Monday Miscellany: Books, Veggies and Ancient Rome (not in that order)

Have I mentioned that I have a big research paper to write on Renaissance child portraiture?  Oh, I have!!!  Since making that communique I’ve actually managed to complete a few pages at an astonishingly slow rate of production, so slow it would have gotten me promptly fired from my old brief-writing job, pleading (with utter sincerity) for truth, justice and the American way of life, not to mention the government’s right to collect its trust fund taxes or to impose appropriate market designs on various energy exchanges.  (If you’re unfamiliar with trust fund taxes, market design or energy exchanges consider yourself  very, very fortunate.  I thought I had mercifully blanked it out, but I do believe the pressure of writing my portraiture paper is giving me stress induced flashbacks.  I suppose it’s the equivalent of PTSD for a Vietnam vet).  Anyways . . . . since I’ve just completed a paragraph or two on Renaissance family life (nutshell summary: father knew best) I felt totally justified in taking a teensy, weensy little break this morning involving breakfast out (i.e., someone else cooked), a farmer’s market and new (to me anyway) books.  And, since it’s Monday, I have a perfect recipe (so to speak) for a Miscellany!

Miscellany first:  Veggies!

Since I do love a farmer’s market, and summer is drawing to a close, I thought I’d make one last batch of gazpacho.  Inspired by Sylvia’s pumpkins (have you seen them?  If not, stop reading now and click over immediately to marvel!  They’re awesome!), I thought I’d share a quick snap of some of the fixings:

Hopefully, not quite the end of the seasonal produce.  This is destined for my next (and probably last) batch of gazpacho!

Miscellany second:  Book binge!

In a truly rare work break (smiley face here) from my Renaissance research this morning, I decided to catch up with my blog reading.  My very first (and, as it happened, last) click of the day landed me here, where “Stuck in a Book” described in voluptuous detail a very recent and quite major book haul.  Well, dear reader, Janakay has been a very good (and fiscally responsible) girl this summer vis à vis book purchases (interlibrary loan works quite well thank you) but . . . it’s just never safe, dangling temptation in front of an addict!  And the combined omens were just so overwhelming — my very first blog stop discussing a book binge; the absolute necessity for a reward after all my hard work; the fact that my favorite breakfast spot is practically on the way to:

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Second Story books is a local chain of used, rare and out-of-print books;  described by USA Today as one of the ten best bookstores in the country.

Well, it just all came together!

In pre-internet days Second Story had several brick and mortar stores; now it’s down to two.  This is the warehouse store — 16,000 square feet of books.  Is there a better definition of heaven?


A (very) small portion of the interior . . .


More interior.  A little deceptive — most of the aisles aren’t this open (lots of stacks on the floor)!  This was my first trip to the Warehouse Store, which I found quite impressive.


When I first drove up I thought the yellow “50% Off” sign was hyperbole but no!  These guys were really discounting everything in the store by FIFTY PERCENT!!!  What did I tell you about those omens?  I mean — it was so obviously MEANT to be!  I headed for the fiction section straightaway, but (another intervention by Divine Fortuna.  If you follow my post to the end, you’ll see I’m in a Roman mood) I first had to pass through “Art History.”  This section was pretty tightly packed (I had to move a few piles to get to stuff) and space was a bit limited, requiring me to sit on the floor to examine the treasures.  The effort, however, was more than worth it, as I scored some major finds.  (A tip for the temperate  — you know it’s a binge when the cashier gives you a box and offers to help you carry your books to your car!).



The haul, a combination of art history and fiction (only from authors whose last names began A – J; my arms were so full I was tragically unable to add anything from the K – Z  section!)


The haul, after it’s been de-boxed but prior to being shelved (there has to be some space somewhere in the house  . . .)


















The fiction portion of my newly acquired  treasures . . . .



Isn’t this cover fabulous? I’ve used Auchincloss in the past as a “go to” guy when I’ve wanted character driven fiction and a high degree of literary skill.  It doesn’t hurt that he also sets his novels among the rich and aristocratic, U.S. style!



