I listened to the audio of all the other books in this series back in the early 2000's, but I never got around to this last one in the series. I'll ha...moreI listened to the audio of all the other books in this series back in the early 2000's, but I never got around to this last one in the series. I'll have to do that somtime. I remember enjoying the historical novels very much.
The following short review is from the 2005 Book Lover's Calendar:
THE OCTOBER HORSE: A NOVEL OF CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA, by Colleen McCullough (Simon & Schuster, 2002). In this final volume of her six-book Masters of Rome series, Colleen McCullough follows the final years of the career of Julius Caesar, the military commander who will be the catalyst that transforms Rome into an empire. The supporting cast is excellent: Brutus, a decent man hounded by his embittered mother and his vengeful wife; Caesar’s cousin Mark Antony, a cunning opportunist; Cato, the doomed defender of Rome’s republican traditions; Cleopatra, a less-than-masterful player of imperial politics; and Octavian, Caesar’s nephew and heir, who possesses all of his uncle’s political genius but not much of his common decency. A rousing conclusion to McCullough’s grand series.
The following is a short description of the first book in the series:
THE FIRST MAN IN ROME, by Colleen McCullough (Avon Books, 2003). In this first novel of her series, McCullough pits Sulla, a patrician, against Marius, a penniless but aristocratic upstart from the provinces, to see who will achieve the rank and power of First Man in Rome. An exciting read of political chicanery, family rivalries, and bloody battles, all meticulously researched.
Grapes of Wrath (10) (a.k.a trampling vintage) versus Sound and the Fury (23) (a.k.a. soliloquy signifying nothing)
Over in this corner we have Grapes of Wrath (GW) with its clearly defined and understood message: workers unite, blessed are the poor, viva the revolution, his truth is marching on.
Over in the other corner is The Sound and the Fury (SF) in its smoky shadowy form: stream of consciousness, multiple meanings; numerous layers, italicized inner thoughts, obscure.
One is a cry against the injustice of a corrupt culture from the outside; the other an exposure of a dying culture from the inside. It’s the West versus the South. They're both heavy weights with strong reputations.
The battle begins.
GW attacks with the sword of justice cutting through the center of SF. Surely SF is decapitated! But no, it’s merely smoke and mirrors. SF can’t be killed. Its smoky form lets the sword pass through its body with no affect.
SF attacks GW with a suffocating fog of obscurity. GW staggers. GW falls. It can’t tolerate the smell.
It appears that SF has won.
The referee reaches to lift the hand of SF to signify its victory. But no! The ref can’t get a handle on SF. There’s no arm to raise.
The ref walks over to GW. GW is getting up. The ref. raises GW’s arm as winner.
GW shouts, “Don’t need no fancy write’n, truth’ll make you free.”
The following is a quotation from this book that discusses the possible influences that the type of writing adopted by various societies (i.e. alphabe...moreThe following is a quotation from this book that discusses the possible influences that the type of writing adopted by various societies (i.e. alphabetic vs. logographic) might have on the way those civilizations developed and were organized.
"For most of us today, 5,000 years [after the emergence of writing], written language is so embedded into the operation of our brains that it is difficult to notice just how much our thoughts and our memories are built around printed words. ...
"[Today], much of the world, even the nations of the Far East that officially adhere to their traditional logographic symbols, has developed parallel alphabets using Latin/Phoenician letters even as they teach their children to be bilingual in their native tongue and the emerging global form of English.
"But 4,000 years ago, this was certainly not the case, and it is interesting to speculate how different types of writing played a distinct role in how we organized our brains, remembered, and even looked out at the world. In other words, when you organize your brain -- and particularly, your memory -- around writing, then the type of writing you use matters a whole bunch.
"For example, alphabetic writing, with the freedom created by its tiny building blocks (phonemes) and flexible grammar, would seem to reinforce individualism, innovation, and a civic form of democracy, but it would also perpetually run the risk of collapsing into chaos. Logographic writing, because of the sheer difficulty of learning it, would seem to reward a more stratified and rigid society, with academic and scribe classes, but it might also feature a much stronger cultural aestheticism (every word being a painting) and naturalism. And the syllabic languages, because they are much easier to learn, would seem to be an advantage for mercantilism and trade and, because they would lead to higher rates of literacy, to greater cultural democracy.
"Obviously, as history reminds us, writing isn't destiny. But there is enough correlation between the traits of these types of writing and the cultures that produced them to suggest this is more than a coincidence -- that there is some causal link between a culture's writing style and the way it sees and remembers the world around it, how it orders its society, and what it values. And while many of these characteristics are fading in light of the global economy, the Internet, and mass communications, enough remains to add to the tensions of the modern world."
