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review 2020-08-17 00:02
Parallel Lives
Parallel Lives - Arthur Hugh Clough,Plutarch,John Dryden

Roughly 1800 years ago, a biographer and historian decided to compare the great men of Greece and Rome to one another to give his readers inspiration to follow their example or what to avoid.  Parallel Lives by Plutarch chronicles the lives of the greatest men of the ancient world and the times they lived in.

 

To show the influence of character—good or bad—of the great men of more remote past of Greece and the more recent past of Rome was Plutarch’s main aim in his biographies of these great men especially when he compared them to one another.  Yet throughout his writing he shows the times these great men lived to the benefit of readers today that might know the overall history, but not the remarkably interesting details or events that general history readers might never know about.  The usual important suspects like Alexander, Julius Caesar, and their like but it was those individuals that one never heard of today especially those Greeks between the end of the Peloponnesian War and its takeover by Rome save Alexander.  This revised edition of the John Dryden translation contains both volumes in one book resulting in almost 1300 pages of text thanks to the fact that they added four lives that Plutarch wrote independent of his parallel pairs which included a Persian monarch, yet this printing is of poor quality as there are missing letters throughout which does slow reading down for a moment.

 

Parallel Lives is a fascinating series of biographies of individuals that in the second century AD were the greatest men in history to those living at the time, a few of which have continued to our time.  Plutarch’s prose brings these men to life as well as the times they live in and influenced which history readers would appreciate a lot.

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review 2017-10-01 23:45
Halloween Bingo 2017: Update 4
Grandmother Spider - James D. Doss
Men at Arms (Discworld, #15) - Terry Pratchett
Metamorphosen - Ovid
Metamorphoses - Ovid,David Horovitch,Ian Johnston
The Library of Greek Mythology (Oxford World's Classics) - Robin Hard,Apollodorus
Plutarch’s Lives: Life of Theseus - Plutarch,John Dryden
The Devil in the Marshalsea - Antonia Hodgson
The Snowman - Jo Nesbo

 

 

My Square Markers and "Virgin" Bingo Card:

"Virgin" card posted for ease of tracking and comparison.


Black Kitty:
Read but not called


Black Vignette:
Called but not read

Black Kitty in Black Vignette:
Read and Called

Black Kitty Center Square:

                    Read = Called

 

 

Current Status of Spreadsheet:

(Note: Physical print editions unless stated otherwise)

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 4:

 
James D. Doss: Grandmother Spider

I "rediscovered" James D. Doss's Charlie Moon series during last year's bingo -- in fact, I had been sufficiently impressed with what I'd read about the books when I first found out about them years ago to buy several of them at a time, only to let them get buried, however, under a pile of other purchases in the interim.  Thank God, therefore, for last year's "Full Moon" square, which made me undust White Shell Woman, the serie's no.7 book ... whose events follow closely on the heels of Grandmother Spider, the book I chose for this year's "Diverse Voices" square!

 

Charlie Moon, the series's protagonist, is Acting Chief of the Ute Tribal Police; he usually teams up in his investigations with his friend Scott Parris, the Police Chief of Granite Creek, CO (who used to be the protagonist of the series's first book -- though Charlie took over from him soon enough).

 

Doss seemed to have a penchant for doings during dark and stormy nights; however, there is nothing Bulwer-Lytton'ish about his settings: You could easily be scared sh*tless by the atmosphere that he creates, if it weren't for the laugh-out-loud crap shots that he takes at himself and his characters just when things are on the point of getting serously spooky.  As such, at the beginning of Grandmother Spider, Charlie Moon's aunt Daisy -- a Ute shaman and tribal elder -- at nightfall tells her nine year old ward Sarah the legend of Grandmother Spider, a giant arachnid demon / deity / monster / spirit believed to live below Navajo Lake, to come out and avenge the death of any spiders killed by humans (such as, you guessed it, Sarah has just done) and to store any human bodies she isn't ready to eat just yet high up in a convenient tree.  (Shelob and her kin from The Hobbit, anyone?)  Only minutes later, they are confronted by a huge, round thing with eight tentacle-like legs and flashing lights that may or may not be eyes, flying past Daisy's trailer at the mouth of Canyon del Espíritu in Southern Colorado ... which does an instant vanishing act after having absorbed two rounds of bird shot that Daisy has emptied into it on the suspicion that it just might be a UFO carrying space aliens.  Minutes earlier, the same mysterious apparition has already been witnessed, in not-quite-biblical fashion, by a lone sheperd watching his flock at night on a nearby mountain ridge (failing any other logical explanation, he blames the apparition on the Government in D.C., once more out to annoy its loyal citizens out West), and somehow, the whole thing also seems to have something to do with the unlikely drinking-and-fishing -- mostly drinking -- fellowship spontaneously formed on the shores of Lake Navajo by a Ute tribesman and a New Mexico scientist passing through on his way to Albuquerque, who maybe would have done better heeding the warning in the rearview mirror of the Ute's truck: "Caution: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear."  (One of them will, shortly thereafter, be discovered in a state of severe hypothermia up a tree quite a distance away, which of course does nothing for dispelling the supernatural overtones of these events.)