I already had a paperback copy, but I like the cover of this hard back edition better! Anyway, since I never got around to reading the second novella of this two novella collection.  I think it’s perfectly logical to have two copies!


A headlong rush into nostalgia — this was one of my favorite (subversive) reads in my oh-so-conformist high school days!  As this is one of those books that actually did influence my thinking, I was morally obligated to replace my moldy old copy, especially for a mere $3!


Another nod to the past.  I suspect Pearl Buck is one of those writers who’s out of favor these days, but many years ago I loved this novel about an upper class Chinese family in the 1940s.  I only wish the publisher had opted for more colorful cover art.


Although my last re-read was some years back, I’m a fan of Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, so much so I decided to take a chance on Book 1 of his Avignon Quartet.  Taking risks such as this is a moral obligation when a book sale is on!
I was ignoring this art book, until I remembered from class that Michelangelo almost certainly saw these frescoes before he painted his “Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel.  Since there’s nothing more fun that looking at great depictions of hell . . . . I sat on the floor and started reading!


G vs E, or Good vs Evil!  Fortunately, the good guys appear to be winning, although the bad guys look a lot more animated.  How do you like the woman in the lower right who’s getting a piggy-back ride from a demon?

My last art image, I promise, but I couldn’t resist just one more!

Hell certainly looks pretty lively!  Sometimes I wonder why artists seem to put more energy into depicting hell and sin than heaven and good deeds.  I found Dante’s Inferno & Purgatorio, for example, much more gripping than his Paradiso.  Hmmm . . . perhaps says something more about me than Dante?

Miscellany third:  Ancient Rome

At this point, I  bet you thought I’d never get around to ancient Rome but ha! fooled you.  I was headed that way all the time!

Last week I was very excited to have my first class in Roman art and archaeology.  Back in the day, i.e., when I was a “real” student (trying very hard not to think about getting a job) I was very interested in classical subjects. Although my interest has waned over the years I still love classical culture and was thrilled when I was finally able to enroll in this course;


As I long ago discovered, however, one can love a subject and still find one’s mind wandering down wayward paths, particularly when one is trying to distinguish between two early Roman temples that look distressingly similar!  During one such detour from required learning I found myself thinking about what a presence, still, ancient Rome holds in popular culture; from there I began mentally listing movies and books with a Roman theme (perhaps the equivalent of counting sheep?)  Because there are literally hundreds and hundreds of these, I established the following parameters to keep my list manageable:  (1) I allowed only 30-40 minutes to come up with titles (and a little longer to research a few); (2) I listed only items about which I had personal knowledge (i.e., I’ve either read it, read a review of it or have it on a TBR list) and (3) I attempted not to annotate (that part wasn’t very realistic, as you can see below).  Since I may actually get around to making this into a real bibliography one day, I’d love to have additional recommendations or reactions to the titles.  Also, as you’ll see, most of the listed books are pretty dated, so if you know more recent titles, please share!

Historical novels about ancient Rome (alphabetical by author):

Bulwer-Lytton, Edward.  The Last Days of Pompeii.  Perhaps the best known novel by an unfortunately prolific Victorian novelist.  You may not know that Bulwer-Lytton penned the immortal opening lines, “It was a dark and stormy night.”  His greatest claim to contemporary fame is that lines such as this inspired the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, in which entrants compete to see who can write the worst possible opening sentence for a novel.  If all this doesn’t scare you off from reading Pompeii, I say  — go for it!  (You’ll be sorry.)

Caldwell, Taylor.  A Pillar of Iron.  The novel gives star treatment to Cicero; Caesar is a vaguely sinister character.  I can’t believe it’s still in print, but life is full of such mysteries.  Since my assessment may be inaccurate (it’s certainly biased.  I spent a miserable semester trying to translate one of Cicero’s speeches) I feel compelled to note that one reviewer on Amazon refers to it as “one of the best books I’ve ever read.”  Don’t you think that it’s differences in taste such as this that make our big beautiful planet so very interesting?

