Book reviews make a better read than books themselves- because when one is past a certain age, knowledge is not of much use, and what knowledge one acquires is no sooner gained than is lost in a haze of general ideas. So it happens that I prefer to pore over book reviews than drudge through book length details. This is poor advertisement for my sort of reading, I know- but it gives me much pleasure to even go over a list of book titles, sometimes even reviews carry too much of a weight.
I have on hand, an old issue of Times Literary Supplement (February 17, 2012)- and these are the first few books:
- "Joseph Roth - A Life in Letters" translated and edited by Michael Hoffmann
- "Ben Jonson - A LIfe" by Ian Donaldson
- "The Homeric Hymsn - Interpretative essays" - ed. Andrew Faulkner
- "Facing the Gods - Ephiphany and representation in Graeco- Roman art, literature and religion" - Verity Platt
- "The History Written on the Classical Greek Body" - Robin Osborne
- "The Art of the Body - Antiquity and its legacy" - Michael Squire
- "Widor - A Life beyond the Toccata" - John R. Near
- "Superstition as Ideology in Iranian Politics - From Majlesi to Ahmedinijad" - Ali Rahnema
What is in all these books, you might ask. Questions, and room for speculation - which will be spoiled if one earnestly sets to reading these books.
"We were outfitted for life, only for death to greet us. We were still standing in bewilderment at our first funeral procession, and already we were lying in a mass grave," Joseph Roth is quoted as having written. These words evoke a person, to whose image no amount of details will do enough justice. It is enough to know for our present purposes, another quote of Roth : "I have hit upon a method to cheat my faith, which forbids suicide. So I will die with my pen in my hand". Enough, we have a person, details are disturbance.
The same goes for Ben Jonson, too. We have one of his contemporaries write about Jonson, "He is a great lover and praiser of himself, a contemner and scorner of others, given rather to lose a friend than a jest, jealous of every word and action of those about him (especially after drink, which is one of the elements in which he liveth..." Ha, a person you say, and the reveiwer helpfully notes from the book that Ben Jonson was a daunting presence in the performance of his own plays, making, "Vile and bad faces at every line... to make players afraid to take your part". And to top it all, there is the nugget that after Jonson had been and back from Scotland, he had a character in his latest masque announce, "One of our greatest poets- I know not how good a one- went to Edinburgh o' foot, and came back". The reviewer adds, spoiling the fun, that 'greatest' here means 'largest;. Any further reading is sure to be less enchanting.