 

The solution to it all is, I am happy to report, anything but supernatural; however, high marks to Mr. Doss for sheer wackiness and invention alone.  What I like most about his books, though -- aside from his dry and spot-on sense of humor -- is the way in which the Native American spiritual world and beliefs and the secular world of the late 20th century blend together in a truly engaging storyline, with equal respect being paid to both; and on that count, Grandmother Spider delivers every bit as successfully as White Shell Woman.  What a pity Mr. Doss passed away in 2012 and there will be no new instalments to the series ... though I am looking forward to the 15 volumes I have yet to discover!

 

 


Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms

I'm not a big fan of werewolf or shifter literature -- but I'll gladly use any excuse out there to read another book from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, so here we go!

 

Men at Arms is part of the Night Watch subseries; it's the first book in which the Watch's werewolf recruit Angua makes her appearance, and to lasting effect ... though the star of this particular instalment, truth be told, is a flea-ridden canine mongrel about a third (or a forth) Angua's size named Gaspode who's acquired the gift of speech (and trust Pratchett not to go all soppy and anthropomorphic on this one).  After a bit of a meandering beginning, the story settles on the mysterious disappearance of a unique, lethal invention by local polymath Leonardo da Quirm, consisting of a barrel connected to a cylinder holding six cartridges filled with a "No.1 Powder" that are discharged pyrotechnically, and known as "the gonne".  Very much to the Guild of Assassins' annoyance, Sam Vimes and his Watch (which in addition to Angua has also acquired a dwarf and a troll recruit) discover

(1) the "gonne"'s existance, which had heretofore been a closely-guarded secret, (2) the fact that it had been entrusted to the Guild of Assassins for safekeeping, (3) the fact that it seems to have been stolen, and (4) the fact that it seems to be associated with several suspicious deaths occurring in quick succession.

(spoiler show)

 

Furthermore, we learn that Sam Vimes is getting married, and how it comes about that

(despite all appearances to the contrary) he remains with the Watch after all and the subseries doesn't come to a grinding halt with this particular book.

(spoiler show)

 

Although I loved Angua's and Gaspode's exchanges in particular, for some reason this book didn't grab me quite as much as some of the others in the series -- though don't get me wrong, this is measured only by Pratchett's very particular standards.  I'll be the first to admit I'm fairly spoiled at this point, and I'll gladly take any book by Pratchett over many another writer's best efforts.

 

 


Ovid: Metamorphoses
(German / Latin parallel print edition and David Horovitch audio)

Apollodorus: Library of Greek Mythology

Plutarch: Life of Theseus

For the "Monsters" square, I decided to revisit Ovid's Metamorphoses -- I had initially only been planning on the "Perseus and Medusa" and "Theseus and the Minotauros" episodes, but David Horovitch's fabulous reading drew me right back in and I decided to -- with apologies to Odysseus and his companions at Circe's court -- go the whole hog after all. If you only know Mr. Horovitch as the Inspector Slack of the BBC's 1980s adaptations of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple mysteries, do yourself a favor and run, don't walk to get an audiobook narrated by him.  I recently listened to his reading of Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence, and his narration alone lifts the gut-punch quality of that novel to a wholly different visceral level in a way I would never have believed it to be possible, short of Franco Zeffirelli's movie adaptation, that is.  I get goosebumps merely thinking about that audio recording.

The Metamorphoses are Roman poet Ovid's tour de force parcours through a millennium's worth of Greek and Roman mythology, focusing on the stories that (as the title says) involve some sort of transformation of one being into another -- nymphs into plants and animals, humans into all sorts of creatures (animal, vegetable, mineral, you name it) ... and of course, gods into whatever they please to be as well.  The book begins with the Greek creation myth (the three "prehistoric" ages -- golden, silver, and iron --, the creation of humanity from "the bones of mother Earth," i.e., rocks, by Deucalion and Pyrrha after the end of the Deluge, and the beginning of a new age), and it successively moves forward until it reaches the Trojan War, the travels of Aeneas, the mythical origins of Rome and, finally, the ages of Caesar and Augustus (i.e., Ovid's own lifetime).  The narration is somewhat difficult to follow at times, as it is not strictly linear and contains numerous "stories within a story"; yet, for its sheer narrative and topical audacity this is justifiedly one of world literature's great classics.