Dolan, Mary.  Hannibal: Scourge of Imperial Rome (also published as Hannibal of Carthage).  The Romans are the bad guys in this fictionalized recreation of the lost account of Sosylos, a real-life Greek historian (probably a freedman) who accompanied Hannibal over the Alps and into Italy in the Second Punic War.  I read this novel several times as a kid and loved it.  Tragically out of print.

Douglas, Lloyd.  The Robe.  A 1940s? 1950s? best seller with a religious theme (Roman soldier is present at the crucifixion); the stuff many movies are made of.  Watch them and skip the book.

Duggan, Alfred.  Family Favorites (not the warm and fuzzy kind!  Set in the reign of an emperor who made Nero look like Santa Claus) & Three’s Company (the second Triumvirate of Mark Anthony, Octavian & Marcus Lepidus; told, in a typically Duggan touch, from the point of view of the non-entity Lepidus).  I don’t think Duggan is much read these days; a pity as his wit is dry and his historical research impeccable.  I prefer his novels set in Medieval times (Count Bohemund is great) but these are definitely worth checking out (Favorites at least is available on Kindle).

Fast, Howard.  Spartacus.  A best-seller from the 1950s; the movie, I suspect, is better known.  Haven’t read it in years, so I’m not sure how it’s aged.

Flaubert, Gustave.  Salammbo.  I was so intrigued to learn that Flaubert wrote an historical novel set in the time of the first Punic War I bought a copy.  What are TBR lists for?

Graves, Robert.  I, Claudius & Claudius the God.  Fabulous books, thankfully well known and readily available. Less well known but worth checking out if you like late empire (I do) is Graves’ Count Belisarius.

Harris, Robert.  Pompeii.  The title rather explains what’s going on, doesn’t it?  My reaction was “meh” although Harris has a lot of fans out there.  Are you one?  If so, speak up!  Janakay is open-minded (about books, that is!)

Shakespeare, William.  Anthony & Cleopatra.  O.K., I know it’s a play (I could have also listed Julius Caesar, but I like this one better).  Worth it just to read Anthony’s “Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch Of the ranged empire fall.  Here is my space.”  If the story didn’t happen this way, it should have!

Sienkiewicz, Henryk.  Quo Vadis?  Did you know that Sienkiewicz won the 1905 Nobel Prize for literature?  Neither did I, until I did this list!  I do know that this novel has been the basis for a couple of movies.  And — one of the novel’s great characters, Petronius the Arbiter, was “real;” Tacitus wrote all about him!  (spoiler alert: Petronius comes to a tragic end when he falls out of favor with Nero).  Petronius turns up again (below) as the author of the Satyricon.

Sutcliff, Rosemary.  A wonderful English novelist who specialized in writing about Roman Britain (her Sword at Sunset is a wonderful, very realistic re-telling of the Arthurian legend).  She did several novels classified as YA that, depending on your mood, are well worth reading regardless of your age (hey! I’m ancient and I just finished re-reading one); the best, IMO being The Silver Branch, The Lantern Bearers and The Eagle of the Ninth.  I loved these books so much I’m seriously considering a nostalgia purchase of the reprints (with original illustrations) offered by the folks at Slightly Foxed (a wonderful quarterly publication for those who read BTW).

Waltari, Mika.  The Etruscan & The Roman.  Waltari was a Finnish writer who did several of these single title thingeys; perhaps the best known is The Egyptian.  I’m not sure I’d like them now, several thousand books after I first encountered them, but I do recall particularly enjoying The Etruscan, perhaps because that pre-Roman culture is just so very mysterious.

Vidal, Gore.  Julian.  The life of this last pagan emperor of Rome (and enemy of the emerging Christian faith) was grist for Vidal’s pen.  If you like Vidal, you’ll probably like this.  If not, stay away, life is short.

