But maybe it can encourage the search for other collections of poems from that bohemian corner of the medieval andalusian world. Believe me, anglo classics of nature or love poetry are hopelessly clunky, fussy, and smarmy in comparison

Edited by caesar novus

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As The Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History

 

This is still one of my absolute favorite books on Roman history after all these years!

 

This has been on my wish list for a while, but the price has somewhat put me off getting it for sometime. Thanks for the recommendation, as it looks like the price may be worth it after all.

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As The Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History

 

This is still one of my absolute favorite books on Roman history after all these years!

 

 

every so often I take out the book and read different sectons.:)/>

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I decided to try some different authors.

 

Barbara Erskine - Whispers in the Sand. Good thing this book was on a really really reduced sale. Reminded me of Mary Roberts Rinehart but no where near as good.

 

Valerio Massimo Manfredi - The Lost Army. so far not bad but I dont think I will enjoy it as much as the Last Legion. but it could surprise me.

 

Anthony Riches - Empire Wounds of Honour. only read about 30 pages, seems a bit schizophenic. Loved the Preface, but seems to deteriorate after that.

 

Must find my Eagle in the Snow book.

Edited by Artimi

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Twilight of the Hellenistic world. Review coming up soon!

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Just finished The Generals: The American Military Command from WWII to Today by Thomas Ricks. Very good look at the US Army and how it treats its leadership at the very top. The portion about Gen Marshall and how his management style influenced the Army in later years is very revealing as is the portion about the unfortunate consequences of decisions personnel, training and strategy made prior to the Korean War. Ricks is a good guide, his book Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2003-2005 is about as close to the truth on the occupation during those years as one can find from my firsthand experience in that hell-hole.

EDIT: I should add that I'm right in the middle of Caesar's Conquest of Gaul by TC Rice written in 1899. Rice retells the story of Caesars conquest quite well. Most of the first chapter which describe the civilization of the Gauls among other things has been eclipsed by new knowledge and can be easily bypassed. It's as good as any retelling of the conquest of Gaul as I've read, certainly as good as JFC Fuller's flawed analysis. Unlike Fuller Rice doesn't have an almost visceral hatred of Caesar that clouds his historical analysis.

 

Even with the flaws due to updated archaeological and historical discoveries since 1899 I recommend it. I bought a paperback reprint simply because I like writing in margins and highlighting (which I can't do on my Kindle) but it's available for free online.

Edited by Virgil61

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