 

Yet, for almost all of their topical content, the Metamorphoses are only one of several sources; many of the myths recounted by Ovid are also to be found in other collections, such as those by Hesiod, Homer (of course), Vergil's Aeneid (ditto), even historians such as Plutarch and Livy -- as mythology and history formed a seamless blend in Antiquity -- and, especially, also the Library of Greek Mythology traditionally attributed to Apollodorus of Alexandria.

 

So for comparison's sake, I also consulted some of these sources; namely, Apollodorus's Library -- which contains among the most detailed renditions extant of both the Perseus and the Theseus myth -- as well as Plutarch's Life of Theseus, which collectively relies on all Greek sources available to Plutarch (some of which are now considered lost) and gives an overview of the, in part, substantially different versions of the Theseus saga.

 

(Just in case, for those unfamiliar with Greek mythology:

 

Medusa was a Gorgon, one of three erstwhile very beautiful sisters bewitched so as to have snakes for hair; whoever looked directly at Medusa's face was instantly turned to stone. Perseus was able to kill her after the goddess Athena (Minerva to the Romans) had given him a shield polished to mirror clarity; he cut off Medusa's head while she was sleeping and later used it to rescue a princess (Andromeda) from a sea dragon -- as a result of which her grateful parents gave him Andromeda's hand in marriage -- and to defeat his own enemies, including Andromeda's former suitor.

 

The Minotauros was half human and half bull; he was the offspring of an adulterous relationship of the wife of the king of Crete (Minos) and the sacred bull of Zeus (to the Romans; Jove / Jupiter). (Minotauros means "Minos's bull"). As a result of a war between Crete and Athens that Crete (Minos) had won, Minos was entitled to demand tribute from Athens, and his demand was a yearly tribute of seven Athenean young men and seven Athenean virgins.  Theseus, the son of Athen's king, sailed to Crete as one of the seven young men to be delivered on the third such voyage, and with the help of Minos's daughter Ariadne (who had fallen in love with him and had given him a thread so as to not lose his way), he was able to make his way into the labyrinth where the Minotauros was kept and kill the monster, thus freeing Athens from its obligation.

 

 


The Minoan Palace at Knossos, Crete:

Even in Antiquity, not everybody believed the version that Minos had a labyrinth built in which to hide the Minotauros, and indeed, the royal palace itself consists of such a myriad of rooms and hallways that it must have been very easy to get lost there: very likely it was reports of the palace itself that were embellished and expanded on in the process of repetition, until the legend of the labyrinth was born. (Photos: mine.)

 

Agios Nikolaos, Crete: Statue of Europa and the Bull

Crete is the location of a number of important Greek myths; among others, that of the abduction of Europa by Zeus / Jupiter, who is believed to have approached her in the guise of a bull.  This story, too, is (of course) recounted in Ovid's Metamorphoses. (Photo: mine.)

 

 

Next Reads:

 

 

 

First Bingo (Update 3 -- Sept. 23, 2017): Squares and Books Read:

  

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 1:



Terry Pratchett: Equal Rites

 

 



Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

 

 

 

Martin Edwards / British Library:
Miraculous Mysteries - Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes

 

 



Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(Hugh Fraser audio)

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 2:



 Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings

 

 


Ruth Rendell:

The Babes in the Wood

& Not in the Flesh

 

 

Robert Louis Stevenson: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

 

 


Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black

 Raymond Chandler:

Farewell, My Lovely

  The Long Goodbye

The High Window

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 3:

 
Martin Edwards: The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books

 

 

 
Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(Prunella Scales & Samuel West audio)

 

 

 
Simon Brett: An Amateur Corpse

 

 

 

The Medieval Murderers: House of Shadows

 

 

 

Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

(Bernadette Dunne audio)

 

 

  


Murder Most Foul (Anthology)

Edgar Allan Poe: The Dupin Stories -- The Murders in the Rue Morgue / The Mystery of Marie Rogêt / The Purloined Letter

(Kerry Shale audio)

 Agatha Christie: Endless Night
(BBC full cast dramatization)

 Dick Francis: Knockdown (Tim Pigott-Smith audio)

 


 

 Ngaio Marsh:

Artists in Crime (Benedict Cumberbatch audio)