Wallace, Lew.  Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ.  Did you know that Wallace was a general (Union variety) in the U.S. Civil War?  Mr. Janakay, who knows quite a bit about the subject, informs me that Wallace was “not bad” as a military commander and that he rather unfairly took the fall for the Union’s first-day losses at the battle of Shiloh.  As for his literary ability — well, I’d probably just watch the movie (particularly if you like mega-Hollywood, old-timey Charlton Heston things).

Warner, Rex.  The Young Caesar and Imperial Caesar.  Warner was an English classicist; these two books are fictionalized first person accounts of Julius Caesar’s life.  Although they’re stand alones, you’ll need to read both to get Caesar’s entire life.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn they’re available on kindle for a modest price; they’re now on my “will one day re-read them” list.  When I do so, I’ll let you know if they’ve held up well!

White, Edward Lucas.  The Unwilling Vestal (a Tale of Rome Under the Caesars).  A former professor of mine (“The Classical Epic in Translation”) spent much class time raving about this old novel’s whimsical charm.  Being an impressionable child, I wasted a couple of days discovering the guy had lousy taste for novels originally written in English.  Learn from my example, grasshopper!

Wilder, Thorton.  Ides of March.  Set in the last days of the Roman Republic & a very popular read in the 1950s, when (I believe) it reached best seller status.  Not sure how it would date; if you’ve read it — let me know!

Williams,  John.  Augustus.  Re-issued fairly recently in one of those nice NYRB classics editions.  This is one that’s been on my TBR list for some time.  Williams BTW is also the author of Stoner, the newly re-discovered lost classic du jour.

Yourcenar, Marguerite.  Memoirs of Hadrian.  Another permanent resident on my TBR list.

Contemporary (and popular) mystery series set in ancient Rome:

Davis, Lindsey.   Marcus Didius Falco mysteries.  I started reading these as they were being published and lasted through the first four or five.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderfully funny, well-plotted and entertaining series but . . . we all have to say good-bye sometimes.

Saylor, Steven.  His Sub-Rosa series is set in the time of the late Republic and centers on the exploits of a detective known as Gordianus the Finder.  There are a lot of books in this series (twelve? fourteen? difficult to count, as I believe there’s also a novella or two); the few I read back when were quite good but — three was enough!

Science Fiction directly inspired by Roman history:

Asimove, Isaac.  The Foundation Series.  An incredibly influential sci-fi classic (Elon Musk & Paul Krugman cite it as inspiration); the ancient Galactic empire is dying and humanity faces centuries of barbarism.  Edward Gibbon’s Decline & Fall, anyone?  I read this work repeatedly in my teens; my attempted re-read about twenty years ago was a tragic failure.  Like much of early sci-fi, brilliant ideas combine with a clunky style, which I can no longer handle (after a similar experience with another Asimov novel, I’ve decided my love affair is over!).  Others, however, have had different reactions, so check it out for yourself.

Contemporary essays about the classics (includes Greek classics): 

Mendelsohn, Daniel.  How Beautiful It is and How Easily It is Broken.  Mendelsohn is a scholar steeped in the classics; he has the rare and wonderful ability to link classical themes to current pop culture.  I’m not a big reader of essays, but I loved this collection.

Beard, Mary.  Confronting the Classics: Traditions, Adventures, and Innovations. Your very own tour of the ancient world, with one of the greatest classical scholars on the planet as your guide. And — she can write!  If you’re at all interested in the classics, this is a necessity.

Hamilton, Edith.  The Roman Way.  An oldy, but a goody; very readable essays on the major Roman authors.  Hamilton gives non-Latinist a wonderful sense of the various authors’ styles, as well as lots of substantive information about the works’ contents.  Hamilton’s The Greek Way is even better, but that’s off topic!

Writings by actual, real life ancient Romans that are worth checking out:

Please keep in mind that I’ve only read a smidgen of the vast amount of available material, and did that years and years ago.  (In other words, additional suggestions are welcome.)  But since I’m nothing if not foolhardy, here’s my very selective, highly idiosyncratic and very limited list.  Do you have any Latin favorites? If so, share, share!

