Just a few edition specific notes, because, really, who gives a shit what I have to say about Orestia. What am I going to say, "gee I don't really seeJust a few edition specific notes, because, really, who gives a shit what I have to say about Orestia. What am I going to say, "gee I don't really see what the greatest minds in Western Civilization over the past 2500 years see in this thing, it was boring." Nope, no one needs me to cape up for Aeschylus.
Anyways, I was fretting over picking a translation before I had the problem solved for me by finding a nice used copy of the Richard Lattimore translation. I can't really speak to the comparative quality of this translation, but I didn't find any faults in it either. There is a pretty great introductory essay, that particularly serves the reader well for Agamemnon, but doesn't cover the next two plays (The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides) particularly well. (I would guess that the essay was originally written for an earlier volume that only included Agamemnon, and Lattimore quickly updated it for this volume.)
However serviceable this essay was, explanatory notes were sorely missed. Unless you're either a expert's expert on Greek mythology or a transplant from pre-Alexandrine Hellas there is a lot of references that you're just not going to be able to get. There's only so much Wikipedia can do to help you. Hence, some of the long choral sections have a tendency to be either beautifully poetic or utterly incomprehensible. Hopscotching to reference notes can be a pain, but here it would be worth it. ...more
I kind of feel guilty for posting this as 'read.' The article is decent enough, but it's sooo brief. It is barely longer than Hitch's articles for SlaI kind of feel guilty for posting this as 'read.' The article is decent enough, but it's sooo brief. It is barely longer than Hitch's articles for Slate. I don't mind paying $2, even for abbreviated doses of Hitchens, but for $20 I can get get 12 Hitchens articles, plus a years supply of colonge samples. ...more
This is a standalone version of the essay that Updike wrote on Ted Williams last game in Fenway Park that appeared in the New Yorker in October 1960.This is a standalone version of the essay that Updike wrote on Ted Williams last game in Fenway Park that appeared in the New Yorker in October 1960. I read this in the New Yorker Baseball Digital Anthology a couple years back. This essay might be the Sgt. Peppers of sportswriting. It was the announcement that a previously trivialized form of popular culture (sportswriting/rock music) had to be taken seriously as a medium for works which could be seen as pieces of art. I'm not dismissing sports journalism written before that, some of which is quite fine. But even the greatest sportswriters, while they may not have written down to the genre, at least let the expected forms of the genre dictate their writing. Here, Updike trims the fat. There's none of that Grantland Rice style of inserting artificial poignancy through flowery rhetoric and overbearing metaphor. This was just a great writer writing about baseball, as that was all the embellishment you needed. It's not really surprising that Roger Angell, perhaps the dean of modern sportswriting, has acknowledged this essays influence on his own career.
The essay also has one of my favorite paragraphs in nonfiction prose. Near the end of the article, Updike describes how Williams homers in what is surely his last at bat.
Like a feather caught in a vortex, Williams ran around the square of the bases at the center of our beseeching screaming. He ran as he always ran out home runs - hurriedly, unsmiling, head down, as if our praise were some sort of rain to get out of. He didn't tip his cap. Though we humped, wept, and chanted "We want Ted" for minutes after he hit the dugout, he did not come bac. Our noise for some seconds passed beyond excitement, into a kind of immense open anguish, a wailing, a cry to be saved. But immortally is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now.
And then the money line:
Gods do not answer letters.
Great stuff. One of my five favorite essays. Highly recommended.
The 20th century wasn't very kind to The History of England's reputation as a work of history. I don't know the material well enough to speak to theseThe 20th century wasn't very kind to The History of England's reputation as a work of history. I don't know the material well enough to speak to these criticisms, but I suppose there is a lot of substance behind them. Certainly Macaulay shows his biases and prejudices from time to time, probably enough to cause the modern reader to question the reliability of his narrative. But at the same time, who cares. Because whatever more modern and evenhanded historians may have over him, very few of them can come close to writing with the verve and style that drips off every page Macaulay wrote.
Whatever the title might suggest, the first volume of The History of England, from the Accession of James II doesn't actually reach the accession of James II until well past the halfway mark of the volume. The first three chapters serve as a long introduction. The first chapter provides a semi-brief overview of the history of England from the time of the Conqueror up to the Restoration, which is a thrilling feat of literary prose. The second chapter gives a semi-detailed account of the 25 year reign of Charles II. The third chapter gives an overview of the contemporary economic, social, and cultural climate in England. While these chapters are too long to be considered a brief overview, they could frustrate readers not overly familiar with the details of the period. For example, Macaulay generally refrains from referencing dates, so the reader is often unsure not only what the month or year is, but what decade the events took place in. Also, while Macaulay does an impressive job of introducing and familiarizing the reader with the important figures of Charles reign, they tend to get lost in the shuffle. The practice of referring to individuals soley by their last name, or their tiles (or their last names, then once granted their titles) once they are introduced doesn't help overwhelmed readers. I'm not sure what more Macaulay could have done to prevent this, except to spend even more time time on an era that is supposedly outside of his proposed purview, so it's hard to say that these shortcomings are a fault. Nonetheless it's something for the reader to be aware of.
It's not until the fourth chapter that Macaulay reaches the beginnings of his actual narrative. These two chapters cover the early months of James II's reign and the disastrous and futile rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth, the popular illegitimate son of Charles II, and James' vindictive and misguided policy that followed. Appropriately he slows things way down. The first chapter covers 600 years of history. The second chapter covers 25 years. By contrast the fourth chapter begins with the death of Charles II in February 1685 and the fifth chapter ends with the Bloody Assizes in August of the same year. Here, the reader begins to get a much better feel of the important figures of the time and how one event flowed to another.
Of course three years after the complete failure of Monmouth's cause, James II would be driven from his throne without hardly any bloodshed. The Whigs, or the Country Party, who were at an all-time low after the Exclusion Crisis and and James' succession, would very quickly repair their reputation, overthrow the king, and dominate English politics for the next several generations. The Tories and Churchmen, who had held unquestioned obedience to the sovereign as one of the central tenants of the state-church since Restoration, would very quickly condone, if outright collude in, the overthrow of the rightful monarch. We're introduced to several figures who would play prominent roles in this reversal, and the events that followed. Macaulay introduces us to figures like Churchill, Danby, William of Orange, and Jeffreys.
The History of England used to be one of those books that no self-respecting private library went without. It was one of those books that became a status statement, displayed not because you had read it but because you liked the impression it created that you had read it. It's reputation has taken a hit even among aficionados because the history isn't unimpeachable. That's a shame, because it appears that the storytelling is....more