ALAS!!!...I DIDN'T BEWARE... rather I gorged on the food, music,scenic photos,Zorba,both film and novel!!!
...thus...more BEWARE OF GREEKS BEARING GIFTS !!!!!!
ALAS!!!...I DIDN'T BEWARE... rather I gorged on the food, music,scenic photos,Zorba,both film and novel!!!
...thus one day found myself cast upon barren shores and a polluted city. I scanned that rocky, barren, treeless landscape from ship and bus and car and tried to penetrate... what??...the Greek mind ?,the Ancient Greek mind?,the origins of their Gods? their myths? I had no idea where to start!! Athens was a loss. What was I doing here??...teaching English was only an excuse!! Where was the Inspiration of the Ancient Greek World,its myths, the music, whatever, that had silently seduced me?
I can't recall if I THEN recalled the Two Volumes of Barbara Leonie Picard's that a classmate had shown me at 15 years of age in our classroom... The Iliad and The Odyssey. I can recall THAT!!! THAT's where it started! That first meeting...with the Greeks!! I fell in love with the books' illustrations IMMEDIATELY...modelled on those found on ancient Greek pottery. And then I read them, those books!!! One day I would see the film "Helen of Troy" and be stunned again. Then the film "Zorba The Greek" added another layer..and who WASN'T seduced by THAT???? Finally,one day I would be living in a run-down pensione in Athens, at the end of Eolou Street where it melted into the Ancient World...and next door was a shop selling re-creations of urns, vases, plates,cups of that Ancient World, where I would go and glory in and drown myself in that strange and amazing World. Did I ever recall Barbara's books? I can't recall.I think not. But I can recall that we could see the Magnificent Fading Glory of the Parthenon seated like a crouching weathered Old Lion on the Acropolis...from our toilet window in our pensione home. Was that the Greeks' final joke ..or lesson? BOTH joke AND lesson...the Greeks did nothing by halves!!!
Happily Barbara's books contain nothing of the Homeric detail of the vivid and ghastly ferocity of a Greek v Trojan battles. (I read a Homeric one recently and felt sick.) Yes, it was a gentle seduction, followed up by High School Latin classes of Virgil's Aeneid and the cruel slaughter and destruction of Troy. It then became truly Classical. And it was here I first encountered, was tantalised by and forced myself, wonder of wonders, to learn off by heart these words:
"Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes." Virgil,"Aeneid" Bk.II Verse 48.
Whatsoever it is, I fear the Greeks and(especially) bearing gifts.
The Point of this review being:
Barbara's books are a good place to start to be seduced perhaps, but don't say I didn't warn you !!!! (less)
I think I read some of Shirl's books after teaching in Athens for about a year, the year of 1978. I've trawled through...more Shirley's Cornucopia of Books :
I think I read some of Shirl's books after teaching in Athens for about a year, the year of 1978. I've trawled through my Annual Reading Lists and there she is in early 1979 with "You Can Get There From Here". and then in 1987 with "Dancing in the Light".Think I read two others, yet to be located.
In Athens, in 1978, one of the teaching staff got me to read Lobsang Rampa's books.Two was more than enough.And later I heard that he lived in an English suburb, so who could blame him.
Before that,in 1977, in Sydney I read a Carlos Castenada, and wasted money on two other books of his,but at least it wasn't compulsory to read them!!! But happily I was reading Sheldon Kopp, Viktor Frankl and loads of poets like Cavafy, Elizabeth Bishop, Wordsworth,Primo Levi and excellent novelists like Colette , Marcel Proust, Isaac Bashevis Singer,Henry Handel Richardson.
Shirley REappeared in my Reading Life in 1987. A very good friend from Athens days was really into Reincarnation and Previous Lives. Why not? So I launched back into Shirl with "Dancing In The Light." Was she delusional or just pretending to be delusional for the sake of delusional others ie., her readers. I found her intensely Entertaining. I guess, after all, that was her profession...pretending to be somebody else...in the movies. So why not extend it out side that. Keep you busy, rake in the dough, enjoy the fantasy, even believe in it or at least enjoy it.
Some have called Shirley: candid, courageous,an explorer,independent,a feminist, inspiring, honest, open, profound etc. Others on the other hand have written: shockingly racist,extremely tedious,lazy, sloppy, extremely overconfident etc. Myself? Entertaining, for sure. Amusing, creative, outrageous, fascinating, entertaining (even twice isn't enough!!),assured of a good read !!