Apuleius.  The Golden Ass.  The only Latin novel to survive in complete form; adventures of a would-be sorcerer who mistakenly turns himself into a jackass (if memory serves, I think he wanted to change into a bird but got the spell wrong).  Aside from its considerable literary merits, I have a soft spot for this one.  Back in the day, I loaned my copy to a friend who was driving home for Christmas.  When she was pulled over for speeding (hey! we all want to get home quickly for the holidays!), my loaner was clearly visible in the empty passenger seat.  The cop who flagged her down not only found the title hilarious, he also thought it perfectly described his patrol partner.  The cop was so amused, in fact, that my friend got off with a warning rather than a ticket!  Never say reading great literature doesn’t pay off!

Petronius.  Satyricon.  The author was a favorite courtier of Nero’s until he criticized the imperial poet’s rhymes (not to mention his musical skills) once too often (see Henryk Sienkiewicz, above).  Only fragments survive, but as one of them is Trimalchio’s Feast, it’s a must-read.  Warning: not for the squeamish or puritanical (I learned lots of interesting Latin verbs the semester we read this).  The translation you choose is everything for this particular classic; look for the liveliest, most irreverent possible.  You could always watch the Fellini movie of the same name if you don’t feel like reading (it’s filled with arresting images) but the book is better.

Virgil.  Aeneid.  If you like epics, only the Iliad is better (well, maybe Beowulf, but that’s a different culture).  Read the poem and you’ll discover why Dante made Virgil his guide through the afterlife, the poetry is that good (particularly the chapters about Dido, one of the best female characters in all of classical lit).

Catullus.  If lyric poetry’s your thing, it doesn’t get much better.  Catullus was probably the only guy of his day and time who didn’t realize his beloved Clodia was the most sexually promiscuous woman in Rome and a husband-poisoner to boot; but it’s that kind of blindness that makes great love poetry.  Although the Clodia poems (he calls her “Lesbia” but no one was fooled) are probably his best known work, Catullus’ poetry covers much more ground.  His poem on Attis, who joins the priesthood of the savage goddess Cybele, is incredible (not, not, not for the faint at heart) and there’s the wonderful poem written when Catullus visited his brother’s grave (“now and forever, brother, hail and farewell”).  Many, many translations are available.

Ovid.  Metamorphoses.  A prime source for every myth you ever wanted, or needed, to read.  Trust me, reading Ovid will make it much easier for you to enjoy the artwork the next time you visit the museum (when in doubt European artists have always turned to Ovid for a subject).

Histories:  if you’re into the (technically) non-fiction, there’s lots and lots to chose from.  A “you were there” account from the front:  Caesar’s Gallic Wars, perhaps the oldest surviving piece of cleverly disguised political propaganda (Caesar wrote it to convince the folks back home that he was a serious military commander).  Juicy, filthy, wonderful gossip (in the 21st century, this guy would be working for the tabloids):  Suetonius’ Twelve Caesars.  Stern, republican, “this is what made us great” virtue:  Livy (in our day, he’d probably be writing political speeches).

Well, that’s it for tonight folks!  I’d love to hear comments, or additions to my list, but for now it’s back to those two very similar, early Roman temples . . . I think one of them has a few more columns on the left side . . . .

12 thoughts on “Monday Miscellany: Books, Veggies and Ancient Rome (not in that order)

  1. I’ve only had gazpacho once in my life but I remember it fondly.

    Nice haul! I have Angels & Insects but not read it. Byatt is one of those authors I collect but never seem to get to. I have read Possession, The Virgin in the Garden and The Children’s Book. Durell’s Alexandria Quartet is on my list… I read The Way of All Flesh something like 20 years ago now and I don’t remember much. I think I mix it up with the plot of Of Human Bondage.

