Reading, Lately

I’ve been taking notes on Pliny–the Pliny Train is still going, but doing posts every few pages, while fun for me, is a massive time investment and quite probably boring to everyone else. So I’m thinking about a different structure for those posts. More of an overview than a detailed reading.

victorian culture In other reading news, I’ve finished Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity. It was a fun read, in a crunchy cross-discipline way. Goldhill got a little unreadable when it focused on novels–a lit-critter he is definitely not–but the paintings and opera sections were just what I like: analysis, making connections, pointing out that a classical education wasn’t just education, it was also a passport into higher society and a ticket to a certain form of social mobility. It made me think very deeply about my own pursuit of what one might call a classical education, and the reasons why I do it, including cultural reasons that might not be immediately apparent to me. Culture is like Palmolive–you’re soaking in it, Madge.

I could have been happy with the “novels” section of the book given over to more exploration of opera, or more of the Pre-Raphaelites. I would have really loved to see Salome or Cleopatra get the same attention as Sappho and Mariamne, frex. Also, Goldhill on Wagner’s anti-Semitism is a fascinating chapter, and handled, I think, very well.

imago dei I’ve also finished Imago Dei. Based on a series of A. W. Mellon lectures Jaroslav Pelikan gave about Byzantine iconoclast and iconodule arguments–they were originally on a very fine tapestry icon–this is a really good introduction to the issues around the whole icon controversy in the early Church and, by extension, about some of the basic theological differences between Eastern and Western Christianity. Pelikan has a way of distilling and translating complex theological stunts and battles into understandable terms, and now I want to pick up some of his other history works. Granted, I feel about theology the same way I feel about sports–it’s all imaginary point-scoring that people riot and kill for when they could be making art or improving everyone’s quality of life instead–but still, to understand different historical periods it’s necessary to try to comprehend what people fought over and cared about.

One of the things I had never delved into before was the Eastern Orthodox chain of logic and belief around Marianism. It led me down some interesting mental roads, not the least of which was imagining myself a Byzantine semi-Hypatia, arguing that the true reflection of God was the woman who gave birth and then had to watch her child die as a result of stubbornness and bureaucratic idiocy. (Yeah, I would have been torn apart by a mob, too. Sigh.) I’ve been interested in Byzantium ever since I read Norwich’s excellent Short History of Byzantium–I liked it so much I went back and got the three-volume expanded work. (The first one’s here, if you’re interested.) It’s a natural extension of my interest in Rome. Norwich and Pelikan both have a very clear, patient style–one mark of understanding a subject thoroughly is being able to clearly explain bits of it to laymen, I think, and I find them both well worth the effort of reading and note-taking.

I’m still slogging through Braudel and also reading In The Fire of the Eastern Front as a part of my ongoing study of that WWII theater. It’s…interesting to see what the writer chooses to put down as justification for the war, and pretty intense practice in just reading for information while being sickened by what I know is occurring in the background of this one person’s story. Every once in a while, it’s good to read things one disagrees with, just to keep oneself flexible and open, not to mention compassionate.

So. What are you guys reading?

  • particle_person

    I’m reading all the Kat Richardson “Greywalker” series (I’m on the sixth book of the nine), and “The True Travels, Adventures, and Observations of Captain John Smith,” by Captain John Smith. He writes about himself in the third person. The captain indignantly observes that elephants CAN TOO bend their knees, despite notes of other travelers to the contrary.

  • “Captain John Smith: Third-Person Hipster.”

  • I am re-reading all of the Kate Daniels books – Ilona Andrews. I find when series get past about 5 books I start losing track of details and spend too much time on the new book trying to remember them. Your booklist made my eyes cross but in a strong admiration kind of way.

  • skylacameron

    I’m still reading Kenya: A History Since Independence. I think I will be reading it for the rest of my life. (That said, it’s an excellent size for bashing in zombie heads in case of apocalypse.)

  • Books: not just intellectual weapons!

  • Hee. I try to read stuff I’ll never write about to give the story engine in my head some rest, as well as things I’m genuinely interested in.

  • Jess

    I’m reading the latest C.E. Murphy. Mountain Echoes: The Walker Papers, book 8 and All Shall Be Well by Deborah Crombie. As this is the latest Walker book I’m going to continue rereading the Dresden Files with the short stories in book order rather than publishing order.

  • martianmooncrab

    the newest Chloe Niell Chicagoland Vampire book… its teen fic. And in the non fic area, a monograph on the role of the Sky King in Egptian Relgion..

  • Ken

    I just finished Terry Pratchett’s “Raising Steam”. It’s just amazing.

  • Stephanie

    I’ve been neglecting the Honor Harrington Sci-Fi series. I should see where I left off in the series. I never thought that I’d find myself so into whay can be a very military strategy intense space saga, but the heroine has a telepathic jungle cat as her sidekick, and her character is very well done. I search out strong heroines often. I also have some fable and myth collections that I want to revisit as an adult. Plus, I’m eyeing a biography or two, one being Dancing Barefoot, which is about Patti Smith.

  • Tess Lecuyer

    Don’t know if you have read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall – I picked it up (all 3 volumes – unabridged with footnotes) when I worked at Borders. It is actually a bit of a hoot, especially if you pay close attention to the outstandingly bitchy footnotes. Eventually I could only hear the footnotes in a plummy, strident, bitchy British gay tenor voice. It is laugh-out-loud in a few places.

    I’m reading new author K.M. Herkes’ Controlled Descent. Distopian without being a drag, with explosions and nudity and asskicking women and funny.

  • I’m almost finished with The crimson Campaign, which apparently is the second book in a trilogy. (The first book is Promise of Blood.) It’s basically the French Revolution with magic added in, and it could use a few more strong female leads, but it has its own unique kind of magic that I simply haven’t seen used before, and the various story threads are handled deftly enough that I’m neither bored, nor confused, nor particularly impatient: whatever viewpoint we’ve just come back to, I’m ready to find out what happens next.

    However, I was just reading through some conversation about Martha Wells’ _Wheel of the Infinite_, and I suspect that as soon as I’ve finished The Crimson Campaign I’ll go and re-read that one. Again.