Monday, March 29, 2010

Greek Homosexuality

Greek Homosexuality

Greek Homosexuality / K. J. Dover
Updated and with a new postscript.
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1989
x, 246 p.

This is an extremely thorough book on the topic of... uh.... oh, yeah, Greek homosexuality. Like the book about women in Greek myth I reviewed a couple hours ago, this also provides a complete and balanced survey of the evidence, recognizing contradictions without fitting anything into a preconceived idea.

His analysis is largely of a well-documented court case of a man accused of soliciting sex from another man in such a way that didn't fit into society's rules governing homosexual encounters. (So much for the Daily Gay Orgy theory, guys.) There's also a lot taken from painted vases, which is fun, and the book has copious plates so you can follow along. I especially liked the analyses of comedic drama where he draws conclusions from what people back then found funny... but that sort of thing has always fascinated me.

Anyway, that's basically all these is to say: well-researched, well-written. Pretty much the best book I've read on the subject... out of one.

Humphry Clinker

Humphry Clinker

Humphry Clinker / Tobias Smollett
The Expedition of Humphry Clinker
London : Penguin Books, 2008
Originally published: 1771
xxxiii, 465 p.

Squire Matthew Bramble, a gout-ridden misanthrope, travels round Britain with his nephew, niece, spinster sister and manservant, the trust Humphry Clinker. In poor health, Bramble sees the world as one of degeneracy and raucous overcrowding, and does not hesitate to let his companions know his feelings on the matter. Peopled with pimps, drunkards, decadents and con-men, Humphry Clinker displays Smollett's ferociously pessimistic view of mankind, and his belief that the luxury of life in eighteenth-century England was the enemy of sense and sobriety. Presented in the form of letters from six very different characters, and full of joyful puns and double entendres, Humphry Clinker is now recognized as a boisterous and keenly observed masterpiece of English satire.

Dudes, I couldn't finish this book. It's interesting. So I was into it 3/4 of the way through. It was amusing and unique, though it had it's dry parts. I was liking it. And then one day I looked at it sitting there on my counter, battered in that way Penguin books tend to get, and I thought: "OH MY GOD IF I READ ANOTHER PAGE OF THAT BOOK I WILL KILL MYSELF I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING!"

I don't know what went wrong! Smollett's little cast of characters alternates narration, and they are varied with their own distinctive voices. They travel around England and Scotland visiting spas as part of Matt Bramble's convalescence. He is a grumpy realist who describes the setting and culture of all these different towns, which can get a little dull since I don't know these places and never will because it was 250 years ago. The other travelers are Matt's sister, a desperate spinster, his pretty but frivolous niece, the nieces scholarly brother, a handmaiden, and Humphry Clinker, Bramble's steward, and for the life of me I don't know why he is also the title.

Anyway, all the characters have their own takes on the locations and situations that arise, and it's all very well-written and entertaining, especially if you have a little experience with 18th-century British literature, so... I dunno, I just couldn't do it, ok!?! Ugh, I'm a failure.

Women in Greek Myth

Women in Greek Myth

Women in Greek Myth / Mary R. Lefkowitz
2nd ed.
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007
xix, 238 p.

My word, it has been a long and busy month. I have been hosting houseguests and travelling the whole time, and basically I'm super tired BUT I've read about half a million books, which hopefully I'll have time to touch on.

Anyway, I've decided to talk about the nonfiction stuff I read on here now too because it's been taking up a lot of my time lately, and otherwise I will have nothing to say a lot of the time. So anyway, I'm on a sort of Greek mythology kick, which I am ashamed to admit was kick-started by those stupid Percy Jackson books although I assure you the desire lay dormant before.

So I read this book, Women in Greek Myth one day at the library because it was raining like a something something outside. It's a pretty straightforward and balanced approach to... well... women in myth. The author has taken some flack for not having a more staunchly feminist (and sometimes apologist) standpoint, but I personally found it refreshing to see a book about mythical women that wasn't all about Zeus as serial-rapist.

There are sections on the goddesses, misogyny, rape and abduction, and a lot of it is related to the lifestyles of actual (living) women in Ancient Greece.

So yeah... a good, solid introduction to the topic, and since she's not vehement about her opinions, it's a good way to inform your own reading of the texts without the Scholarly Brainwash that's sometimes hard to overcome.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays -- The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

Teaser Tuesday time again, hosted by MizB. How it works is you grab the book you're reading, open to a page, and pick a juicy two-sentence teaser. No spoilers, obviously.

This week's teaser comes from Roberto Calasso's The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, which is honestly, the most inspired book I've read in ages. If you have an appreciation for Greek mythology, you really really must read this.

Every time Zeus turned himself into a snake, time's arrow flew backward to bury itself in the origin of things. At which the world seemed to hold its breath, listening for that backward movement that marks the passage from one era to another.

Monday, March 1, 2010

February 2010 Month in Review

February was a mixed sort of month in terms of reading success. I read only 5 books, all of which were pretty shortish, but I started a number of long things, many of which I'm almost done with. I'm almost through Humphry Clinker, almost through The Iliad, halfway through a really incredible book called The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony that I can't wait to get back to. So all is well.

So I finished:

That's it, but since I'm at the end of so much stuff, I'll have plenty to write about over the next few days.

I'm also on a bit of a Greek mythology kick, so I've read a bunch of essays, most notably from a book called Interpretations of Greek Mythology edited by J. Bremmer. Good stuff. Sort of a pot-pourri of works approaching the study of mythology in different ways.

Ok that's it!

The Sea of Monsters

The Sea of Monsters

The Sea of Monsters / Rick Riordan
New York : Disney Hyperion Books, 2008
Originally published: 2006
Percy Jackson & the Olympians, bk. 2
279 p.

Percy Jackson's seventh-grade year has been surprisingly quiet. Not a single monster has set foot on his New York prep-school campus. But when an innocent game of dodgeball among Percy and his classmates turns into a death match against an ugly gang of cannibal giants, things get... well, ugly. And the unexpected arrival of his friend Annabeth brings more bad news: the magical borders that protect Camp Half-Blook have been poisoned by a musterious enemy, and unless a cure is found, the only safe haven for demigods will be destroyed.

So, I read this a couple weeks ago, but I keep putting off the review because I honestly have nothing to say.

You all know how I feel about The Lightning Thief (below) and all I can really say is that this one was less offensive, though this is perhaps only because with 100 less pages, there were 100 less opportunities to drop the ball. The awkward, cutesy anachronisms were fewer, which is nice. And it kept me turning the pages to the end, which is a talent, but not one I put much stock in. The Da Vinci Code did the same thing, and I'm one of those judgmental jerks who hated it.

So in the end: Feh. But I'll keep reading the series anyway.

Related Posts with Thumbnails