Overture to Death (Anton Lesser audio)

Death and the Dancing Footman (Anton Lesser audio)

Surfet of Lampreys (Anton Lesser audio)

Opening Night (aka Night at the Vulcan) (Anton Lesser audio)

 

 

The Book Pool:

Most likely: Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings

Alternatively:

* Diane Mott Davidson: Catering to Nobody
* One or more stories from Martin Greenberg's and Ed Gorman's (eds.) Cat Crimes
* ... or something by Lilian Jackson Braun




Most likely: Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(audio return visit courtesy of
either Michael Kitchen or Prunella Scales and Samuel West)

Alternatively:

* Wilkie Collins: The Woman In White
(audio version read by Nigel Anthony and Susan Jameson)

* Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey
(audio return visit courtesy of Anna Massey)
* Isak Dinesen: Seven Gothic Tales
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* ... or something by Daphne du Maurier




Candace Robb: The Apothecary Rose




Most likely: Simon Brett: A book from a four-novel omibus edition including An Amateur Corpse, Star Trap, So Much Blood, and Cast, in Order of Disappearance

Alternatively:

* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes




Most likely: Something from James D. Doss's Charlie Moon series (one of my great discoveries from last year's bingo)

Or one of Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries

Alternatively:

Sherman Alexie: Indian Killer




Terry Pratchett: Carpe Jugulum




One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Miraculous Mysteries: Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes




Most likely: Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(audio return visit courtesy of Hugh Fraser)

Or one or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Serpents in Eden: Countryside Crimes

Alternatively:

* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Josephine Tey: Brat Farrar, To Love and Be Wise, or The Singing Sands
* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Peter May: The Lewis Man
* S.D. Sykes: Plague Land
* Arthur Conan Doyle: The Mystery of Cloomber
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte
* Stephen Booth: Dancing with the Virgins
* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Martha Grimes: The End of the Pier
* Minette Walters: The Breaker




One of two "Joker" Squares:

 

To be filled in as my whimsy takes me (with apologies to Dorothy L. Sayers), either with one of the other mystery squares' alternate books, or with a murder mystery that doesn't meet any of the more specific squares' requirements.  In going through my shelves, I found to my shame that I own several bingo cards' worth of books that would fill this square alone, some of them bought years ago ... clearly something needs to be done about that, even if it's one book at a time!




Isabel Allende: Cuentos de Eva Luna (The Stories of Eva Luna) or
Gabriel García Márquez: Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold)




Most likely: One or more stories from Charles Dickens: Complete Ghost Stories or
Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Alternatively:

* Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones




Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms




Obviously and as per definition in the rules, the second "Joker" Square.

 

Equally as per definition, the possibles for this square also include my alternate reads for the non-mystery squares.




Most likely: Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black

Alternatively:

* Raymond Chandler: Farewell My Lovely or The Long Goodbye / The High Window

* James M. Cain: Mildred Pierce
* Horace McCoy: They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
* David Goodis: Shoot the Piano Player or Dark Passage
* ... or something else by Cornell Woolrich, e.g., Phantom Lady or I Married a Dead Man




Most likely: Ruth Rendell: Not in the Flesh or The Babes in the Wood (audio versions read by Christopher Ravenscroft, aka Inspector Burden in the TV series)

Alternatively:

* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills




Most likely: Peter May: Coffin Road

Alternatively:

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones or Hearts in Atlantis
* Denise Mina: Field of Blood
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Breaker
* Jonathan Kellerman: When The Bough Breaks, Time Bomb, Blood Test, or Billy Straight

* Greg Iles: 24 Hours




Most likely: Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Alternatively:

* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Greg Iles: Sleep No More




Most likely: Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)

Alternatively:

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries
* Georgette Heyer: They Found Him Dead
* Ellis Peters: Black is the Colour of My True-Love's Heart




Most likely: Something from Terry Pratchett's Discworld / Witches subseries -- either Equal Rites or Maskerade

Alternatively:

* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers

* Shirley Jackson: The Witchcraft of Salem Village




Most likely: Antonia Hodgson: The Devil in the Marshalsea

Alternatively:

* Rory Clements: Martyr
* Philip Gooden: Sleep of Death 
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes
* Ngaio Marsh: Death in Ecstasy

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Capital Crimes: London Mysteries




Most likely: Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
(audio return visit courtesy of Sir Christopher Lee)

Alternatively:

* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau 

* ... or something by Edgar Allan Poe




Most likely: Something from Ovid's Metamorphoses

Alternatively:

* Robert Louis Stevenson: The Bottle Imp
* Christina Rossetti: Goblin Market
* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau




Most likely: Jo Nesbø: The Snowman

Alternatively:

* Val McDermid: The Retribution
* Denise Mina: Sanctum 
* Mo Hayder: Birdman
* Caleb Carr: The Alienist
* Jonathan Kellerman: The Butcher's Theater
* Greg Iles: Mortal Fear




Most likely: The Medieval Murderers: House of Shadows
or Hill of Bones

Alternatively:

* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills
* Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House
* Stephen King: Bag of Bones
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte




Ooohhh, you know -- something by Shirley Jackson ... if I don't wimp out in the end; otherwise something by Daphne du Maurier.