She did not raise my hackles. She made me wonder about her, worry a little, be astounded by her bravado.Or was it sheer gullibility or stupidity?? Surely Someone had to wear those Adjectival Labels? If not Shirl, then her earnest readers? Her publishers? Defnitely NOT. Well, I am passing no judgements, because people have enjoyed. Joy in a Life is not to be Judged.
But finally, although I never did, she ends up on my Books-I've-Thrown-Across-the-Room Shelf. Just view it as a Metaphorical Title. As some fans have suggested, Shirley is not lying just being Symbolic. And I am quite prepared to read another book by Shirley Fine...and Fini.
I realised that the multiple shelves, all interesting, that I was able to place this book on, may well be its UNdoing...for me. Like making a super cak...moreI realised that the multiple shelves, all interesting, that I was able to place this book on, may well be its UNdoing...for me. Like making a super cake and admiring ALL the MOST luscious ingredients laid out on the bench. Alas...when combined the Whole does not outshine or do justice to the super ingredients it contains.
I kept reading parts as "real-life" Robert Dessaix travel experiences,all knitted together to make a pseudo novel.
Kester Berwick, Australian, expatriate and author of the novel "The Head of Orpheus Singing",is a real person. I met him in Sydney in late 1978, soon after returning from a year spent teaching in Athens.His novel of 1973 was having its belated Australian Launch in a private Sydney home, and I got an invite and subsequently bought the book, "The Head of...". Dessaix's novel was an opportunity to find out more about this interesting man...although there seems to be a tendency to call him boring and unsuccessful because he didn't become famous.
The production of Chekhov plays; travels in Greece with a literary slant -the Durrells, Cavafy, Homer and Sappho make varied appearances; the uneasy start-stop-start of a love affair; the history of Kester Berwick; the lives and doings that make up an expatriate community - these are ALL fascinating topics and make for a Rich Read, especially when you have Robert Dessaix aboard as writer.
Finally for me, it never came together as a knitted whole. I was too conscious of the writer putting it together backstage. Perhaps that means excess of imagination or the use of First Person narration or...??? (less)
At a wedding recently I was chatting to a friend, a young woman in her early thirties whom I've known since she was quite young. She was telling me how sh...more At a wedding recently I was chatting to a friend, a young woman in her early thirties whom I've known since she was quite young. She was telling me how she set her younger half-sister on the Road to "True Values" by giving her a copy of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. I was amazed, thrilled and pleased that young people could be into Marcus Aurelius in a profound and active way. Her half-sister is now studying in Italy.
I've only skimmed my copy but then and there decided to read it from cover to cover. Last night looking at a 2009 biography of the Emperor Hadrian I came across a photograph of a bust of a teenager held in Rome's Capitoline Museum with this caption:
Young Marcus Annius Verus. A solemn and dutiful child, he was fascinated by philosophy. Hadrian was very fond of him and affectionately teased him for his virtuous behavior, nicknaming him "Verissimus" or "truest". After the death of Aelius Caesar, Hadrian made Antoninus Pius his heir and designated Marcus as his next successor but one. He reigned as Marcus Aurelius.
I was amazed, thrilled and pleased to find such a close connection between two people I have long been interested in. This happened last year when I discovered that Chekhov and Tchaikovsky were BIG fans of each others work...AND wrote fan mail !!
Is this serendipity ??? ...the faculty of making desirable but unsought for discoveries. I think soooooooo!!
This book failed to mention Hadrian's Wall, one of my absorbing interests, but since it didn't seem relevant to the author's purpose I really failed to b...moreThis book failed to mention Hadrian's Wall, one of my absorbing interests, but since it didn't seem relevant to the author's purpose I really failed to be aware of its omission. And given the context it may not be an omission at all. What was served was gripping enough.
What reared LARGE was the complexity of Hadrian's personality and how a different culture can lead you so far from what you consider to be 'normal' or consider to be obvious or natural. The influence of a nation's mythology on everyday behaviour is a factor that may leave an ignorant stranger floundering without even being aware they are. Hadrian's culture, status, sexuality and beliefs are all brought into play in what we might have expected to be a fairly straightforward account of a life. Luckily it becomes a fascinating journey into realms unknown.
Hadrian was supposed to have written an autobiography, which can both reveal and obscure,for instance either through the extremes of pride or humility, so answers/facts become muffled creating more confusion.