The following is excerpted from the book, "Missing Microbes" by Martin J. Blaser, MD. Blaser, former chair of medicine at NYU and president of the Inf...moreThe following is excerpted from the book, "Missing Microbes" by Martin J. Blaser, MD. Blaser, former chair of medicine at NYU and president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. He is one of a growing number of medical practitioners and researchers who believe that we are experiencing a growing array of "modern plagues," and that the cause of these plagues is rooted in our "disappearing microbiota":
"Within the past few decades, amid all of [our] medical advances, something has gone terribly wrong. In many different ways we appear to be getting sicker. You can see the headlines every day. We are suffering from a mysterious array of what I call 'modern plagues': obesity, childhood diabetes, asthma, hay fever, food allergies, esophageal reflux and cancer, celiac disease, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, autism, eczema. In all likelihood you or someone in your family or someone you know is afflicted. Unlike most lethal plagues of the past that struck relatively fast and hard, these are chronic conditions that diminish and degrade their victims' quality of life for decades. ...
"The autoimmune form of diabetes that begins in childhood and requires insulin injections (juvenile or Type I diabetes) has been doubling in incidence about every twenty years across the industrialized world. In Finland, where record keeping is meticulous, the incidence has risen 550 percent since 1950. ... But the disease itself has not changed; something in us has changed. Type I diabetes is also striking younger children. The average age of diagnosis used to be about nine. Now it is around six, and some children are becoming diabetic when they are three.
"The recent rise in asthma, a chronic inflammation of the airways, is similarly alarming. One in twelve people (about 25 million or 8 percent of the U.S. population) had asthma in 2009, compared with one in fourteen a decade earlier. Ten percent of American children suffer wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing; black children have it worst: one in six has the disease. Their rate increased by 50 percent from 2001 through 2009. But the rise in asthma has not spared any ethnicity: the rates were initially different in various groups, and all have been rising. ... No economic or social class has been spared.
"Food allergies are everywhere. A generation ago, peanut allergies were extremely rare. ... Ten percent of children suffer from hay fever. Eczema, a chronic skin inflammation, affects more than 15 percent of children and 2 percent of adults in the United States. In industrialized nations, the number of kids with eczema has tripled in the past thirty years. ...
"Why are all of these maladies rapidly rising at the same time across the developed world and spilling over into the developing world as it becomes more Westernized? Can it be a mere coincidence? If there are ten of these modern plagues, are there ten separate causes? That seems unlikely.
"Or could there be one underlying cause fueling all these parallel increases? A single cause is easier to grasp; it is simpler, more parsimonious. But what cause could be grand enough to encompass asthma, obesity, esophageal reflux, juvenile diabetes, and allergies to specific foods, among all of the others? Eating too many calories could explain obesity but not asthma; many of the children who suffer from asthma are slim. Air pollution could explain asthma but not food allergies. ...
"The most popular explanation for the rise in childhood illness is the so-called hygiene hypothesis. The idea is that modern plagues are happening because we have made our world too clean. The result is that our children's immune systems have become quiescent and are therefore prone to false alarms and friendly fire. ...
"We need to look closely at the microorganisms that make a living in and on our bodies, massive assemblages of competing and cooperating microbes known collectively as the microbiome. ... Each of us hosts a ... diverse ecology of microbes that has coevolved with our species over millennia. They thrive in the mouth, gut, nasal passages, ear canal, and on the skin. In women, they coat the vagina. The microbes that constitute your microbiome are generally acquired early in life; surprisingly, by the age of three, the populations within children resemble those of adults. Together, they play a critical role in your immunity as well as your ability to combat disease. In short, it is your microbiome that keeps you healthy. And parts of it are disappearing.
"The reasons for this disaster are all around you, including overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals, Cesarian sections, and the widespread use of sanitizers and antiseptics, to name just a few. ...
"The loss of diversity within our microbiome is far more pernicious [than the overuse of antibiotics and resulting antibiotic resistance]. Its loss changes development itself, affecting our metabolism, immunity, and cognition.
"I have called this process the 'disappearing microbiota.' It's a funny term that does not immediately roll off your tongue, but I believe it is correct. For a number of reasons, we are losing our ancient microbes. This quandary is the central theme of this book. The loss of microbial diversity on and within our bodies is exacting a terrible price. I predict it will be worse in the future. Just as the internal combustion engine, the splitting of the atom, and pesticides all have had unanticipated effects, so too does the abuse of antibiotics and other medical or quasi-medical practices (e.g., sanitizer use).
"An even worse scenario is headed our way if we don't change our behavior. It is one so bleak, like a blizzard roaring over a frozen landscape, that I call it 'antibiotic winter.'"(less)
This book contains the best explanation for the increasing inequality of wealth that I've come across.
... the cause is very simply that "r > g," i...moreThis book contains the best explanation for the increasing inequality of wealth that I've come across.
... the cause is very simply that "r > g," in other words that "when the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income, as it did in the nineteenth century and seems quite likely to do again in the twenty-first, capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based"