    I don’t think you are alone in thinking that devilish is often more interesting than angelic. In real life, I prefer angels but in literature?

    I can’t add to your list! I,Claudius and Claudius the God were the only titles that came to mind. I’m glad you agree that the Foundation trilogy is a bit stodgy. I read it only a couple of years ago. I think over all three books there were maybe two female characters and they were terrible representations. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more when younger. What was I wasting my time on back then? Parties and boys and television. Je ne regrette rein! 😀 But maybe instead of watching Matlock reruns or whatever I could have read Ovid?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Rutiella: so nice you checked in; I enjoyed your comments (I read your very interesting post on your own blog the other day, about Robertson Davies. I immediately started trying to figure out which books I had read — it’s been a long, long time — so I haven’t posted yet, not that I have anything much to say, except I loved Fifth Business!).

    Re gazpacho: I have no idea if my recipe is authentic; I suspect not! I should ask Silvia, but her answer might be too disillusioning! It does involve a lot of chopping and I’m pretty lazy, so sometimes I just eat the tomatos and call it a day.

    Re Byatt: sounds to me liked you’ve doing pretty well there! I know what you mean, though; I always think I should like her more than I do. I never read her until Possession became such a big deal; to my surprise I loved it and then starting looking at some of her other novels. Unfortunately, for me at least, Possession was the high point! I thought The Chldren’s book was o.k. but not great and I had to go online to remind myself about Virgin in the Garden, which speaks for itself. I read another one, called The Game, and I never managed to figure out just what the hell was going on. So — I’m not a huge, huge fan. I did like the one novella in Angels/Insects (has Morpho in the title) and I might actually get around to the other one, now that I have two copies of the book (one for each eye, maybe?).

    Re Durrell: I’m a bit of a fence sitter here; I’m not at all sure I’m going to like my new purchase, but I hope to give it a try, especially at $2 (there’s a blot inside!). I loved the Alexandria quartet, but I was much younger when I read it, even the second time around (the first time I was a baby, metaphorically speaking). I loved the mystery of it, the fact that the narrative shifted between the volumes, so that a minor character in one becomes a major character in another; also you see the same events from different viewpoints and doing so alters your entire view of something that you had previously read about. Lots of writers have done that, of course, but I think the Alexandria Quartet was the first time I encountered it. The setting is super exotic (both time and place) and the language is very lush. In other words, I might find it now to be a bit overblown! I do think Durell may be one of those writers whose rep is being somewhat downgraded in our more prosaic time, but that’s just my guess from a couple of things I read.

    Re: devils vs angels: I do like my devilish art and, as you point out, I suspect I’m not alone in this. One of the many things I envy about artists is their ability to express themselves; Michelangelo, for instance, painted one of his critics being tortured by a demon in his Last Judgment!

    Re Way of All Flesh/Human Bondage: very easy to scramble the two, as they’re both coming of age/sensitive young guy novels. In fact, I had to pause in typing this because I forgot which was the one I bought!

    Re Roman list: Wasn’t I, Claudius great? It’s on my “to be re-read” list, but I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever get around to it. As for my other listed books, I was a little shocked to realize just how OLD most of them are (ahem! Maybe time for a little introspection here?) and just how bad! I need to do some digging and come up with more current titles.

    Re your high school years: They sound lovely and just what they should have been! I’d love to be able to say the same thing about mine as you did about yours!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Everything in this posts makes my heart sing! Oh, Janakay, I just want to teletransport myself to your home, and be closer to you and all of this goodness you share, 🙂

    First, I’m fortunate to not know anything of what you mention that is giving you flashbacks, ha ha ha. I love how you summed up your paper summary, “father knows best”, I’m sure your paper is very interesting, but I also know that work is work, when we have to do something, the imposition can kill the excitement.

    Gazpacho! Yummy. I love gazpacho and any cold summer soup. The produce from the market looks delicious. As for the second hand store, what a haul! I would have scolded you if you had not gone to it or brought less than all those books. I see many friends among them, Pavilion of Women among them. The cover of that Auchincloss is stunning. After what I read about The Way of the Flesh, it’s going to my classics list.