Politically Hadrian stopped the drive to expand the Empire and set about the more realistic and peaceful job of consolidating what the Empire already had. Many of his constructions survive, especially the Pantheon in Rome, still in use after 2,000 years, which is a lesson in the creation of an amazing space that will remain with the viewer forever His love of the Hellenic led him to emphasise these values in all its expressions, especially in building and extending cities and Hellenic culture in every part of the Empire. Unfortunately this led to the second major bloody clash with Judaism and the final diaspora which does more than echo today!! and put a huge dent in Hadrian's Peace Agenda.
All this was carried out through fairly constant travel, a passion of Hadrian's which occupied over half of his reign. His huge retinue must have been a double-edged sword to his subjects when it descended on their lives and lands. A wife and an accompanying young lover was a personal sidedish, which especially came to the fore when the young man was drowned in the Nile. But was he a suicide, a murder victim or a myth being reenacted? Was he even young ? Was Hadrian responsible as well as bereft? Was the lover responsible and doing his duty? Speculation can be even more fascinating and informative than a true story.
This is a truly absorbing read.
Each chapter begins with a brief relevant quote from a Roman poet or writer, which is followed up by a much longer extract from the fictitious( which does not have 'false' as an opposite!!!) diary of a Greek princess, Julia Baibilla, who was a companion to Hadrian's wife, the Empress Sabina, on these travels. Finally we have a substantial discussion of the facts, the possible facts and the detective work becomes engrossing. No Wall here, but it is still there in England's far cool north, compliments of Hadrian, the traveller and builder. May see you there???
PS. Marguerite Yourcenar's acclaimed 1951 "Memoirs of Hadrian"...her version of the Lost Autobiography, lies on a shelf beside a hopefully not too conventional historical study,"Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome" by Anthony Everitt (2009).
PRE-READ: a personal note. I decided somehow, sometime, that I would LOVE to "walk Hadrian's Wall". I'd been close to it a few times at Carlisle, but NEVER seen it.
And then I became a bit disabled walkwise. A few vertebrae had thinned and lost the jelly between them. And another vertebrae had become misaligned. Then I found that I was learning to live with a continual 'pinched nerve' and Hadrian melted away.
Now onto my Third Physio and some Hope restored Hadrian has knocked on my door; the 'pinched nerve'has become far less disabling
So I'm 'reading' Hadrian !!! with renewed interest.
This ALL really began with the movie "Quo Vadis" which my older sister and I DEMANDED that we be taken to see. Powerful Stuff !!! And we were Young and I...more This ALL really began with the movie "Quo Vadis" which my older sister and I DEMANDED that we be taken to see. Powerful Stuff !!! And we were Young and Impressionable. The Might of Imperial Rome, Lions Eating Christians, Rome in Flames, Peter Ustinov as an Unforgettable Nero etc etc etc. I was marked for the Duration !!!! VERY Impressed...ouch !
On last visits to Rome the TWO names that kept popping up were Caravaggio and Hadrian. And for years on my shelf had lain Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian. I bought it for my nephew/godson who was with us in Rome one of those times. He LOVED it but I still haven't read it.
Now it seems that Suetonius was chief secretary to...Hadrian. AND so had access to Imperial Archives for this book on the Caesars. Also explains why Hadrian doesn't appear.
Hadrian apparently wrote his autobiography but it has been lost. Which explains why Marguerite Yourcenar rewrote it for him.
I don't know whether this merits being any sort of or part of a Book Review but it's what spewed out so will havve to bide its time.
Reason I'm reading it is I didn't finish it last time because I became too sceptical about its content. Now I'm interested in the last six Emperors before Trajan and Hadrian both of whom aren't among the Twelve.
Reading other people's diaries/letters CAN be more tedious than revelatory. And I've yet to overhear a private mobile call that had me riveted and prep...more Reading other people's diaries/letters CAN be more tedious than revelatory. And I've yet to overhear a private mobile call that had me riveted and prepared to miss my train/bus stop.
Here we are plunged into the private conversations of Ancient Rome's Who's Who...by letter. AND I'M RIVETED !!!
Gossip, passion, politics, abuse, invites to dinner, cunning, humour philosophising, frustration, manipulation ...and ALL from the pens of such Luminaries as Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Catullus the Poet, Cicero the Lawyer, Caesar's wife, the Upper Crust Women of Rome ...and the Great Unwashed in the form of their Graffiti on Current Affairs. The Thought of the City lies revealed...with much plotting and scheming. So far...more refreshingly Human than Ancient. ...beautifully irreverent and amusing. ...not tedious and very revelatory. ...and sobering when we know the Bloodbath soon to come.
