“A Crisp and Merciless Clarity”: Mary Beard’s SPQR

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I haven’t read the latest book by Mary Beard yet, but this NY Times review is certainly enough to whet my readerly appetite:

How on earth did they do it? The Greek historian Polybius, writing in the second century B.C., was the first to ask the question: “Who could be so indifferent or so idle that they did not want to find out how, and under what kind of political organization, almost the whole of the inhabited world was conquered and fell under the sole power of the Romans in less than 53 years?” It was not as if Rome was a promising spot: a swampy piece of ground up a barely navigable river surrounded by scrubby hills, its few thousand inhabitants alternately flooded out and ravaged by malaria….

In “SPQR,” her wonderful concise history, Mary Beard unpacks the secrets of the city’s success with a crisp and merciless clarity that I have not seen equaled anywhere else.

For those of you not familiar with Mary Beard, she’s worth checking out. She’s one of my favorite guests on the In Our Time show (with Melvyn Bragg) and one of my favorite reviewers in the New York Review of Books. When it comes to the ancients, she’s as consistently excellent (and reliable) as we have.

You can find it here:

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Writers Laughing: A Jacke Wilson Gallery

Peace on earth, good will to all…and a photo gallery of great writers caught in the act of laughing.  Happy holidays!

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Join us on the History of Literature podcast or at the Jacke Wilson blog for more literary delights.

All image credits available on jackewilson.com

 

Looking Ahead to Another Good Week!

Hello! I hope everyone has recovered from Thanksgiving and is looking forward to the rest of the holiday season and the new year. It’s a time to rejoice (or read-joyce, as we had going last year) and to not be lonely.

It looks like another busy week here in Jackeland!

On Monday, we’ll have an episode on Greek tragedy on the History of Literature podcast. Why did so many people in ancient Greece go to these things? How did tragedies work? What (if anything) do we gain from tragedy today? We’ll take a look!

(The podcast is up to #4 on iTunes list of New and Noteworthy literary podcasts. Onward and upward!)

On Tuesday, we have a special tribute to the criminally underrated Edward Gorey.

On Wednesday…oh boy, Wednesday is going to be fun. I’m not going to say anything else: just a surprise. It’s a post that would put a smile on Scrooge’s lips. Skip everything else if you must, but don’t miss Wednesday.

On Thursday, Gar returns from his vacation to help with another Restless Mind Show. (That’s another show I do on the same podcast feed as the History of Literature podcast.) You’ll be able to stream it right from here, of course.

On Friday, we take a look at Alfred Hitchcock and Adele (yes, the two of them are analyzed together), and on Saturday, we’re running a tribute to classical scholar Mary Beard. Jeez. Sometimes I have to scratch my head and think, Jacke, what the hell are you doing? Is there any other blog who has a schedule like this? No wonder I have a small but devoted band of followers. There are only so many crazy people in this world. Well, not crazy. Eclectic.

Okay, that’s enough for now! Go see Creed, it’s a good movie, we need more movies like it.

Have a great week, everyone!

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