    Unfortunately, I have no additions to your list, but it’s going to be my reference list. I see many titles I’ve read, some movies, and other titles I want to read. Robert Graves, Yourcenar, Virgil, Asimov, are all friends and authors I admire. In my youth I went through an Egypt/Roman crazy time, and read Waltari, Graves, and other authors. Salambo is in my TBR list. When I taught the girls at home, my oldest had a memorable class on The Punic Wars, and I used to help her with it, and loved it. We also read a few of Plutach’s lives, and they are so modern to read, like you say, it’s such a great way to approach politics and citizenship. Maybe it’s time for some Ancient Rome reading. I think a blogger friend, Cleo at Classical Carousel, will be reading Cicero’s book or treaty on friendship, but from Apuleius to Ovid, those authors interest me. I’ll keep you posted on what I choose.

    Ruthiella, I also think I wasted lots of time as well, LOL. I’ve not read Asimov’s foundation, just several stand alone books, these two my favorites: The Gods Themselves, and The End of Eternity. I also like his short stories that happen in space. He’s not great at female characters, not good at all, sigh, the women are there for the male characters, obviously. I read some of his correspondence that his brother published upon Asimov’s death. The man wrote every day, tons of postcards, letters, and what not. The brother had boxes of his correspondence. I like the fact that Asimov was very opinionated, and I do admire how intelligent he was. He also had a generous spirit, and wanted to share his non fiction for free, he was into divulging knowledge for sure. He was also bent on making money through his fiction and conferences, and also rightfully so. However, he was a well known flirting man, and his male fiction characters often behave the way he did or wish he could. Great intellects are not guarantee of great morals. However imperfect, he was very prolific, and there must be some or much of him one can enjoy. I have many non fiction books I read with the girls when I home-schooled. His books on math, such as Realm of Numbers, are very useful.

    My favorite used book store is having a sale later in September. I’m having withdrawals after your post, and I’m going to need my fix, but it’s coming up soon.

    Thanks so much for inspiring and delighting. I never tire of the pictures you share, just saying, 🙂 In Milton, his portrayal of Satan is more nuanced and interesting than the one of God. I’ve only read part of Dante’s Inferno, but I see how you say it’s better than his Paradiso.

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      1. Silvia: as always you are way too kind with your words but you do make me feel great! It’s like taking a super vitamin for the soul!
        Your remarks about Asimov were very interesting. Because my dad read sci-fi and I read my dad’s books, I feel pretty familiar with lots of the works written by the guys (and they were, literally,all guys) during the early days of the genre (I’m very adrift, however, when it comes to the newer writers). I never knew much about their lives/careers, however, especially the things you mention about Asimov (other than the fact that he was very prolific). A truly brilliant guy — not many could take the Gibbons’ Decline and Fall and turn it into the Foundation series!
        And what do you MEAN, nothing to contribute to my list? How could I have forgotten Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans (probably because I’ve read only one or two selections!). That’s probably THE classic to read, if your interested in that time period. I, too, loved reading about the Punic Wars but since I rooted for the Carthaginians some of the material tended to depress me! And very funny about “Cla cla claudius!” I wish someone would do a series/film of Graves’ Claudius books. The old BBC series had wonderful actors but its production values were pretty low by today’s standards (I tried re-watching it a couple of years ago. It no longer worked for me)
        Silvia, I think you’re the only person I’ve met (and I DO consider that we’ve met, as we’ve exchanged thoughts on things that really matter) who’s actually read Waltari! I loved The Egyptian and liked The Etruscan (and I actually learned a lot of history from both books, particularly as I’d check out the story lines to see how historically accurate they were). I wonder what I’d think of them now? It would be an interesting project to re-read one of them. If you read Salammbo or Yourcenar, you’ll have to let me know how you like them; I’ve been meaning to get around to both for a long time now. Perhaps next year’s TBR list?
        I couldn’t resist acquiring Pearl Buck’s Pavilion of Women! I probably checked it out of my public library at least four times, along with Imperial Woman, when I was a teenager. They were both such great reads.
        As for the devilish in art and literature — Milton’s Satan is THE example! And you are entirely correct — he’s much more interesting in the epic than the good guy!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m reading your comment and marveling at how can books be this magic? We grew up in two different continents, were born in different years, have different political views, and yet we are such kindred spirits. That I’ve read Waltari, -only Sinhué-, and that you’ve read Fortunata and Jacinta… it blows my mind.