Put up your hand if you have NEVER fantasised about journeying to some place in the past that has a Special Hold on your imagination ???
SEE..............more Put up your hand if you have NEVER fantasised about journeying to some place in the past that has a Special Hold on your imagination ???
SEE................NO ONE !!!!!!!!!!!!!
Robert Silverberg with his WRITING REPUTATION and TALENT had this book sewn up when he decided to allow his characters to Time Travel to that most exotic and fascinating of ALL places...ANCIENT EGYPT.
Or had he ??? Oh, my!! Oh my !!! (What a give away!!!This SCREAMS : "Disappointed Reviewer".)
Especially wonderful is the recreation of the Factory of Preparation of the Dead for Full Mummification. This will ignite your Ancient Egyptian Juices. Here he places his Main Character and it never gets better than this. If only he had exploited this a bit more. But this is more a novella or long short story. Because Our Hero is on a Mission to find and return two other Time Travellers who have been left stranded in the Past. Or have they?? Is there something else going on? Of course there is, and we WANT there to be MORE. Robert Silverberg presses ALL the RIGHT buttons.
This was my second read of this novella and I was looking forward to it. The Mummy Factory was a sharp memory. Less sharp, to be honest, non-existent, was the denouement of the tale.
WHY COULDN'T I RECALL THE ENDING of this enjoyable story ??
It NEVER crossed my mind that perhaps I WANTED to forget. TO me the twist and sting in the tail of the tale, for indeed there is one, is (OUCH!!!) at the reader's expense. Although it occurs to the hero whose devastation we somehow just DON'T share. How can this possibly be, I think now? (Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would have it.) I was on tenterhooks as the pages grew less and less. What could be going to happen ?
READ IT YOURSELF ...you will probably be UTTERLY and DEVASTATINGLY THRILLED AND SHOCKED.
WORDS AND PICTURES: Reading these Japanese ghostly/magical stories has made me reflect on books without pictures, whether on the page or in the mind of...more WORDS AND PICTURES: Reading these Japanese ghostly/magical stories has made me reflect on books without pictures, whether on the page or in the mind of the reader.
Two extremes crossed my mind.
When I was in Year 6 of Primary School, part of our homework was to illustrate the Battle of Trafalgar. We had read a text without illustrations. I had also read my older sister's Brooks Social Studies which used illustrations of famous paintings. I was the only student who drew flaming 18th Century galleons. All the others had drawn on World War Two movies of sea battles with aircraft support. I remember thinking that the teacher was a bit dumb.
Many years later,running a reading group for a Year 4 Primary class, I noticed that some of my students were reading Tolkien's "Lord Of The Rings". I knew this was way beyond their reading level, and was curious about how they were managing.They had all been watching the films as they came out and also had the DVDs. "I've watched it 24 times", exclaimed one enthusiastically. What great support they got for their pictureless text. They knew all the names of the characters and places as well as having accompanying visuals. I remember thinking smart kids, lucky kids.
How was I coping with Lafcadio Hearn's stories which had only one introductory illustration ?
Luckily I had been to a series of eight Japanese films in 2010 largely depicting the Floating World of the 17th century, films that had been made from 1946 through to 2006, a range of 60 years. One of the best out of this superior crop had won the Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 1964 and been nominated in 1965 as a Best Foreign Language Film at the notorious Academy Awards. It was titled "KWAIDAN" and based on four Japanese ghost tales retold by Lafcadio Hearn, two of which came from that specific book, two of the best. (Go to You Tube to pick up the trailer and more.) Surprisingly this was the film in which I became conscious of a number of people walking out. And to me it seemed that this film was the MOST Japanese of all. Japanese music played on alien instruments and sung in an alien style featured. The sets were extremely stylised, being obviously 'fake',outlandish,lavish and beautiful. And it lasted for over three hours. Enough said???
So how have I coped with my one picture text ??? Very,very well INDEED, thank you.
Americans are as bad as Australians at claiming foreigners as their own.
Lafcadio was born of a Greek mother and an Irish father...in Greece. He was sent with his brothers to live in Ireland which he loathed. He went to America at 19 and left about twenty years later for Japan where he finally felt 'at home', marrying a Japanese, adopting a Japanese name and nationality, had two sons, wrote extensively of his new home, taught there, died and was buried there and has Japanese relations still...in Japan, NOT America, which was a mere stopover.(Although I think you could claim his brothers!!) The Japanese LOVE him. Mmmm...america seems insignificant ??? ...to Lafcadio, that is.