 

 

 

 

 

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

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review 2015-07-23 11:39
Plutarch's Makers of Rome
Makers of Rome: Nine Lives - Plutarch,Ian Scott-Kilvert

This is a selection from Plutarch's Parallel Lives focusing on notable Romans of the Republic. Interestingly, three of the lives covered here were the direct inspiration for Shakespeare - Coriolanus, Brutus and Marc Anthony. Plutarch knows how to spin a yarn and furthermore how to make a character come vividly to life. In effect his writing provides short but memorable sketches which focus on character. Plutarch is also not an intellectual slouch and will occasionally spit out fascinating observations. However, it is clear that his talents are in the short essay because he is not really interested in proposing complex theses.

 

I'm not sure if reading a selection of Plutarch's Parallel Lives is the best way to come at Plutarch. In particular, it removed the central conceit of two lives being contrasted completely as these were always paired Greek and Roman lives. But I am currently learning more about the Roman Republic, a period of time which I had known far less well than the Empire and this is why I read this selection.

 

Whether or not this selection is the place to start with Plutarch, he is well worth reading and can be consumed in bite size pieces.

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review 2014-03-21 17:08
Read, but not this edition
Isis and Osiris - Plutarch

Plutarch isn’t the problem.  It’s the format which makes what would otherwise be an interesting tract impossible to read.

 

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text 2014-02-20 01:22
How I Can Manage to Read for Enjoyment and (at the same time!) Get Sidetracked - Or! How It Is I Learned That Theseus Wore a Mullet!
Mad Madge: The Extraordinary Life of Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, the First Woman to Live by Her Pen - Katie Whitaker
Plutarch's Lives, Volume I - Aubrey Stewart,Plutarch,George Long

Somehow the books I enjoy the most are usually the ones that make me inspire me to immediately google other books, and then - if I'm being good - make a list of those titles to read later. If I'm not being good - which is most of the time - I'll pick up that book immediately and read a bit of the contents. Whether I keep reading or put the book down and go back to what I was trying to finish totally depends on how interested I get in the second book. If it's an ebook that's available for free (I so dearly love Project Gutenberg) the odds are pretty high that I'm going to have to read a bit immediately. I think that's probably due to me being of the generation that once I had to trudge to the library (through the howling wind and snow! etc!) to hunt down a book or article (or order it on interlibrary loan, or hunt for info on microfiche, etc., etc.) - and the fact that I can start reading a book the instant I find it continues to make me giddy. Seriously. I feel like I should have one shoulder lower than the other from the books I toted to and from the library in college and then grad school.

 

Er, anyway, so I have this habit of starting one book, then that leading to a second book, and then another - and suddenly I'll have multiple books that I'm trying to read all at once. Sometimes this goes very, very badly. Sometimes I manage to work it out - trying to tell each book diplomatically that while I can't focus my attention on it constantly, I will definitely have some quality time with it - eventually.

 

Which leads me to the current read....one of the current reads:

 

  Mad Madge: The Extraordinary Life of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, the First Woman to Live by Her Pen, by Katie Whitaker (2002)

 

If you've not heard of Margaret Cavendish here's her wikipedia page - spoiler, she was amazing. Here's a quote from the wiki:

 

"Her writing addressed a number of topics, including gender, power, manners, scientific method, and philosophy. Her utopian romance, The Blazing World, is one of the earliest examples of science fiction. She is singular in having published extensively in natural philosophy and early modern science."

 

There's more at the link, and the page is long because she is indeed that interesting. Also it has a nice healthy list of sources, which is (I think) where I found this particular book.

 

I've wanted this biography for years now, and only just gave up on it ever appearing in ebook form thanks to a friend's giftcard - so now I have it in hardback. And I can tell I'm going to enjoy it because I hadn't made it through 20 pages before I already had another book to look up. And yes, I'm about to quote a large chunk, but I feel I have to because there's the story of a teen who adores books - or at least people she's only met in them - in it.

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