        I agree. The BBC series which I loved in my youth and have not watched since, I can see how it’s totally outdated. It would be so neat to see Graves’s books adapted to the screen with today’s resources and standards. I have Sinuhé at home here in Houston, I wondered how it’d feel reading it again. Like you with Handmaid, I’m a bit apprehensive. I too learned so much reading this book and a few others. You rooted for the Carthaginians, ha ha ha. I loved that some of the Punic wars were fought in the peninsula Iberica, that made it special. My husband is very attracted to the Carthaginians. The thought of what would Europe, and thus the rest of the world, had the Carthaginians prevailed is one of those most fascinating “ifs” in history.

        Ancient Rome is fascinating. I also forgot that I’m reading Marco Aurelio’s Meditations. It’s just so warm. It’s another title from my youth, but this one has aged well. So many quotes, almost the whole book can be quoted, since it’s snippets of wisdom he shares.

        Memorias de Adriano (Mémoires d’Hadrien) is another title I read in my youth that I’m scared to touch. But Salambó is very very tempting.

        As for Pavillion of Women, I read it a few years ago, and to me it was a book worth reading, no doubt. I enjoyed the first half of it much better than how it progressed. I guessed the book is that mixed because Pearl Buck was genuinely standing in two cultures at once. But my friend Lisa says that her book Portrait of a Marriage is great. Maybe Imperial Woman is a possibility too. I liked her writing enough as to try other titles.

        I need to start jotting down all these titles that are coming to my attention, and work on a list.


  4. I DID have a great deal of fun picking them out; I also used up my “energy quota” of the day and got nothing much else done (including my gazpacho!). I blame it all on my first click of the day, which gave me Stuckinabook’s list of his lovely new acquisitions . . . .


  5. Excellent book haul! I loved SSB and would happily go back and browse some more. I have read Pavilion of Women, I read it with a book group at my library a few years ago and we all enjoyed it very much (and I have read The Good Earth with three different book groups and it was universally loved by all of them). I haven’t read any Durrell other than My Family and Other Animals by his brother Gerald.

    Also loved your breakdown of Roman fiction — I’ve only read I, Claudius and still haven’t gotten around to watching the TV series.


    1. Karen: I’m so happy you found Second Story; it IS a wonderful place to browse. Reading your post made me positively homesick (I’ve very recently moved from the D.C. area). Most of the many small independent book stores that existed when I first moved to the DMV are long gone, but as I said, there’s still Politics & Prose. Also, if you like art books, the National Gallery has a wonderful bookstore that will hopefully be re-opened in the near future.
      I suspect Pearl Buck has fallen a bit out of favor these days but she’s a wonderful store teller, isn’t she? I started re-reading Pavilion and found it almost as engrossing as so many years ago. And I adored The Good Earth. I skimmed a bit of G. Durrell’s The Aye-Aye and I (I was on an eco tourist trip in that part of the world) but my main Durrell fix has been his brother’s Alexandria Quartet (still haven’t read my SSB haul).
      Thanks for the kind words about my little Roman fiction thingy (thingey?). It’s very peculiar to my reading & hence incomplete. I loved Claudius the TV series as well as the book but alas, when I tried to re-watch the series I just found the production values a little too low for me these days. If you do get around to it, I’d be interested to hear your reaction.


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