This is like an Adult Version of a Child's Picture Book. ...lots of great photographs to drool over, and a minimum of text that only ADDS to the drooli...more This is like an Adult Version of a Child's Picture Book. ...lots of great photographs to drool over, and a minimum of text that only ADDS to the drooling.
And it appears to be such an effortless read/look that one could easily read it several times over during a single read/look. Fascinating to compare and contrast the two photos displayed on opposite pages...one sepia or b/w and usually 19th Century; the other, modern and in colour. Does it help if you've been there??? Yes, because you have the extra dimensions of memory and experiences to draw on...BUT, those scenes that I have NEVER visited (yet!!!) really do excite my curiosity and scrutiny. Sixty-nine places are viewed, a total of 138 photos....so a Feast.
Satisfaction assured by its author, Frederica D'Orazio.(less)
PRE-READ: I saw this book mentioned in a blog entry of Mary Beard, the wonderful Ancient History Buff, about the pair of ancient statues (the Tyrant Sla...more PRE-READ: I saw this book mentioned in a blog entry of Mary Beard, the wonderful Ancient History Buff, about the pair of ancient statues (the Tyrant Slayers), two gay assassins of a Greek Tyrant's offsider(not gay).
I had bought a copy of this book when in Rome with my older sister Di and her youngest son James (one of my Five Nephews and also my Godson). The book was for James.
We had all met in Rome to begin our Italian Tour where our Roman friends seemed to be Bernini, Caravaggio and ...yes, Hadrian!!! I had and still have my Yourcenar copy...here at home, James read the copy I gave him. He LOVED it !! I STILL haven't read it !!! But eye it often!!!
This book is AMAZING not only for its contents and their implications for Biblical Studies, but for the circumstances of its discovery in the mid 19th...moreThis book is AMAZING not only for its contents and their implications for Biblical Studies, but for the circumstances of its discovery in the mid 19th Century after almost 3 millenia. The clay tablets on which it was written were found where they had fallen or been thrown by the destroyers of Assurbanipal's Great Library at Nineveh. Thus came into the Domain of Story and Myth the oldest book yet found.
This particular translation by N.K.Sandars published in 1960 is a mere 56 pages. I used it in my Biblical Studies Course towards my Bachelor of Arts degree and in my Monastic Bible Studies where Noah's Ark and the Flood were put into a much wider Middle East cultural context.
But just recently, doing another course on Mythology, I learned that more translating of the 25,000 clay tablets brought back to the British Museum in the mid 19th Century had added to the story's length. So also was the realisation that the copy at Nineveh was only the last ever edition of the book. And that Assyrian. It had a much longer history.
It appears that all the most important elements of the story existed as separate poems in the older Sumerian literature, and indeed probably were composed and recited long before they were ever written down, a preliterate age on the borderline of legend and history. With these and Assurbanipal's final copy and the ongoing translation the book had grown considerably since Sandars' 1960 translation.
After that lecture I immediately rushed off to one of Sydney's premier bookshops trusting to find a much larger edition of "The Epic of Gilgamesh".
AND I DID!!!!!!!
Andrew George's 1999 translation with minor 2003 revisions came out at 208 pages long!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
To find out the long-enduring theme of this story and how the wonderful Russian writer Anton Chekhov among countless others echoes the tragedy and triumph of the ancient hero Gilgamesh see my review on my "ancient worlds" shelf of "The Epic of Gilgamesh" as translated by Andrew George.
BUT........................ do not cast aside the Sandars volume as in any way inferior!! The Introduction of 60 pages contains a marvellous account of the discovery of the clay tablets as well as an account of the thorough devastation of Nineveh in the 7th Century BC by the Medes and the Babylonians. And these are only two of the ten sections that make up a totally absorbing and informative Introduction.
As they say: "Coming Soon To A Theatre Near YOU!!!!!"
As with most encyclopedias, this is not the sort of book which one reads from cover to cover. AS with a dictionary one either goes straight to the topi...moreAs with most encyclopedias, this is not the sort of book which one reads from cover to cover. AS with a dictionary one either goes straight to the topic needed or one browses and cross references....and Time flies. I have been doing BOTH since late March when I began a Ten Week series of lectures "LIVING MYTHS" at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) scattered through March, April, May and June 2012. Alas,only two lectures remain. Lecture notes, an intermission of chat with tea/coffee and superior biscuits and wine and guava juice at lecture's end...all help to digest the Mythical World which resounds in our own.
For more information on the substance of each lecture visit: