So…I guess it’s time for my not-so-regular regular feature (I should definitely not invent catch-phrases..)! I’ve expanded my range of books considerably since we last ‘spoke’, mainly because I’ve been studying for an online theatre criticism course and I was also busy editing a friend’s essay on women’s exclusion from philosophy (hence that bizarre philosophy rant ).
I’ve only included the newer ones – will type up reviews of the others I’m still reading when I finish them.
Without further ado, the books:
1) Aristophanes – Νεφέλες (Some English translations just transcribe it as Nephelai, others just translate it as Clouds) translated into modern Greek by Costas Varnalis. READ.
Aristophanes, comic poet from classical Greece, born in the second half of the 5th century BCE in Athens (more specifically: circa 445 – 386BCE). He lived through the Peloponnesian War – that is, the 27year long struggle between the Spartans and the Athenians (and their respective allies). He also saw the rise and fall of Athenian democracy.
In Nephelai, Aristophanes unravels the tale of Strepsiades in his dishonest quest to avoid paying money he owes in loans. Of course, as you might expect from a comedy, his plan to educate his son in the ways of critical reasoning (under the great Socrates) backfires. Sometimes while reading, it’s incredibly easy to forget that Aristophanes actually wrote in all those jokes more than two millennia ago. Obviously, some of the references to Athenian customs drag it back into the past (more than, say, Wealth, Lysistrata or Assembly of Women) but the jokes about the woeful tragic poets (Euripides was always one of his favourite targets), wordplay, and the topic remain surprisingly fresh – particularly aided by Varnalis’ skillful translation. It’s almost like one of Aesop’s didactic moral tales, except with philosophers and money lenders prancing about the place. Much funnier too.
On the down side, Aristophanes was way off the mark when he made fun of Socrates, mistaking him for the ‘leader ‘ of his hated sophists – masters of oratory techniques (rhetoric) and quite pompous philosophers.
As Varnalis writes in the extremely brief introduction: it’s worth remembering that plays were meant to be performed, not read.
2) Θουκυδίδης – Ιστορίαι (Βιβλία Ε’, Ζ’, Η’, Θ’) [Thucydides – Histories (books 5 – 8)] translated by Eleftherios Venizelos.
Thucydides lived around the same time as Aristophanes (460 – 400 BCE). He was exiled from Athens and wrote The History of the Peloponnesian War. Because of his exile, he was able to travel among the Peloponnesian allies and hence record both sides of the war. He rejected Herodotus’ methods and became a pioneer in trying to develop scientific historical methods of evidence gathering, and analysing cause and effect behind events.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the first volume of the series (that is, the one with the first 4 books), which means I was kind of plunged into the middle of it all. Nevertheless, Venizelos’ translation remains fascinating (well, the original text is kind of amazing as well).
I’m making very slow progress because of the extraordinarily long sentences (seemingly a characteristic of classical Greek style – Aristotle had it too!), and partly because I keep pausing to check placenames. Maybe it’s just me, but what I find I need while reading is a map of classical Greece, with various cities marked on it. It would give a really good sense of how far they were actually marching, and also it would explain why certain military tactics worked (or didn’t) in certain areas. I guess a map would also work as a visual aid as to why certain cities were considered particularly important and strategic conquests, like Amphipolis.
3) “It’s your first crush, Charlie Brown!”- Charles M. Schultz
Confession: Before I was handed this book, I never properly sat down to read any of Charles Schultz’s Peanuts. I love Snoopy, but never read him extensively. I was aways more of a Garfield person. Now that I’ve started reading this, I have to admit I’m seeing a lot of similarities between myself and Charlie Brown – to the point that I identify fully with his difficulty with speaking to the little red-haired girl he likes.
And of course, he’s helped along by his group of friends: the all-wise and confident Linus, Peppermint Patty (who basically sabotages him and his confidence even more!) and poor Snoopy who gets all the blame (“why aren’t you 2 ponies?”).
4) Nova Express – William S. Burroughs
Still reading the introduction (I’ll admit, I usually skip them, but I felt I might need to for this one). Learning so much about Burroughs and the time he lived in. I’m finding it incredibly difficult to visualise; can you imagine typing up part of your manuscript, sending it off, and changing the story by the time you get back to it because you’ve forgotten what you wrote? I mean, I forget what I’ve written all the time, but I have Word, and the blog- I can go back and check.
As far as I understand it, Burroughs was a pioneer for the way he wrote and created work (apparently this ‘cut-up’ trilogy is completed by photo, video and audio cut-ups too, and perhaps should be experienced as such?), and also for essentially (re)inventing science fiction. Furthermore, his work in this particular trilogy is often referred to as prophetic, since it is said to have predicted things like Google, and Twitter. More on this book soon!