Saturday, November 21, 2015

Description of the World - Part 6

David Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon (Just the ticket in case you suddenly find yourself in command of a large early 19th Century army in a desperate battle. The trick is to menace your enemy’s flank and then break through closer to the center when he extends his line to counter your initial maneuver. Didn’t work at Waterloo, though.)

H.H.Schullard, A History of the Roman World 753 to 146 BC (The history of the city is obscure before the Punic wars even though Rome was a considerable power even in Aristotle’s time. I keep reading books about this period and remain confused.)

Livy, The War with Hannibal (This volume contains Book XX! through XXX. Livy was a terrible military historian.)

Martin Bernal, Black Athena (Reminds me of the guy who argued that Adam spoke Dutch in the Garden of Eden. That Greece owed a great deal to its southern and eastern neighbors is perfectly true, but the Greeks were well aware of the fact. The letters of the alphabet, for example, were called Cadmean letters because Cadmus the Phonencian supposedly brought them to Greece when he came looking for his abducted sister Europa. Bernel’s book is an example of a familiar pattern: create an artificial orthodoxy so that you can knock it over in a display of courageous iconoclasm.)

Card with picture of Emmet Kelley-type clown (Sent by my sister back in ’94—she conveys greetings from her dog Rocha, complains that she’s so flummoxed by a cold that she thinks she’s Amy Finkelstein.)

The Penguin Dictionary of Modern Quotations (I’ve had this book so long the quotations are no longer modern.)

A.D. Momigliano, Studies on Modern Scholarship (I think I’ve been able to tolerate, indeed to enjoy so much solitude in my life is that I’ve always kept virtual company with choice minds. The essays collected in this book study a series of mostly 19th Century scholars with the same kind of seriousness and respect that classicists accord to the ancients—I’ve believed for a long time that intellectual historians should not be reluctant to evaluate even their contemporaries and not reserve their judgements for the long dead—maybe I’m just looking for forgiveness for getting my friend David Pace involved with Levi-Strauss. I especially like the piece in this book on Jacob Bernays, who, like M, was a deep student of Jews, Greeks, and Romans alike and evidence of the connectedness of things—he was the grandfather, if I’ve got the genealogy right, of Edward Bernays, who, as the godfather of public relations, was even more influential than his uncle Sigmund Freud. Reality isn’t coherent, but it is stringy.)

Eva C. Keuls, The Reign of the Phallus: Sexual Politics in Ancient Athens (Just be sure that your umbrella is right-side up. The volume features illustrations of the vases normally kept in the attic of the museum. The subject is serious, however. Epigraph from the beginning of Chapter 9, the Sex Appeal of Female Toil: “At that time [in the good old days] no one had a Manes or Setis as slave, but the women themselves had to do all the chores in the house…” —Fragment of the comedy The Savages by Pherekrates.)

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